Monday, August 25, 2014

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. (Arnold H. Glasow)

 We rolled the bikes to the elevator, down to our garage level, and over to the car. Then we drove south to the start of the Everglades Bicycle Club Tour de Redland. A morning of riding with friends in the open Redland agricultural district of Miami-Dade.

We had a great time. Musing about the ride as we drove home, my mind drifted to thoughts of border collies. (Stay with me here.) When you ride in a group, you have to have leaders. Someone has to make the calls. Different cycling groups call them different names, but Everglades Bicycle Club calls them "ride leaders."

Sunday I had the bad luck of getting caught up in a multi-bike crash. If you've ever been in one of these things, you know that it all happens so fast, you really only see what is right in front of you. In my case it was a friend that I was certain I was going to kill because I was definitely going to run over her. Seconds later, as I looked around from my position on the pavement, relief surged over me when I saw my friend stand up, dazed but not looking badly hurt. Friends helped me to my feet, righted my bike, and got me to the side of the road, kindly handing me items (cell phone, helmet mirror, etc.) that had scattered when I fell. A quick check assured me that I was OK with only minor scrapes. Only then did I have a chance to look around. To my amazement, the group had all been moved off the road and bike checks and people checks were rapidly being done. We were a big group. But the ride leaders were moving quickly around, creating order from chaos. No hysteria. No soap opera dramatics. Just quick (and may I say polite as well) action.

Well done, ride leaders.

Okay. So now you are wondering how this ties in with border collies. Well, first, I just happen to think border collies are great, great dogs. But, second, I've seen border collies in action. We often traveled in areas where these dogs earn their kibble by herding on ranches and farms. Once, somewhere in Arkansas as I recall, we took a shortcut on a ranch road between two rural highways. As we were enjoying the lovely route, we got an up-close and personal experience with one of these amazing dogs. As we passed an entrance to a ranch, a border collie darted out and cut us off. He never threatened us. He never made us think he might do us any real harm. But he firmly made his wants known. He was dead set on herding us to the ranch. Finally we just got off our bikes. We were laughing. The border collie, tail wagging, ears alert, and eyes firmly fixed on us, had won. We got away the only way we could, by slowly walking our bikes past the dog and down the road.

The ride leaders are a lot like that border collie. Good leaders, they're friendly but firm. They keep the group heading where they need to go, at a consistent speed. They set the rules for the group, and (again, friendly but firm) let you know if you are doing something you shouldn't. It's not an easy job. Depending on the day and the group of riders, we can be undisciplined and skittish, more interested in the next sprint area than the next intersection. But somehow the ride leaders manage and make us look fairly good out there as we wheel down the road.

Thanks, guys. Well done.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's all fun and games 'till someone loses an eye, then it's just fun you can't see. (James Hetfield)

We have a long ride just three weeks ahead. I have managed to block it from my mind. (I'm very good at ignoring things.) We're doing fine on our bikes, and I know that things will work out. Or not.

Riding bicycles may be our obsession, but it just isn't the most important thing in life. What is? Well, sipping a great cup of coffee before dawn on the balcony. Laughing and playing. Getting mesmerized by a fabulous movie. Getting lost in a good book. Meeting interesting people. Keeping up with friends.

We've gotten better on the bikes this past year. We'll be better on the bikes next year and the year after that. How we actually do on any particular ride isn't something to worry about. We just keep giving ourselves goals that are a little harder or a little more difficult than what we know we can do. That's what makes life fun and interesting. Even if we fail, there's still the fun of doing what we can.

And if a ride is a total disaster, there's always something we'll see on the ride that makes us laugh.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Heat and BBQ at the Beach

August is the hottest month. We weren't surprised when we woke up one morning with Summer Heat Laziness Syndrome. We've been riding a lot, and the rest of our life has been busy, too. It caught up with us during the beginning days of August. It was time to kick back and go with the lazy mood.

We knew this would happen. We even went so far as to bank miles when the weather was cooler so we'd feel OK about not riding as much in the heat. It was time to do other things for a while. The new Christopher Moore book, The Serpent of Venice, needed to be read. There were a couple new Scandinavian crime novels on the bookshelf, too. We'd enjoy a few days of laziness.

We wouldn't, however, miss our weekend rides with the Everglades Bicycle Club. Last year we missed the summer beach party. We didn't plan to miss it this year. So last Sunday we pedaled over William Powell Bridge and down the Rickenbacker Causeway, over Bear Cut Bridge to Key Biscayne and Crandon Park. There were rides for all the speed groups as well as a beginner and family ride. After the rides there was a BBQ picnic with all the trimmings. We talked with friends, munched, and met some new members. But the most fun was seeing the families of the people we rode with.

Then it was back home. Where we gave ourselves over to Summer Heat Laziness Syndrome.

Bring on the books and ice cream.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat. (Ann Landers)

I want to thank all my friends for their Facebook and Instagram posts about their wonderful vacations. I'm glad you are having a great summer. But have a heart. Please. You're killing those of us who are spending the summer close to home!

