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.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains? (Steven Wright)


It's the summer rainy season in Miami. Hard to do a long ride without being caught in a deluge.

We decided it was time for a Loopy Local Century.

It's a good century plan for the rainy season. You pick a couple of connected routes you know well and like to ride. You ride them as loops, as many times around the loops as necessary to do 100 miles. The key is to keep yourself reasonably close to home and in an area where you know all the places for restrooms, water, snacks, lunch, and, of course, shelter should it really storm. Not exactly exciting. But it works when the weather forecast calls for a rainy day in Miami.

Tuesday we woke up at the regular time, rolled our bikes to the street, and headed out. We'd decided to do the Rickenbacker. The lighthouse on Key Biscayne is just about 11 miles from home. There are three loops we can do on the Rickenbacker. They're about 3, 10, and 13 miles in length.

We rode our loops taking 1-5 minute breaks every 15-20 miles. We kept the speed moderate. We checked our weather radar app on each break to keep track of nearby rain. Some of which we could vividly see across the waters around the Rickenbacker. At about 70 miles we got caught in the rain, but it wasn't too heavy and it stopped in a bit. We decided to have lunch and dry off. We went to the nearby grocery store for a turkey wrap, some blue cheese stuffed olives from the antipasto bar, and ice cold soda. We carried these to a nearby park bench. There we noted that the eastern sky wasn't just dark. It was black...

We had a quick conference. Getting caught in rain wasn't a problem. Getting caught in a thunderstorm was. We didn't want to be on the east side of the William Powell Bridge in a storm. So off we pedaled back to the mainland. Radar was showing the mass of the storm just off shore. We still had about 20 miles to pedal.

We ran the odds and opted for a pleasant but mundane just under 2 mile loop in the Roads neighborhood near our home. Traffic was light there because of the oddly angled streets, and there were lots of spots for shelter if the storm caught us.

Our little loop took us past two construction sites in West Brickell. On our first passes, the construction guys ignored us. Then more and more of them watched us as we passed. Then they started smiling and waving each time we passed.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Our odometers finally slid past 100 miles. Done! And it was 8 percent faster than our previous fastest century. (Let's hear it for weather induced speed.)

We wheeled around and headed home.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The most dangerous food is wedding cake. (James Thurber)

Ahh, June. The school year ends. The hot, humid, rainy hurricane season begins. A month for weddings. A month for anticipating a summer vacation.

It is also month six of our bicycle project.

Since all we do is pedal around Miami and South Florida, it's more interesting to convert those miles into an imaginary bicycle trip. The June status report: We've biked from Miami to San Diego and back. (Did anyone miss us?) Now we're headed north up the East Coast Greenway to Calais, Maine. Maybe we'll keep going and visit Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada. (One of our favorite places.) Right now? Well, we're somewhere between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida, on this new leg of our imaginary trip.

Ice cream shakes at Robert is Here taste better on a hot June day. Time to splurge. No worries about ice cream snacks when you are riding a bike for hours and hours.

After all, in June, wedding cake is the dangerous food.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Everglades Birthday Ride

A Tom Burton birthday selfie with
the Visitor Center's Florida panther sculpture 

Tom Burton is a man who has learned the secret of enjoying a birthday. Do something you love.

Tom is soft spoken, genial, and a gentleman of the first order. Tom loves long rides, and he loves the ride to Flamingo in Everglades National Park. How to celebrate your 70th birthday? Invite your Everglades Bicycle Club friends to a long ride through the Everglades. He even had a plan to allow each rider to pick his ride length. Park in Ernest Coe Visitor Center and ride about 80 miles or park anywhere farther along the road to Flamingo for a shorter ride.

Beginning the ride to Flamingo (photo by David Fernandez)
David and Lissette Fernandez offered to be the ride's SAG. A SAG is important in the Everglades. The road to Flamingo is beautiful, but there are no facilities or places to replenish water along the route. Large chests of ice, water, cold soda and snacks were in the back of their their large vehicle. Riders liberally applied insect repellent before starting out. Buzzing clouds of bloodthirsty Everglades mosquitoes are a legendary part of the Everglades experience during the summer months. It was a nice size group that wheeled down the road. The skies were blue with light wisps of clouds. While it was warm and humid and the beginning of South Florida's rainy season, the beginning of the day was as perfect a summer day as you could order.

