Saturday, December 26, 2015

Buy the ticket, take the ride. (Hunter S. Thompson)

Goals: We never set any. Bucket lists: We never have any. We just do the stuff we like doing. Things are either (1) scheduled on our calendar or (2) ignored and forgotten.

Which is problematic at the end of the year when an Annual Report is traditional and friends ask, "What have you been doing?"

OK. Here's a summary of 2015.

So we're settled into our new home and life in Miami. After many years of rural living, we are thoroughly enjoying all the things there are to do in Miami. We are still avid film buffs, and we watched hundreds of films during the year. We've read a lot of Scandinavian mysteries and crime fiction. We traveled, mostly to small towns and backroad areas of Florida and the Southeast. And we rode our bicycles a lot.

Over the past two years, we've found our cycling sweet spot. Long bike rides four mornings a week, riding around 250 miles a week. We vary the rides. Some fast. Some slow. Some with groups. Some by ourselves. We like doing metric centuries (100 kilometers = 62 miles).

We take our bikes wherever we go. And we do our metric centuries wherever we go. All the biking keeps us feeling great and sleeping like babies. Time zips along. We're rarely bored.

I rode over 10,000 bicycle miles in 2015. Al rode over a 1000 miles more than me, since I was sidelined for a month and a half with a broken collarbone. One good thing about riding like this: We don't have to train for anything. We're always ready to ride any event, or place, that interests us. (Despite the fact that I love long bike rides, I loathe training.)

Not everyone can ride this much, even if they want to. But we're retired. We get to do the stuff we enjoy, unencumbered by obligations to family, a job, or a business. For us, cycling keeps life interesting. In fact, many of our friends in Miami are people we met through cycling.

Buy the ticket. Take the ride. See what happens.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays To You

Have a very Happy Holiday season.
May they bring you many reasons to smile!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Follow The Leader

Al and I wanted to do some volunteer work this year. So we looked around. Everglades Bicycle Club posted that they needed volunteer ride leaders. Apparently they were pretty desperate: They accepted us into their program.

Two Saturdays a month Al and I are ride leaders for the 16-18 ride group. I must admit, I love riding with them. The group has a solid core of regulars. These guys don't just turn up. They own their group. They know what they want from their Saturday ride. They know what they want from their ride leaders. They expect group members to ride considerately and safely. And they aren't shy about voicing their opinions.

And they're fun.

These guys want a safe, smooth, no drama ride. They expect the ride leader(s) to make easy starts, keep a smooth steady pace at the designated speed, keep the group together, and navigate the route safely. After a ride or two with them, we made some suggestions. Ride in pairs. No wheel overlap with the pair of riders in front of you. Close gaps. Echo the sweep's "all in" call forward so the leaders know when they can return to speed after turns and lights. It's a work in progress for them and us. We're working on how to do our part better.

For my non-bikey family and friends and for my bikey friends who don't do paceline group rides, let me ramble for a moment about what you do as ride leaders. You see, it turns out being a decent ride leader is more than just being strong or fit. It is a skill set you have to work on.

There are usually two ride leaders with a group.

One ride leader is up front. That leader has to know the route and navigate everyone smoothly along the route. It is a lot like driving a big RV with a car in tow. You have to remember how long that rig is when you go through an intersection. You really can't stop it on a dime either. Pacelines work only when the whole group is disciplined and consistent. Any sudden changes in speed or direction are an invitation for an accident. When you are at the front you have to rely on your group communicating with you. It isn't just the ride leader that makes the group move along smoothly. The group needs to communicate with their ride leaders. Now it is group ride etiquette to call out road hazards. ("Hole!" "Car right!" etc.)  They also need to call out when someone has mechanical problems or if there is a split in the group.

The other ride leader is at the very back of the paceline and is called the sweeper. The sweeper passes information forward, which is echoed by the riders up to the front. ("All in!" "Mechanical!" "Car passing!" "Slow down!" etc.) The sweep also assists any riders that encounter problems like becoming fatigued or beginning to separate from the group. The sweep assesses traffic, watching behind and signaling and negotiating with drivers as needed. 

