Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Believe you can and you're halfway there. (Theodore Roosevelt)


Today (August 8) is, on average, the hottest day of the summer in Miami. Doing anything physical outside in the heat and humidity saps your energy and leaves you seeking a quiet spot for a nap.

Some people hide in air conditioning. Some jump in their swimming pool. We're like most of our bikey friends. We just go out and ride our bikes. But Al and I have some hot weather adaptations that make riding in heat and humidity more enjoyable for us.

  1. We don't hesitate to slow down a bit. Instead of using speed as a guide, we use effort. Use your power meter if you have one. It makes it easy to be consistent on rides regardless of conditions.
  2. Our Miami riding friends taught us a wonderful hot weather treat: buying a bag of ice part-way through a long ride. While ice won't last long in the heat, filling water bottles with ice mid-ride is truly wonderful. I have no idea if it actually cools down the core of your body, but, trust me, it sure feels like it does. Talk about cheap thrills.
  3. We take breaks in the shade. Someone once told me that being in full sun feels 15 degrees hotter than standing in the shade. I believe it. Breaks in the shade can be the difference between a successful hot weather ride and the ugly experience of bonking from the heat.
  4. We monitor the amount of fluids we are drinking. We don't skimp. Our "summer mix" for our water bottles starts with powdered Gatorade, adds water, a dash of salt, and coffee. The coffee is mainly for flavor, but the caffeine is always nice, too. Also, we carry electrolyte tablets so we can fill up bottles with plain water when Gatorade isn't available.
  5. Last, but not least, we laugh a lot. About anything and everything. Trust me, it helps. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these. (Paul Harvey)

I figured out at an early age that excitement and thrills, like ice cream and cake, are fun in small doses. Large doses were unpleasant.

I spend a lot of time online. It keeps me in touch with family and friends in far away places. Usually I enjoy it. However, this summer I've discovered myself suffering from an overload of drama caused by the constant and unending churning of news and politics. It's everywhere. Even a "safe" group that normally does nothing more dramatic than share their favorite dessert recipes and adorable pictures of the family children and pets, can, out of the blue, start a thread about the political soap opera of the day. There is simply no safe haven.

Al and I are trying to make some changes to our little home. Nothing exciting, but changes which involve shopping, workmen, noise, and messes. We are trying to make these changes while continuing our regular and very pleasant little life. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. We've done this before. Many times before. In many homes, in other places. We understand the ebb and flow of the disruption to our lives that it causes.

So four times a week we roll our bicycles to the elevator, wave to the lobby staff as we leave our building, and pedal off for a long bike ride. It's good to have one constant in life that satisfies and leaves you feeling happy and content.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. (Dave Barry)

Status report:

It has been six months since I started back riding after a serious accident. Things are going well. And as anyone who has come back after an accident or surgery knows, the mental things are more challenging than the physical ones.

In terms of cycling performance, I'm right on track. I was expecting my comeback to take a full year, and that estimate looks to be spot on.

Here's the deal. You ride a lot. You get better. You work at keeping those gains while you ride more and wait for some stubborn areas to catch up. Then one day you go out, one of the stubborn areas gets a tiny bit better, and wow! with seemingly no effort, you make a big jump forward in performance.

Then you ride more and wait for the next jump forward to happen.

I've talked to a bunch of people who have gone through this same thing. They all agree: the mental part is the hard part. You get impatient. You get stupid and think you'll never get any better. That's when you need to remember: You only lose if you quit.

Actually, it's hard to complain when I get to ride with Al and great friends, on a great bike, and get to ride pretty much anywhere and as much as I want. All I have to do is follow our house rules.

And our house rules are simple:
  • No whining, no bitching, no belly-aching, no quitting. 
  • You ride; I ride.
  • Do what you can; do your best. 
  • ENJOY THE RIDE.
Just get up and dance...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely. (P. J. O'Rourke)

It is summer in Miami. Hot and humid. Al and I have a system for summer cycling here: start rides early, drink lots of fluids with added electrolytes, and take a lot of breaks in the shade.

There is something else, something very important: Laundry. If you ride a lot of miles in the summer heat and don't want to become a smelly outcast, you need to follow some simple but important laundry rules.

In Miami's summer weather, you need to step up your game for cycling wear laundry techniques. Cycling clothing is made of fabrics with lots of elastic polyurethane fiber (Lycra). These fabrics handle water differently than other fabrics. Products like laundry detergent or fabric softener can remain in the fabric after washing. These residues provide a cozy home for microbes. Sweat and microbes can quickly give your favorite kit a pungent, rank smell that is not easy to get out.

