Friday, December 12, 2014

Why is it, every time I go the mile, another mile comes up? (Anthony Liccione)

Last December, Al proposed a project. "Here's the deal," he said. "You ride with me one heck of a lot of miles. No whining. No belly aching. No quitting. Do it, and we get a new bikes."

I'm a sucker for bribes.

So we made changes. Over the months we changed our riding schedule to four mornings a week. We changed the length of our rides to metric centuries (62 miles). And we threw in a standard century (100 miles) every so often just to keep things interesting.

We bought new road bikes with a softer ride and electronic shifting. It made a big improvement for me. I have wonky hands, feet, wrists, and ankles. With my old bike I wore wrist and thumb supports under my bike gloves, but I still could not use a water bottle while riding without dropping it. With the new bike I don't need the wrist or thumb supports at all. And I have no problems using regular water bottles while riding. That is huge.

The project wasn't all a success. Distances longer than a century didn't work out. When we tried to push the miles farther, I had an unpleasant cascade of problems. We tried many approaches to it, but unless I could have a solid 12 hours off the bike between rides, the cascade of problems made riding impossible. So I had a brief pity party for the dream of randonneuring and moved on. We had lots of other things we could do instead.

This year we rode a lot. We put about three times as many miles on our bikes as on our car. I no longer have any fear of riding longer distances. I've learned I can do it, day after day after day.

Will Al have another project for next year? You can count on it. It's what he does.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The 2014 Escape to the Keys Ride


The first Friday in December. It's pretty cold in most of the country. Not in South Florida. It's great cycling weather in Miami and the Florida Keys.

Over 200 cyclists gathered at the Miami-Homestead Speedway for the start of the annual Escape to the Keys ride. We were going to ride our bikes to Key West. The ride is put on by the Everglades Bicycle Club. EBC member Rafael Acosta is the Ride Chair. As he has been for many, many years. He and his volunteers have earned a special place in hearts of Miami cyclists for making this such a delightful event. (Thank you!)

Some rides just get better the more times you go on them. Al and I had a great time this year. The weather was perfect. Not too warm. Sunshine. Tailwinds. We rode with the EBC Orange Crush Peloton (AKA the Fuentes Peloton). Lots of good friends.

But what really made it special were the riders who came from other states. Many had never pedaled through the Florida Keys. Hearing them talk about the beauty of the Keys made us feel pretty lucky to live here.

Some of our friends had worked their tail feathers down to nubs training for the ride. It was pretty wonderful to be able to share each success as they went along. Riding that far for the first time. Doing the bridges with a group. Keeping up with the other riders. Alex Pruna captured it superbly with one very special photo: EBC's own Arlene Carriazo on the 7-Mile Bridge, her hands clasped above her head, a big smile on her face.

Will we do the ride next year? Are you kidding? Wouldn't miss it for anything. 

 Allie Geitter (the EBC mascot) giving a rider some encouragement from a SAG car.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind. (Carl Hiaasen)

The palm trees along the beaches were whipping and bending this morning as we biked along. When the wind whooshed between the big beach condos, it pushed our bikes around. This was strictly a white knuckle, tight grip on the handlebars ride.

We were heading north along the roads of the coastal barrier islands, winding through the well known cities that line the beaches there. We stopped at beach parks along the way, people watching as we ate some snacks. The beach people were bundled up in hoodies and wrapped in blankets. Not much sunbathing on a such a windy day.

Our destination was the state park just south of Fort Lauderdale. We wanted to gawk at the cruise ships at Port Everglades. Not that we couldn't gawk at cruise ships at the Port of Miami. But Port of Miami is only a few miles from home. (Not much of a bike ride.)

We looked at the huge ships for a few moments, turned our bikes around, and headed home. A Big-Boats-Big-Wind ride.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching. (William W. Purkey)

It was a gray windy Saturday morning. The weatherman said there was a chance of rain. Even coffee didn't make the day seem better.

We pushed our bikes to the elevator. Saturday is our day to ride with the Everglades Bicycle Club. We pedaled to city hall. Once we reached city hall, the smiles and greetings of friends made the day brighten a bit.