As I said, it's a work in progress. But each ride goes a little smoother than the last.

Our Saturday EBC rides have definitely gotten more fun and more interesting.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

2015 Escape to the Keys: We Did It Our Way

Friday was the first day of the 2015 Escape to the Keys ride. There was a ginormous rain system over South Florida. It was raining torrentially. Flood alerts had been issued. About 250 cyclists were set to ride from Homestead to Hawks Cay Resort in the Middle Keys, day one of a two day ride to Key West.

The weather gods were being cruel.

Al and I planned to ride unless an ark was moored next to the luggage truck at the ride's start in Homestead. But weather radar made us reconsider this rash approach to an 80 mile pedal. We packed the bikes on the car, threw our duffel into the backseat, and drove to Hawks Cay. We'd do a bike ride from Hawks Cay Resort if the weather permitted. (It didn't.)

Instead of riding our bikes, we did stuff we could do without getting too wet. We checked out the resort. We watched the resort's dolphins. We had a lunch at the buffet set up for Escape to Key West riders. (There were libations. There was music.) We met some new people. We chatted with some people we knew from Miami. We watched some riders arrive at the resort on bicycles. (They were tired and soaked but looking pretty happy with themselves.) Finally, we left the resort and headed into Marathon. A little shopping. Some munching. Then back to the resort for an early evening coffee. It was around that time that we simultaneously realized something: the spirit to ride to Key West had deserted us.

The Keys are a special, magical place for us, and riding our bikes in the Keys is usually wonderful. But the mood had left us, and we needed to make a decision. Ride for the sake of riding. Or do something else.

We talked it over. In an hour we had a plan. When we go to Key West we are normally riding our bikes. That means we don't have much of a chance to do real tourist stuff like walking Duval Street, browsing in stores, or hanging out in cafes. Why not do that? After all, we had pleasant lodging paid for and waiting for us in Key West.

Saturday actually turned out to be a nice day for cycling. The Escape to the Keys riders headed to Key West on their bicycles. We, on the other hand, packed our bikes on our car and drove past them and on into Key West. Once in Key West, we walked the town. We were sipping espresso at a bakery/cafe on Duval when the Escape to the Keys riders pedaled past on their way to the end of ride party. Later we waved to a group of riders (the West Side Sunset Bandits) who were pedaling towards the Southernmost Point as we were perusing souvenirs. We even bumped into Ruben Fuentes and Greg Neville on our walk back to our motel.

We'd spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon being a couple of regular tourists. It was brilliant.



Monday, November 30, 2015

A Sunday Ride To Cauley Square

Before we make plans for where we will ride on Sunday morning, we always check the Everglades Bicycle Club and the Everglades Bicycle Club Rides Facebook pages. The Sunday morning rides posted there aren't EBC sponsored rides; they are rides put together by EBC members and open to anyone who can ride the posted speed and distance in a paceline.

Recently we saw a post by Ruben Fuentes about a ride to Cauley Square. We did some checking and voted to go.

We were pedaling down the Underline (AKA the M-Path) on our way to the ride's start at Ponce Middle School, a short pedal south of
where we live. A classy vintage Mustang with the top down carrying a bike drove past, the driver waving to us as he went by. It was Ruben on his way to Ponce.

When we rolled up to Ponce a few minutes later, a fair size group was gathering. We wandered up and back through the group, chatting and greeting friends. In no time at all we were lined up and ready to go.

Ruben clipped in, followed by the click, click, clicks of the rest of the group, and we headed down the road.

Ruben has been working on the route to Cauley Square. This week he promised a route that would include both roads and (surprise!) bike paths. The first part of the ride was a combination of routes used by several groups over the years. Traffic was light. The weather was pitch perfect for cycling. The route took us down some roads lined with lush foliage and sheltered by a canopy of large, mature trees.

The group rode well together. The riders up front maintained a steady brisk pace. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Soon we were at our first quick stop at Larry and Penny Thompson Park. Then it was pedal, pedal, pedal, and on to one of Miami's lovely bike trails. I was surprised that we could maintain a brisk speed on the trail. The trail was wide, and there were very few people using the trail Sunday morning. There were ducks and a large group of ducklings(!), and the water of the creek by the trail was a shiny mirror reflecting the sky and clouds.

