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.