Monday, December 22, 2014

When you learn, teach. When you get, give. (Maya Angelou)

We belong to a bicycle club, the Everglades Bicycle Club. When we moved to Miami, Al and I loved riding our road bikes, but we had never ridden in a pace line. In fact, we had no idea what skills were needed. We joined EBC and started going to the Saturday EBC rides.

We discovered that people ride with EBC for a lot of different reasons. We all loved riding bicycles. The club was a place where we could meet other people who also liked to ride. The Saturday leader-led groups let people ride at their interest, skill, and fitness level. When you ride with an EBC leader-led group you know you won't be dropped and stranded. (If you are a beginner or someone still learning how to navigate the popular bike routes or to fix minor mechanical problems, that is a very big thing.)

EBC is special because there are good riders who are willing to volunteer to be ride leaders. These are strong riders. They could be spending their time riding with other strong riders. But they are willing to share their abilities and time with the EBC leader-led rides. They teach skills and techniques and help others improve. They keep us together, and safe, and looking like a disciplined peloton instead of a motley rag-tag pack.

And then there is ORANGE! (and now GREEN!) It was amazing how the jerseys changed our ride groups. When we ride together in our club jerseys, we are a team.

And we can't forget to mention the EBC Facebook page. It is special because of the photographs. Great photos of our rides and events that can be shared with our cycling and non-cycling friends. Photo memories that we can download and keep. It is also special because of the people who post about the rides we can join. And because of the people who take the time to post and comment. It keeps things witty, informative, and interesting.

EBC is special because of all the members who volunteer their time and energy making the club run. The leadership group, the event coordinators, and all the other things a club needs to do to be a club.

And we can't forget to mention the members who bring us together socially, for events big and small filled with fun and laughter.

Thank you all.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!
Crossing the Venetian Causeway on a Sunday Ride to Georgio's (Photo by Alex Pruna)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why is it, every time I go the mile, another mile comes up? (Anthony Liccione)

Last December, Al proposed a project. "Here's the deal," he said. "You ride with me one heck of a lot of miles. No whining. No belly aching. No quitting. Do it, and we get a new bikes."

I'm a sucker for bribes.

So we made changes. Over the months we changed our riding schedule to four mornings a week. We changed the length of our rides to metric centuries (62 miles). And we threw in a standard century (100 miles) every so often just to keep things interesting.

We bought new road bikes with a softer ride and electronic shifting. It made a big improvement for me. I have wonky hands, feet, wrists, and ankles. With my old bike I wore wrist and thumb supports under my bike gloves, but I still could not use a water bottle while riding without dropping it. With the new bike I don't need the wrist or thumb supports at all. And I have no problems using regular water bottles while riding. That is huge.

The project wasn't all a success. Distances longer than a century didn't work out. When we tried to push the miles farther, I had an unpleasant cascade of problems. We tried many approaches to it, but unless I could have a solid 12 hours off the bike between rides, the cascade of problems made riding impossible. So I had a brief pity party for the dream of randonneuring and moved on. We had lots of other things we could do instead.

This year we rode a lot. We put about three times as many miles on our bikes as on our car. I no longer have any fear of riding longer distances. I've learned I can do it, day after day after day.

Will Al have another project for next year? You can count on it. It's what he does.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The 2014 Escape to the Keys Ride


The first Friday in December. It's pretty cold in most of the country. Not in South Florida. It's great cycling weather in Miami and the Florida Keys.

Over 200 cyclists gathered at the Miami-Homestead Speedway for the start of the annual Escape to the Keys ride. We were going to ride our bikes to Key West. The ride is put on by the Everglades Bicycle Club. EBC member Rafael Acosta is the Ride Chair. As he has been for many, many years. He and his volunteers have earned a special place in hearts of Miami cyclists for making this such a delightful event. (Thank you!)

Some rides just get better the more times you go on them. Al and I had a great time this year. The weather was perfect. Not too warm. Sunshine. Tailwinds. We rode with the EBC Orange Crush Peloton (AKA the Fuentes Peloton). Lots of good friends.