While we were standing around talking before the start, someone suggested we combine the ride groups into one peloton, just for the day. That sounded great to us. They took a vote. Every rider agreed to do one speed group. (Do we trust our ride leaders or what?)

We pedaled off to Black Point Marina. The riders from the slower groups put their hearts into the ride. They looked good. The ride leaders and one or two other strong riders did the pulling. (Very much appreciated when we were heading into the wind on the ride back.) One of the ride leaders slipped around offering suggestions about which gear to use and cadence and such. Nice. It was like having a personal coach.

When we arrived at city hall it got better. There was music. There was laughter. There was dancing.

Smiles all around. A bit of magic on a windy gray day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 2014 Horrible Hundred

This was our seventh Horrible Hundred.

The Horrible Hundred is an annual ride put on by the Florida Freewheelers, a ride up and down the best hills of the Lake Wales Ridge. (The Lake Wales Ridge is what remains of a string of islands that existed eons ago.)

The weather was perfect. It was going to be a fun day. We pedaled away from our motel heading for the start. We were right on schedule. Then Al turned his head and said, "Guess what we forgot in the room. Our ride wristbands."

We pedaled back to the motel at full speed, got our stuff, and headed back. We'd missed the start. But the route ran around the lake then headed east toward the first big climb, North Ridge. The lake loop part didn't have much interest for us. We decided to skip it and join the route where it turned east on Pitt. What with our biking back and forth to our motel, we'll have done the same number of miles as the lake loop anyway. A perfect solution for us.

That was the start of a great ride. We decided to ride alone. The problem with riding in a group is that you can't look around and enjoy the scenery. You have to concentrate on the person in front you or risk an accident. Drafting makes the ride easier, but less interesting. So we kept to ourselves and happily went up and down the hills.

Each year it seems a bit easier. Even Sugarloaf.

And that's a very good thing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. (Mark Twain)

An overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels.

We decided to trial run our road bike short trip luggage on an overnight trip to the Florida Keys. We picked a destination around 65 miles from home, Bay Harbor Lodge on the southern part of Key Largo. Not too expensive, but with pleasant touches we enjoy.

We rolled the bikes through our building's lobby, waved goodbye to the lobby staff, and headed down the road. The weather was perfect. A nice tailwind all the way to the Keys. After dropping off our little luggage bags in our room, we rode around Key Largo, finally ending up at the grocery. We wanted to buy a picnic meal for our dinner, as well as Gatorade for the ride home. We ran into three guys who were bike camping. When the guys pedaled off, we joked about our memories of riding fully-loaded touring bikes. (Credit card touring isn't as adventurous but it is a whole lot easier.) Back at our lodging we eyed the kayaks and paddle-boats but opted to do some reading instead. We wandered out to the Lodge's waterfront and watched the sun set. It was a perfect day.

The next day began with clouds and spotty showers. Our luck was good, though, and the rain was always over someone else. Soon the clouds were gone. The ride home was into the wind. We slowed our pace and took 3-mile turns pulling. Ten miles from home Al finally fixed a minor problem I was having with my rear luggage rack, and we rolled up to our building's front door with big smiles on our faces.

Like I said, taking an overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels. You still quibble about the same silly things you always do. But by the end of the trip you remember why you like the other guy so much, even after a lot of years and a lot of trips.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

There’s roads, and there’s roads, And they call. Can’t you hear it? (Bruce Cockburn)

Picking a place to visit by bicycle is really easy. You go online. Check out popular routes on Strava or MapMyRide. Use routes from East Coast Greenways or Adventure Cycling.

My favorite place is a blog, Bicycle Routes 305 (Descubriendo La Florida). It has ideas for rides all over the state of Florida. Take your bike on your car to the route's start for a day trip. Or string routes together for a multi-day adventure.

Use Google maps to find lodging, convenience stores, restaurants, and the like. It's not foolproof, but it works for the most part.

Go by yourself or take some friends. Don't you hear the roads calling?