Sunday, April 22, 2018

Everglades National Park

Riding a bike through Everglades National Park can be an easy adventure with some basic precautions. The simplest way to take a ride is just to go along the highway from the entrance near Coe Visitor Center to the campgrounds at Flamingo. It's just 40 miles, but 40 miles with stunning scenery and lots of wildlife. Alligators, vultures, roseate spoonbills, hawks, egrets, herons, swallow-tailed kites, and wood storks were just part of the critters we spotted on recent rides.

We aren't hardy souls. The Everglades can be very hot and humid. The biting insects are fierce during the summer months. We pick our time for rides in the Everglades with care. Here's our list of things to keep in mind if you plan to go:

  • The first 8-9 miles of highway after entering the park are old and bumpy. Really bumpy. Graveler bumpy even though it is pavement. Beyond that the road is newly surfaced and excellent riding.
  • There is no water between the entrance (Coe Visitor Center) and Flamingo. That's 40 miles, so bring lots of water or make arrangements for a friend to meet you along the way with some water. (Or use a hydration pack in addition to the water bottles on your bike.)
  • Don't count on calling anyone on your cell phone. Most of the area does not have cell phone coverage. (Just remember to tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.)
  • There's always a light but steady amount of traffic on the road to Flamingo. In other words, you aren't leaving civilization, so it's a pretty tame adventure as adventures go.
  • Bring a camera. The place is beautiful.
  • Is 80 miles a bit too much? Consider driving in to spots 10 or 20 miles from Flamingo for a shorter bike ride.
  • Still wanting something even tamer? Bike or drive to Royal Palm Visitor Center down a side road just a few miles inside the park. From there you can ride over to a relic of the Cold War, the historic Nike Hercules Missile Site. Not as much wildlife as the road to Flamingo, but if you are a history buff, you have the chance to see a well-preserved relic from the Cold War era.
Just remember it is the little things that make this ride enjoyable: carry lots of water, wear sunscreen, and don't forget the insect repellent, just in case!

Thanks to Tom Burton for taking this picture of Al and me last week on a ride with him in ENP. We have Tom to thank for introducing us to bike riding in ENP.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I love it when the coffee kicks in and I realize what an adorable badass I'm going to be today. (Anonymous)

Coffee is dandy, but what I crave on bike rides is the perfect biking fuel: espresso. But a good espresso can be hard to come by on a ride. Sometimes it's because a convenient coffee shop isn't in the area. And sometimes it's because we want a snack break at scenic spot like the beach, a quiet park, or a pretty view on a quiet rural road.

Well, our caffeine problem has been solved. Recently while picking up a few things at our local Publix grocery store we spotted a treasure: tiny thermoses made just for carrying espresso.

Al makes our espresso in a traditional stovetop espresso maker. He likes his espresso black with sugar. I like mine lightly sweetened and laced with steamy almond milk. Which means we own two little espresso thermoses for our bike rides so that we each can have exactly the mix we crave. Each thermos holds the perfect amount for a mid-ride break. The little thermos cap serves as your cup. (As you can see from the photo, it's the size of a typical espresso cup.)

Espresso. It can really do wonders for your attitude.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

If you're old enough to have a job and to have a life, you use Facebook exactly as advertised, you look up old friends. (Jaron Lanier)

The Facebook kerfuffle sent me scrambling to keep in touch with old friends, friends who abandoned Facebook in protest. It turns out, finding easy ways to stay in touch (without Facebook) is difficult. Facebook is simple. For Facebook-adverse friends, I now use email, Whatsapp, Signal, and (gasp) snail mail to chat, gossip, and share a laugh or two. Impossible? No. Inconvenient? Kinda.

When I stopped posting Florida by Bicycle to Facebook, I started getting messages from friends and family checking to see if everything was OK with Al and me. Now I understand that they kept up with what we were doing in retirement by reading Florida by Bicycle. It was convenient and easy. Just watch for a blog post and check it out. Could they still keep up with us? Sure. Had I made it more inconvenient for them? Yep, I had.

So Florida by Bicycle is coming back beginning this month. And, yes, I will share the posts on Facebook.

I want to say here for the record, we may be thousands of miles apart and visit each other only online, but to the many friends and family who messaged to check on us: thanks, it meant a lot.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop. (Lewis Carroll)

Hundreds of posts ago I began this blog so that I could share our bicycle travels with family and friends. It succeeded far beyond my expectations.

The blog opened up an interesting world. It introduced me to a group of funny, warm, generous, and adventurous people. People from all over the US. People from countries around the world.