Back on roads, we wound our way through Redland to Cauley Square. As a relative newcomer to Miami, discovering Cauley Square was fun. It is a quaint collection of old wooden buildings that date back to the beginning of the last century when there was a stop and siding for the Florida East Coast Railroad there. The buildings that now form Cauley Square Historic Village have survived a tornado in 1919 and a hurricane in 1926. They now house restaurants, artisan shops, and some other interesting shops to wander into. We were headed for the Latin Corner, a small walk-up coffee and snack spot with garden-style tables and seating. There we mingled and sipped our coffee and munched our  snacks.

Before heading back, we needed to get a group photo. So we all gathered in front of the Latin Corner building for the photo. Then it was back on the road for the ride back to Ponce.

A picture perfect Sunday pedal. Many thanks to Ruben Fuentes and everyone who kept us moving along so well. Great ride!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Pedaling through Miami's lush and lovely residential neighborhoods puts us in a holiday mood. Mature trees provide canopy overhead. Homes, large and small, are nestled behind hedges, walls, and dense tropical foliage, giving them both beauty and privacy in a crowded urban locale. Holiday decorations add sparkle and personality.

And then there are the peacocks. Peacocks are non-native birds that have made themselves at home in Miami. We keep count of the number we see on rides. We saw 43 on just one ride this week.

They are big birds. They roost in trees, on walls, and on roofs. Usually they walk sedately. Occasionally one will fly across a road. They tend to fly low, and we have on occasion had a peacock come close to hitting us. Peacocks are among the most beautiful birds you can find, but beauty has its price. Peacocks are noisy, and some people complain about the mess they make. Luckily, the Code of Miami-Dade County (and therefore also the City of Miami) specifically protects peacocks.

And for that we are thankful.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Bonus Day In Central Florida: The Search For A Good Cup of Coffee

Miami spoils coffee lovers. Every corner cafe, every bakery, even the tiniest of coffee shops has great coffee. Strong, rich, delicious. Traveling in other areas of Florida, finding coffee like this can be challenging.

After two days in Central Florida, we were in the grips of Good Coffee Deprivation Syndrome. Every cup of coffee we tried since arriving in Clermont had been less than adequate. Today we headed out on a recovery ride with one target in mind: a good cup of coffee! So we rolled the bikes through the motel lobby, out the front doors, and pedaled off. We took the Horrible Hundred route up the North Ridge climb and picked up the South Lake Trail. The trail system is perfect for a recovery ride. We took the South Lake Trail to the West Orange Trail and pedaled through Winter Garden. It was too early to stop for coffee at this point so we continued on the trail system until we had ridden half the day's planned miles. Then we turned around and pedaled back to Winter Garden and a coffee shop that had been recommended to us. Yes! A good cup of coffee at last! Refreshed, we pedaled back to the motel.

Miles: 51.
South Lake Trail near Clermont

South Lake Trail

West Orange Trail

Bridge on the West Orange Trail

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Horrible Hundred


A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving each year we drive to Clermont in Central Florida for the Florida Freewheelers' Horrible Hundred. It is our favorite annual ride in Florida.

Normally we do rides like this by ourselves. Riding in a group is easier, but the views from a paceline are not as interesting as when you are riding by yourself. But this year a large group from the West Side Sunset Bandits team was going, and they were nice enough to extend an invitation to us to join them. The biggest part of their group was doing the hundred mile route which didn't interest us. But a small group was doing the 70 mile route, and we like that ride immensely.

We decided to follow our pattern from past years. Rather than face the mob scene of the Waterfront Park start and the fairly uninteresting warm up ride around the lake, we chose to ride our bikes from our motel and join the route after the pretty but ho-hum ride around the lake but before the first climb of the day up North Ridge. We'd stop at the top of the climb and wait for our group to ride by. Which they did, and we hopped on our bikes and pedaled on down the road.