Here are the laundry rules for cycling clothing we've put together after doing some research and home testing:
  • Right after your ride, remove the sweaty cycling gear from your sweaty body. Do NOT put it into the hamper. Do NOT put it in a pile on the floor. Immediately put it into a washing machine. Use the gentle fabric and cold water settings.
  • Go easy on the laundry detergent. It seems counter intuitive, but use less detergent than recommended for regular clothes.
  • NEVER use fabric softener. NEVER. It forms a residue, and stuff starts to grow in the residue. (We're talking ugly, unpleasant things here. Science experiment things.)
  • If you feel compelled to go beyond a simple wash with laundry detergent, add a dash of baking soda, lemon juice, or white vinegar to the wash. (I personally have not found this to be helpful, but it didn't hurt anything and made me feel virtuous.)
  • Always hang dry cycling clothing. Never dry them in a clothes dryer. We live in a high rise, so I hang our gear up in our bathroom. 
  • Hang dry cycling wear outside in the sunshine if you can. In my experience, it is the most effective way to keep cycling clothes smelling good. 
There is always the hand wash vs. machine wash debate as well. I personally haven't voluntarily hand washed anything since Ronald Reagan was president, but if you want to, more power to you. The important thing is that you wash cycling clothes immediately, wash them thoroughly, and make sure there is no residue (laundry detergent or the like) in them when they are hung up to dry.

So there you have it. Now go out and enjoy those hot and sweaty summer bike rides.




Friday, June 16, 2017

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. (Frank A. Clark)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a study in climbs and descents. The road tips up and down; it is virtually never flat.

We needed a plan for our bike rides here. We wanted to ride six consecutive days. Normally we decide how far to ride each day. On the Blue Ridge Parkway we decided to focus on how much climbing to do each day. We decided on daily rides with between 2000 to 2600 feet of climbing. We weren't out to meet any big personal goals. We just wanted a scenic, fun ride every day. No losing time to rest days. No overworked muscles.

We quickly slipped into our regular climbing riding style. We each found our own climbing rhythm and pace. On every climb Al quickly disappeared from my view as he pedaled ahead of me down the road. Which wasn't a problem since I knew he'd be waiting for me somewhere ahead.

We stopped a lot, sometimes for pictures, sometimes just to enjoy a cascade of water or a stunning view. Overlooks are a must as are creeks, bridges, and big displays of blooming anything. Why visit and ride an area if you don't take the time to see it?

We did two rides twice. My favorite I called the Almost Three Gap ride. The total climbing was about 2600 feet with about three quarters of the climbing being on the first half of the ride. Along the route we passed three signs for different gaps, the last being a sign that announced the gap ahead. (We didn't go all the way to that gap as we turned around at a scenic picnic area just short of it. Hence the Almost Three Gap ride.) The first half of the ride was a never-ending 7-8 percent grade climb, mile after mile, with false flats of 4-5 percent grades sprinkled along the way. (Find your rhythm, chugga-chugga-chugga.) The way back? An awesome series of long, fast descents. (Wheeeeee!!!) And the scenery? Hazy mountain vistas, heavily forested mountain slopes, wildflowers, mountain laurel, rock walls, split rail fences, and narrow strips of high meadow.

Riding a bicycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway reminds you of a simple life lesson. Every big climb is actually a series of smaller climbs. Achievable climbs.

Baby steps.



Friday, June 9, 2017

It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. (Lucille Ball)

The hazy Blue Ridge Mountains softly zig-zag along the horizon. The rich greens of the hardwood forest cover the mountains and fill the valleys. In the shade of the forest canopy, stands of mountain laurel fill corners and hollows with soft clouds of pale pink. Roads are narrow and winding.

Mountain laurel.
We are in North Carolina. We have taken a room in a comfortable motel in Mt. Airy. We are here to ride our bikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mt. Airy itself is a tourist town: neat, tidy, and curated to evoke memories of Mayberry and native son, Andy Griffith. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a quiet, limited access, narrow, low speed ribbon of pavement that runs 469 miles along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Being on it transports you back to a slower, simpler time.

Besides riding our bikes, we have scouted out the best ice cream shops in town. While in the area, there is one other culinary treat we relish: traditional Southern biscuits. We want lots of biscuits.

Lots of narrow roads to explore.
Today we met a flock of happy cyclists pedaling down the Parkway, accompanied by a large passenger van. Miles farther down the road we came across a cargo truck, a panel van, a bunch of bicycles, and a tidy SAG stop. We stopped for a chat. It was an Adventure Cycling tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway. They were getting ready to break down the SAG stop and move on down the Parkway to their next SAG stop location. Knowing they had work to do, we waved them goodbye and pedaled on.

Road trips are curious adventures. Other people's itineraries and routes may work when you are just spending a couple of days on a trip. Beyond a few days, the success of the road trip depends on your understanding of the things big and small that make you happy.
  • Ice cream.
  • Biscuits. 
  • Hazy mountain vistas. 
  • Mountain laurel. 
It pays to know what makes you happy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be. (Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh)


Cough, cough, cough.

Al and I have had chest colds for over a week now. Every time we increase intensity on bike rides, the coughing gets worse. Bummer.

