We woke early, dressed for the ride, and groggily wandered down to the hotel's breakfast area. The place was packed with riders. You couldn't help but feel sorry for the handful of tourists who found themselves with this group. My heart went out to one poor beer-bellied guy who was dressed for Disney or one of the other theme parks, a pudgy wife and two pudgy kids in tow. He and his wife acted as if they were surrounded by aliens.
A half hour later we were off to the ride. Clermont, Florida, is about 20+ miles west of Orlando. It is typical Mouse-Town suburbia. Gated golf communities, subdivision, after subdivision, retail mini-malls filled with all the franchise names that fill suburbs across the country. It's claim on Florida bicycle lovers is its topography. Hills that pitch up and down only 200-250 feet, but they are constant and vary unexpectedly from long ramping climbs to short steep climbs. It is a LOT more fun than a day at the theme parks!
2100 riders!) Lots of groups from bike clubs come. We try to avoid the mass of riders that swarm out at the beginning of the ride. These are the avid competitive types, fun to watch, but, frankly, not our style. We ride simply for the fun of pedalling. So we wait at the beginning of the ride for most of the riders to head down the road, then we hit the road. It means we are way behind most, but, since it isn't a race, who cares? It was a good strategy on this ride. The day was sunny, warm, and humid. The heat and humidity meant that we needed to pace ourselves better than usual. We didn't need the excitement of a pack to tempt us into pushing our limits.
The rest stops were less flamboyant than past years', but the treats still as much fun. I am a total sucker for chocolate truffles, dark chocolate chips, and the like. As long as you are swilling down Gatorade, you might as well nibble some Ghirardelli chocolate, too.
Before the ride ended, we stopped briefly on a bridge to enjoy the quiet water view. Then we pedalled to the parking lot where we left the car, put the bikes on the carrier, chatted briefly with a woman about a ride in Ocala, and, enjoying the usual post-ride euphoria, started the car and headed back to the hotel for a shower. There was a post-ride meal, but we had other plans for our time.
Back at the hotel, we showered and changed. Heading back out through the lobby, we passed groups of sweaty riders heading up for showers. We all looked very tired, but very pleased with ourselves.
It was a really great ride.