There were six of us in our little group. One rider was only doing the 35 mile route, which meant he would ride with us for a bit over 25 miles. He was just beginning to develop his climbing skills, but his descending skills were amazing! He was a natural: fearless, a perfect tucked position, body fluidly shifting as he maneuvered down each hill to rejoin our group. We caught up with the larger hundred mile group and rode with them for a while. At the rest stop before our two groups would head in different directions, one of the guys from our small group felt confident enough to commit to the hundred mile group. So there were then four in our small group.

So on down the road the four of us pedaled. We had some minor climbs and then Sugarloaf ahead. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Finally it was up Sugarloaf, the well-earned rest stop at the top of the climb, and the short 10-ish miles to the finish. But it was in these final miles that we had our treat for the day. The route had been changed! Two mean climbs near the end had been replaced by a route that gave us a long awesome descent! Best end to a ride in the hills of Central Florida ever.

We left our friends not far from the finish to head back to our motel. As we pedaled towards the motel, we made our plans for the evening. The evening's plans whispered louder than our plans for doing a few more miles. We laughed and headed back to our room for a shower.

Miles: 66.8. Climbing: 2637 feet.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter. (James A. Garfield)

It was an entertaining week.

We pedaled with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We pedaled in pacelines and by ourselves. We pedaled city streets, suburban streets, and rural roads. We pedaled in places where we could hear birdsong and breaking waves. We pedaled in traffic, where the loud traffic noise drowned all other sounds. We pedaled in the dark, in the first light of day, and in bright midday sun.

No two days were alike.

Each day was a different mood, a different ambiance. It strengthened our belief that our enjoyment of cycling is based on the contrast between different rides. The rush of a high intensity fast ride is more interesting when you also do short, quiet rides for coffee or errands. A social group ride on one day contrasts vividly with the focused energy of a long solitary ride on another day.

Art, design, music, and life all rely on repetition and variation. Repetition creates unity and order. Variation creates interest and meaning. We have routines that get us out on our bicycles. The routines build a sense of order, unifying the flow of time, and organizing the parade of days. The different types of rides and the different places we go keep cycling interesting and a vital part of the pattern of our lives.

Man cannot live by bread alone...


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Marathon, Day 2 (Is This A Catchy Post Title Or What?)

Today we wandered the back streets of Marathon before heading north past Duck Key and the Hawks Cay Resort and continuing on into Layton. That was all into the wind. Then we turned around and (wheeeeee!) pedaled back home with a tailwind. Today's ride was all about checking out the improvements to the Overseas Highway bike trail here in the Keys.

Riding your bike through the Middle and Lower Keys is fun and beautiful, but traffic on the Overseas Highway is constant and noisy. Being able to move to a bike path just 20 feet or so from the highway may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in noise and road debris. The downside of riding on a bike path is that other bikes are also on the path, some of which may be whizzing along at speeds up to (gasp!) 10 mph!

Today we enjoyed some long, long bridges built just for pedestrians and bikes.

This trip was a spur of the moment thing. We talked about it late on Friday, and we had it put together in an hour or two. We have an easy recipe for trips like this:

  • The destination is any place within 2 hours from home by car.
  • We keep things simple, easy, and inexpensive.
  • Lodging is ideally a two-star hotel or motel with high customer ratings and something that makes it a little different from the others around.
  • It has to be an efficiency because we'll be hitting the local grocery store each day for meals.
  • It has to have good Internet.

 For this trip we booked into an older motel located on an old marina-style lagoon just south of the airport in Marathon. It has simple but spacious efficiency units with large screened patios. The bed isn't a memory foam wonder, but it is comfortable. The appliances all work, and there are adequate pots and pans, dishes, glasses and cups, kitchen tools, and silverware. It is decorated in mismatched vintage pieces from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, all painted white or cream. Towels are scratchy but adequate. Internet service is solid.