But what really made it special were the riders who came from other states. Many had never pedaled through the Florida Keys. Hearing them talk about the beauty of the Keys made us feel pretty lucky to live here.

Some of our friends had worked their tail feathers down to nubs training for the ride. It was pretty wonderful to be able to share each success as they went along. Riding that far for the first time. Doing the bridges with a group. Keeping up with the other riders. Alex Pruna captured it superbly with one very special photo: EBC's own Arlene Carriazo on the 7-Mile Bridge, her hands clasped above her head, a big smile on her face.

Will we do the ride next year? Are you kidding? Wouldn't miss it for anything. 

 Allie Geitter (the EBC mascot) giving a rider some encouragement from a SAG car.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind. (Carl Hiaasen)

The palm trees along the beaches were whipping and bending this morning as we biked along. When the wind whooshed between the big beach condos, it pushed our bikes around. This was strictly a white knuckle, tight grip on the handlebars ride.

We were heading north along the roads of the coastal barrier islands, winding through the well known cities that line the beaches there. We stopped at beach parks along the way, people watching as we ate some snacks. The beach people were bundled up in hoodies and wrapped in blankets. Not much sunbathing on a such a windy day.

Our destination was the state park just south of Fort Lauderdale. We wanted to gawk at the cruise ships at Port Everglades. Not that we couldn't gawk at cruise ships at the Port of Miami. But Port of Miami is only a few miles from home. (Not much of a bike ride.)

We looked at the huge ships for a few moments, turned our bikes around, and headed home. A Big-Boats-Big-Wind ride.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching. (William W. Purkey)

It was a gray windy Saturday morning. The weatherman said there was a chance of rain. Even coffee didn't make the day seem better.

We pushed our bikes to the elevator. Saturday is our day to ride with the Everglades Bicycle Club. We pedaled to city hall. Once we reached city hall, the smiles and greetings of friends made the day brighten a bit.

While we were standing around talking before the start, someone suggested we combine the ride groups into one peloton, just for the day. That sounded great to us. They took a vote. Every rider agreed to do one speed group. (Do we trust our ride leaders or what?)

We pedaled off to Black Point Marina. The riders from the slower groups put their hearts into the ride. They looked good. The ride leaders and one or two other strong riders did the pulling. (Very much appreciated when we were heading into the wind on the ride back.) One of the ride leaders slipped around offering suggestions about which gear to use and cadence and such. Nice. It was like having a personal coach.

When we arrived at city hall it got better. There was music. There was laughter. There was dancing.

Smiles all around. A bit of magic on a windy gray day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 2014 Horrible Hundred

This was our seventh Horrible Hundred.

The Horrible Hundred is an annual ride put on by the Florida Freewheelers, a ride up and down the best hills of the Lake Wales Ridge. (The Lake Wales Ridge is what remains of a string of islands that existed eons ago.)

The weather was perfect. It was going to be a fun day. We pedaled away from our motel heading for the start. We were right on schedule. Then Al turned his head and said, "Guess what we forgot in the room. Our ride wristbands."

We pedaled back to the motel at full speed, got our stuff, and headed back. We'd missed the start. But the route ran around the lake then headed east toward the first big climb, North Ridge. The lake loop part didn't have much interest for us. We decided to skip it and join the route where it turned east on Pitt. What with our biking back and forth to our motel, we'll have done the same number of miles as the lake loop anyway. A perfect solution for us.

That was the start of a great ride. We decided to ride alone. The problem with riding in a group is that you can't look around and enjoy the scenery. You have to concentrate on the person in front you or risk an accident. Drafting makes the ride easier, but less interesting. So we kept to ourselves and happily went up and down the hills.

Each year it seems a bit easier. Even Sugarloaf.

And that's a very good thing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. (Mark Twain)

An overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels.

We decided to trial run our road bike short-trip luggage on an overnight to the Florida Keys. We picked a destination around 65 miles from home, Bay Harbor Lodge on the southern part of Key Largo. Not too expensive, but with pleasant touches we enjoy.