The problem with having a cold is that there really isn't anything you can actually do about it. Drink lots of fluids. (Check.) Rest. (Check.) Wait for it to run its course. (Check.)

By my calculations, we will be over this before we start riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At least that's my hope. If not, we're going to have some interesting climbs. And it isn't like you can avoid climbing. The one thing I remember vividly from living up there was that there were no flat roads, just roads that didn't go up and down quite as much.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I've got those Blue Ridge Mountain blues. (Cliff Hess)

Some places have magic. They can form a special bond which remains even when you move far away. They can surprise you, sending you peaceful yet melancholy memories at random moments throughout your life. The Blue Ridge Mountains have that kind of magic for me.

We had two homes in the Blue Ridge. I particularly loved our first, a small log home perched on a low ridge surrounded by national forest. The large back porch faced the mountain where the Appalachian Trail crossed the highway at Neels Gap's Walasi-yi Center. At twilight they switched on the porch light there. It looked like a twinkling star up on the mountain. Sometimes I'd sit out on our porch as darkness fell, gazing at that twinkling light and listening to the sound of the evening breeze in the forest's trees.

I love the green lushness of South Florida. I love spotting peacocks, parrots, and macaws on our bike rides around town. I love the palm trees and the ocean at dawn. I love the busy causeways to the islands and the quiet tracks in the Everglades. But when a friend posts a photo from the Blue Ridge Mountains, or I hear a snatch of bluegrass music, I once again begin to long for hazy mountain vistas and the whispering sounds of the forest.

Al and I talked this spring. We needed to take a trip back to the Blue Ridge. We decided on going to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yet somewhere on the BRP that was new to us, somewhere we hadn't been to before. Why not Mt. Airy, North Carolina? A real place that most people know by a fictional name: Mayberry. It's the basis for the little country town of that old TV sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. The one with Sheriff Andy, Deputy Barney Fife, Aunt Bee, and little Opie. Lots of nice roads for long bike rides there, too.

I'm smiling just thinking about it.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I think sometimes the best training is to rest. (Cristiano Ronaldo)

Sometimes to go faster, you need to slow down.

I'm like everybody else. I measure my days by to-do lists. I hear a mental voice say "move!" when I curl up in a lounge chair for too long. I worry about "wasted" time.

But this isn't a healthy way to live. Finishing a to-do list is important, but getting enough sleep each night is more important. There was a time in my youth when I limped by on very little sleep. Now I understand that's just a goofy way to live. Your health is like a checking account. You can write big checks against it for only so long before it gets overdrawn.

Your body needs sleep to recover and replenish itself. Your mind also needs rest from constant activity and confusion. Some people meditate. Some read. Some garden. Some do yoga. Whatever clears your mind and refreshes you will work.

Sometimes to go faster, you need to slow down.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. (Michael Jordan)

I wanted a new project for the summer. As luck would have it, I found myself playing with a new camera, taking pictures of a fountain. A friend joked that I could be a modern Ponce de Leon searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth.

Boom! A perfect frivolous summer project was born. I would take bike lean pictures at fountains wherever we pedaled. 

This is going to be fun.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Everglades Bicycle Club Sebring Weekend Getaway (Renewed and Improved)

The Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) has been doing a Sebring Weekend Getaway for a lot of years. Three days of riding in beautiful Highlands County. Until this year it was based at Sebring's Kenilworth Lodge, a historic hotel that dated back to 1916. This past year the old place shuttered its doors and windows, ending a hundred years of continuous service.

The creaky historic lodge had sentimental memories for EBC, but its closing was an opportunity to upgrade. Event director Greg Neville was up to the task. He searched Sebring and chose the Inn on the Lakes, a modern hotel designed to mimic the elegant luxury of the hotels found in Sebring back in the 1920s. And that is how this past weekend, EBC found itself rubbing shoulders with a Porche club and a lot of golfers.

The lake view from the restaurant and pool is gorgeous, complete with a nearby colony of egrets. Al and I and some EBC friends sipped our breakfast coffee watching a little blue heron slowly walk past us on the shoreline while snowy white egrets came and went from their colony and an anhinga caught its breakfast near the shore of the lake. The nearby pool deck is dotted with tables, comfortable furniture, and a beautiful assortment of potted flowering plants and trees. Friday's wine and cheese social was held indoors in a large conference room. Saturday's barbecue dinner? Out on that gorgeous pool deck. This was a mini resort weekend with bicycles! (Thank you Greg Neville and all your helpers!)

The routes and SAG support provided by the Highlands Pedalers is a big reason EBC enjoys Sebring and Highlands County. They give us routes so that we can enjoy the gently rolling hills, the glittering lakes, the Spanish moss draped oaks, the pastures of cattle and horses, and the miles of citrus groves. And this year there was another treat. Legacy Bicycles, our favorite Sebring bicycle shop, had moved to a new location near the center of town. They surprised us by having a special sale while we were in town. And I ask you people: what cyclist can resist visiting a bike shop to do some sale shopping?

