Thursday, May 27, 2021

We're all mature, until someone pulls out some bubble wrap. (Anonymous)

We wanted rolling hills with a little climbing on every ride. Usually that means we head up to the Clermont, Florida, area. But believe it or not, the highest point in Florida is Britton Hill (345 feet). It's in Walton County near the Alabama-Florida line. The Florida Panhandle west of Tallahassee is a great place for hills. 

This trip started very windy and ended with calm winds but very hot. The riding was great. Here's our highlights list:
  • We saw Two Egg, Florida. It's just a tiny community at a crossroads. Not even a convenience store or gas station. But with a name as cool as "Two Egg," what more do you need?
  • One ride included, I swear, the longest stretch of 3-7 percent grade road I've ever pedaled. It went on mile after mile after mile. But then the 25+ mph gusts of headwind may have affected my perception.
  • Riding some interesting hills on a particularly windy morning, we struggled with a headwind for miles. Then the route made a turn and the headwind became a tailwind. Things got a little exciting. We got faster and faster, We crested the next large hill at 24 miles per hour, and things just got wilder on the descent. I didn't have the nerve to check my speed, I just kept off the brakes and tried to keep up with Al. It was wicked fun for the next few miles, till the road turned again. 
  • We rode into Alabama one day. It was one of the prettier rides of the trip.
  • And then there were the stampedes. Cattle in a lot of rural areas are accustomed to cars and trucks, but bicycles spook them. They're fine with us if they are way back in the pasture. But if they are hanging out near the fence by the road and we stop to check them out? Well, stampede!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Small towns make up for their lack of people by having everyone be more interesting. (Doris "Granny D" Haddock)

There's an art to cycling in rolling hills. It's a game that never gets old. The game is to maximize your your descent of a hill so that you minimize the work needed to crest the next hill. When conditions and the hills are right, it feels like you are just floating over the hills. It's a lot of fun. 

Highland County, at the southern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, has rolling hills. It is the closest place to Miami with hills. We drove up to Avon Park, a tiny older city in the northern section of the county.

Al and I lived in southern Highlands County for over a dozen years, but I can count on one hand the number of times we pedaled in north Highlands County. We checked into the Jacaranda Hotel in the sleepy downtown historic district. The hotel was built in the 1920s and occupies a full block of the downtown. It's owned and operated by South Florida State College which uses a large part of the building as dormitory space. It has an old cage elevator that is operated by hotel staff. (It was just big enough for us, our bikes, and the operator.)  

On Saturday we discovered the Rotary Blueberry Festival in the city park a block from the hotel. It was a quintessential small town affair. We checked out the craft booths, saw the raffle drawing for fresh blueberries and coupons from local businesses, and watched folks queuing for the Rotary's boxed barbecue lunches. People were gathering in small groups at the park's picnic tables with their barbecue.  

We had three days riding our bikes. The best day was a ride that took us through the rolling hills, all on rural roads, pedaling through orange groves, protected environmental areas, and cattle ranches. It was quite windy, so we did the headwinds first so we could enjoy some tailwinds on the way back to town. 

Another day we decided to ride the backroads to Lorida, a tiny community on the northern end of Lake Istopoga. Lorida is east of Avon Park. The eastern section of Highlands County is off the Lake Wales Ridge. It's on the flood plain of the Kissimmee River. We can now say that we pedaled to Lorida, but what I learned from that ride was that rolling hills are way more fun than flat roads.

The kids you meet while pedaling are the best. They wave to you. They want to know about your bikes. One young boy came up to us in a convenience store parking lot to ask about the wheels on our bikes. Are they hard to balance on? Why is the rim so big? How far can you ride on a bike like that? Can you ride on sand? Do they make wheels like that for kids' bikes? His mom rescued us in a bit, but she was smiling and enjoying the moment, too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine. (Whoopi Goldberg)

The basics of bike travel are simple: Eat, pedal, eat, sleep, repeat. The length of the trip determines the number of repetitions.  Easy peasy, right?

After a year of the pandemic, getting back to doing it again was not as easy as I expected. Routines and stuff that used to be second nature were rusty from disuse. Everything just seemed to take longer or have more complications than I remembered. 

We started by doing a short, easy trip, a weekend getaway to Okeechobee to ride the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. (Baby steps.)

Our days of adventure travel are behind us. That said, I find it reassuring to remember those past adventures because they taught us that there's very little that goes wrong on even the most adventurous trip that can't be handled. We've handled serious stuff and pedaled on. By comparison, getting out in our mid 70s, for some simple credit card bike travel, after a year of pandemic restrictions, well, that is my definition of easy peasy.

