Monday, September 19, 2016

Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity. (Thor Heyerdahl)

Improving at a sport you enjoy is one of life's simple pleasures. The small markers of progress are both fun and genuine points of pride.

Al and I love riding our bicycles, and we ride a lot. When you do something (pretty much anything) a lot, you do get better at it. We use bike rides to see things. We are basically bicycle tourists. We are particularly fond of rides over and around water. Florida, being a long peninsula, has miles and miles of just this type of thing.

Because of the type of bicycle riding we enjoy, endurance is something we are always working to improve. We take 3 to 5 hour bicycle rides four days a week, a pattern that keeps our endurance at about the level we need for the types of bicycle rides we enjoy. Now it would seem hard to mess up something as simple as this, wouldn't it? The complication that trips us up is getting enough rest days.

It almost happened this week. After a week of day-after-day long energetic rides up in Franklin County, we looked at all the interesting group rides happening over the weekend in Miami. Tempting but foolish. We needed to do of what friends here call a recovery ride. So we ended our week with a familiar ride with a friend we enjoy, a ride long enough to satisfy but at a pace that allows the body to recharge and consolidate its gains.

Riding a bike is simple. Sometimes getting better at it can be its own complication.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.


































Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a Wilderness. (Havelock Ellis)

For a lot of years, Al and I loved going to wilderness areas. Deserts. Mountains. Backwater places. They were beautiful but seriously lacking in creature comforts. Great fun, though, even with the bugs, sunburns, scrapes, bruises, cactus stickers, heat, cold, wet, and all the other inconveniences that came with the experience.

As we got older, travel with comforts and simple luxuries became more appealing. Lately I began pondering why wilderness areas are so darn appealing. (Other than the allure of being difficult to reach.) For me it is the solitude and serenity they provide, an appealing interlude in the noisy, busy pace of everyday life at home. It seems reasonable that even a state as densely populated as Florida had places that could provide us with small pockets of that same solitude and serenity. Florida has a wealth of beautiful places. Maybe we just needed a place where our cell phones wouldn’t work.
So this week we are back in Franklin County up in the Florida Panhandle. It is one of the least populated counties in the state. Huge areas filled with state and federal forests. A bunch of wildlife refuges. Protected wetlands.

A span of an old bridge is now a fishing pier. The new bridge is on the right.
A river runs through the center of the county. One cellphone service kinda, maybe, sorta works on one side of the river. Another cell phone service kinda works on the other side. Go out to the barrier islands and you may get another carrier to work...sometimes. All we can tell you is that our phones have a big X on the signal icon...wherever we go.
On our first visits to Franklin County we carried our phones with us everywhere anyway. Like little security blankets. But soon we just left them our hotel room. We are used to hopping online anywhere, anytime, via our phones. Here in Franklin County, the phones will work on wifi...which is available only in your hotel and a couple of coffee shops. Not much use when you are out riding your bike.
Yep. A touch of wilderness, Florida style. (We will be doing more of this in the months to come...)
The bridge between the mainland and St. George Island is 5 miles long.
A river in Tate's Hell State Forest
On the highway through Tate's Hell State Forest
The bridge over Apalachicola Bay early in the morning.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. (Michael Althsuler)

Labor Day is always a bittersweet holiday.

As a kid, Labor Day weekend meant a great parade in the little town where I lived. There was always a big family get-together. At least one friend always had a pool party. So it was hard not to like Labor Day. But Labor Day also meant the end of summer vacation. School was starting.

These days my feelings about Labor Day are still the same. The good: The Labor Day weekend is always filled with fun things to do with friends. Summer is ending, and good cycling weather is coming. (I always liked what one writer said about Florida having just two seasons: Summer and FallWinterSpring.) The bad: We will soon be traveling and biking around Florida, which, while fun, means missing many rides with friends in Miami.

So Labor Day weekend must be enjoyed and savored:

  • On Labor Day itself we headed out on our favorite ride to Key Biscayne. It was just the two of us. (And hundreds of other cyclists, since the area is a favorite of Miami cyclists.) 
  • The Sunday before Labor Day we rode up to the Hollywood Broadwalk with a few friends for our last official Summer 2016 Breakfast on the Beach Ride.
  • And on Saturday, the first day of the weekend, we rode down to Robert Is Here with the West Side Sunset Bandits. It was a fun and memorable ride. An early start, the group's bike lights blinking in the pre-dawn darkness. Then sunrise, La Casita, Robert Is Here, the ride back to our start point (which included a brief but drenching rain), and a pot-luck tailgate birthday get-together for one of the WSSB guys.

Summer may be over, but life, as they say, is good.
Photo by Alex Pruna


Monday, August 29, 2016

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. (Elbert Hubbard)

Obsessions are wonderful things.

Bicycle obsessions especially. The endorphin-driven elation of setting a personal best: riding faster or longer than ever before. The excitement of finding and trying new bicycles or gear. The adventure of searching for new routes to challenge the legs, for new scenery to delight the eye.

Labor Day is a week away. The heat and humidity of the South Florida summer will be waning in the weeks ahead. Florida's best biking weather is coming. Our calendar is rapidly filling up with bicycle travel and bicycle events. The bikes have been tuned up and checked; new gear has been fitted and readied for use.

