Sunday, June 30, 2013

What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about?

I hit "save" and the June statistics flitted off to their cyber hideaway. I love tracking these numbers. They quantify our daily routine and define the little things that give dimension and texture to our life.

They are totally unimportant to everyone but us. When we are young we think we understand what life is all about. As we get older we appreciate that the actual importance of things is pretty much self defined.

At any rate, the highlights for June:
  • A 50 mile bicycle ride has become routine. While not earthshaking, it still marks a significant change. We ride 5 days a week and take 2 days as "rest" days, Moving to regular 50 mile rides involves finding more time for cycling. We're retired. We don't go to work. But not having a job doesn't mean we don't have a life. Spending more time on our bikes means we have to spend less time doing other things. We made some little changes to our daily routine. It still needs more tweaking, but it's coming along. 
  • We're using the car about once a week. Using the car is no longer routine. Taking the car out has become an event.
  • Saturday has become Everglades Bicycle Club Ride Day. We really enjoy riding with a group. Having the ride start location at Miami City Hall--on Biscayne Bay with the scenic Dinner Key Marina as a backdrop--well, that certainly adds to Saturday morning's ambiance.
Dinner Key Marina
July is setting up to be a very nice month. Fireworks. Some overnight touring. The Tour de France. Maybe we'll even dance the Hokey Pokey out on a quiet beach...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stay Calm and Cycle On

Workmen and a big job that will not possibly be done before the 4th of July. ('Nuf said.)  A cancelled trip. (It happens. There's always next week.) We were coping. Al and I just headed out on the bikes for some long rides.

Then the cat added to the muddled mess. The new black shantung coverlet, part of the custom-made-just-for-the-Miami-mansion bedding set, got destroyed by Lola. I mean destroyed. As in totaled, wasted, ruined, annihilated, demolished, wiped out. She attacked it with tooth and claw. And then she puked on it.

We headed out on our bikes to think. Hours later we returned home. Since the cat was staying, we needed to get over it. We grabbed a few of the remaining pieces of the set, and we headed to West Elm. There we found a coverlet and a couple of shams that coordinated with the remaining bedding. We laughed because the pieces were washable, a very dark brown-black that matches cat puke stains, and it's designed to look old and frayed. (Try to destroy that, Lola...)

In the past week, our daily rides have been 50 miles each. It's hands down the anti-stress drug of choice...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Credit Card Bike Touring Gear

I'm supposed to be sitting on the beach at a motel in Key Largo. But I'm not. I'm sitting at my desk at home. Things got hinky before we could make our escape. Workmen called and wanted to get started on a job early. The weatherman jinxed our alternate get-away days. I cancelled our motel reservations, and I unpacked the bikes.

It didn't take long to unpack. Here's the road bike luggage I unpacked:
My big seat post bag (from Cannondale)

My Axiom handlebar bag and (behind the drops) my Axiom snack bag
This is ultralight overnight luggage, road bike style.

The handlebar bag on my mountain bike is way bigger. The seat post bag is a bit bigger. The seat post bag on the mountain bike also has the luxury of webbing on it's top.
My big handlebar bag from Adventure Cycling on my mountain bike

Fabulous seat post bag (KoKi) from REI
If we were going out for longer, say a week or so, we'd choose between the Topeak rear rack bag or the Ortlieb suitcases. The Topeak is OK, but the Ortlieb is my favorite. The Ortlieb even has a mesh pack that snaps on top, a surprisingly handy little bag.
Ortlieb suitcase (top) and Topeak rear rack bag (bottom)
Bottom of the suitcase showing the mechanism that attaches it to the rear bike rack 
Successful credit card bike touring is all about learning to travel light. This is the bike luggage we use to do that. I'll show you what we take with us on an overnight in another post.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Heat with a Soupçon of Whine

Sunday. Rickenbacker Causeway heat training loops are on our schedule. I feel lazy, but Al tempts me with talk of ice cream. Tomorrow is the big Miami Heat Championship Parade. We won't be riding tomorrow; we'll be out watching the parade. So the day can be a rest and recovery day. We rolled the bikes to the elevator and headed out for 4+ hours of riding the Rickenbacker Causeway in the sun and heat.

We settled into our touring pace. Up to the lighthouse, turn around, snack/water break/stretch, then do another loop of the Rickenbacker. Repeat for 4 hours. The guy at the admission kiosk to the state park did his little head nod at us each time we passed. Al doesn't tolerate much whining, so I watched silently as the drops of sweat fell onto my little bike computer, then slowly rolled down it's face.

