Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another Christmas Present Appears

Christmas morning found us continuing with the moving chores. Not a real exciting way to spend a holiday. Then, stuck to another photo, a tiny snapshot appeared that I had never seen before. Another surprise Christmas present! A tiny snapshot of me on wheels. No pedals, though. From the expression on my face, I was already planning out a strategy to upgrade my ride...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas eve find us organizing for our move to Miami. Things are moving faster than expected, and we may be beginning the actual move in mid-January. So our holiday activities have been organizing, packing, and all the stuff you need to do to move from one home to another.

Today while Al organized bike and exercise gear, I tackled photos and documents, many of which I was moving to digital for the move. This is how I found this year's special Christmas present. The best presents aren't bought or wrapped or even given to you by others. They are often things you find that give you joy and happiness. At the bottom of a box of ancient family photos, I found one of me with my first set of wheels! OK, so my first "bike" was a "trike"...but it had wheels and pedals, so it counts!

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope each of you finds a special Christmas present this year, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Home Sweet Home - Miami!

We've been talking about moving to Miami for ages. We used to live in a high rise in a city, but we've lived in small towns in rural areas for the past 17 years. We spent those years water skiing and biking. Recently, however, we began to miss urban life. We found ourselves craving the diversity of urban life, the mix of ages, nationalities, races, languages, and religions that permeates urban living. It is challenging and sometimes frustrating, but it is never dull or boring. And we missed the conveniences and cultural opportunities of urban living: high rise homes; buses, trolleys, light rail, and taxis; galleries; live theater; coffee shops; city parks; concerts; and walking or biking to most places you need to go.

We knew it was time for a change.

This week we did it. We went home shopping in Miami. And we found what we wanted. Our stable of bicycles is moving to a new home. In a high rise. The East Coast Greenway route through Miami is just outside our building's front door. (That simplifies tour planning!) It's close to the Rickenbacker Causeway and Key Biscayne, a great route to ride a road bike. It's a few minutes by bicycle to a cafecito (best bike fuel on the planet) from an open-air coffee counter on Calle Ocho.

Right now it's looking like we'll move there in March. So we have a couple of months to ride through the scrub and say goodbye to all our favorite biking routes. Come March we'll pack our bags, say goodbye to the lake, and move our bikes and suitcases to Miami.

Home sweet home. MIAMI!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'll try to be nicer if you'll try to be smarter...

December to-do lists when combined with a big project to-do list is guaranteed to drive you over the edge. It definitely makes it hard to get through the day without the conversation turning to handguns, knives, and other weapons of mayhem.

Today, on top of everything else, it was going to rain. We bickered about whether we had time for a ride or if we could handle getting wet in the rain. Agreeing that the most important thing was to get out and burn up some excess energy, we headed out for a short but fast ride. Al's hamster wheel short route, AKA the 20 mile time trial. He set up a fast pace. The mirror riding (same gear, same cadence) is coming along splendidly. I had no problem keeping up with him for the first half of the ride. (Note to self: do not brag during a ride that you aren't having that much trouble keeping up.) Al needed to burn off some energy...and that meant he notched it up near the end of the ride. I tried to match him, but he was going to drop me for sure. He disappeared into the distance. No worries. I knew he'd wait up for me a mile or so ahead, and we'd ride home together from that point.

It was a great ride. One of our fastest. And it really mellowed out the to-do list craziness.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bananas, Cookies, and Dark Chocolate

The new program of mirroring Al's riding continues. It's getting a little easier. It's getting to be a little less tiring. And it has provided me with an unexpected surprise bonus: I have to eat more.

Our cycling isn't a part of a weight management program. That doesn't make any sense, in our view, since when you bike you have to eat on the ride and after the ride for very specific reasons. You do this to prevent bonking and to recover well. Bonking is very unpleasant and so is not recovering well.