What's the "something different" that makes this place interesting? Well, I mentioned the big screen patio that each efficiency has. And you know the breakfast coffee room in most hotels and motels? Well this is the "coffee room" at this place:
Not bad, eh?
(Today's miles: 50.8)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Marathon

The Old Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge
My first visit to the Keys was when I was just 4 1/2 years old. My family was crossing the country with my father's job, living on military bases or in our family's tiny house trailer. When we got to South Florida, my mother took one look at base housing and drove the trailer to Marathon. Dad, she said, could commute to work. She and her children were living on the water's edge in Marathon. So I spent part of a glorious year exploring shallow aqua waters, discovering sea urchins, conchs, sea cucumbers, and a wondrous multitude of tiny tropical fish.

Marathon is just a 110 miles to the south of our current home in Miami, the perfect distance for a spur of the moment trip. Which is what we decided we needed a couple days ago. So here we are in Marathon.

Today we rode our bikes south, crossing the 7-Mile Bridge. We rode through Bahia Honda State Park, our favorite state park in all of Florida. Pedaling back to the East Coast Greenways bike path, we continued south to Big Pine Key. We criss-crossed the back roads of Big Pine Key, stopping at a grocery store for cold sodas. We rode over to No Name Key, headed back to Big Pine Key, then turned back toward Marathon, taking a detour down Long Beach Drive, a lovely ride which gave us our one and only sighting of a tiny Key deer.

The first half of the ride we had the tail wind so common this time of year when you are heading south. It was glorious. We flew down the road. The second half? Headwind, of course. We were dripping with sweat when we got back to our motel.

Needless to say, the post ride swim in the motel's pool was awesome.
(Today's miles: 63)
Bahia Honda State Park




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride

This week was the Everglades Bicycle Club's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride. We've done this ride a number of times. As a metric century by ourselves. As a metric century with a peloton. And as a leisurely century by ourselves.

This year we were doing something new. The Freedom Ride benefits the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, a branch of Achilles International. This year we were going to be be cyclist buddies to one of Team Freedom's handcyclists doing the 65 mile route. So Sunday Al and I met Larry at ride headquarters at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. We chatted briefly with Larry's wife and some other folks who were there, then we all pedaled off on the ride.

Larry, it turned out, was an interesting guy. He was easy to talk to, friendly and unpretentious. We shared stories about who we were, what we did, and stuff like that. He talked about his handcycle and the handcycle he was hoping to get sometime soon. The new one would let him ride in a more recumbent position, a position that would be less stressful on his back. I hadn't thought about the nuances of the fit of handcycles. It was interesting stuff. Larry's cycling style was also interesting, particularly his approach to climbs. His face held a focused little half smile. His head tipped forward, and he cranked with a smooth steady rhythm that didn't slow a beat all the way to the top of whatever incline the road put in front of him. Our down-the-road team was Larry, Al and me, and RV, our Honda Gold Wing Motorcycle Club escort. RV (yep, that's his nickname) rode a luscious dark red motorcycle trike, and at rest stops we coaxed him to tell us a little about his travels on it. Fun stuff. Not long after heading out on the ride, we were joined by Carole, another EBC cyclist buddy. Even farther down the road we added Tom, another EBC cyclist buddy. It was a nice size group wheeling down the road.

And I'll admit there were some amusing incidents on the ride. Like when I "lost" my group at the start.

We were at the starting line. I was laughing and talking with some friends. The ride started. I heard Al call my name. But when I looked up to find Al and Larry, they had disappeared into the mass of rolling bikes.

Crap! I did this last year and "lost" Al at the start. It took me miles of pedaling before I found Al. I was soooooooo not going to hear the end of this. Two years in a row!

I headed over to a guy I thought was Al. It wasn't him. Trying not to look hysterical, I devised a strategy and put it into operation. I drifted back through the mass of riders, just in case they were behind me rather than out front. Most of the low handcycles had tall orange flags over their back wheels. So I sprinted from flag to flag. By the time I had done the mile and a half ride around the speedway, I hadn't found Larry or Al, but I got lots of amusing comments from friends as I pedaled furiously past them through the ranks of riders.

I continued my chase down the road. A team let me slide into their paceline, which gave me a bit of a rest as I continued chasing handcycle flags down the road. Finally I found them. There they were, chatting amiably as they pedaled down the road, no doubts in their mind that I'd get there eventually!