We had a great time. We will definitely be at the 2018 Sebring Weekend Getaway.
Beautiful rural Highlands County.
You don't find roads like this in Miami...
Gently rolling hills and trees draped in Spanish moss.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. (Gregg Easterbrook)

A bit of fun started when I decided to tidy up some old bicycle records. Old files. Pre-GPS era files. Pre-ubiquitous-cell-phone era files. Luckily, they were all post-home computer era files. So they were tidy little spreadsheets instead of scrolls of parchment or clay tablets.

The truth is, your cycling data can make delightful memories. Especially if you know what to keep and what to throw away. You don't want to keep just the stuff that makes you look good. We've been on gruesome rides where I was totally happy with a single-digit average speed.  And my favorite tale for years was the 5-mile "shortcut" that was supposed to save us over an hour but ended up costing us a whole lot more than that. Then there are the rides of (ahem) unusual length thanks to wrong turns and mis-read or absent signs or cues. Or the rides to outrun approaching weather. You can get some pretty amazing data doing that, particularly if there's a favorable tailwind.

Old, well-curated statistics can be better than old photographs for cyclists. Remember: you never know when you may need a good laugh or two.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Many are called but few get up. (Oliver Herford)

Four days a week we start the day with a long bike ride. Some days I just want to stay in bed and sleep. Those are the days when coffee doesn't begin to wake me up and the first miles of the ride are painful and ugly. My eyes feel heavy, my legs wooden.

Then the magic happens, just like always. Some people call it "the zone"; I call it "flow". Suddenly my speed increases slightly as my pedaling smooths out. My shoulders relax. My muscles feel better, looser and stronger. The day seems brighter, the route more interesting.

That is what happens when you slip into the flow of the ride.

The hardest lesson I had to learn when we began riding was that some days you really, really, really don't want to get out there and ride. You want to sleep in. Or go shopping. Or grab a coffee with a friend. I had to learn to trust that the day will be better if I start it with a bike ride. No matter how you feel when the alarm goes off, the flow comes if you just get out there and ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Palatka Bicycle Weekend

A lot of cycling events take place in the area around Palatka, Florida. We wanted to know why. So we decided to go to one and see why the area was so popular. Al picked the Palatka Bicycle Weekend.

It was a very good choice. The event sponsored by Putnam Blueways and Trails. It is an annual event with a variety of ride lengths. The routes we rode (two metrics) were excellent. The roads were quiet. The scenery excellent. The SAG stops well handled. The routes were well marked. The GPS guidance was good. Most important, this was one of those delightful events where pacelines were few and groups of 2 and 3 riders were the norm.

The routes make use of the fine trail system in Putnam County to move riders into the quiet of the rural countryside. Most of the route is coastal flat. On the second day a portion of the route was through some lovely rolling hills. Nothing to scare flatlanders, just enough climbing to put a bit of fun into the ride.

Palatka is a small city on the west bank of the St. Johns River. The ride headquarters were at the new visitors center which is right on the river at the head of a lovely riverfront park. It is just a bit over a half-hour drive from St. Augustine, but there is pleasant lodging right in Palatka. (We stayed at the new Hampton Inn right next to the ride headquarters.)

Will we do this event again? Yes, we certainly will. This is a two thumbs up event.
Riding through the farming section of the county.

The portion of the route along the St. Johns River was delightful.
One of the tiny old towns were rode through.

A typical quiet rural road from our Sunday route.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it. (Dudley Moore)

This past weekend we packed our bike gear and luggage, popped the bikes into the car's bike rack, and headed off for a quick road trip. We were off to ride a pleasant metric century ride near Punta Gorda. Which would let us spend a night on Florida's West Coast and have the next day to scout biking possibilities in the Naples to Chokoloskee area.

I have some pretty vivid memories of our first bike rides in the Naples and Marco Island area. It was years ago, and the biking was truly awful.  Through roads were rare to nonexistent. Roads all seemed to lead you into high-speed highways with absolutely no shoulders. On a 1-to-10 scale where 1 was a "road" where your bike constantly sinks to its drivetrain in loose sand (definitely not the "hardpack" promised by the map), the roads in the Naples area back then might (might) get a 2.5 rating from me. Like I said: awful.

Things have changed. There are nice paved shoulders. Many of these are wide enough to be clearly marked as bike lanes. There's a multi-path that goes east, too. It has gaps, but then there's that bike lane to move to. In fact, as long as you are comfortable with riding in a bike lane next to fast-moving traffic, you can easily ride from Naples or Marco Island to Chokoloskee. OK, so we could definitely think about a short road trip to Naples sometime. You can ride a bike here without feeling like a kamikaze.