My favorite "bike foods" are bananas, Voortman oatmeal-cranberry-flaxseed cookies, and PayDay candy bars. "Recovery food" is an 8 ounce glass of skim milk and 6-12 Ghirardelli 60% cacao premium baking chips (chocolate!) immediately after the ride. I have a bin where we dump any energy bars or similar products when we get them as a give-away or promotions. Which means we don't have them very often. Tasty things, but they just don't measure up to the pleasures (or the fabulous nutritional profile) of a good banana.

But back to the point of this post. We're riding the same miles for the same amount of time. But when I mirror Al, I need a snack sooner...and that means an extra snack on each ride!

I think I'm liking this kind of riding!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hill Blocks View (Duh)

The road to Venus, Florida, is one of the nicest rides in our area. And it has the funniest road signs. This is a road with rolling hills. At every hill approach, there is a warning sign:

We ponder the signs as we pedal along. Who needs a warning of this kind? (Flatlanders? Graduates of the short bus?)

On our ride we stop at Archbold Biological Station (learn more) to check out the new Learning Center and Visitors' Lodge. It's a beautiful place for a snack stop. And to banter more about who does need those "hill blocks view" signs...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You're in range. Be nice to me.

We headed out on Al's favorite route. I call it Al's hamster wheel or the 30-mile time trial route. He has slowly gotten me to be a lot stronger cyclist, mostly right on this route. It is basically flat with 5 "mystery inclines," those wicked things that make you work harder when the dang road looks so deliciously flat.

Beginning this week I am mirroring his riding: same gear, same cadence. To keep up with him while mirroring his riding, I have to use more power. Which I find really, really, really tiring. But it's an easy way to approach the whole routine. When Al says he's going to ride at such-and-such cadence and such-and-such speed, you might as well be setting the numbers into a computerized machine. He heads out, and whatever he said, that's what shows up on my bike computer if I mirror him. For 30 miles...

I speed down the road. No drafting allowed. Staying 4 to 5 bike lengths behind his wheel. For a while I just think evil thoughts. Like road bikes should be equipped with short-range missiles...or at least a small caliber gun...

At long last we turn onto the street where our cool-down segment begins. We stop near the end of the street, across the canal from our house. I spot my coral-red bougainvillea blooming next to the screen room. Right next to the lounge chair where I intend to park my very tired legs and read for hours. OK, that made me feel better. Al is safe. I'm heading home to my reading chair. Life is good.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Ride with a Motorcycle, a Gator, and a Trainer

We really did eat the whole pumpkin pie. It was chilly and windy, but we needed to stretch our legs and move. A nice long ride in the wind sounded great. Al set a brisk pace, keeping me chasing to keep up.

While he wasn't in the mood to dilly-dally, I yelled for him to turn around and follow me into the model airplane club's field. I absolutely had to get a close up look at the motorcycle parked there. Now when you are retired, you have hours and hours to follow your passions. We run around on our bicycles. But the area is chock full of guys who restore antique cars, build aircraft, and customize motorcycles. There at the model plane club's field was a bright yellow customized tricycle motorcycle like nothing I had ever seen before. Absolutely stunning.

Front View

Rear View

Now you are probably wondering where the gator and the trainer come into this ride's narrative. Well, when we passed a small creek, there was the gator, a small one, basking on the bank in the sun. We missed the gator chomping down the jogger. All that remained was the trainer and the smile on the gator's face...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Windy Thanksgiving Ramble

The wind refused to go away. It was sunny, but the wind was gusting from 15 to 20 miles per hour. It made 60 degrees seem a lot colder.

We headed out for a few hours of rambling on our bikes. We decided to wander our little community, exploring the dozens of streets and roads that have managed to stay relatively undeveloped over the last several decades.

We passed a grassy area near the local golf course. The sandhill cranes were still curled in sleep. Apparently even sandhill cranes sleep in on Thanksgiving.

One street had a totally vacant block, a block comprised of beautiful white sand scrub, covered with Florida rosemary, wildflowers, and scrub oak.