Then there were the flat tires I got on the second half of the ride. I managed to run over a nail that damaged my rear tire. The group rolled on down the road while Al and I fixed the flat. We caught up with Larry and the gang at Card Sound Bridge after a full-tilt boogie chase.

It went from amusing to annoying just miles from the end of the ride. The tire gave out and flatted again. This time Al said, "Wait here, I'll go get the car and come back for you." (My hero!) I parked my bike in the shade of a palm and gave the tire a thorough check. It was a new tire, but that nail had messed it up but good. We ride too much to keep a problem tire. My opinion was that there was no use fixing it. When Al returned with the car, he agreed. Time to get to the bike shop and pick up a new tire.

An interesting way to end this year's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride, to say the least.
Waiting under a palm tree for Al to pick me up.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The That-Away Ride

Sometimes when you ask yourself where you want to ride, you just point into the wind and say, "that-away."

A front had moved through South Florida. At first it was a rain event. Next it was all about wind. The wind was from the north. So we decided to head straight into it for the first half of our ride. We rode over a causeway to the barrier island that is Miami Beach, turned north, and pedaled up the island and onward to Hollywood. We wheeled over to the Hollywood boardwalk on the beach and settled into an outdoor table at a cozy little beachfront restaurant. What could be better than sipping coffee and watching waves?

Then it was back on the bikes for the ride back home. Some cities and states have hills. You work your butt off pedaling up a hill for the reward of going downhill (wheeeeee!) In Miami, you don't have hills, but some days you have wind. Pedal into the wind for a few dozen miles, then turn around and (wheeeee!) head back home with an awesome tailwind.

Life is good.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. (Lin Yutang)

We are traveling again, and it is wonderful. There is an adjustment, though. Traveling means no longer seeing friends every week. Traveling has its joys, but the cost is spending less time with people you like.

At Cauley Square with friends from the Everglades Bicycle Club
This week we were jump-starting our cool weather cycling season. We pushed the miles, getting our legs and "undercarriages" ready for the fun rides we plan to do. So it was 330 miles, Sunday to Sunday.

This week's 16-18 ride group (Photo by Dino, edited for the blog by Marsha)
The week reminded us of the costs and rewards of travel. The bittersweet loss of time with Miami friends. And the warm sense of home those Miami friends give to us when we are back in Miami.

It's all good.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Withlacoochee Trail Ride, Part Two

Partly cloudy, temperatures in the 70s, and low humidity. Perfect weather for a bike ride. We decided to do the trail again.

Yesterday we got soaked for 60 miles while riding on the southern end of the trail. If we re-did that section of the ride in today's nice weather we would have the perfect distance for an enjoyable recovery ride. We had a plan. So off we went, south down the trail from our motel.

There are several bike shops along the trail. Recumbents are popular on the west coast of Florida and particularly in areas with good trails. We loved the way one bike store had painted the back of the store facing the trail.

There's a great old bridge that passes over a busy divided highway on the southern end of the trail.

We rolled a block off the trail to visit the tiny town of Trilby. The post office, an old church, and a couple of old repurposed buildings are all there is of downtown Trilby.

The trail doesn't cross many roads, but when it does, traffic is amazingly respectful to cyclists. We came to one road at almost the same time as a large pick-up truck driven by a middle-age guy dressed like he might work on one of the nearby ranches. He stopped, waved us to cross, and actually called out an apology for not yielding the right away sooner! If anything, that guy was typical of the friendly attitude we ran into here in Inverness.

We needed to ride north of our motel to pick up some extra miles. We headed to Inverness for a photo of one of those amazing public art pieces you can find in tourist areas. These two smiling turtles were on a giant bench near the lake at the Inverness trail head.

You know, biking is much more pleasant and fun without rain.

Miles: 63

Sunday, October 4, 2015

40 Miles of Nice, 60 Miles of Rain

The ride started well enough. We come to the Withlacoochee State Trail for the annual fall ride because it's a great trail and because it has tons of well stocked rest stops. These people know how to do rest stops. Like oreos with a dollop of peanut butter, a slice of banana, and a couple of raisins. Or salty cheese crackers with peanut butter and banana slices. This on top of the usual fruit, sports drinks, cookies, and cups of little munchie things. It is one of the nicest places to ride a century in the state.

