Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Goodbye July (It's Been Fun)

We were in a mood to celebrate something, but we were flat out of stuff to celebrate. So we decided to make something up. Why not ride a metric century right here at home? We always save the century stuff for tours and event rides. Time to do it at home in Miami.

Taking a break at the Cape Florida lighthouse.
A number of hours later we were back at home, the bike miles logged in. We prepared a sumptuous lunch and ate it on our balcony. A nice way to end July.

The car got used about once a week in July. We put on 207 miles, over half of these were used traveling to and from the Ray Stark Ride.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Rainbow and Royal Poinciana Ride

We sipped coffee on our balcony before dawn. It wasn't raining, but there was a fabulous lightning storm just to our south. By dawn the storm clouds reached Miami. We sensibly delayed the start to our day's ride for an hour.

An hour later blue sky was peeking out in places. We headed out. Waiting at a stoplight I looked up. A rainbow arched above us.

Today's ride meandered through Brickell and the Roads, before heading over William Powell Bridge to Key Biscayne. The cloud cover slowly disappeared. We headed home. We rode South Miami Avenue taking in the fading beauty of the Royal Poincianas in bloom.

A few centuries ago, the first Royal Poinciana trees were brought from Madagascar to South Florida. I am told that there are now more Royal Poinciana in South Florida than in Madagascar. These tropical trees bloom flamboyantly from May through July. Perhaps the most beautiful landscape trees in Miami, they are also messy trees. Their brightly colored flower petals litter the street below their canopy. Their long brown bean pods fall into the street to become a debris field in the bike lanes until cleared away by landscaper workers and street cleaners. Beauty often has a price.

South Miami Avenue

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Have you ever had deja vu? Have you ever had deja vu?

We rolled the bikes to the elevator and headed downstairs. The lobby guys did their little head nod thing as we passed. Another dawn, another morning out on our bikes. This is one the joys of not being young. Among the young, only cycling pros and the unemployed have the time to ride this much.

Which brings me to the issues of the day. How much is too much? How much rest time do we need? Are our goals different now? We've been on our current fitness level for some time. Should we up our game? 

Now that we don't have water skiing as our alternate activity, our bike mileage has increased. Our current routine is five days of biking and two days off the bikes. The full heat and humidity of the South Florida summer is here. Can we continue the higher mileage 5/2 routine? Even with all the biking days we lost this month to workmen and appointments, July will still be a 600+ mile month. It doesn't feel like too much. Al wants us to be faster and stronger. That means upping intensity on rides, troublesome in heat and humidity. So we've been talking to people, here in Miami and online. Some cyclists our age, since they understand the changes that come every year as you get older. Some touring cyclists, some racing cyclists, and some triathlete types. It is interesting to see the differences in their views and advice.

We've sifted through their comments. It seems that we don't need a completely different routine, just tweaks to our current routine. First tweak: we've started using electrolyte supplements on all our rides, not just on some rides. It helps. Next tweaks: varying the intensity of some of our daily rides in a structured way and setting up a short time trial route which we'll use periodically to monitor our progress.

We're not athletes or even fitness aficionados. Cycling makes us happy and content. Any day is better with a long bike ride. We know talented cyclists, and we are not them. We are avid cyclists. We are not likely to ride with the fast guys, climb rapidly (without wheezing), or ride 10,000+ miles a year. Our primary goal is to do what ever it takes to keep riding our bikes and touring for many, many more years to come.

When I look at my white carbon fiber road bike, I can glimpse a shadow memory of my first bike, a blue Raleigh Sports Tourist. I bought it new in grade school, depleting every penny in my savings to buy it. It made me happy, too.

Today is Saturday. Another Saturday, another Everglades Bicycle Club group ride. Have you ever had deja vu?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who Put That Big Wall On My Road?

Another Saturday, another Everglades Bicycle Club group ride. There was an unusually large group of riders today. Talk before the ride centered on the Tour de France and the rides and party being hosted by EBC tomorrow for the Tour's end in Paris. Actually that should have been my first warning...

At Deering, we lost half our group. They joined up with the newbie group that was heading back to City Hall. It seems they were family and friends of the newbie riders. The newbies were getting lots of back pats on their virgin ride and promises of yummy breakfasts for all back in the Grove. Lucky newbies.

A much smaller group left Deering for Black Point Marina, our turn around point. Before we got going, our leader announced that the last stretch before Black Point Marina would be a sprint for those that wanted to sprint. No warning bells rang in my tiny brain. I love chasing. Today's ride was faster than usual. We were going a fairly steady 21 mph when the sprint began. All those speedy little backsides began pulling rapidly away. Like a dumb retriever seeing a stick fly, I started to chase. By the time I came to my senses and backed off, all I could do was practice silent colorful language. It was hot and humid; we were only halfway through the ride; and I had just burned a huge wad of energy.