A house not far from ours was decked out for the holidays with a glorious bougainvillea that had been allowed to fill the garden space by the front entrance of the home. We have one this same color in our back yard near the corner of our screen room. It provides an amazing display every holiday season.

Near the end of our ride we stopped at our community park on the lake. It certainly wasn't a day for fishing or recreational boating. The lake was choppy whitecaps to the horizon. Not at all like the smooth glassy surface we see when we head out to water ski at dawn in the summer.

The chilly ramble had given us an opportunity to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to a bunch of folks. Al pointed us for home. "Time to cook and feast," he declared. Good idea!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Horrible Hundred 2012

If I had to pick my favorite annual ride, it would probably be the Horrible Hundred. It's a big ride (over 2000 riders) sponsored by the Florida Freewheelers Bicycle Club. It's up in the wonderful hills of the northern Lake Wales Ridge of central Florida. Most people visit this area for Disney, the other big Orlando theme parks, and non-stop shopping at malls, malls, and more malls. We pity them. The theme parks and shopping malls are boring compared to a day of riding a bicycle around here.


We put our suitcases in the car and the bikes on the bike rack and drove the 2.5 hours north. The Horrible Hundred ride was Sunday, but there was early rider check-in, a variety of rides, and a Cycling and Fitness Expo Saturday. It's a treat to wander through the dealer tents, checking out the latest bicycles from different companies. This year there also was a dealer with custom high wheel bicycles. He had some elegant antique track bikes, too. Real eye candy. In a more practical move, we needed new short-finger riding gloves, so we shopped the clothing racks and bins, trying on lots of gloves. We scored a couple pairs with gel pads. A nice way to spend an hour or two.

The desk clerk at our motel remembered us from a recent visit. We chatted briefly. The hotel was fully booked with cyclists. People were rolling bikes in and out of the motel, and a bunch of riders had circled comfy chairs into a casual conversation area.

Once up in our room, I called up tomorrow's weather forecast. Around 54 degrees at dawn, 60 by ride start time, going up to the mid 70s later in the day. Mostly cloudy. Very windy, 15 mph NE winds with gusts to 20 mph. "Good," smiled Al. "It won't be raining."


I spent a lot of time with the route maps over the past week. I wanted to see if I could patch together a custom route that mostly stayed on the roads the ride organizers were using, hit the climbs, didn't miss sag stops (chocolate fixes!), had the miles we wanted, but didn't worry much about anything else. My plan had us joining the route just after a nice long steep climb not too many miles from the ride's start. That would take some steam out of the engines of the galloping packs.

We pedaled away from the motel after breakfast. The motel's flags said it all. It was windy, very windy.

We rode a couple of miles to the Horrible Hundred route. As planned we watched the fastest riders thunder past. Followed by a reasonable gap. We got on the route, joining the next mass of club riders, their enthusiasm notched down some by the first serious climb of the day. We like riding with these people once they calm down after the start. They're competitive but they have an upbeat attitude. They're also unrelentingly supportive of the riders around them. We make no effort to join their groups. We ride as a pair, Al in front for a while, then I take the lead. Our cadence work and interval training has paid off. On climbs we ride at the cadence that keeps our intensity at a challenging but comfortable level. Al crests the climbs first, slows and waits for me to catch up, then we descend. I love descending, the faster the better. On descents I can keep up with just about anyone. Al usually lets me play, catching up with me at the next climb. But he stayed with me on every descent. Nice. We are going to have fun with this.

I had my camera mounted on my handlebars. A lot of riders, not knowing whether I was doing video or still photos, would pass me and turn and perform for the camera. I loved it and got to laugh a lot.

All too soon we reached the spot where my custom route split us from the ride and headed us back to the motel. There was a bar-B-Q lunch for the riders, but Al and I were planning on a meal out on our own.

When we got to the motel, sweaty, tired legs and all, the desk staff gave us a big welcome. "You won! You beat the other guys back!"

