Monday, September 19, 2016

Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity. (Thor Heyerdahl)

Improving at a sport you enjoy is one of life's simple pleasures. The small markers of progress are both fun and genuine points of pride.

Al and I love riding our bicycles, and we ride a lot. When you do something (pretty much anything) a lot, you do get better at it. We use bike rides to see things. We are basically bicycle tourists. We are particularly fond of rides over and around water. Florida, being a long peninsula, has miles and miles of just this type of thing.

Because of the type of bicycle riding we enjoy, endurance is something we are always working to improve. We take 3 to 5 hour bicycle rides four days a week, a pattern that keeps our endurance at about the level we need for the types of bicycle rides we enjoy. Now it would seem hard to mess up something as simple as this, wouldn't it? The complication that trips us up is getting enough rest days.

It almost happened this week. After a week of day-after-day long energetic rides up in Franklin County, we looked at all the interesting group rides happening over the weekend in Miami. Tempting but foolish. We needed to do of what friends here call a recovery ride. So we ended our week with a familiar ride with a friend we enjoy, a ride long enough to satisfy but at a pace that allows the body to recharge and consolidate its gains.

Riding a bike is simple. Sometimes getting better at it can be its own complication.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.


































Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a Wilderness. (Havelock Ellis)

For a lot of years, Al and I loved going to wilderness areas. Deserts. Mountains. Backwater places. They were beautiful but seriously lacking in creature comforts. Great fun, though, even with the bugs, sunburns, scrapes, bruises, cactus stickers, heat, cold, wet, and all the other inconveniences that came with the experience.

As we got older, travel with comforts and simple luxuries became more appealing. Lately I began pondering why wilderness areas are so darn appealing. (Other than the allure of being difficult to reach.) For me it is the solitude and serenity they provide, an appealing interlude in the noisy, busy pace of everyday life at home. It seems reasonable that even a state as densely populated as Florida had places that could provide us with small pockets of that same solitude and serenity. Florida has a wealth of beautiful places. Maybe we just needed a place where our cell phones wouldn’t work.
So this week we are back in Franklin County up in the Florida Panhandle. It is one of the least populated counties in the state. Huge areas filled with state and federal forests. A bunch of wildlife refuges. Protected wetlands.

A span of an old bridge is now a fishing pier. The new bridge is on the right.
A river runs through the center of the county. One cellphone service kinda, maybe, sorta works on one side of the river. Another cell phone service kinda works on the other side. Go out to the barrier islands and you may get another carrier to work...sometimes. All we can tell you is that our phones have a big X on the signal icon...wherever we go.
On our first visits to Franklin County we carried our phones with us everywhere anyway. Like little security blankets. But soon we just left them our hotel room. We are used to hopping online anywhere, anytime, via our phones. Here in Franklin County, the phones will work on wifi...which is available only in your hotel and a couple of coffee shops. Not much use when you are out riding your bike.
Yep. A touch of wilderness, Florida style. (We will be doing more of this in the months to come...)
The bridge between the mainland and St. George Island is 5 miles long.
A river in Tate's Hell State Forest
On the highway through Tate's Hell State Forest
The bridge over Apalachicola Bay early in the morning.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. (Michael Althsuler)

Labor Day is always a bittersweet holiday.

As a kid, Labor Day weekend meant a great parade in the little town where I lived. There was always a big family get-together. At least one friend always had a pool party. So it was hard not to like Labor Day. But Labor Day also meant the end of summer vacation. School was starting.

These days my feelings about Labor Day are still the same. The good: The Labor Day weekend is always filled with fun things to do with friends. Summer is ending, and good cycling weather is coming. (I always liked what one writer said about Florida having just two seasons: Summer and FallWinterSpring.) The bad: We will soon be traveling and biking around Florida, which, while fun, means missing many rides with friends in Miami.

So Labor Day weekend must be enjoyed and savored:

  • On Labor Day itself we headed out on our favorite ride to Key Biscayne. It was just the two of us. (And hundreds of other cyclists, since the area is a favorite of Miami cyclists.) 
  • The Sunday before Labor Day we rode up to the Hollywood Broadwalk with a few friends for our last official Summer 2016 Breakfast on the Beach Ride.
  • And on Saturday, the first day of the weekend, we rode down to Robert Is Here with the West Side Sunset Bandits. It was a fun and memorable ride. An early start, the group's bike lights blinking in the pre-dawn darkness. Then sunrise, La Casita, Robert Is Here, the ride back to our start point (which included a brief but drenching rain), and a pot-luck tailgate birthday get-together for one of the WSSB guys.

Summer may be over, but life, as they say, is good.
Photo by Alex Pruna