Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rules and Resolutions

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. When my birthday rolls around, though, I always set three rules for the coming year. I've had the same three rules for a dozen years now, and it looks like they will stand for one more year.

Rule 1. No Whining

The correct answer to "How are you?" is always "Good."

Before you voice a complaint of any variety, think through what you are trying to get from it. Pity? (Hope not.) Sympathy? (Get a pet or a teddy bear, please.) An excuse? (Like, cut me slack because of my neediness?) Attention? (How sad...)

Having a tour and everything is going wrong and you feel way over your head? No whining, please. Think about what is funny, nutty, or otherwise interesting about the experience. People would much rather hear about that.

Rule 2. Move

Feeling bored, lonely, or depressed? Get out and move. You'll feel better. Got some chronic pain that's bumming your mood? Get out and move. Do whatever you can -- then do a little more tomorrow. At some point pain/discomfort is just a reminder that you are still alive. Learn to deal with it as background noise in your life. Learn to move your mind to other more pleasant things..and magically your mood will follow.

Rule 3. Avoid Negative People

There are people that thrive on anger, fear, drama, and other orgies of petty emotions. The correct social behavior when faced with these people is silence. Do not engage them with words, eye contact, or even subtle head wagging. Walk away quickly and don't look back!

It's going to be another very good year.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Miami at Peak Tourist Season

Miami is Florida's most interesting city. Like big cities everywhere, Miami is made up of distinctive neighborhoods. Most tourists cluster in South Beach, the neighborhood known for Art Deco architecture and nightclubs. Tourists also visit Coconut Grove, Little Havana, the Design District, and (for those taking cruises) the Port of Miami.

But how to do Miami during the peak of the winter tourist season? February hauls in the crowds for the Miami International Boat Show and the annual art festival in Coconut Grove. This on top of the crowd of tourists just coming to escape the cold at home or heading out on a Caribbean cruise. Al and I wanted to spend several days in Miami. In our budget range there were scores of pleasant hotels in outlying neighborhoods and in the suburbs. But that is dull and boring, to say the least. We opted for a different type of place, the Miami River Inn. It is located downtown on the Miami River, in a neighborhood of commercial fishing boats and other commercial marine businesses. Not the sort of neighborhood one strolls around at night. The Inn itself is a collection of old homes and apartments which have been cobbled together into 40 tidy rooms of lodging with "old Florida" style furnishings. The owner calls it a bed and breakfast. A high iron fence surrounds the Inn's buildings and parking lot. During our stay, the other guest were European and South American tourists and some 20-somethings who, like us, were seeing the area on their bikes.
The Miami River Inn

Another View of the Miami River Inn

The Miami River is a working river.
Our interest was biking in Brickell (pronounced BRICK-uhl). This is Miami's financial district. It also is home to the tallest buildings in Florida, most of them hotels and residential towers. On it's southern edge is the Rickenbacker Causeway, the 6 mile causeway to Key Biscayne which is one of the best places to ride a road bike in Miami. The weather was perfect: sunny, a nice sea breeze, the temperature peaking in the low 80s in the afternoon.

We spent a day pedalling around the area. First we wandered about the northern edge of Brickell. There were a good number of bike commuters, and we followed them to navigate the busier sections of city. We wandered along the edge of Biscayne Bay following bike routes, pedaling through waterfront parks, and watching local residents, some strolling with children or pets, some jogging. We stopped to laugh at the antics of a tiny teacup chihuahua (Lola) and her fluffy white mixed breed toy friend, as they attempted to make friends with a (thankfully) mild-mannered bull terrier.
A bull terrier, white fluffy toy dog, and teacup chihuahua (on grass, far right) have a social moment.
Sitting on the sea wall at Jade, one of the newer residential towers.
It is easy to imagine living here. There are so many wonderful residential buildings.

We pedalled south towards the Rickenbacker Causeway. We wanted to bike it towards Key Biscayne. We only wanted to go half-way to Key Biscayne before heading back. There are bikes of all varieties around. Roadies in lycra speed down the Causeway. Casual bikers poke along on their way to one of the causeway's parks. Commuter bikers pedal past us at a determined clip. Sweaty joggers chug by.

Looking out at the Rickenbacker Causeway from the mainland.
Looking down the Rickenbacker Causeway with Key Biscayne on the horizon.
Fishermen using the the causeway for a shady fishing spot (halfway down Rickenbaker towards Key Biscayne) with Miami skyline in the background.
We head back to the city. In the center of Brickell we stop at a busy coffeehouse for a double espresso and a snack. Then on to Fresh Market to buy the makings for a gourmet picnic dinner.