I focused on my purpose. Cope with the heat and discomfort. I slid into my no-whining zone, keeping my mind open to how I was feeling but shifting my thoughts to more interesting puzzles. Was Black Swamp Raspberry Cheesecake ice cream better than Bear Claw Dark Chocolate with Cashews ice cream? Why? Which restaurant had the best lunch menu? Which omelet would I have for breakfast on our next visit to Wagon's West? What was the best topping for fresh strawberries?

I watched elapsed time and total mileage on my little bike computer. Finally there was just enough time left for one sweep through to the beach at Crandon Park before heading home. Then it was over Powell Bridge and the pedal down South Miami Avenue.

A few drops of rain fell. A curtain of rain was rapidly coming towards us. We went from drizzle to deluge in 5 seconds flat. Whoosh!

No sweat problem anymore!

A mile of pedalling in the deluge to home. Big smiles from fellow cyclists. A smiling head shake from one of our building's staff as we and our bikes dripped copiously on the way to the elevator.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another Nice Saturday EBC Ride

Never knew I'd enjoy riding with a group as much as I do. It's Saturday, so we headed out to the Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) 40+ mile ride to Black Point Marina.

The streets were wet near home, but all was dry and sunny by the time we got down to City Hall in Coconut Grove. The sun was bright on the waters of Biscayne Bay. The group that gathered for the ride was, as always, very affable. We were with the 16-18 mph group, making this a pleasant social ride day.

At the end of the ride we wandered through the Fresh Market Deli to take advantage of the air conditioning and to grab a small bag of candy. We didn't want to end the day with just 40 miles, so we rode around a bit get the total up to a more respectable number.

Then home and a quiet afternoon with some good books. A perfect Saturday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Credit Card Overnight Bike Touring: Less is More

It's been a while since my last post. We've been out and about, enjoying summer and our bikes. We have officially begun a new chapter in our bike travels. Ultra light. Less is more.

When we moved to Miami, we did some serious editing of our touring gear. Like we sold our bike camping gear. All of it. It was time to commit to our new "less is more" lifestyle. Our ultra light two man tent, the feather light sleeping gear, and all the other gear we had used so happily on so many trips: history.

Both Al and I can pinpoint our Eureka Moment about travel. We were making a ferry crossing from Mexico after a week of biking there. We started talking about travel, what we liked, what we didn't like. Short version: we liked the journey but we were totally jaded on IMAX memory trips. We'd done all of the US, Canada, a bunch of islands, and dabbled in Mexico and Europe. Our list of planned trips was still long, but we were unexcited about them. We regrouped.

What we truly enjoyed was traveling by bicycle. Destinations were no longer the important thing. What we found so addictive about bike travel was the rhythm of our bike travel day.

  • Getting up before dawn.
  • Packing the bikes.
  • Savouring a pre-ride breakfast and coffee.
  • The exhilaration of the ride.
  • The chance encounters, the little problems to be overcome, and the surprise finds along the route.
  • The deliciously languorous afternoons and evenings.

Our Eureka Moment was the realization that any bike trip gave us this. We didn't have to continue flitting about the world to get the experience we wanted.

We bought new luggage (small suitcases) for our bikes and started traveling. The move to Miami opened a new opportunity: overnight credit card bike touring. Two, maybe three day trips. Not using our usual touring bikes. Heading out on our road bikes carrying only a bit more than we do for our daily ride.

There were problems to be handled, though. Our road bikes are carbon fiber, and there are limitations on what can be attached to them. Also, the small frame size of my bike added another level of complication. Happily, the gear we needed turned out to be a combination of things we already owned and a new carbon fiber friendly seat post bag from REI.

I'm just surprised more of our new Miami road biking friends aren't doing this!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just ride into the sun (Def Leppard)

It's been almost 12 weeks since the Incredibly Stupid Bike Crash Incident. I've been riding a lot, but finally I'm OK to ride as much and as long as I want. Time to get used to long hours in the heat.

We wanted to do a long ride at the speed we use touring. Touring isn't racing. It's more about efficient use of energy than speed. Our experience touring in Florida in the heat is that there's always a day when it's hot, humid, and the route has limited shade. It pays to learn to deal with riding in the heat. So today we set out to ride at touring speed for around 4 hours.

We promised ourselves a coffee and snack break at Starbucks, Singapore noodles from our fav restaurant for lunch after the ride, and ice cream for dinner. All we had to do was ride into the sun...

