Monday, October 8, 2012

Withlacoochee State Trail

We packed our bikes on the back of our car, threw our suitcases into the back seat, and drove 3 hours northeast. Our destination was the town of Inverness, Florida, and the Withlacoochee State Trail. The WST is a rail trail, 46 miles of rail trail, the longest in Florida.

There were over a thousand riders. Century riders did a segment on adjacent roads in addition to a circuit of the trail. Everybody else stayed on the trail. It's a great start-of-season event ride.

Riding past the tents at ride headquarters.
It rained heavily the afternoon and evening before the ride. We woke and checked weather. Dawn was still an hour away, the temperature was 73 and the dew point was 70. It was going to be a hot and sticky ride. Al poured me a cup of coffee, and we sipped coffee, watching the bike lights blinking down the trail below our motel balcony heading for the ride start. We joined them a bit later when the sky was light enough to ride without headlights.

There were 1000 riders, but the trail was never crowded.
Al had a plan. There was 16 miles of trail north of the starting point and 30 miles to the south. The trail to the south was seriously flat, while the trail north more undulating. We'd head south first, then do the northern bit of trail. Sounded good to me. I was focused on the sag stops. I am inordinately fond of oreo cookies topped with a small dollop of peanut butter and a thick slice of banana, a feature of a number of the sag stops on this ride. (One cannot pedal on an empty stomach.)

This ride had a seriously wide variety of participants. Pack riders sporting club jerseys were everywhere. There was good representation from the 70 and 80 something contingent (more women than men, by the way.) And there were noteworthy oddities, things that are always found on this ride and no other. My favorites this year:
  • A man who looked to be in his 90s riding an adult tricycle bike, slowly but resolutely, the old bike creaking and squeaking as he proceeded down the trail sporting his new event t-shirt and a pleasant smile. 
  • A very happy young girl riding a pink princess bike, pedalling proudly behind her father on his serious carbon fiber road bike, the father keeping a slow but challenging pace for the little girl (and looking extremely proud of her).
  • A woman who had to be told at the first sag stop that her helmet was on backwards
  • A pretty young woman with perhaps the biggest breasts I have ever seen riding her road bike at a rapid pace, hands down on the drops, causing predictable chaos wherever she went.
We headed south for a number of sag stops, occasionally joining and chatting with different packs of riders. Then we turned about and headed north the way we had come, passing the ride headquarters to do the north segment of the trail. On our return to ride headquarters we skipped the post ride food and headed back to our motel. As usual we had plans for the rest of the day. We had done 65 miles, and it was an easy, fast, and pleasant metric century ride for us.

When we pulled up to our motel, I hoisted up my bike up to climb upstairs to our room. Al was standing at the foot of the stairs waiting on me to get to the top. Kaboom-hissssssss. I turned, looked at Al, and broke out laughing. His bike had waited to until we were at the motel before the rear tire blew. He laughed and looked down at the tire. "You know, we'll be driving right past the Bike Shop on our way home tomorrow. I think we should just let Matthew fix this one."

A lake along the trail.
I agreed.