Our new car's many safety features did their thing on the drive home. Cameras turned on and off, warning chimes softly warned you periodically to pay attention, and a couple of times the car automatically braked when someone cut in front of us too closely.

I want a device on my bike that sounds an air horn at cars that pass too close to me on the road. Actually, in the perfect world of my dreams, I'd rather have a lot of cops out there ticketing guys who don't respect cyclists!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom. (Thomas Carlyle)

On Tuesdays I chase Al up the Rickenbacker Causeway and around Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Loop after loop after loop. He stops at points to check on me, then he sprints off, gradually moving into the distance once again.

Tuesday is the day of the week I work the hardest. Tuesday is all about me and my power meter. The game on Tuesday is to push muscles to exhaustion. But with care. I use the power meter to pace myself. You see, the Tuesday game may be to push muscles to exhaustion...but I still have to finish the day's miles. (Which right now is 50 miles. No stopping early. No Uber. And soon the miles will increase...)

OK, you are wondering where Al comes into this. Well, it is way more fun to chase something than just to focus on numbers. I never catch Al, but that really doesn't matter. It may be silly, but I now totally understand why dogs chase cars. It is just a whole lot of fun.

You can make any muscle stronger by working it to exhaustion. Which is great for older, smaller riders like me. I can't push out the big power numbers. But I don't need to. I'm small enough that I don't need big power to move me down the road and up the hills. And I'm retired. Which means I have the time to push smaller numbers for more miles, and so get stronger to go faster and longer.

And best of all, I'm not bored.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Change is inevitable--except from a vending machine. (Robert C. Gallagher)

My current road bike is a Trek Domane. It's my third Trek; with each road bike the fit got better. When I first rode my current bike, I instantly knew it was perfect.

When I started riding again after my accident, something had changed. I had a lot to work on, so I put off thinking about bike fit. As the weeks went by, however, it didn't get better.

I finally rolled the bike over to the guy I rely on to help me with all issues related to bike fit. I explained that my right shoulder felt bad when I rode and worse afterward.

I was clueless, but a slightly shorter stem sounded like the way to go. He listened patiently, then explained that that would compromise my steering. He suggested that we move the seat forward a bit and raise the seat a bit as well.

I asked if that wouldn't just put more strain on my arms and shoulders. He assured me it wouldn't be a problem. He said it would actually increase my power a bit. (OK. I liked the sound of that. It was a bribe to get me to try the seat change, but I'm a sucker for bribes.)

I followed him back to the work area. He moved the seat forward less than the width of my pinky fingernail. He raised the seat a smidge.

It was everything I could do not to begin blubbering that a change that small could not possibly make a difference. My shoulder really hurt. I needed a big change. But I kept it to myself, and just did what I always did with this guy: I trusted him.

The next day I went for a 50 mile ride with friends. For the first time in two months, my shoulder didn't hurt. It was a frigging miracle.

Life is all about details and small changes. And trust.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all. (Mark Twain)

I was talking with a friend from Georgia. She (like Al and me) is retired and rides a lot. She was lamenting that riding lots of miles in the same locale wasn't as much fun as touring. I agreed: I sometimes get sort of bored with our regular routes around town.

Then I thought about that for a second. It certainly hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for riding my bike around Miami. I always find something interesting or silly or new to check out. And I always feel great at the end of a ride.

My friend and I compared notes about the places that stood out in our memories. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Crater Lake. Texas Hill Country. The Chisos Mountains. Upper Michigan. The Dakotas. Idaho. Nova Scotia. They were wonderful places to visit. That's when we laughed and pondered what it would be like to actually live and ride in those places day after day after day. Yep. We'd probably get a little bored.

You ride where you live. I'm pretty lucky. I live in Miami. We've got palm trees and beaches and beautiful bridges and causeways.

I don't have much reason to complain. (Pedal, pedal, pedal...)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. (Anonymous)

Pelican on the docks in Apalachicola.
These days Al and I are bicycle tourists. We have always been travelers. We've been to all the states but Alaska (sorry: too cold). We've done a lot of countries. Now we are indulging our inner tourist. Florida is the pitch perfect state for this.

This week we visited Florida's "Forgotten Coast." It's a beautiful stretch of lightly developed coastline and islands along the Big Bend in the Florida peninsula. We came to bike the Big Bend Scenic Highway and the bridges and causeways that lead to some nearby islands.

We are staying in the tiny town of Apalachicola. Apalach (as the locals call it) is a historic fishing village that was cleverly reborn and rebranded as a boutique tourist town. Unlike so many tourist beach towns of the Florida Panhandle, Apalach doesn't cater to the younger spring break crowd. It is quiet with antique, jewelry, art, and boutique clothing stores. The local grocery store (a Piggly Wiggly) proudly boasts having the best wine and tea selection in the Big Bend.

