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.|