We're planning on visiting small, out-of-the-way places in Florida this year. You know, those places with funny names you see on a map but never seem to drive through. Places that aren't on the tourist trail. The kind of places that have an old wood-frame convenience store with a shady porch that just plain invites a couple of cyclists to come have an ice cream sandwich or a cold soda before rolling on.

That is my kind of normal.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The longer I stay at home, the more I look as if I'm homeless.

Lately, I'm out riding as usual around Miami, but I've left my road bike at home. I'm becoming addicted to my little folding Brompton. It's cute. I can fold it and take it inside places with me. And, did I mention it's really cute?

Sometimes I wear a standard bike kit (padded lycra shorts and a cycling jersey). But I can take long rides on the Brompton without the traditional kit. More and more I'm wearing padded cycling liners under casual comfy clothes. (Which is my preferred outfit when I'm on a Running Away From Home on a Bicycle trip.) 

I try to pack very, very light for touring. My travel clothes are all mix and match, stuff that layers well with a little style. Easy to hand wash and fast drying. And padded bike underwear dries a lot faster than padded lycra bike shorts. Not to mention being much easier to hand wash.

I used to have a separate stash of clothes just for travel. No more. I'm not traveling what with COVID, but the COVID lifestyle has changed my closet. (Be honest. Raise your hand if your wardrobe is different these days, too.) Gone are the high maintenance tops, skinny jeans, and fancy dress shoes. Everything now is comfy. Stylish but practical.

Yep. The longer I'm stuck at home in Miami, the more I look like I'm on a permanent bike tour. (How great is that?)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize. (Clairee, Steel Magnolias)

Screen shopping. Mostly it's recreational, online browsing as it were, looking at things I want but don't need. But with a CLICKfantasy can become reality. (It's practically magic.)

I enjoy looking at accessories for my bikes. Since I have pretty much everything I need, it's generally a safe way to spend some idle time. (Generally.)

One afternoon I found myself looking at the little wheels for my Brompton's rear rack. They come in different colors, styles, and slightly different sizes. 

I looked over at my Brompton. Its little wheels were OK. Functional and sturdy. (How boring.)

Then I saw some wheels with a little flair. Simple design, functional, but with enough detail to be a bit more visually interesting. They echoed the design of the bigger wheels and the chainring. They were a bit larger, too, so they'd roll a bit better. In my mind's eye, I could see those wheels on my little bike, an improvement I'd like. OK, I didn't need them, but they weren't that expensive...


(If you have bicycles you love, you understand.)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

I’m at a place in my life when errands are starting to count as going out. (Anonymous)

A Brompton can be used as a shopping cart. I decided to add a shopping stop to my regular Saturday ride. I wanted to stop at a specialty grocery store about 5 miles from my home.

When I arrived at the store, I half-folded the Brompton. Those four little wheels on the rear carrier rack (called Eazy Wheels) allow the Brompton to roll along as my shopping cart. I can use either the handlebars or the seat to push, pull, and steer my "shopping cart." I like using the seat.

This is fun! At the store, employees and shoppers acted like seeing the Brompton rolling down the aisles in shopping cart mode was totally commonplace. People made comments about my helmet and helmet mirror, but not one comment about the bike! 


Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Joy of a Bicycle Basket

I ordered my Brompton back before COVID appeared. Which is why I ordered a big Brompton bag for touring. I didn't bother with getting a smaller bag. My plans were all about travel. 

One of the great points about a Brompton is the luggage system. There's a luggage carrier block on the frame. Brompton has a large range of bags of all sizes and uses. Each bag has a sturdy piece that clips onto the carrier block. It doesn't move with the handlebars. That means the weight of the bag and its contents doesn't interfere with steering.

My big touring bag (a large Borough roll top bag) is a bit of overkill for errands and short local rides. The smaller basket bag (the Borough basket bag) is a better choice. So I ordered one in July. Times being what they are, I had to order it from London. I definitely like it. Perfect size. It folds. There's outside webbing for hanging stuff. (Like my little hand sanitizer bottle.) There's an inside organizing pocket for wallet, phone, and keys. It has strap handles that make it easy to carry as a should bag off the bike. Definitely better than my little backpack or a string bag, especially in the humid heat of summer in Miami. 

When the basket bag arrived, I clipped it onto the bike for a ride. I couldn't believe I'd gotten along without it. Perfect for quick shopping stops. Perfect for carrying a snack and my little thermos of espresso. 

Proof that happiness can be found in the little things in life.