The local bicycle shop in Apalachicola.
Our favorite bike ride is the ride from Apalachicola to St. George Island. You leave town on Highway 98, crossing Apalachicola Bay to the town of Eastpoint. There you take Highway 300 over to St. George Island. There is one main road on the island. On one end of the island is St. George Island State Park. Definitely pay the fee to ride into the park and to the very last beach access area. We usually do a loop or two of the park, then ride the rest of the island before heading back to the mainland. There is a photogenic lighthouse and a small grocery store with excellent cookies and muffins at the entrance to the island. Total miles: about 50.

On Big Bend Scenic Highway on the way to Carrabelle.
Another not to be missed ride is the ride from Apalachicola to Carrabelle. This entire ride is on the Big Bend Scenic Highway (Highway 98), and almost the entire ride is right on the ocean/bay. Once over the Carrabelle River you can go on residential roads, following the river and coast for a few miles more. Total miles: about 50. (Note: Highway 98 north of Carrabelle does not have a consistent paved shoulder along the highway. Ride with extreme care.)

If you crave a quieter ride, the ride to Sumatra is just the ticket. From Apalachicola, take Highway 98 past East Point to Highway 65. Head inland on Highway 65. You will ride through state and national forest land, protected wetlands, and wildlife sanctuaries. The only town you will bump into is Sumatra. There's a convenience store for water and snacks. This is a speck of a town. Take a break and pedal back the way you came. Total miles: about 70.

On the highway to Carrabelle at low tide.
Another ride is from Apalachicola to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (Cape San Blas). Take Highway 98 south to Highway 30A. The first part of the ride on 30A takes you through a wildlife refuge. Beach development begins in earnest as you enter Gulf County. Gulf County, however, is doing its best to support bicycles. The roads have been repaved with wide shoulders. Total miles: around 70. (Note: You can do a short loop to Indian Pass along this route. It is a pleasant addition. Additional miles: 5.)
The grocery store in Eastpoint.

This is a perfect area to be a bicycle tourist. We take particular pleasure in conversations with eccentric local people. This visit we met a older gentleman who surprised us by starting a conversation about cycling in the 1980s. He went into great detail about bikes and cycling teams of the era. It turned out he once raced and then owned a bike shop before retiring and moving to live on the beach in Florida. Another day a sweet, funny, and very dotty woman entertained us with her problems of having to go all the way to Tallahassee to see her doctor at the Veterans Administration Clinic there, all the while taking alternate sips from a cup of coffee and a glass of Coca-Cola.

Observing life in the small towns of rural coastal Florida is truly fun.




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tour Latino

Tour Latino is a relatively new event. It is a one day ride, and it is the only Latin themed ride in the state. The ride's routes start and end at Waterfront Park in Clermont.

We really enjoyed the ride. We rode with three friends from Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC). We did the 68-mile route.

Tour Latino has found itself a unique spot in the Central Florida hilly event ride category. There are two fall rides. The Horrible Hundred is a one day fall ride that does all the favorite major climbs in the area. The Mt. Dora Bicycle Festival is a three day fall event with rides for everybody in the family. You can do a lot of climbing or just pedal rolling hills depending on what you choose to do each day. Tour Latino is a one day winter ride that falls somewhere in the middle with respect to ride difficulty. It has about a third less climbing than the Horrible Hundred, and it only does some of the major climbs in the area. It goes down Sugarloaf. (I thought I would be disappointed as this is one of my favorite climbs in the area. Instead it turned out to be a lot of fun. Wheeee!!) The route circles through Mt. Dora, too.

So, to summarize, Tour Latino is a one-day February event that does just two-thirds the climbing of the Horrible Hundred. What's not to love? It's good to have another ride, another option.

Being a relatively new event, there are some kinks that I'm sure will eventually work themselves out. The route markings were excellent. But the SAG stops weren't on the cue sheets, just given as part of the announcements at the start. And a couple of the stops were just too far apart for an event ride. (Since we were pedaling through some towns, we didn't hesitate to stop at convenience stores when we needed a break.) But all was forgiven when we discovered that at the finish line they had ice cold chocolate milk and event medals! (Bling is fun.) And, of course, the after-ride lunch.

Will we do Tour Latino next year? Yep. We'd be fools not to!

Monday, February 13, 2017

After all is said and done, sit down. (Bill Copeland)

You can only practice doing stuff for so long. Then you just have to stop practicing and go do it.

At the end of this week we are heading out of town to be bicycle tourists again. We're heading to the Florida Panhandle with a weekend stop in Central Florida to play in the hills around Clermont. (What we Floridians think of as Florida's Alps.) It is going to be a lot of fun. I'm going to be slow, but I'm ready to get back to riding every day. (As a bikey friend says, "Do the miles, the speed will come.")

Our riding at home in Miami is practice for our bicycle tourist stuff. In Miami we take rest days where we don't ride our bikes anywhere. When we're traveling we ride every day; we "rest" by making some days slow and easy miles. Up to now our routes have all been loops out of our motel. We only did overnight touring carrying our luggage on our bikes from home.