We rolled the bikes through our building's lobby, waved goodbye to the lobby staff, and headed down the road. The weather was perfect. A nice tailwind all the way to the Keys. After dropping off our little luggage bags in our room, we rode around Key Largo, finally ending up at the grocery. We wanted to buy a picnic meal for our dinner, as well as Gatorade for the ride home. We ran into three guys who were bike camping. When the guys pedaled off, we joked about our memories of riding fully-loaded touring bikes. (Credit card touring isn't as adventurous but it is a whole lot easier.) Back at our lodging we eyed the kayaks and paddle-boats but opted to do some reading instead. We wandered out to the Lodge's waterfront and watched the sun set. It was a perfect day.

The next day began with clouds and spotty showers. Our luck was good, though, and the rain was always over someone else. Soon the clouds were gone. The ride home was into the wind. We slowed our pace and took 3-mile turns pulling. Ten miles from home Al finally fixed a minor problem I was having with my rear luggage rack, and we rolled up to our building's front door with big smiles on our faces.

Like I said, taking an overnight bicycle trip is couples therapy on wheels. You still quibble about the same silly things you always do. But by the end of the trip you remember why you like the other guy so much, even after a lot of years and a lot of trips.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

There’s roads, and there’s roads, And they call. Can’t you hear it? (Bruce Cockburn)

Picking a place to visit by bicycle is really easy. You go online. Check out popular routes on Strava or MapMyRide. Use routes from East Coast Greenways or Adventure Cycling.

My favorite place is a blog, Bicycle Routes 305 (Descubriendo La Florida). It has ideas for rides all over the state of Florida. Take your bike on your car to the route's start for a day trip. Or string routes together for a multi-day adventure.

Use Google maps to find lodging, convenience stores, restaurants, and the like. It's not foolproof, but it works for the most part.

Go by yourself or take some friends. Don't you hear the roads calling?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Today we did a ride looping around the Rickenbacker, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne with our new short trip bike luggage. We wanted to test all the adjustments and fittings.

Which was a good thing. A bunch of things needed tweaking.

The fun part, though, was checking out the reactions of fellow riders when they saw a couple of nice road bikes with (oh, no!) luggage. Road bikes traditionally have teeny tiny seat bags. Minimalist things. (Not unlike pasties on exotic dancers.) For those of you not immersed in cycling culture, it's all about aerodynamics and weight. Luggage is a no-no, simply profane and vulgar.

It was an amusing ride.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I get ideas about what's essential when packing my suitcase. (Diane von Furstenberg)

We do credit card bicycle touring. No tents. No sleeping bags. No cooking gear. Just us, our bikes, and the absolute essentials.

The easiest trips are for one or two nights on the road. Different people call these mini cycling adventures by different names. S24O is  one popular term. It stands for "sub-24-hour" overnight trip. And most for most people who do them, that means "overnight camping trip." But why camp in a state like Florida whose tourist economy has motels, hotels, and resorts quite literally everywhere? Al and I prefer air conditioning, a hot shower, TV, and WiFi.

We said goodbye to our old short trip bike luggage. It had paid its rent by serving us well for over 10 years. It couldn't be used on our road bikes with their carbon frames. And we wanted to take some of the trips using our road bikes.

After several months of searching and comparing, we finally settled on new bike bags. Our final choice was a rack and bag made by a Canadian company, Arkel. The Randonneur Rack and the Tailrider bag meet our needs. The rack is quick to attach to the bikes. The bag has excellent organizer pockets inside and out. It even has an integrated rain cover.

On the Key West to Fort Meyers Beach ferry a few years ago.
Over the years we've learned to pack light. You don't need a lot. When your suitcase is tiny, you don't carry things you don't absolutely need.

The rainy season has ended. Bike travel season is here. We're ready to go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Homestead-Miami Speedway Freedom Ride 2014

One of the best annual event rides in South Florida is put on by the Everglades Bicycle Club in October just south of Miami. This year's ride, the Speedway Freedom Ride 2014, was going to benefit the Achilles International's Freedom Team of Wounded Warriors.

