Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Tour de Cape Becomes The Tour de Pelican

A year or so back, a friend introduced us to the Tour de Cape, an annual ride in Cape Coral. We decided to do it again this year with the same friend.

During the week before the ride, things were looking grim. Rain and severe storms were predicted for Saturday night. (The ride was Sunday.) The organizers had tentatively canceled the 100 mile ride and delayed the start of the other rides to mid or late Sunday morning.

We had our motel room and had paid for the ride. What to do?

Another look at the weather forecast gave us our answer. Saturday was going to be a beautiful day. We'd take a long ride on Saturday. If Sunday's ride worked out, it would be a bonus, a two-ride weekend.

So we agreed to meet at the motel at noon Saturday. Al and I wanted something that was hard to come by in Miami: A long ride with few interruptions. We noticed that our motel wasn't too far from Pine Island Road. There were plenty of stores along it for snacks and drinks. While it was a fairly busy highway, especially in the middle of the day, it had a bike lane. And it went out to Pine Island which is, after all, the largest island in the state of Florida. Unlike it's famous neighbors, Captiva and Sanibel, Pine Island doesn't have big sandy beaches. It's mainly agricultural. There is also a state-owned wildlife refuge there.

Saturday was a wonderful day for cycling. Light wind. Sunshine. Temperature in the mid-70s. Pedal, pedal, pedal. The first part of our ride was typical coastal suburban. Pine Island Road was busy, but the bike lane was adequate. Soon we reached the bridge to Matlacha (pronounced "mat-la-SHAY"), a small village known for it's Old Florida cottages, all painted in a rainbow of bright colors. Pretty. The village hugs the highway, luring tourists to its galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. We crossed another bridge, and we were on Pine Island. The highway cuts through the wildlife refuge. Lovely. In a few miles, you reach the island's other main road, the north-south highway that runs from Bokeelia on the island's northern tip to St. James City on its southern tip. We turned toward Bokeelia.

Near the northern tip of the island, we followed the signs to the ferry. The ferry takes you to Cayo Costa State Park. Not our plan today. We stopped for a break and a snack. To our delight, there was a large group of white pelicans swimming nearby. There was also a group of common brown pelicans. One immature brown pelican waddled about just a few feet from us, boldly begging for a snack.

We left the ferry's dock and headed back to the highway, turning north and following it to its end. Then we turned about and pedaled the same route home. A lovely ride on a beautiful day.

The storm came through as predicted overnight. It cleared by 8 AM. There were standing puddles in low areas. The ride start was set for 10 AM. No more rain, but lots of wind. The weather guy said the winds would be sustained at about 25 mph with gusts of 35+ mph. We checked in at ride headquarters and picked up our ride T-shirts.

Ride? Wasn't going to happen. We said our goodbyes, smiled, and headed home to Miami.

We'd had a delightful Tour de Pelican.