Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011 - Hello 2012

We took a short (16 mile) ride this morning.  Other things were waiting our attention, but a quick ride clears the cobwebs and sets up the day.

Before leaving on the ride, I set up my spreadsheet for 2012 biking.  And, a bit wistfully, tidied up and got ready to archive the 2011 biking spreadsheet.  Every year is a bit different.  This past year had no week-long touring, but it had many longer and faster local rides.  All our riding since September has been on our new road bikes.  Our mountain bikes and folding bikes have been lonely.
We rode almost 2000 miles in 2011.  1200 of those miles have been rides on our new road bikes which we got in mid September.  In other words, we are enjoying ourselves.  The new bikes are more comfortable than our old road bikes, which was a pleasant surprise for us.

An important footnote to the year:  Both Al and I have noticed that the feelings of well-being and contentment that typically follow rides have expanded into the day after a ride.  This is new, and a delightful development.  Exercise may not be a silver bullet for the downsides of aging, but it sure beats whatever is in second place (to mix and match old sayings.)

Since it is the last day of the year, I want to post our favorite views on local rides.  For Al, it is the view of our backyard from the spot where we check average speed for the day's ride.  We always stop on the street just across the canal from us.  (Personally, I believe he's thinking about eating lunch out on the screen porch.)
Al's Favorite View

My favorite view is a nearby ranch that has been put into trust as conservation land.  This was an old ranch, handed down for generations within the same family.  The rancher did not want future generations to subdivide or otherwise develop the ranch.  It is a beautiful place, and I find it very comforting to know that the owner of this fabulous place could love the beauty of his land more than the money the land would bring.  A naively hopeful thought for the beginning of the year.
Old Ranch Given a New Life as a Conservation Area


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Florida

Our thanks to all our friends who sent and posted holiday greetings and lovely pictures of winter in the Midwest, East, and West.

Needless to say, things are a bit warmer down here. For all you who have tucked your bicycles away until spring, here's a picture of Christmas biking in Florida. (Don't you love the idea of sandals with no socks at the end of December?) So pack your bike and head down to where life on a bicycle doesn't involve snowtires or parkas.

Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1956 Tangerine Oldsmobile

There are a lot of restored antique cars here.  I guess that goes with having a lot of retirees with the time for this very time-consuming hobby.  I've been admiring one particular car for some time.  I see it frequently at our grocery store and parked in front of local restaurants.  I also knew where it lived: in a garage just a mile from our house.

On our last ride, the car was parked in the yard.  We stopped and talked to the car's owner (Mike--note the car's license plate).  He showed it to us and told us it's story.  Mike bought the car in Seattle in 2005.  He spent 3 years restoring it.  He laughed about the color.  "It's a perfect color in Florida, but it gets a lot of laughs when I drive it up to Vermont," he said smiling.

It is a perfect color for Florida.  I can easily see myself driving this beauty down by the beach in Miami.

1956 Oldsmobile
Mike and his 56 Olds




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bobcat

We had our first local bobcat sighting on today's ride.  Unfortunately, he (or she) moved into scrub before I could take a picture.  It was about 2.5 miles from our home, so we'll be keeping our eyes open for this bobcat in the future.  In case you've never seen a bobcat, here's a picture from the web.  It's size, tufted ears, and shortish tail make it very different from a common house cat.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Critters and Christmas Decorations

We get to meet and talk to a lot of people when we are out on our bicycles.  This week we stopped to chat and saw something that was special.  A fat raccoon peeked out at us from the house foundation shrubs.  But instead of sneaking away, he boldly walked into the garage.  He was quickly escorted back into the woods.

Raccoon Checking Things Out
Boldly heading into the garage.















A lot of Christmas decorations are lovely. When they make you smile, then they are really special.  We ran into three that made us smile.  One was a scarecrow Santa standing tall in the front yard of an avid gardener.  Another was a whirly gig biking Santa, spinning away in the front yard of a cyclist we know.  And the third was the unusual display that sported traditional lights, a Christmas tree, an animated snowglobe Santa, and an inflatable Florida Gator.  This was obviously the home of an serious football fan who knows what's important this time of year!

Biking Santa
Scarecrow Santa



Florida Gator Fan's Christmas Decor

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What a Difference the Sun Makes

Only a couple of days ago, low grey clouds filled the sky and the temperature was downright chilly.  Today the sun was back.  There was not a cloud in the sky.  The temperature was in the 60s, but the sun made it feel more like the mid 70s.

We were out doing a simple 30 mile route.  First, here's what that scene of dog fennel covered pasture looked like today with the sun and the clear blue sky.  (It is the same time of day as the picture with the grey clouds, by the way.)
Now this is a typical winter day--a clear blue sky.

The model plane club packed their little field.  It not only was clear and sunny, but the wind was calm, too.  It had been windy for a number of days, too windy for their planes.  They were making up for lost time.  We stopped and watched them fly their planes for a few minutes.
The model planes are just specs in the sky in this picture.

But the highlight of today's ride came at about the 20 mile mark.  A white tailed deer was standing by the side of the road.  We stopped.  The deer gave me enough time to take out my camera, then bolted across the road in front of us.

The deer bolted right after I pulled out the camera.
Now that was a fun ride.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Arrives

December stretches out ahead of us.  We decided to spend December in Lake Placid.  It seems pleasant to be able to hang out at home instead of the usual hectic holiday schedule of past years.  We'll take the road bikes out for meandering trips inside Highlands County where we live.  On short trips to the coast, we'll throw our folding city bikes in the car.

The first true cold front swept through Lake Placid bringing chilly nights and cool days.  True, winter in our area is mild.  We switched our central system from air conditioning to heat in October, but the heat has yet to switch on even once.  The past few days have been the coldest so far this year with lows in the 50s and the highs barely in the 70s.

Since we ride in the morning, we've had to add some layers to our bike clothes.  It's not cold enough for typical northern cold weather gear, but it is much too cold for our usual Florida gear.  I compromise by wearing a second pair of socks with my bike sandals.  (Yes, bike sandals in December.)  And I add a sleeveless fleece bike jacket with a wind-stopping fabric front over my usual gear.

Our ride today was beautiful.  Low grey clouds accentuated the winter mood.  The clouds aren't typical winter weather here.  The nickname "the sunshine state" comes from the fact that our winters are sunny.  So while the tourists may be complaining, we were admiring the beauty of the clouds over the scrub.

Christmas decorations were up.  While some still had uninflated displays strewn across their yards or roofs (elves, reindeer, and snowmen waiting in line for their blow jobs), most homes seemed ready for the holidays.  One home stood out.  The homeowners had limited the decorations to a huge traditional wreath on the front door---and Santa hats on the home's outdoor lights.  Very, very effective in its simplicity.