Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Tour de Redland: Sunday, Sunshine, and Cycling

A bicycle tour on open rural roads. Nice. On Sunday, free for Everglades Bicycle Club members, and right in Miami-Dade? Excellent!

We packed our bikes on the car and drove to Larry and Penny Thompson Park near Zoo Miami. We arrived just as a colorful dawn was spreading across the sky. Unpacking our bikes, we geared up and pedalled towards the start at the park entrance, hoping to spot people we knew. We moved through the crowd, getting a few minutes of socializing with friends, taking some pictures, and signing in.

The Everglades Bicycle Club had put together the inaugural Tour de Redland. EBC board member Greg Neville welcomed the sea of cyclists then waved a ceremonial flag to start the ride. The mass of cyclists moved out. Unlike mass starts at other events we attend around the state (which shall remain nameless), this start was delightfully polite and controlled. There were plenty of strong, fit, and fast riders, but there was no mad, thundering, push down the road. Groups formed, pace lines took shape, and the groups moved smoothly around each other as the faster groups sped on and slower groups found their comfortable riding speed. Al and I were doing the 55 mile route. We had looked unsuccessfully for our regular Sunday ride group. Happily, before the start we found two riders we knew from our Saturday EBC rides and hooked up with them.

The first leg of the ride was about 26 miles into the wind to the Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center at Everglades National Park. We joined a group shortly after the start, a double pace line formed, and we pedalled happily along. A gap formed and the group split. But in no time a new pack and pace line formed. The day was sunny. The traffic was sparse. And while rural agricultural roads are legendary for their bumps and washboard, these roads were very good for their type. Besides, who can whine about a patch of rough road when you can ride, and ride, and ride without a traffic light or stop sign?

We rolled into Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center and found a place to park our bikes amid the sea of bikes. We broke out our snacks, made use of the rest rooms, refilled water bottles, stretched, and socialized. I couldn't help smiling about how nice it was to be able to visit a National Park's Visitor Center on a local bike tour. Everglades National Park is a very special place.

Soon our group began to gather with their bikes. Pedals up for the ride back. A large group of riders was heading out. Once we rode with them a few miles, I signaled Al that the pace was a bit too fast. (Maybe next year.) In just a few minutes we were part of another pack that was doing a slightly slower pace, a pace that I could handle. The group had an amazing guy leading. He was strong, consistent, disciplined, and shepherded the pack through intersections with skill. The pace line was smooth. Riders communicated well. It was a pleasure to pedal down the road with this group. I was working hard, but I was having a lot of fun.

Our second rest stop was a Tom Thumb Convenience Store. Ice cream! There is nothing like ice cream to make a ride perfect. In no time Al and I were munching down giant ice cream sandwiches. The convenience store was taking the money in as fast as they could while riders bought their treats and bottles of ice cold water. Some riders like us had a chance to thank the riders that were doing the pulling before we were off down the road again for the final few miles to Larry and Penny Thompson Park where our cars were parked.

A nice long Sunday morning ride in the sunshine is always nice. Throw in lots and lots of friendly lycra-clad cyclists, and you have the recipe for happiness.