Different speed groups coalesced. Some took it fast. Some kept mellow and just enjoyed the scenery at a more modest pace. There is a 17-mile stretch of raggedy pavement at the beginning, and the SAG vehicle had parked right at the point where the smooth pavement began. A nice place to give the undercarriage a well-deserved rest while munching a snack and sipping a cold soda. Then it was pedals up and we headed down the road again. A second impromptu stop was at Paurotis Pond. No SAG, just the amazing sound of hundreds of nesting wood storks in the mangroves across the pond and glimpses of roseate spoonbills, herons, and egrets. Then it was off again for the final leg of the ride to Flamingo.

As we approached Flamingo we waved to some riders in their bright orange Everglades Bicycle Club jerseys who were already heading back. At Flamingo, a group of riders was relaxing in the shade of a tree next to the SAG vehicle. We chatted with them as we refilled our water bottles. While Tom and some others were having lunch before heading back, these riders were heading back before lunch. We wanted to stay for lunch, but we weren't feeling at peak. A shorter day would be a sensible choice for Al and me. So after pictures and more chatting, our new group waved goodbye and headed back. Serious rain clouds were forming, but we wheeled down the sometimes wet road with only sprinkles falling on us.

Only later did we see the Facebook post that told us of the ride back for Tom. While we skirted the rains, it was a monsoon for those who stayed for lunch. David Fernandez in the SAG took the quintessential picture of Tom, rolling relentlessly down the road on his 29er in the pouring rain.

Adventure and challenge reside not out in the world but between your ears. Tom is the kind of guy that understands this. Flamingo was a ride Tom had made many, many times before. But never as a 70th birthday ride. And what better way to celebrate a 70th birthday than the challenge of completing the ride no matter what the weather gods threw at you. That is an adventure.

Gentlemen, take note. This is the sense of adventure women find so appealing and attractive. It's not the years, it's the attitude...

Heading back (photo by David Fernandez)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tri-Rail and Short Bicycle Road Trips

We are bicycle tourists at heart. We love bicycle road trips. But why wait to do some grand bicycle tour when you can do a short bicycle road trip? Out and back home in 48 hours or less. Why load your bike with panniers and gear when a small backpack or a big rear seat bag will be enough for a quick overnight trip?

We do credit card bicycle touring. That simply means we roll our bikes into a motel and check in. You carry only what you absolutely need to have. (For heaven's sake, in Florida you can get away with beach clothes and a toothbrush.) It's an easy and comfortable way to do bicycle travel. The secret to doing bicycle road trips when you live in a city is leapfrogging out of the city using available transit systems. After all, the city is where you ride all the time. Why spend part of your fun bicycle tour riding one of your regular routes?


Tri-Rail is a commuter railroad that runs between West Palm Beach and Miami. It connects to Miami-Dade's MetroRail rapid transit system. Bicycles are welcome. Just bring a bungee cord to secure your bike in the bicycle area of the passenger car while you ride nearby in air-conditioned comfort.

We use Miami-Dade's MetroRail all the time. But Tri-Rail was new to us. We decided to change that. Recently we took the MetroRail green line up to Tri-Rail station. This, if you can't guess from its name, is the station that's the transfer point from the MetroRail system to the Tri-Rail system. At the ticket office there we purchased Tri-Rail cards. These cost just $2, are the size of a credit card, and are emblazoned with your picture. (And, yes, like driver's license pictures these photos are always humiliatingly ugly.) You can just buy paper tickets to ride Tri-Rail, of course, but we're big believers in the convenience of using little plastic cards. No worrying about having the right money on you. Just load the money amount you'll need onto the cards with a phone call a few days before your trip, and you're set to travel. Then you simply go to the little machine on the platform of your starting point and tap your card on it. When you get off the train you tap your card again on the machine on that platform. What could be easier? Need more money on the card for another trip? Just call and add put more money on the card.

We've used the Tri-Rail once now with our bikes. It was great. Points north of West Palm Beach are now in reach for a short overnight bike tour!

Excellent.