They were having such a good time with their riff, we just smiled and headed upstairs to our room.

In old age deceit and treachery beats youth and talent every time...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fog and More Fog

The fog was pretty dense before dawn. We waited an hour for it to lift, but it stubbornly held fast. Where was wind when you needed it?

We finally decided to start our ride around 8 a.m., feeling pretty sure the fog would thin by the time we finished our 1 mile warm-up. No luck. We threaded a route through residential streets, heading toward one of our favorite routes to the south of home. The air was in the 60s. The fog condensed on us and our bikes, leaving our glasses hazed and water dripping from our helmets. I kept my head tilted down. I would give my head a sideways shake every minute or so to keep the dripping water off my glasses. Mostly.

By the time we got home the fog was gone, replaced by low hanging clouds. A neighbor smiled and waved. "It's too chilly to be riding today," she said.

Florida. November. Temperature in the mid 60s. And it's "too chilly"?

I love this place!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Florida Crested Caracara Road Kill Cafe

This morning we went out on our last long ride before next Sunday's Horrible Hundred. We took a favorite route, one that pretty much stays in the open areas of the local ranches and wildlife preserves. The sky hinted at blue, but there were too many clouds for the morning to warm up much. We laughed that you don't need GPS out here. Just follow the power lines. When the power lines stop, so does the road.

Part way through our ride, we came upon a Road Kill Cafe. It had one customer leisurely enjoying breakfast, a good sized squished critter. I got excited and screeched to a stop when I realized the bird was a Florida crested caracara. It's in the falcon family, but it's primarily a scavenger. Caracaras tend to stay on the palmetto prairies. We saw them a lot when we were riding off-road on the prairie over by the Kissimmee River. They are beautiful birds. Caracaras are more skittish than other large birds. Usually a caracara is long gone by the time I get my camera pointed in the right direction. This time the caracara stopped briefly on top of a fence post giving me time for one very hasty photo.

We are ready for the Horrible Hundred. Al has been setting a challenging pace, and we've done a lot of miles over the past week or so. We will go out on more rides this week, but not long or fast ones. Just rambles to keep things loose and happy. I need the time off strenuous riding. Charge up the battery, as it were.

Can't wait to ride up and down hills again!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Our Transportation Fleet

We live in the boondocks. There is no public transportation system here. It's 6 miles into the tiny nearby town with the grocery store and library. It's 25 miles to the larger town where you can get most things, if you aren't too picky. It's 90 to 125 miles to many medical specialists and the type of shopping common in urban and suburban areas. Having a car is a must. (It has always amazed me that so many older seniors choose to live here. Go figure.)

Standing in our garage today, I surveyed our transportation fleet: a gas sipping little car, a 125cc scooter, and a lot of bicycles.

The road bikes, used most, are in floor stands. The mountain bikes hang on the wall. City folding bikes are in hanging in their soft cases, ready for our next visit to a large town. Folding touring bikes are hanging next to them in their soft cases, too.

Our annual gas bills for our ski boat and jet ski are way larger than the ones for our car and scooter. And the miles on our bikes are way higher than the miles on the scooter. Thank heavens for a big garage!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice.

Good grief! An early cold front snuck into Florida. It is cold and windy. At least it is sunny. This week I got to try out my new homemade lightweight Florida winter layers.

Last year I hit the big thrift stores in search of cashmere sweaters. They are popular with crafters, but by searching during the hot weather months I was able to find a half dozen in various sizes. These sweaters were very, very popular a few years ago, and many are now turning up in thrift stores. Cashmere isn't scratchy like wool, and it washes like a dream. (Just don't send it through the dryer. Or if you do use the dryer, use the delicate setting.) A cashmere sweater makes a fabulous winter bike layer.