Today there are many platforms that permit me to continue connecting to this larger world. So I am turning my focus to other projects. This post will be the last post for Florida by Bicycle.

Al and I will still be traveling with our bicycles. We will continue to make posts on social media as we travel, and we will continue to stay in touch with everyone, including the many wonderful new friends we have met through the blog. I never expected more than a handful of people to read the blog. I was totally amazed (and, I must admit, delighted) by the volume of traffic that viewed Florida by Bicycle.

Thank you all for dropping by. It's been a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I am a deeply superficial person. (Andy Warhol)

This is my second week of solo bike rides. My goal has been to lose my completely irrational fear of being hopelessly lost in Miami.

Last week I realized something odd. While I am reasonably comfortable riding around unfamiliar cities and towns on trips, I was having a total emotional meltdown about getting lost at home in Miami. I'm fine in downtown Miami and areas with high rises and mid rise buildings. But the residential neighborhoods, well, they just all looked the same to me. I totally mixed up which neighborhood was which. Which made me feel like a total idiot.

So I made a plan (1) to desensitize myself to being lost here and (2) to up my confidence in using my on-bike navigation toys on rides in Miami. I may have poor directional abilities, but I do know how to develop coping skills.

So, each time I'm out on my bike, either on a solo ride or coming home from a group ride, I purposely head off my usual route just to get myself totally and completely lost. Then I fire up navigation and find my way home.

I love my Garmin with its tidy little GPS system. But my Garmin doesn't talk to me. And the map is hard to read in a lot of situations. So I decided to rely more on the navigation gadgets on my phone. Best of all, the phone navigation has the advantage of audible cues. Phones are intrusive and annoying. But they have their good points, like reading the route cues to you. And then there is the cellphone camera. (Best toy ever.)

Snack stops are picture taking opportunities. Take fifty pictures; delete forty-seven; keep three. It's not exactly art photography. Just totally frivolous fun.

I can't get too worried about getting lost in Miami when getting home is easy and a photo opportunity may be waiting around the next turn...

Monday, October 9, 2017

I love those Keith Richards solo records, but it's not the Rolling Stones. (Nikki Sixx)

Riding a bicycle is fun. Al and I have been riding together for lot of years now. First it was mountain and off-road biking. Later we spent time being touring cyclists. Finally we got around to road cycling.

We used to live in rural areas. There were other cyclists in each of the counties that we lived in during those years, but they were too far away to be regular riding companions. We biked by ourselves, just the two of us. It wasn't until moving to Miami a few years ago that we were introduced to group riding.

This week I rolled my bike to the elevator, through the lobby, and out to the street by myself.  Al is off his bike for a bit.

I was embarking on a kind of ride that I had not done in a couple of decades: a longish solo ride.

Since we live in Miami, there are groups I can and will be riding with. But I enjoy the flexibility of solo riding, and I want to keep my four days a week riding routine. My sense of direction is horrible, so I ride fully loaded with GPS devices. I may get myself lost, but I'll get home.

Sunday I took my first long, meandering solo ramble. I went out for a spin around (and around) the Rickenbacker Causeway and Key Biscayne. I meandered through the city to the Venetian Causeway, pedaled over to Miami Beach to wander the streets there. Then back to the mainland to explore some interesting neighborhoods. Fifty quiet (and admittedly low-energy) miles. But interesting miles. I took photographs. I stopped and talked to people. I got home hot, sweaty, and delightfully relaxed.

I'm going to enjoy solo riding. It is definitely less interesting than riding with Al. But like that Rolling Stones song goes, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The best things in life are silly. (Scott Adams)

Back at the beginning of summer, I began taking pictures of some of the fountains we spotted while riding our bikes. The series even got a fanciful name: The Search for the Fountain of Youth.

It turned out there are a lot of fountains out there. Way more than I remembered seeing before starting this series of photos.

I decided I wanted them all in one place, like a little gallery. One blog post just for the ones from this summer. So here (tah-dah!) is the 2017 series, presented in reverse order from the last one taken at end of August, then going backwards to the beginning of May.

Key Biscayne
Hollywood (Diplomat Resort)
Palatka (Putnam County, St. Johns River Park)
Brickell (Miami, traffic circle fountain)
Coral Gables
Sewalls Point (gated community entrance)
Miami (Metrorail station)
Mt. Airy, North Carolina
Brickell (Miami traffic circle)
Key Biscayne (gated community entrance)
Miami (Metrorail station)
Bonita Springs
Key Biscayne (Village Green Park)

I'm thinking this could be a regular summar thing. Silly and fun.