Friday, April 20, 2012

A Big Plane and Spring Flowers

It rained late yesterday afternoon. Today the morning wind was from the south, gentle and moist. The sky was blue and clear. We decided on a short 20-mile loop. It would give our legs a stretch, but it would give us enough time to do some chores before lunch.

We rode past the little nearby airport. To our surprise, there was a small jet parked there. I know nothing about small planes (my apologies to my brother for my ignorance) but I had absolutely no idea a plane like this could use a small airport such as ours!

There were some eye catching flowers along our route. A homeowner had planted moon flowers at the base of a telephone pole at the corner of his yard. These bloom at night, but we were riding by early enough to catch them open. They look like gigantic white morning glories. You can see my foot below the flower on the left. The flower is an inch or two above my foot, so the flower size is not an artifact of the camera angle.

But perhaps my favorite spring flower is the yucca. These plants are plentiful in the sandy sections of scrub. The stalks of creamy white flowers stand out among the drought dry grasses growing nearby.

I spent some time last night beginning the planning for next year's bike trips, something I do in phases. In addition to a handful of rides like the Horrible Hundred that we love and wouldn't miss for anything, we want to do some bike touring as well. We tour on mountain bikes equipped with street tires which lets us ride on pavement, gravel, or hard-packed sand. I have a bunch of things I want to do with the mountain bikes over the summer. They need new tires, and I want to explore whether new wheels would be interesting. I'll post about that and our touring gear over the next month or two.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fire Scene

It is fire season in Florida. There was a fire over the weekend on the fringe of our little community. We stopped by it on our morning ride. It was a very small fire, just 8 acres. Fires like this always look so devastating. The beautiful scrub looks destroyed. But Florida scrub evolved with fire, and fires are part of the normal pattern.

A quarter mile down the road a similar area burned a year or so ago. The palms once again are green and blooming. Life changes but endures.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rambling Sunday Ride

It's funny how navigation systems have changed our lives. We seldom get lost anymore what with GPS gadgets traveling with us.

We got up to a sunny, lovely Sunday morning. We decided to get out on our bikes for a long, rambling ride. Just to keep things interesting, we simply picked a direction and started riding. No map. No nav system. Just picking streets and roads we were not familiar with.  Getting a little lost sounded like fun.

Our first stop was the lake. We popped into Tobler Park just to see how the water was looking. While the sun had only been up for a short while, the lake was already getting choppy. It was going to be a windy day.

Next we wandered through the back roads of our little community. The place was lively with spring bunnies. They were everywhere.

On one backstreet, we saw orange cones on the roadside near an isolated home. As we got closer we couldn't help smiling at the warning signs the owner had put up on both sides of the street.

We saw a partially restored antique car, one that we had not seen in the area before.

A colorful post box decoration caught our eye. While I was taking the photograph of this bottle tree, the owner emerged from the house. He said it started with three bottles. He added some more. The neighbors added some, too. Sounds like a congenial group.

Another happy find was a home surrounded by a lovely garden. Unlike the neat and tidy garden beds in the lawns of other homes, the entire yard of this house was a garden. There was a meandering path that led to a series of cozy seating areas surrounded by a jumble of wildly blooming flowers. Gardenias, well placed along the path, perfumed the entire yard. The friendly owners even offered to give us some gardenia blooms, but we declined since we didn't think they would survive the bike ride home.

"Getting lost" around here is not about not knowing where you are. The problem is that all streets and roads are not paved for their entire length. (Or, more accurately, they haven't been repaved since they were first put in years and years and years ago.) You'll be happily pedalling along when, poof, the pavement turns into partial pavement and/or hard packed sand. Which is not really the best surface if you happen to be on a road bike.

But it was a good day for backtracking and meandering and finding ways around unpaved sections of roads. And, most importantly, we did get home in time for our Sunday lunch and a pleasant nap out on the screen porch.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

House Projects

We planned to go on several rides this week. There is nothing like a house to interrupt plans.

The washing machine was chugging away, when the kitchen sink began gurgling. As the rinse cycle began, the gurgling spread to other sinks. Our thoughts immediately focused on the septic system, that bane of non-urban living. When had it last been serviced? 10 years ago? 12 years ago? Longer? With trepidation, we called the service. Thankfully, the system was dandy. It just needed to be pumped. One day's bike ride lost, but we could wash clothes and use the bathrooms without fear.

Next Al decided he wanted sections of gutter added on three sides of the boat house and above driveways and entrances. Apparently the water dripping from the roof edges there was leaving unsightly lines on his dock, driveways, and walkways. (No worries in other places as we have a rock "lawn".) So the metal roofing service was called in to measure, fabricate, and install the gutter sections. Two more days of bike rides lost, but Al will no longer curse the drip lines.

And then there was my scooter. I love my little Honda scooter, but one day it chose to give us fits when we tried to start it. The scooter hospital diagnosed the problem to be the electric choke. A replacement was needed. Another day lost as we messed with the scooter folks, but the scooter now starts and runs like new. (A word to those who think a bike can run errands. Yes it can, but there are limits when you live in the boonies in Florida in summer. When it is in the mid 90s, sunny, and a 100% humidity, a 10 to 15 mile errand run on a bike is pretty miserable...)

We have our fingers crossed that the house projects are complete. The bikes are ready to go...

A house is a hassle, but it has some nice bonus features like bougainvillea.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Clean Air Ride

We drove up to Inverness on Friday. We were registered for the Clean Air Ride on Saturday. On one hand we were excited about doing the event. On the other hand we were seeing the end of our bike season.

Beginning in April, we begin water skiing. That means that while we still ride our bikes, our priority each day is water skiing. Biking moves to days when it is too windy to ski. This being Florida, we severely limit time in the sun. Besides, heat and humidity really does make biking best done very early in the day. It is typically 74 degrees and very humid before dawn daily, lower to mid 90s by early afternoon, and raining 4 pm to 6 pm. So we need to be out on our bikes as soon as it is light. We water ski at dawn (when the wind is calm and the water the best of the day), so we can't water ski and bike on the same day.

The Clean Air Ride is a great end to the season. It is held on the Withlacoochee State Trail, a 46 mile long, 12 foot wide, paved trail. Perfect for a fast century ride. For a lot of the riders, that is what this ride is all about. It is particularly a favorite of clubs who do a team century ride. It also draws a fair number of riders like Al and myself. What is doesn't draw is beginning riders and families. (Nothing like a lot of club pace lines to scare away those guys...)

The day started out in the upper 60s with high humidity, light wind, and about 50 percent sky cover. By mid-morning the heat ticked up as did the wind. We had a headwind for the first half of our ride, but that gave us a very nice tail wind for the second half! About the time the day was getting toasty and really sticky, it began to rain. We rode in a moderate rain for about 10 miles, then enjoyed the pleasant cooling of our gear drying as we rode to the end of the ride. Al and I were not doing the century (100 miles) but rather a metric century (100 kilometers which is 62 miles).

Sign In

Sag Stop (Water and Yummies)

Turn Around Point at the Southern End of the Trail
Great fun!!!