A long sleeved pullover sweater works great as a mid layer for cold mornings. (Cycling tank under the sweater and a long sleeve zippered bike jersey over the sweater.) Another sweater, shrunk to kiddy size by careless cleaning, got cut into fingerless mittens to cover my padded bike gloves, and it also was used to make a throat wrap for really blustery mornings. Unlike my old touring fleece gear, the cashmere gear is easy to stuff into my seat bag. After all, this is Florida. You may need this gear at the beginning of a ride, but you'll be stripping it off in an hour or two.

The new gear works beautifully!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

O Day of Rest and Gladness

Wispy clouds of smoke fill Lake June Scrub State Park.
Sunday is the most dangerous day of the week on rural Florida roads. The only-on-church-day drivers are out and about. These are the drivers of your nightmares. They are older than dirt and the worst drivers on the planet. They have poor vision and glacial reaction times.

We found a empty route towards the south.
The first rule of Sunday morning biking here abouts is that you never, never take a road that leads to a church. Since we have a lot of churches, route planning becomes an art form. Today we had a double problem, smoke from controlled burns was drifting into our area from Lake June Scrub State Park. There are some good routes on that side of our residential area, but those were not for us today.

We headed south. We looped wide of all the roads that feed into the local churches. At about 10 miles we had left the smoke and church traffic behind. Al had a route in mind, and we headed out. It was a great success...we made it home alive!!!

The Horrible Hundred is in less than two weeks. It's one of our favorite rides of the year. The next week and a half will be our pre-HH warm up. We'll be doing long rides almost daily.

It's going to be fun.
My skilled navigator (very pleased with his success!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Democrats are better lovers. (Who ever heard of a good piece of elephant?)

A friend from way, way back and I were swapping favorite jokes from past political campaigns. She brought up the "make better lovers" riff that was our mutual favorite in our college years. Later in our chat, she solved this week's bike clothing conundrum: what to wear for "cold weather" rides in Florida.

The rest of the country thinks our winter weather is balmy. Florida cyclists are acclimated to hot and humid. Many, like me, are total wimps about being cold. (Snowbirds aren't real Floridians in these matters.) I wear cycling knickers and cycling sandals year round. In "cold" weather, meaning 55-65 degrees, the gap between the bottom of the knickers and my socks gets cold. The stuff sold for non-Florida cold weather is just too warm and bulky. My old friend had the perfect suggestion: knee socks. So I hit Target, picked up some basic knee socks that were the same turquoise/white color combination as my long sleeve cycling jersey, and tried them out this week when temperatures dipped sharply. They worked like a charm. Problem solved.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

333 (only half evil)

Cattle. They are big. They are a delightfully dim-witted. I ask you, what's not to love?

Today as we were pedalling by the wet northeast pasture of a nearby ranch, we found some cattle chopping the tender green plants growing in about 2-3 feet deep water. As we approached, the herd splashed and meandered away from us. Except for one sly guy. He was so-o-o obviously hiding in the tall weeds. Watching us. Standing very, very still. (Peek-a-boo, I see you...)

Al was being almost evil today. He is determined to get our speed back up to what it was a few years ago. So today I was once again chasing, chasing, chasing. We took a long ride to the south on a serpentine road. The wind was from the northwest, calmer than the tropical force winds of a few days ago, but still formidable. The leg south was OK. Hey, I thought, I'm getting a lot better! Then we u-turned and headed north. Agony, pain, and much gasping and panting! Finally we got a stop for a snack. Relief. Then it was off again. In the final quarter of the ride, I finally found a strategy that helped. I discovered that Al slowed ever so slightly whenever our course took us into the wind. I pushed myself then, using his slight slowing as an opportunity for me to gain any ground I'd lost. It worked! I felt like a champ.

Al is a great riding partner and coach. I decided he was only half evil. (But I always did like the bad boys...)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas.

We needed new scenery. We craved a bit of a change. The voices were whispering, "We need hills."