For simplicity, we decided loops of the Rickenbacker would work. From our house to the lighthouse and back is 20 miles. We've measured out additional loops on the Rickenbacker to add 5, 10, and 14 mile loops to the basic out and back ride.

We gave the sun some time to get well above the horizon, then we set out. Four hours later we made it back home. It was sweaty and successful. No overheating. No bonking. No sunburn. We'd drunk enough fluids. We'd had enough (but not too many) snacks.

Best of all, we finished our weekly ride miles by noon Monday!

We're ready to start some overnight touring.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pedal Faster (They're going to get away!)

Friday night the edges of Tropical Storm Andrea brought flooding rains. Saturday morning it wasn't raining, so we decided to head over to the Saturday Everglades Bicycle Club group ride start at Miami City Hall. The ride leaders were there, but there were not all that many riders. Some of the 18-22+ mph group decided to head out on their own. They peeled out. The remaining bunch of 18-22+ mph riders and their leader joined the 16-18 mph group. Al and I knew even before we headed out that this was not going to be a cozy social ride for us. The day was overcast, but respectably hot and humid. It was going to be interesting.

There were lots of substantial puddles (Is it a "puddle" if it covers half the road?) and a fair amount of debris littering the roads. But nothing off-putting. The early pace never wavered below 17-18 mph. 18-20 mph was way more common. At one point a very small, very fast group overtook and passed our group. A contingent from our group sped forward, matched them for a while at a bit over 25 mph, then slowed until we caught up with them. Their return to the group was greeted with appropriate questions about speed, etc., and much back-patting. A bit later we took our first break in Deering Estates, then our second at Black Point Marina.

The return trip to Miami City Hall was rock solid fun. The day was warming up. The pace quietly moved up. While the stoplights and turns forced slow downs, the group was charging along in the 20-22 mph range. One rider faltered and was dropped. One of the ride leaders dropped back, leaving the group to accompany that rider (and any others) who got dropped by the main group. As we approached Deering Estates for our third break, some of our riders split off, waving goodbye. Over half of the remaining pack waved goodbye over the next few miles. By the time we reached Coconut Grove there were just six of us. Al and I were pedalling furiously, sweating copiously, and breathing very hard, but we rolled into the City Hall parking lot with the group. At which point we slipped through a block or two of little passages from City Hall to Fresh Market deli. Where delicious air conditioning surrounded us inside as we selected our post ride muffins, and a soft breeze cooled us down as we munched muffins and re-hydrated at a table under awning of the deli's outdoor patio. Refreshed and cooler, we pedalled north to Brickell and home.

That was fun.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


The Brickell Metrorail station is just about at SW 9th Street. The street sign at the corner reads "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony St." Guess what ditty plays when a train enters the station?

We heard the "duh-duh-duh-DUH" as we pedaled past the station early this morning. We were heading to the Rickenbacker for our daily ride. We'd done about 50 miles yesterday, including the Saturday EBC group ride to Black Point Marina. We're becoming quite fond of the 16-18 mph group. It isn't much of a physical stretch, but it's a nice social ride with a pleasant assortment of people. Nice banter at a easy pace.

Sunday is still my favorite day in Miami. Light traffic in Brickell and Downtown. Lots and lots of bicycles. Which brings me to the Sunday Bozo Peloton. The Sunday Bozo Peloton is not a small group of riders. It is a very large group. We've run into this group every Sunday, unfortunately often at Bear Cut Bridge. There is one stretch of road at Bear Cut Bridge where bike and pedestrian traffic is two-way affair. (Clue to the Bozo Peloton: If the little bike sign in the bike lane is upside down, you are going the wrong way.) The Sunday Bozo Peloton swoops through this section, riders hunched over their handlebars, heads down and hammering away, totally oblivious to anything else on the roadway. There is a leader of sorts who flaps arms and yells wildly for the group to move over, but his flock pays only vague attention. It's like watching a flock of crazed seagulls on road bikes. The easiest way to deal with them is to move to the margin of the lanes and stop. Is it any wonder why so many people hate the road bike community? I'm on the road riding a road bike, and I hate this peloton.

We watched them pound away down the road, thankfully in the opposite direction from where we were headed. We pedaled on, spending some time at the beach taking in the view as we munched bananas. The sun was getting higher. It was time for us to turn our bikes towards the high rises of Brickell and Downtown Miami, make a final swoop over Powell Bridge and head home.

Sunday is our day for a picnic lunch on the Miami River, watching the boats go by and the bridges going up and down. This week we were joined by a cyclist on a beautifully restored, elegant 60s era Bianchi. Now that was a nice addition to the already lovely scenery...