We lined up in the pre-dawn light. Then they opened the gates to the tunnel that led to the track. We slowly rode through the tunnel, turned on to the inner track, and pedaled down to the starting line on the main track. At the front were the ranks of hand cyclists in their low-slung hand-cranked recumbent bikes surrounded by their support riders. Minutes later we started our lap of the banked NASCAR track. It looked huge! At the banked turns some riders stayed low. Others rode the turns at the top. It seemed very scary up there on our two skinny road bike tires! But the view and experience were worth it.

Al pedaled past me as I was busy taking photographs. It wasn't until I was finishing the lap of the track that I missed him. "No problem," I thought. We were supposed to be riding in a large EBC pace line. He probably was already pedaling down the road with them. I rode along, slipping between groups on the road looking for him and our friends. Nada. Just as I was ready to stop and pull out my phone, I spotted Al. Together again, we joined the stream of riders. The large EBC pace line was long gone down the route. Not a problem. Soon we spotted friends from our weekend EBC rides and put together a tidy little double pace line.

No matter whether you were doing the metric (62 mile) or century (100 mile) ride, the routes were the same for the first 50 miles. So we had a wonderful ride with our EBC friends down to Key Largo and back to Homestead. The weather was perfect. The wind was just a breeze. The scenery was lovely. It was the type of uninterrupted riding that lets you lose yourself in the fun of the ride. Our pace line moved smoothly past other riders. "Join our group! Hop on the back!" we called as we passed them. Some did. Our group grew. Riding in the pace line made the miles easy. Everybody took their turn pulling at the front of the pace line. We had lots of energy as we crossed Card Sound Bridge. The view from the top of the sparkling waters and coastline was delightful.

Too soon we were at the rest stop where the routes for the metric and century rides spit. Everyone else in our group was doing the metric. We chatted and said goodbye. Then it was pedals up, and Al and I headed down the road by ourselves for the century ride.

We hadn't planned to be riding by ourselves. But we'd dawdled too long munching, talking, and generally having a good time with friends. The people we had planned to ride with were already down the road. The route was well marked. We were used to being a pace line of two.

Along the way we stopped and talked to some friends, slowed to ride with another rider with a problem, and had a fine time being bicycle tourists more than usual. We'd stopped for a photograph at Everglades National Park when we suddenly realized how late it was. (Oops.)

As we headed back from Everglades, I saw a SAG vehicle trailing us. It turned out we were the last riders on the route! "OK," Al said. "Somebody has to be last." We always said we were slow pokes. No one will argue with us now!

The last rest stop was closing down as we pulled in. They were a great group, and we had some laughs as we refilled our water bottles. We waved good-bye and pedaled away. Trailed now by two guardian SAG vehicles all the way to the Speedway. We thanked them and pedaled into the Speedway to join our friends.

No money can buy a memory like this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. (Laurence J. Peter)

Disclaimer Statement: This post has nothing to do with doubt, danger, screaming, or shouting. But it is about going in circles. (And I just happen to love the quote.)

At last Saturday's Everglades Bicycle Club 20+ inaugural group ride, the ride leaders introduced the rotating pace line. We used it Saturday and again at an informal group ride (with many of the same people) on Sunday. Up to now, I've learned single pace line (quack, quack, ducks in a row) and double pace line (two by two, handlebar to handlebar, but still quack, quack, ducks in a row). In the rotating pace line formation two lines of riders rotate in an oval like a bicycle chain. One line is moving faster, the other line is moving slower. So there isn't any two by two, handlebar to handlebar action going on. Like a link in a bicycle chain, a rider moves forward in the faster line, reaches the front, passes the lead rider in the slower line, and slides over to become the new first rider in the slower column (soft pedaling to slow to the speed of the slower column). As other riders move from the faster to the slower line, he eventually becomes the last rider in the slower line. He then moves over into the last position of the faster column, and increases pedaling pressure to match the speed of the faster column, and moves forward again in the faster column. Easy peasy. Lots of fun.

May I just say, "Whoo-hoo!" The rotating pace is a game-changer for puny-wimp riders like me.