After the break at Black Point Marina, we headed home. The group was doing a 20-22 mph pace down the road. I held on for half the distance home.

Then a big wall loomed up in the road in front of me. I dropped my speed to 17 mph, the wall disappeared, and I kept going. Al dropped back to lead me back into the group. I tried to up my speed, but when I did, that wall just popped up in front of me. There was no way I could keep up with the group. I'd been dropped. Someone from the group would slow for us and lead us home at my slower speed.

Soon my favorite guy from the group, Cam, came back to us. I explained I was OK. I just used up my energy too soon on a very hot day. The group was moving faster than I could handle. I needed to ride home in the 16-17 mph range rather than the faster gallop of today's group. Cam's a great guy. He's a strong rider, and he gave up a fun ride to pilot fish me home. I owe him for that.

Al and I waved goodbye to Cam at the end of the ride and went to Fresh Market. Time for our post ride snack. After a long stroll through the market to bask in their delicious way-too-cold air conditioning. It was heavenly.

At home we recorded our 50.3 miles. It wasn't the length that made it memorable. Then we watched the Tour de France and saw Andrew Talansky do a smashing ride. He'll be finishing in the top 10. Why are we interested in Andrew Talansky. Well, he's our local legend. He grew up in Miami. A flatlander that can do mountains with the best of the pros!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chance of Locally Heavy Rainfall (Blub, Blub...)

Cycling in coastal Florida during the rainy season is always a game of chance. I certainly wouldn't recommend summer in Florida for bicycle touring. On the other hand, there are some up sides to our hot and wet weather. Like, you really don't need rain gear. You need to protect your phone, camera, and wallet from the wet. Positively nothing goes into our jersey pockets or in any of our bike bags without being first popped into a plastic bag. But rain gear for us? Why? The rain cools you down, and everything dries out just dandy in no time.

In Crandon Park we saw the storm clouds over home.
That said, Al and I decided to go out for our daily ride this morning despite radar showing storms all around us. We've lost a lot of riding days this month. We need some serious mileage in the next few days.

The first leg of our ride to the Rickenbacker and out to Key Biscayne went smoothly. We were earlier than usual. The state park hadn't opened, so we had our banana break on a village park bench. By the time we swung by Crandon Park the second time, the sky was becoming extremely dark right over the part of the city where we live. We decided to be sensible. Cut the ride short and head directly home. Of course, directly home was directly into the rain. I took the lead from Crandon Park to Powell Bridge where, as always, Al passed me and took the lead at the top of the arch of the bridge. Today he surprised me by signaling a stop. Then he pointed to the view of Miami. A cell of the storm was over the city, curtains of rain softly billowing below the clouds. There was sunshine coming from a break in the clouds over Biscayne Bay. The buildings were caught in the sunshine, a dramatic contrast to the dark of the storm clouds and the waters of the Bay. The view was certainly another treat for cycling in the rainy season.

Miami in a summer morning rain.
We raced home. We changed into dry clothes, watched a movie, then settled in for stage 18 of the Tour de France. Totally amazing stage. Twice up the Alpe d'Huez. Wonderful! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Frank Stark Ride in Boca Raton

Frank Stark was a Boca Raton Bicycle Club member. Forced to retire from his career as an airline pilot because of heart disease, he had by-pass heart surgery. Then he began celebrating his birthdays by riding one mile for every year of his age. Each year a few more friends from the BRBC joined him. Soon there were hundreds of riders. After Frank Stark's death, the club continued the ride, as the Frank Stark Ride.

The ride start was nicely organized.
We arrived at the ride start in Boca an hour early. We chatted briefly with an Everglades Bicycle Club friend and a few other riders. South Florida is very big on both bicycle clubs and riding groups or teams. Pace line riding is a big thing. The Frank Stark Ride organized it's starts by pace line speed. First the 26+ mph teams. Then the 22+. Then the 20+. Then the 18+ mph teams. Then the 15+. Then everybody else.

Riding along the beach.
Since (as usual) Al and I were riding as a team of two, we slipped among the 18+ mph teams. It worked out nicely. The route was on A1A along the beach and past miles and miles of mansions of the rich (and sometimes famous or infamous) north from Boca Raton to Palm Beach and then back. Another South Florida tidbit. There is always a wind from the east to southeast during the warm weather months. Today it was southeasterly, a tail wind for the first leg of the ride, and a headwind on the ride back. Our one bit of luck: clouds. The sun peeked out with regularity, but there was some really nice cloud cover. It's a lot easier to deal with riding in heat and humidity without bright sunshine.

One of the life guard huts along the beach.