It is hot. It is humid. Sweat drips off nose and chin as we pedal down the road, splashing on the top tubes of our bikes. The beginning of August is the hottest week of summer. August is also the wettest month of the rainy season.

On the other hand, July was a very good month. We watched every stage of the Tour de France. We've done weekend rides with the Everglades Bicycle Club. Last Sunday we enjoyed the club's Tour de France Party, which included a ride in a part of Miami-Dade that we've never been to before. (It was fun.)

When a friend asked where we were on our virtual bicycle tour, I realized I hadn't done an update in several months. OK. So here it is. We have completed seven months of our bicycle project. (Five more to go.) You may remember that the first leg of our imaginary bicycle tour was a ride from Miami to San Diego and back. Next we decided to head north. As of this week, we have gotten to Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada, and we've turned around and are heading back to Calais, Maine, on our way back to Miami. And we rode all the miles of the trip right here in South Florida.

We're getting a little stronger and a little faster each month. We start longer rides in the fall. But to reach our goals we have to keep riding and sweating in the heat and humidity of the South Florida summer.

Just thinking about it makes me dream of the sound of tinkling ice cubes...


Sunday, July 13, 2014

If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good. (Dr. Seuss)

We have new bikes.

The old bikes were great. But when we moved to Miami last year we started biking more. (And more. And more.) We got a bit faster and stronger. Pretty soon we began talking about doing some exciting, memorable rides. But we discovered that our old bikes couldn't handle road chop without beating us up more than we wanted. We needed bikes with a gentler ride. Easier shifting. And a better way of gauging how much energy we were using as we rode.

There are bikes that can do these things. No time like the present to get the right gear.

I hadn't anticipated that there was a learning curve to riding the new bikes. I thought I'd just hop on my bike and pedal happily away. The new bike is smooth riding and pleasantly fast. But, at first, the very light bike with its wide aero wheels felt quite "twitchy" to ride, especially in wind. The gearing felt different, too. Shifting is just a matter of lightly touching some buttons. And, to my embarrassment, I kept mixing the buttons up. Their positions haven't become automatic for me yet. I'd get distracted and find myself in an insanely inappropriate gear after just a few light taps to the wrong buttons. (Happily, it's getting easier with every ride.)

Why bike like we do? Because physically pushing yourself hard is wildly exhilarating. It is totally fun.

And fun is good.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh, the things you can find if you don't stay behind! (Dr. Seuss)

It's hard to beat breakfast on the beach.

On Sundays we do a group ride to Hollywood. It's a bit more than 50 miles round trip from Miami City Hall where the group meets up. Usually we ride to Georgio's for croissants.

It's now full-on Miami summer. Really hot and really humid. When you stop for a traffic light, your sunglasses begin to fog. Sweat drips off your nose as you pedal. And when the sky is blue and almost cloudless, it seems even hotter. You can feel the heat radiating up off the pavement.

Greg Lang, who had organized our first ride to Hollywood over a year ago, suggested heading to Little Venice, a small restaurant on the Hollywood boardwalk just a block or so from Georgio's. The number of riders for the Sunday ride gets smaller during the summer. And you need to have a smaller group for breakfast at a small beach restaurant. A big group would simply overwhelm the place. Little Venice even has inexpensive breakfast specials, so it wouldn't cost much more than coffee and croissants. A treat in the heat. The group liked the idea.

It's a winner.
Photo by Greg Lang










Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The older I get, the better I was. (Van Dyke Parks)

Most of us never were as good as we remember. Me? My athletic skills are the definition of average. I sit at the very apex of the athletic bell curve, looking down one side at the truly athletically gifted and down the other side at the truly athletically inept. But I have a lot of company here in the middle.

This week the weather gods smiled. Rain chances were low. So Tuesday we rolled the bikes to the street well before dawn and pedaled west.

We rolled though the charming residential areas along Coral Way, skirted the Miracle Mile, and watched the sun come up as we passed Tropical Park. We made a stop into a Publix as it opened, buying two warm and fragrant guava pastries from their bakery, munching them down in the pleasant air conditioning of their entryway. Then it was onward through Kendall. Finally we rolled into Redland, the agricultural region of south Miami-Dade. The ride from Brickell to southwest Miami-Dade is nice since most traffic is heading into the city while the roads out of the city have only light traffic.

At mile 43 we came to Robert Is Here. We stopped there to munch a banana and refill our water bottles. Then we pedaled around Homestead and Florida City, stopping at a Publix to buy a picnic lunch which we packed into a little backpack before pedaling on for a big loop of the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

At mile 60 we reached Biscayne National Park where we stopped for our picnic lunch in the shade of scrubby trees looking out at sparkling Biscayne Bay. Then we pedaled north passed Black Point Marina, stopping again at Deering Park where we drank cold sodas and laughed at the manic chatter of a group of pre-teens. We rode home from there, a pleasant back street ride through Coconut Grove and Brickell.

A front door to front door circle loop of Miami-Dade. A pleasant though very hot and humid century. Who needs to look back on glory days when you can get out and do something special today?

Booyah.