We are set to saddle up our favorite obsessions and let them stretch their legs.

And why do we do this? Well, we'd be fools not to.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. (Fran Lebowitz)

Sometimes you eat to ride. Sometimes you ride to eat.

Hobe Sound
Al and I are eat-to-ride people, especially when we travel. Which is a good thing. Florida has areas with sophisticated dining, but it also has areas where the cuisine is based on barbecued critters, dares, and deep fryers. Because a lot of our travel is to places with few dining opportunities, we really appreciate road trips with cyclists who are in the ride-to-eat camp.

Walking to dinner on the nearby recreational path.
When we heard that a group of cyclists we'd met through the Everglades Bicycle Club was heading up to Jupiter for a weekend of riding, we jumped at the opportunity to join them. We had done this weekend road trip with them once before. This was a group that enjoyed good conversation and interesting places to eat. Excellent.

Jupiter is the northernmost town in Palm Beach County. Just an hour and a half north of Miami. (And just 20 miles north of Donald Trump's Florida home.) The area is great for cycling. It also has beautiful beaches, waterways, ocean parks, and  lots of restaurants.

Donuts!
We were staying at a hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a brilliant choice for a bicycle weekend. A paved recreational path runs behind the hotel. We used the path to walk along the water to a nearby marina and restaurants in the evening. The hotel's pool area had a couple of large tiki huts that made hanging out at the pool an inviting option.

When we arrived, we ran into another friend from the Everglades Bicycle Club. He and his wife were also staying at the hotel. He was doing a ride with some randonneurs on Saturday. (He is working on a 12-month award again this year.) He and his wife said they would join us for our Sunday ride to the Jupiter Donut Factory. (I ask you, who can resist doing a donut ride?)

The weekend's cycling was excellent. Our Saturday route took us past Blowing Rocks Preserve, to Hobe Sound, down quiet residential roads along the ocean, and over intracoastal bridges with lovely views. We looped back past the hotel, heading down to another ocean park before finally heading back. Sunday's route took us over a bridge or two and past a basball training park then on to an excellent donut shop. After a quick stop for a donut we pedaled on to the Jupiter Pier. We stopped for a stroll down the Pier. Then Al and I rode with the group back to the hotel to say our goodbyes. They would be packing up, checking out, and heading to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We were staying another day, so we were going to keep pedaling for another loop up past Hobe Sound.

Good food, good conversation, cycling friends, laughter, and beautiful summer weather. A perfect cycling road trip.
Amazing food and good conversation at The Food Shack.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help. (Alex Haley)

I
Sometimes I think I ride a bicycle as an excuse to take pictures.

My camera is an Olympus. It isn't fancy. We are talking your basic easy to use point-and-shoot.  Its picture quality is decent, and its HD video is excellent. Its best feature is that it is tough and waterproof. It has survived, mounted on my bike's handlebar,  rides in heavy rain. It has been in a couple of crashes (crashes that did more damage to me, my pride, and my bar tape than the camera). I've dropped it while riding. I've even accidentally stepped on it.

When I first got the camera, I looked at the instructions briefly. I figured out how to use it by trial and error. (Does anybody read the instruction manual?)

I got bored one day last week. So bored I read the camera's instruction manual. I was looking at all its settings when I saw one I had never noticed before. It simply said "Magic." Magic? Curious, checked it out. Turns out there are a dozen special effect filters built into the camera. Who would have guessed?

So I flipped the dial to Magic and started taking pictures. In the course of a week I went through all twelve effects, using each on different subjects and in different light conditions.

The appeal of using the built in filters is that they are easy, much easier than using an app or photo editor. Most weren't very interesting or useful. But two were outstanding. One filter creates dramatic shots in low light (think restaurants or the city at night). Another creates a mirror image (reflection). I found myself playing with that one quite a bit. It's most effective with very geometric objects. Like bicycles. And I take a lot of pictures of bicycles.


So I now have a new (free!) toy.

Hocus pocus, abracadabra!    ...Magic!





Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When you're average, you're just as close to the top as you are the bottom.

Ever worry that you aren't working hard enough on a ride?

Happens to me. I think it happens to everyone.

Growing up, I lived exactly one mile from school. First on a dare, then for a long time just because it was fun, some friends and I used to run the whole distance home. We would arrive home panting and laughing and red in the face. We didn't care who was fastest or who was the slowest. We were just friends having fun.

Those handy little computers on our bicycles and our much-loved GPS data have changed the way the average cyclist takes a ride. The computers and GPS data are useful and helpful and fun. But, sometimes we have too much information. Information that is addictive.

All that performance information makes training more efficient and lets us enjoy some fun competitive moments. But is the data and the competition more important than enjoying the ride with friends? When that becomes the case, then maybe we need to take a step back from it all.

When all is said and done, we are just out there riding bicycles. Wonderful, beautiful, bewitching, elegant, darn good-looking bicycles, to be sure. But we are just out there riding bicycles.

So when I worry about the stats while I'm out on a ride with friends, I take a deep breath. And another. Then I remind myself that the Olympics aren't in my future: focus on the ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Just enjoy the ride.