The first half of the ride with that tailwind made everyone feel like champs. Then we turned around and headed back...into that head wind. Our Saturday group rides gave Al and me a new system for taking turns in the lead. We just formed a pace line of 2. Using our newly learned signals, we could switch places smoothly. It was a big improvement for our riding, and it kept us moving at a good speed with each of us having enough time to recover between turns at leading.

The Frank Stark Ride won my heart with by doing a couple of things really right:

  • The organization of the start was the best of any one-day ride we've been on.
  • They handed out individual wet, ice cold paper towels at rest stops and at the finish. Wiping off the sweat with those icy towels really hit the spot.
  • They had a Good Humor ice cream truck at the finish with free ice cream for riders.

Free ice cream for riders!
I'll be back next year for more ice cream...

Oh, yes. There was a bet that I wouldn't post a post-ride picture of myself--sweaty and sans makeup. Ante up, guys. I'll be expecting you to pay up. Really.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rain, Rain, Stay Away

Rain to the north of our ride's start.
The tropical whatever that once was Chantel lurked in the area, making rain a definite possibility for our Saturday group ride with the Everglades Bicycling Club. Radar showed rain popping up and disappearing with regularity. We brightened when we saw that most of the activity was up in the north part of the county. There was some south of us, but chances were good that it wouldn't rain on our parade.

We were glad we went. It was a fun ride. The only rain we had was right at the end. It lasted for about a mile of the ride, and it felt refreshing after a couple hours of riding. We said goodbye to the group, went to Fresh Market for our after ride snack, then headed home.

Today we need to clean up the bikes. We also have to put everything together and in the car for tomorrow's ride. We're off to Boca Raton for the Frank Stark Ride. Boca is just 45 miles north of us. We've signed up for our favorite, the metric century.

Monday, July 8, 2013

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

I have been observing the interaction of older and younger cyclists recently. There needs to be some basic social rules for the older cyclists. Really people. We need to get a grip and develop a little style.

Here are the two basic rules I propose:

Rule 1.  Never mentioned your age to any cyclist young enough to be your offspring. Age may be discussed only with your contemporaries. Telling a younger person your age sounds like old codger boasting (pitiful) or asking to be cut some slack (really pitiful).

Rule 2.  If asked how old you are by any cyclist young enough to be your offspring, respond with a crisp one liner. It doesn't have to be very clever. "A little younger than dirt," always works for me. Just say it with a big smile and move on.

Age is not a safe subject for social conversation. It's a mine field. Why venture there? Just remember that every younger cyclists wants, when they get to be our advanced age, to be riding around like us. Be content with that.

When I'm out with a group, it's pretty easy for them to figure out my general age. I've got the wrinkles, the age spots, and the sags that match their mom's or grand-mom's.

How old am I? A little younger than dirt. Do try to keep up.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Wind! Playing in the wind on the bikes is top of the line entertainment. For Florida flatlanders, the wind is what we have instead of hills. Ride in the wind; have fun and get a little stronger.

The chop in the protected marina.
We were off to Black Point Marina with the Everglades Bicycle Club group. There were over 30 riders today. It was a brisk ride. The day was (duh: July in Miami) hot and humid. But the wind and the abundant canopy in the Grove and Pinecrest made for nice conditions.

Rolling back to the Grove, we joined a group that was heading for breakfast at the Green Street Cafe. After scarfing down a truly fabulous omelette, Al and I rolled off, riding around a bit to up the mileage some before heading home. The poinciana canopy over South Miami Avenue drizzled orange flowers over the road, giving the end of the ride a festive feel. As if we were following the course of a confetti parade.

BooYah! Have we nailed a great Saturday or what?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.

Who doesn't like the 4th of July? Picnic food. Fireworks. The Tour de France.

The biggest joy of the 4th for us is the blessed absence of workmen in the Miami Mansion. We've been sharing our 600 square feet of living space with a passel of strangers wielding power tools for days and days now. This morning the place is quiet. Better than that, only one alcove of the Mansion is piled high with boxes and gleep. Today we have our home to ourselves! Normally I'd be riding my bike on a great summer day like today. Not today. Today I plan to spend the entire day at home in this glorious quiet, lounging in ridiculously skimpy beachwear.

Every project has at least one major crisis. This project had it's crisis yesterday when one of the workmen powered up our new TV and discovered a big, big problem with it. There was no question about it. The TV had to go back. The problem was that there wasn't another one in the greater Miami area to replace it. After much wahoo-wahoo (but, amazingly, no colorful language from anyone), the new but wonky TV was carted away by a passel of guys. Tomorrow, as scheduled, all the components of our new system will get put in. With the exception of our TV. A temporary 65 inch TV will get put in until the replacement 90 inch TV can be delivered.

As project crises go, I think this is one we can deal with. The thing we're laughing about is that today will be our last day of watching a tiny 19" TV. That's just no way to watch the Tour de France...