Running about 150 miles down the center of Florida is the Lake Wales Ridge. This area was a series of sand islands long ago during the Pleistocene. The rest of Florida may be pretty flat, but this area has actual hills. Hills of all configurations. The southern part of the ridge is flatter. The northern part has the most interesting hills for cyclists, mostly around Clermont and Mt.Dora. The best climbs have even been given names. Sugarloaf Mountain. The Wall. Buck Hill. Hospital Hill. Northridge.

We threw the bikes on the car bike rack, dumped the suitcases into the car, and drove 2 hours north to Clermont, Florida. We'd stay a couple days and have fun. It was windy, too. Double fun.

Day one we headed out to a great climb, Hospital Hill. We circled the area, enjoying the back roads through a subdivision built in terraces up a hill. The streets connecting the terraces were steep and happily devoid of traffic. We had a wonderful ride, delighted to find that our climbing skills were in good shape. At the top of our final big climb of the day we stopped at the traffic circle at the top. A high school age boy walked passed. He looked down the road we had just climbed up, looked at us panting and making jokes, shook his head and smiled at us before hiking off down the road. It was less than a mile of climbing, but that road was as steep as many climbs in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia where we used to live. Fun.

Day two we headed out on the bike trail network, a large series of connected trails spanning the area from Clermont to Orlando. Being a trail network the climbs are tamer, but the effect of rolling hills was a wonderful contrast to the flats and mystery inclines of our home rides.

Trees in bloom along the trail in Lake County.

The trail skirts farms and pastures.
These cows were used to people riding past them on the trail.
When we woke up on day three, we discovered the weatherman had missed with the forecast. Instead of a cloudy morning, it was a cloudy rainy morning. We snuffed any thoughts of a morning ride. Instead we had a long, leisurely breakfast, talked for a while over coffee, then packed and drove home, very glad we'd listened to the voices and spent time with some hills.

A rainy ride home.

Happy to be dry in the car instead of wet on a bike.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mellow Yellow Fall in the Florida Scrub

Every yellow fall wildflower is in bloom this week. People often overlook the fall colors in Florida. The trees are not the focus of fall color here. It's the wildflowers and the grasses that provide the show. It makes for lovely scenery on a bike ride.

Yellow Buttons
A stream sparkles in the morning light as it meanders through gold and russet prairie grasses.
Tall goldenrod is the background for shorter yellow blooming wildflowers and pale yellow topped grasses.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I keep pressing "escape" but I'm still here.

In case any of you have been in a coma for the past few months, we're in the final days of elections season. It is one of the few times I long to escape Florida to some remote region of the world. Living in a swing state is hazardous to one's mental health.

Heading out on a ride around the back roads of our county, it is impossible to escape election advertising  You can fast forward through television political advertising  but you can't avoid the stuff on billboards and those small signs stuck along every street and back road  "Vote for..." signs are everywhere. On one remote road, two homes, the only two homes in the whole area, had identical signs in their front yards. Zeal? Humor? Some weird flocking behavior? I wish I were brave enough to knock on a door and inquire.

This area is predominantly conservative Republican, with a large dash of Tea Party. Go into any local waiting room, and there is a good chance FOX commentary is on the TV. There are many liberal and moderate Democrats and independents, of course, but it's socially easier to vote your mind rather than post it on your front lawn. There's been a change this election, however. There are almost none of the more exuberantly ugly or socially insulting displays anywhere. The guy down the road who 4 years ago had a swastika and confederate flag by his front door has nothing but Halloween stuff this year. We've seen nothing that goes beyond normal conservative political sarcasm. That's a refreshing improvement.

We have only a few more weeks of the silly season. Maybe it will be fun to see if we can find a stretch of road without a political sign. On the other hand, maybe we could make a game of counting them and crunch the numbers. Notify the local press of our findings. (Escape! Escape! Escape!).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pretending to be a mature adult is boring.

We were pretending to be mature adults this week. We had a full to-do list with appointments and commitments which left us only a few hours to ride each day. So we rode local roads again. It was very windy, but windy days make great play days on a bike. Interval training? Just ride a loop. Chasing? Strengths and weaknesses, scheming and tricks--everything is more fun in a good wind.