But early in the ride we began to see a problem. Clouds were on the horizon.

At about mile 40 it began to drizzle. By mile 50 it was a steady light rain. I call this "a steady light rain" in deference to the people of the Carolinas who are being inundated by torrential rains. Whatever term I use to describe the rain, we did get very wet. At one rest stop we bolted to the welcome shelter of the rest stop's tent. "It wasn't raining till you got here," said the volunteer ladies shaking their heads. And so it went. A mile and a half from our motel, and the end of our ride, we saw the first lightning.
We made it to our room. By the time we had stripped off our wet gear, tended to the bikes, showered, and dressed in street clothes, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking through.
What we looked like riding in the rain.

We couldn't help ourselves. We laughed.

Miles: 101




Saturday, October 3, 2015

Inverness

We packed the car and the bikes and drove 4+ hours to Inverness, a town just northeast of Tampa. Small lakes are everywhere. Streets are lined with oaks draped in Spanish moss. Through the center of town, near the county courthouse, runs the Withlacoochee State Trail, Florida's oldest rail-to-trail, 46 miles of wide paved bike path.

We are here for a ride tomorrow which is sponsored by a Rails-to-Trails group. It is an annual ride we chanced upon years ago. We were fascinated by the interesting mix of people who attend. It is both a standard ride for people wanting to ride 62 or 100 miles and a big bicycle festival for casual riders of all ages. It routinely draws 800-900 people.

We wandered around town briefly, stopping at a local bike shop for some things and checking out a couple restaurants. We laughed at the town's demographics. Silver and gray hair predominate. The Villages, that vast retirement haven, is just 20 miles from here. The area is positively overrun by retirees. Most were just regular folks, but some were clearly living in a time gone by. We saw one guy who apparently hadn't changed his wardrobe or haircut since 1972!

We headed back to our motel. We doubted we were ready for the tingling excitement of Saturday night out on the town in Inverness.

Monday, September 28, 2015

There is more to life than increasing its speed. (Mahatma Gandhi)

 We are back in Miami, doing our Miami routines. Sipping coffee on the balcony before dawn. Morning bike rides by ourselves and with friends. Watching movies. And more movies. Doing the simple daily tasks and chores that keep one's life in order. And planning and organizing for upcoming trips.

Saturday we save for the EBC (Everglades Bicycle Club) group rides. (And the 16-18 EBC ride group. Some old friends. Some new ones. Fun group. More on them in future posts.)

It sounds like a relaxing schedule. And it would be if not for smartphones that beep, buzz, and beg for attention. And pop-up notes and chimes on tablets and computer screens that enumerate the emails and messages that are piling up.

It seemed worse this week. You see, when we got to Apalachicola (our last trip) we discovered that our phones (and everyone's who was not on Verizon) had little or no coverage. Our phones just had a red "X" on the little connection symbol. At first it was annoying. How were we supposed to live without working smartphones? I was used to dealing with messages as they came in. (Sort of.) Our link to the outside world was our hotel room's Wi-Fi connection.

But after a few days, our annoyance evaporated. We had accidentally traveled back to the 90s, back to the time before smartphones and instant connection to everyone. It was bliss.

We want all our gadgets. But I want what we found in Apalachicola.

So we're learning to love airplane mode.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Apalachicola Rundown

So far on this trip we've found some pretty scenic rides. My plan to do a tour of the whole panhandle using Apalachicola as our base was a total wash. It can be done, but it is just too complicated for a relaxing trip. But Apalachicola turns out to be a gem of an area for cycling. It has rides with different moods, different scenery, and different ambiance. (Which is very important to us.)

But what has us excited about the area are the rides we haven't done yet. Rides we will do on our next trip, on road bikes. Franklin County is one of those rare Florida places that has most of its land set aside as state and national forest or wildlife refuges and the like. It is one of the least populous counties in Florida. (And likely to stay that way.) The coastal highway is scenic and reasonably bike friendly. Because the Apalachicola River and protected environmental areas run through the center of the county, roads that lead away from the coast are few, have wide paved shoulders, and almost no traffic. We can't wait to take our road bikes out on these highways.