This year we've pulled together some upgrades for our credit card bicycle touring:

  • We worked on the luggage we had for our bikes. Our overnight luggage had been Arkel Randonneur Seatpost racks with Arkel Tailrider Trunk bags. We also had Sunlite handlebar roll bags. We decided to swap out the little Sunlite handlebar bags for Apidura handlebar packs and the Apidura snap-on accessories pockets. That pretty much doubles our carrying capacity.
  • We got a new car, a car with a trunk. This lets us drive wherever we want, across the state or several states, leave our regular suitcases and big gear bag in the trunk of the car, and pedal off for a several-days-long out-and-back tour using our new bike luggage arrangement. 
This will give us a lot of flexibility in planning our touring. The possibilities are exciting.

There's no more need to practice. Time to get out there and pedal.

Monday, February 6, 2017

There's nothing more dangerous than a resourceful idiot. (Scott Adams)

This post is not about politics. This post is about
  1. An idiot's fix for a sticking cleat,
  2. And getting past a particularly annoying bump on my return to cycling.
First: the cleat. The cleat on my right biking shoe started sticking. I checked it. It looked just fine. I cleaned and lubed it. It still got stuck. (Bummer.) So I took the whole thing apart, checked everything. The cleat got stuck again on the next ride.

I asked for advice. Everybody said the problem had to be a worn cleat that needed to be replaced. Possible. But I use metal SPD cleats. So I kinda doubted the worn out scenario. Frustrated, I decided just to put on the bike shoe and to do a wild stomp dance out on our concrete balcony. To my amusement, the cleat became loose and began sounding like one of my old tap shoes. When I started to remove the cleat, a very small sprinkling of fine sand dribbled out. (Where it was hiding, I have no clue!) I cleaned, reassembled, and lubed the cleat. On Sunday's ride, the cleat worked like new. (Happiness...) So an idiot can sometimes get lucky.

Second: the annoying bump. Al and I are bicycle tourists. We travel and use our bikes to see things. Our style of travel needs us to comfortably ride 50-75 miles a day, day after day. I'm getting back to being able to do that, but these things come in stages. Right now I'm not where I need to be with endurance. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is where I started and 10 is where I need to be, well, I'm about at a 5. In perfect conditions, I'm golden. But a puff of wind in my face or a rolling hill or two can mess with me.

My "training" combines long, slowish rides and high intensity intervals. I'm now at a curious place. A lot of the time I finish a week thinking, "Hey, I'm back!" Then, on the very next ride, I'll push a little harder than usual, the bottom drops out on me, and I'm frantically munching energy blocks in order to keep pedaling.

We've moved our standard rides back to metrics, and I'm looking at this stage as a great excuse for caffeine and pastry stops on rides. At least for the next month until my fitness level kicks up a bit. Until then, it's caffeine and pastries: the work-out food of a resourceful idiot.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone. (Anthony Burgess)

Time to try riding in some baby hills.

The perfect place? Lake Placid and south Highlands County. It's on US 27 about 150+ miles northeast of Miami. It's on the southern point of the Lake Wales Ridge, a geologic feature that forms the spine of the Florida peninsula. The Ridge is what remains of a chain of ancient islands that existed when sea levels were much higher millions of years ago.

Hill blocks view sign
A huge weather system was moving through as we arrived. Bands of severe weather moved across the state. Behind them came wind. Big wind. Usually my allergies to certain pollens are a problem this time of year in Lake Placid. I was counting on the rain and wind to keep the pollen count bearable, so I wouldn't have a stuffed up head (with the resulting un-ladylike snoring.)

On our first day in Lake Placid, we went for coffee and breakfast. The wind was 20+mph with 30+mph gusts. Misty rain came and went. We sipped our coffee. Go out on our bikes? Don't think so. We drove to not-too-distant Arcadia and spent the day puttering around dusty antique and vintage clothing stores.

Misplaced hill blocks view sign (no hill!)
The next day the misty rain was gone. It was cold by Florida standards, but the sun was shining. The wind had gotten a little better. We set out.

We pedaled south along back roads to old state road 8. This is the best quiet road heading south. It takes you into an area of ranches, wildlife refuges, and orange groves. And there are road signs reminding motorists that "Hill Blocks View." My personal favorite is the misplaced one that warns "Hill Blocks View" on a pretty much flat stretch of the road. We've laughed about these signs for years. I even blogged about it once.

Along the way we stopped at the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and the Archbold Biological Station. Archbold is a research facility. It makes a convenient stop for a snack and to refill water bottles.

We kept going to where old state road 8 ends at highway 731, another quiet two-lane road. We turned right and headed west. When we had reached the half-way point for our day, we turned around and headed back on the same route.