Today's ride was the windiest. Flags looked starched. The windsock at the airport looked like a skinny Pinocchio. Riding with the wind was effortless and very, very fast. Riding into the wind felt like an endless climb up a steep, steep hill. Riding with the wind from the side made you actually tip slightly, forcing you to lean into it like a turn. We rode for a couple of hours. We had only gone 30 miles, but I was as physically spent as if we had ridden three times that.

Being mature adults is boring. Playing in the wind on a bike? Now that is like being 10 years old again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happily Re-tired in Florida

Monday we stopped at the Bike Shop to get the rear flat on Al's bike fixed. Matthew examined the tire. He tactfully pointed out that the tire was wearing through in spots. Hmmmm. "They're just a year old," we whined. Matthew patiently explained about the expected lifespan of road bike tires. OK, he had a point. We had put a lot of miles on them, and we do ride pretty much all the time on chip rock/bituminous roads. It was quickly determined that both bikes needed new tires. He asked if we want the same type we had now or something different. Duh? As is often the case, we didn't have a clue. We asked for advice.

Matthew walked us back near the work area and grabbed a wheel hanging there. It was from LW's bike and was also in for a new tire. LW is a local legend, a guy in his mid 70s, who rides 10,000 miles a year. He's been doing that for as long as I can remember--and he's still going strong. Matthew explained about the type of tires LW was using and why they were working out so well. LW puts all those miles on the same roads we ride, he patiently pointed out.

Al and I are very unlikely to ride 10,000 miles this year. But we do put on a lot of miles. Al and I glanced at each other, doing that silent communication thing that comes with spending most of a lifetime together. The reason we go to Matthew is because Matthew knows what he's doing. He spends a lot of time and energy keeping current on just this type of thing. If anyone has an opinion that is worth listening to, it's Matthew. So we go with his recommendation. We don't need a tire like LWs, but we do need one that's a whole lot tougher than what we've been using.

The bikes look pretty good with their new tires, Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase road tires. The all black tire on the all black wheel looks good, too. Toughens the look of the bikes some. And that's a good thing. The white sidewalls on the old tires were a nice touch, but they were a bitch to keep clean. And maybe they did look a bit prissy, all said. The black is definitely better.

Now it's time to go have some fun and get them dirty...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Withlacoochee State Trail

We packed our bikes on the back of our car, threw our suitcases into the back seat, and drove 3 hours northeast. Our destination was the town of Inverness, Florida, and the Withlacoochee State Trail. The WST is a rail trail, 46 miles of rail trail, the longest in Florida.

There were over a thousand riders. Century riders did a segment on adjacent roads in addition to a circuit of the trail. Everybody else stayed on the trail. It's a great start-of-season event ride.

Riding past the tents at ride headquarters.
It rained heavily the afternoon and evening before the ride. We woke and checked weather. Dawn was still an hour away, the temperature was 73 and the dew point was 70. It was going to be a hot and sticky ride. Al poured me a cup of coffee, and we sipped coffee, watching the bike lights blinking down the trail below our motel balcony heading for the ride start. We joined them a bit later when the sky was light enough to ride without headlights.

There were 1000 riders, but the trail was never crowded.
Al had a plan. There was 16 miles of trail north of the starting point and 30 miles to the south. The trail to the south was seriously flat, while the trail north more undulating. We'd head south first, then do the northern bit of trail. Sounded good to me. I was focused on the sag stops. I am inordinately fond of oreo cookies topped with a small dollop of peanut butter and a thick slice of banana, a feature of a number of the sag stops on this ride. (One cannot pedal on an empty stomach.)

