Monday, April 4, 2016

Punta Gorda, Pedal and Play in Paradise, and Rest Stop Catnip

It had been years since we had pedaled our bicycles in the Punta Gorda. Punta Gorda is a small coastal community on the southern side of the bridge that spans the Peace River. Port Charlotte is on the north side of the bridge. We used to take our car for service at a dealership in Port Charlotte. We'd take our bikes and pedal south from the dealership just so we could cross the bridge over the Peace River to Punta Gorda. The view as you go over the bridge is pretty great. And Punta Gorda is a charming, bike friendly community.

This past weekend we went to Punta Gorda for Pedal and Play In Paradise. It's an annual ride that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and TEAM Punta Gorda's Bicycle Friendly Community Initiatives. We were going to do the 62-mile route with friends from the West Side Sunset Bandits (WSSB) team and the Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC). Having a large group to ride with at an out-of-town event is a relatively new thing for us, an interesting and fun new addition to our Florida bike travels.

On Saturday morning we headed to the pre-ride breakfast in the dark of pre-dawn. We munched and chatted, pulled our gear together, and organized ourselves for the ride. At 7:45 they announced that the 62-mile people should head out. Which we did. While it was hot and humid for the beginning of April, the weatherman promised we'd have at least a little cloud cover. There would be some wind, but we'd be back for lunch before it really picked up. So off our group pedaled into the bright morning sunlight.

The first rest stop was only 14 miles down the road. Since the next rest stop was at 42 miles into the ride, we made a quick stop and topped off water bottles and munched. I munched some of the fresh blueberries they had. Blueberries! How great is that? We got back on the road. Pedal, pedal, pedal. We made good time. The wind slowly increased. Alex Pruna rolled up and down our double paceline, taking pictures and teasing smiles out of us even as we began feeling sweaty from the heat. Joe Cruz moved up and down the line, too. He kept tabs on all the riders in the group, making sure everyone was doing OK. As always, there was a group of strong riders that did the lion's share of the pulling. Something that the whole group appreciated on a day when the increasing wind was giving us all a nice workout.

Finally we came to the last rest stop. Where the ride organizers had put out a bit of cycling catnip for the riders: A big poster of two cartoon cyclists with holes where the faces should be. Hmmmm. Riders eyed the big poster. Then they slowly began gathering near it. Soon the clowning began.
How can you stay serious with a fun cutout poster and a lot of people with cameras?
It didn't take long for the silliness to begin...I was slow at getting there for pictures, but I did get a couple of photos worth sharing...
Carol and Ruben.
And Judy and Pepe.
Then we were back on the road. Pedal, pedal, pedal. And we were back at ride headquarters for lunch, libations, ice cream, and socializing.

Pedal and Play in Paradise is well-organized with good, well-marked routes. It is definitely one of the rides we will recommend to friends.

Not to mention that Al will be talking about the ride for a long, long time. There were drawings for prizes at the post-ride lunch. And Al, who has never won anything before in his entire life, won two free three-day tickets to the Mt. Dora Bicycle Festival! Happy dance time!