I love the cycling jargon about engine size. ("He is such a strong rider. He has a big diesel engine.") My engine is your basic wind up rubber band affair. My riding is based on tenacity rather than strength. I get destroyed when I have to be at the front of a faster pace line for more than a brief stay. (We're talking seconds here, not minutes, guys.) The rotating pace lets me move with the group without burning out by the end of a long ride. And I don't have to hide in the back of the group, which is, frankly, a bit of a bummer. Also, I quickly learned something very important. Because I have not spent a lot of time at the front pulling, I have never learned to keep my speed very, very constant. It was harder than I thought.

I asked Al about it since he pulls for me all the time, and I know that he can hold a very precise speed. "What's the secret to keeping my speed where I want it?" I asked him. He told me to start by paying more attention to my bike computer read out. "When you soft pedal you put almost no pressure on the pedals." But the rest of what he talked about made me realize it was more art than science. OK. It was something I could work on.

Like learning to dance, the rotating pace line requires practice. I'm obviously a newbie, but here's what I picked up so far:

  • Make sure you know what speed the fast line is supposed to go and how fast the slow (recovery) line is supposed to go. Make sure you ride at that speed. Watch your bike computer. If the ride leader says the line speeds are 20 and 18, keep it at 20 and 18. 
  • When you get to the front of the fast line, don't continue pedaling fast line speed when you pull over into the lead of the slower line. Glance at your bike computer speed. Soft pedal right away. Only a couple of pedal strokes at fast lane pressure will put a gap between you and the second guy in the slower line. Then he will have to surge to close the gap.
  • When you are in the slower line, focus on keeping a very steady speed. If you are all staying at the same slower speed, you don't really "drift back". That's just an illusion because the faster line is passing you.
  • When you get to the back position of the slower line, move into the faster line and immediately increase your pedaling pressure to move your speed up to the faster line speed. 

With the rotating pace line the whole group has to ride at the same level. This was really shown during our two weekend group rides. On Saturday the group was made up of riders in the same speed group, and the rotating pace line worked fairly well. (And got better as we went along.) Speed changes at intersections, traffic circles, and traffic lights caused some difficulty. We also had to learn that, unlike the other pace line formations we've used, we couldn't just willy-nilly hop out and sprint when we felt the spirit descend on us. It caused chaos and confusion. On Sunday, however, the group's composition was more diverse. We had riders from several speed groups. This meant that speeds that were fine for the stronger riders were exhausting for the weaker riders, particularly since we had a headwind issue going as well. It can work if the whole group understands that the weaker riders will have to work harder, and the stronger riders will have to hold back.

Is it better than the double pace line? Heck, yes.

A round of applause please, for the rotating pace line and the EBC 20+ ride group and ride leaders who introduced it!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen. (Louis L'Amour)

We have a new ride group at the Saturday Everglades Bicycle Club rides. Where before there was only an 18+ mph group, there now is an 18-20 and a 20+. (In addition to the 14-16 and the 16-18 groups, of course.) Al and I talked it over and decided we would ride with the 20+ group and see how it worked out.

The new 20+ ride was a winner. The ride leaders introduced the group to the rotating pace line. It's a two column formation where one column moves a couple miles per hour faster than the other. It let's the group move fast, minimizes the time any one rider is at the front pulling, and gives you time to recover while you are riding in the slower column. You could watch the learning curve of the group as we improved over the miles. A fun, fun ride. We are going to really enjoy the 20+ group!

At the end of the ride we headed to Kennedy Park for a frozen lemonade. We were celebrating. Today our mileage for 2014 rolled past 10,000 miles. We enjoyed our treat and mused about this year's rides.

Actually, our goal hasn't been the mileage. We're not even really interested in goals. We are process people. We develop weekly routines to get what we want. We make the routines a habit, and the rest falls into place. We ride a lot of miles because we want to continue riding together. I need to have the endurance and strength to keep up with Al. He needs to be strong enough to pull me on very long or windy rides. We ride four days a week (usually 2 days with groups and 2 days by ourselves) and take three days off the bikes. Al leads and sets the pace. I chase him down the road and try not to let him get away. (So far, so good.)