On the first half of the ride the wind was mainly a cross-wind with a tailwind in parts. On the way back, the tail wind was a head wind. In two lengthy segments, we had a long gradual incline with that strong headwind. I would trail farther and farther behind Al, then he would slow and wait for me. On one memorable stretch, I watched my power meter move higher, higher, and way higher while I moved slower and slower. In one half mile segment I was putting out the power range I normally only see during hard interval training. I cheered when we crested a small climb by the Lake Placid Camp and Conference Center and saw in the distance the Citrus Tower in downtown Lake Placid. Four miles to go! Four miles to hot coffee and a cookie. (Three miles.) (Two miles.) (One mile.) Then we were finally at the motel! We rolled the bikes into the lobby. No wind! Just the quiet sound of a TV down a hall. And the wonderful smell of hot coffee.

Lake Placid. Great area for cycling. And a good place to carry some extra treats for new friends you may meet along the way...







Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. (Rita Rudner)

We pedalled to the Rickenbacker Causeway, a convenient two miles from our home. Someone once asked me what I do to train for the type of cycling we do. "That's easy," I told them, "I just chase Al down the road."

It's true. At least on Tuesdays. That's when we go to the Rickenbacker and do a metric century's worth of loops up and down the causeway, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne. Other days we ride together. But on Tuesdays, we have "meet-up" points. He gets to ride as fast as he wants. I chase. I can almost hang on to him during the first part of the ride. Then, bit by bit, he disappears into the distance.

Today I was giving chase when I had to slow briefly as I came up behind two middle-aged guys on their road bikes. "Good morning, gentlemen. Passing on your left. Chasing the bunny in the white jersey up ahead!" As often happens when a woman passes a couple of guys, they quickened their pace. A couple miles down the road they passed me when I slowed, breathing very hard, still trying to pedal-pedal-pedal, but now slumping over my handlebars. "We decided to chase your bunny, too!" they said as they passed me.

We did the last 15 miles at a comfortable speed, enjoying the best part of the ride. Somewhere around 40 miles into a ride or so, we slide into a zone. This is where the "ride" begins for us: muscles moving smoothly, breathing deeply, the road stretching pleasantly into the distance ahead.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. (Oprah Winfrey)

2017 has barely begun, but those resolutions to be active, get in shape, and ride your bike more may already be falling victim to work and family. The Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) decided to give us all a little love and encouragement.

EBC threw a fun tailgate party for folks that rode over 4,000+ miles in 2016. It was a party to celebrate those who rode a lot in 2016 and to encourage everyone to ride more in 2017. We all had a great time.

Al and I ride a lot because a long bike ride is fun and makes us happy. It expands the senses. It leaves me, at least, with that same sense of brightness and wonder I remember from childhood, a sense of being fully alive. Over the years Al and I have tried rides of various lengths and intensity. We discovered that we were most satisfied when our rides were around 50-75 miles and the intensity determined by our mood and how we felt that particular day. (We are retired. While we love being out on our bicycles, we limit our riding to just 4 mornings a week to give us time for the rest of our life.)

It isn't hard for us to ride a lot. Personally, I am awed by people with jobs, businesses, family, and sometimes school, who find a way to get out each week and ride 80 to 200+ miles. Because that's what it takes to do 4,000+ to 10,000+ miles a year. These are the ones who deserve the accolades.

Here in Miami, we got to party with a whole bunch of them. Awesome.
(Some of the folks that rode over 4000+ miles. Photo by Alex Pruna, re-edited for post by Marsha)

(Some of the guys that rode over 10,000 miles. Photo by Alex Pruna, re-edited for post by Marsha)



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere. (Dr. Seuss)

Starting back on the bike after being off for three months has been a hoot.

The first time out was just Al and me, and it was ugly and slow. But I finished 35 miles. (Thankfully no one I knew saw me.) The second ride was much better. I went with a group of friends who pulled me the whole 35 miles. The third ride was 41 miles, with a group, and a little faster. The fourth ride was with a small group of friends, another 35 mile ride. Each ride was a little better than the one before.

Then yesterday I headed out with just Al. We did 50 miles, keeping 3-5 bike lengths apart so I wasn't drafting him. I was working hard, but I wasn't focused on speed. I was using my power meter to determine my new baselines. You can't see improvement if you don't know where you started from.

About halfway through the 50 miles I had a funny thought. I'd been doing the wah-wah-wah-this-is-sooooo-hard thing. Then suddenly a light bulb switched on: this was no harder than any other day Al and I were by ourselves doing a training ride. The numbers on my little bike computer were just a bit smaller than 3 months ago, but (duh) I was expecting that. It was a typical training ride. I was working my butt off. It was a training ride, not a touring ride or a ramble. First you train, then you get to have long satisfying, pleasant, enjoyable rides.

So I smoothed my shoulders and chased Al down the road. From there to here, and here to there. Just like that I decided to stop bitching and start looking for the funny things.