This ride had a seriously wide variety of participants. Pack riders sporting club jerseys were everywhere. There was good representation from the 70 and 80 something contingent (more women than men, by the way.) And there were noteworthy oddities, things that are always found on this ride and no other. My favorites this year:
  • A man who looked to be in his 90s riding an adult tricycle bike, slowly but resolutely, the old bike creaking and squeaking as he proceeded down the trail sporting his new event t-shirt and a pleasant smile. 
  • A very happy young girl riding a pink princess bike, pedalling proudly behind her father on his serious carbon fiber road bike, the father keeping a slow but challenging pace for the little girl (and looking extremely proud of her).
  • A woman who had to be told at the first sag stop that her helmet was on backwards
  • A pretty young woman with perhaps the biggest breasts I have ever seen riding her road bike at a rapid pace, hands down on the drops, causing predictable chaos wherever she went.
We headed south for a number of sag stops, occasionally joining and chatting with different packs of riders. Then we turned about and headed north the way we had come, passing the ride headquarters to do the north segment of the trail. On our return to ride headquarters we skipped the post ride food and headed back to our motel. As usual we had plans for the rest of the day. We had done 65 miles, and it was an easy, fast, and pleasant metric century ride for us.

When we pulled up to our motel, I hoisted up my bike up to climb upstairs to our room. Al was standing at the foot of the stairs waiting on me to get to the top. Kaboom-hissssssss. I turned, looked at Al, and broke out laughing. His bike had waited to until we were at the motel before the rear tire blew. He laughed and looked down at the tire. "You know, we'll be driving right past the Bike Shop on our way home tomorrow. I think we should just let Matthew fix this one."

A lake along the trail.
I agreed.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I never finish anyth

I admit I lack discipline and have a reputation for procrastination and being easily distracted. Al, on the other hand, is the poster child for discipline and adherence to routines. Without him, I doubt this week would have played out as it did. Al played the role of task master. His plan: lots of miles and constant interval training. (Not in his plan: stopping for pictures and stopping and chatting.) Being the sneaky sort, he mentioned rides we could start doing if we jump-started things this week, tempting me with fantasies of espresso and toasted bagels, Cuban sandwiches, and tacos. (He had me hooked at espresso.)

Living where we do we have access to wonderful biking on low-traffic roads with lovely scenery, thanks to being surrounded by ranches, orange groves, and wildlife/environmental areas. But rural living means very small towns and not many of them. It's a long bike ride to things commonplace for urban and suburban cyclists.

For us:
  • Cuban sandwich and espresso, 40-50 miles
  • Espresso and toasted bagel, 60-70 miles
  • My favorite tacos, 70-80 miles
These are the round trip mileages from our house, the shorter being the most direct bike route, the second being the more interesting bike route. There is a closer small town, a pretty place with lots of murals and pocket parks, but its McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's are strictly desperation stops, and not one of the its handful of little restaurants serves a decent espresso.

So I whined quietly and chased Al down the road this week. I'll admit now that it was worth it. The week is done, and I'm ready to bike for that Cuban sandwich and espresso. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wear a tank top. Support your right to bare arms.

It was hot and very sticky on this week's rides, but clouds and a bit of wind made it good riding. We've had rain every day. Luckily, it hasn't rained in the morning and that's when we ride. This week our only goal was to ride our favorite 30 mile loop at a reasonable pace. We needed "butt time" before we did longer rides.

I was amused at a friend who thought that since we do water skiing all summer, the transition to cycling would be, like, automatic. No such luck. Water skiing works muscles from head to toe. It gives you shapely muscled arms and shoulders, strong core muscles, and strong legs. Water skiing is an extremely intense activity, but one measured in minutes, not hours. It's about strength and balance, but it isn't about cardio. That's the fitness we have to get back up to snuff before we can enjoy the upcoming bike season.

Oh, yeah. And we also have to toughen up our butts. Padded shorts and cut-out saddles are great, but there is nothing like mileage to toughen up the butt and make long miles do-able.

Next week we move back to our regular riding mileage. We have 14 days before we do a metric century. It's going to be great. (Oh yeahhhh.)