For instance, a ride to and from the tiny crossroads hamlet of Sumatra on highway 65. Not a stop sign or slow down in 25 miles or so. Road bike heaven.

Thanks to those who messaged asking about our hotel and other details. Our hotel is the Water Street Hotel and Marina. There are also standard motels in the area (the Best Western is newly refurbished), a lovely restored historic hotel downtown, and the River Inn, an older restored riverfront motel (all rooms face the water). So why are we at the Water Street and not at one of these others or in a beach rental? Because the Water Street Hotel and Marina is new construction, not a restored older building. Because each of its apartments has a large screened balcony on the river, furnished with comfortable patio furniture. Because the units have good wireless Internet. And because we enjoy watching the boats going up and down the river and listening to the wind in the marsh reeds. It's as simple as that.

Yep, we'll be back here soon. With road bikes.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Back to St. George Island

Clouds hovered in the east. It was really windy. We checked local weather. No worries. The clouds would come and go, but rain chances were low. The wind, on the other hand, was going to be with us all day.

We did a second ride to St. George Island. A lot of the first half of the ride was straight into the wind. Al joked that perhaps the definition of a headwind was when 9.2 mph seems like a reasonable pace. We got some respite from the wind each time we wandered down a side path exploring. Half-way through our ride on the island we found a store with some amazing just from the oven muffins and scones. After a coffee and pastry break, we headed to the northern end of the road. That's where we turned around.

Tailwind!! Amazing tailwind!!! We waved to cyclists pedaling into the wind as we rolled down the road at 22-28 mph on fat tires with almost no effort. This wasn't a sprint speed. This was cruising.

It didn't take that long to get back home to the hotel.

Miles: 51.7

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rest Day

An oyster boat heads out to the Apalachicola Bay.
Our apartment at our Apalachicola hotel has a kitchen. With a stove. And all these pots and pans and stuff. Today was a rest day. No long bike ride. We decided we had the time to cook a lovely dinner. And we could eat that dinner out on our balcony looking at the Apalachicola River.

Of course, the two of us hadn't actually cooked a meal in pots and pans on a stove in over 15 years. That's when we moved to Florida. We didn't bother moving the pots and pans to Florida. (Or buying any after moving here.) The stove in our Florida home is lovely, polished regularly but never used. Cook a shrimp dinner here in Apalachicola? How hard could it be?

So this afternoon we went to the store. Veggies? Check. Shrimp? Check. Rice? Check. Sauce fixings? Check.

Back in the kitchen, we got busy. After a little trial and error, all the parts of our dinner were ready to take to the table. (Yeah, the kitchen was a total mess.)

We carried it all out to the balcony, sat down at the table, and enjoyed the moment. We ate and watched the oyster, shrimp, and small recreational boats chug up and down the river below. We lingered over our meal. We watched the day end and night slip over the salt marsh.

Best rest day ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Carrabelle

The wind was blowing at a steady 20 mph from the east northeast. We were heading up the Big Bend Scenic Highway (highway 98) to Carrabelle. Which meant we had a headwind all the way there. On our slow bikes, it was hard work.
When we got to Carrabelle, we had to take a close look at the Carrabelle police station: a tiny blue phone booth standing on the corner near the center of town. (Hello, Dr. Who.)

We voted for a coffee break. We were in luck to find a small coffee shop downtown. The interior was amazing, the coffee strong (fifty cents a mug!), and the fresh baked pastries really, really good.
But the fun of the day was the ride. The ocean on one side, Tate's Hell State Forest on the other.
On the way home we had an awesome tailwind. We took a side trip down highway 65, a road that heads inland through the state forest and the Apalachicola River wildlife refuge. The coastal highway was beautiful, but the inland highway was road bike heaven. (Next trip we bring the road bikes!)
After a while we went back to the coastal highway and headed home. With that awesome tailwind all the way.
Miles: 63