Love Miami. And it can be done during high tourist season without breaking your budget.

Monday, February 20, 2012


This past weekend our local Rotary Club of Highlands County and the local Highlands Pedalers bicycle club hosted the Bike Sebring 12 Hour & Ultra cycling RAAM Qualifier (as they do every February) at the Sebring International Raceway. Around here the event was somehow worked into every recent conversation between local cyclists. Are you doing it? Century only? Going for more miles or hours? How many? 6 hours? 8 hours? 12 hours?

And it's not just one age group. There are middle-aged folks and retirees among local participants. It says a lot about what acts as a carrot-on-a-stick motivator for different people. For some it is total miles. For others it's hours on the bike. Others have a lock on their average speed for their chosen distance or time.

Al and I were not among the participants. We can and do bike long miles and hours. But distance, time, or speed by themselves aren't big motivators for us. The carrots that work the best for us are ambiance and fun.

Life is easy once you learn what carrot-on-a-stick works for you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When I Win the Lottery

This week we finally got out on our bikes again. It felt really great. The weather was sunny and warm. The sky was blue. The wind was challenging but not unpleasant.

The reason we had not been out was work: the dreaded spring cleaning and maintenance jobs. February is the month they absolutely must get done. Metal yard furniture repainted. (Done.) Tile and grout floors cleaned. (Done.) Closets straightened. (Done.) Cabinets tidied. (Done.) Dock and deck painted. (Done.) Garage cleaned. (Done.) There are still a handful of small jobs to do, but they can be fit into our regular chore schedule. Now we can get out and ride again.

In the scrub the spanish moss was fluttering in the pines near the creeks, ponds, and areas of wet palmetto prairie. Most of the time spanish moss hangs like scrawny beards on branches.

But I am particularly fond of pines whose trunks have been wrapped in spanish moss. While I know it makes the tree particularly vulnerable to fire, it still has the most charming effect. Like a swirling fur coat wrapping the trunk.

It is great to be back riding my bike and taking pictures of stuff I see while out riding. When I win the lottery, I am not going to buy a new car or a new house. I'm going to hire people to do all the spring cleaning and maintenance. For the rest of my life. So I can just ride my bike.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Before Blogging

Before blogging, there were bike journals. My luggage always included a camera, a decent pen, and my current bike journal. Later these journals and pictures were packed away, tucked into storage boxes and stowed on a high shelf. Over the years one storage box became two, then three. Moved from home to home, never culled, never looked at.
I ran into the cache of bike journals while doing spring cleaning. It was interesting to look through them, wallowing happily in memories of interesting moments of past tours.
  • The tour where it rained so much we threw away gloves and shoes at the tour's end because they were disintegrating (yuck).
  • The tour where we found ourselves treated like rock stars by locals in coastal Georgia. People actually cheered us as we pedalled by!
  • The tour where we ran into days of gale force headwinds, winds so high at one point that we had to pedal furiously to keep our speed--on downhills!
  • The tour where we ran into Bike Week (of the motorcycle variety).
  • The many tours where we got lost.
  • The tour where my rear rack broke and we pieced together a fix at a small hardware store, much to the amusement of the store's staff.
  • The tour where we stopped on a whim at a beautiful beach resort hotel, without reservations, and got a fabulous ocean front room, at a super discount price, when the desk crew saw our loaded touring bikes.
Our touring bikes are dusty and unused this year. It has been too much fun riding the new road bikes. We will use the touring bikes next year. But there will be no more bike journals to store in boxes. Blogging is better.

Some of the old bike journals.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Classic Rural Florida Touring Memory

To return to our home from points north, we either do a 10-mile ride on pavement around Lake June-In-Winter--or we take a 1-mile unpaved route across Lake June Scrub State Park. The shortcut route is sand. You can ride it, but you need to have your cardio fitness up nice and high. Slow down pedalling, and you go down fast.

We did this on fully-loaded touring bikes a few years back. It was pouring rain, and we were finishing the last day of a 10-day tour. Both Al and I decided it was better to burn a ton of energy on the shortcut rather than ride in pouring rain for 10 more miles. It was a really memorable and exciting way to end a tour!

The track to Placid Lakes through Lake June Scrub State Park