We are bicycle tourists at heart. Statistics are nice, but rides are really about the things we see and the people we meet and ride with. We talked about all the people we've met who ride bicycles. We mused about all the new places around Miami that we'd discovered on rides this year. Restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. Places for coffee and espresso. Places for smoothies and milkshakes. Interesting architecture. Public art. Murals, both well known and ones secreted away in underpasses and back alleys. Pocket parks. Tourist hangouts. Quiet bike paths. Interesting neighborhoods. Secret gardens. Strange yard art. Dunes covered in sea oats. Mansions. Dilapidated cottages.

Feeling content and pleased with ourselves, we pedaled home. We rode the elevator up to our floor and pushed our bikes down the hall and into our little studio unit. Our cat Lola was curled in her cat bed. She half opened her eyes as we rolled the bikes past. "Home so soon?" she seemed to ask.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To err is human, but when the eraser wears out ahead of the pencil, you're overdoing it. (Josh Jenkins)

My new bike has a power meter. Yeah, a power meter. On my bike. I have already heard all the quips, and I agree. The watts I put out would barely make an LED bulb flicker. But I love the thing, and it is the best gadget ever.

I have only been riding with the power meter for a month or so, but it is more useful to me than all the other numbers I've gotten from bike computers over the years. In just a short time, it showed me (in numbers I could understand) when I was making my favorite mistake of pushing too much, for too long, too often. I figured out the range of watts that let me ride hour after hour. It's easy to punch up the watts beyond that range, but there's a cost for it. At last I have a way to budget the amount of energy I'm using while riding. I can splurge as long as I have a way of being an energy miser later in the ride. If I never get more out of having a power meter than this, it will be worth every dollar it cost.

I'm certain I will still go wildly pedaling down the road in the excitement of the chase, only to red line, fade, and struggle to manage the rest of the ride.

On the other hand, sometimes that isn't a mistake. It is just something you have to do in the pursuit of fun.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. (Arnold H. Glasow)

 We rolled the bikes to the elevator, down to our garage level, and over to the car. Then we drove south to the start of the Everglades Bicycle Club Tour de Redland. A morning of riding with friends in the open Redland agricultural district of Miami-Dade.

We had a great time. Musing about the ride as we drove home, my mind drifted to thoughts of border collies. (Stay with me here.) When you ride in a group, you have to have leaders. Someone has to make the calls. Different cycling groups call them different names, but Everglades Bicycle Club calls them "ride leaders."

Sunday I had the bad luck of getting caught up in a multi-bike crash. If you've ever been in one of these things, you know that it all happens so fast, you really only see what is right in front of you. In my case it was a friend that I was certain I was going to kill because I was definitely going to run over her. Seconds later, as I looked around from my position on the pavement, relief surged over me when I saw my friend stand up, dazed but not looking badly hurt. Friends helped me to my feet, righted my bike, and got me to the side of the road, kindly handing me items (cell phone, helmet mirror, etc.) that had scattered when I fell. A quick check assured me that I was OK with only minor scrapes. Only then did I have a chance to look around. To my amazement, the group had all been moved off the road and bike checks and people checks were rapidly being done. We were a big group. But the ride leaders were moving quickly around, creating order from chaos. No hysteria. No soap opera dramatics. Just quick (and may I say polite as well) action.

Well done, ride leaders.

Okay. So now you are wondering how this ties in with border collies. Well, first, I just happen to think border collies are great, great dogs. But, second, I've seen border collies in action. We often traveled in areas where these dogs earn their kibble by herding on ranches and farms. Once, somewhere in Arkansas as I recall, we took a shortcut on a ranch road between two rural highways. As we were enjoying the lovely route, we got an up-close and personal experience with one of these amazing dogs. As we passed an entrance to a ranch, a border collie darted out and cut us off. He never threatened us. He never made us think he might do us any real harm. But he firmly made his wants known. He was dead set on herding us to the ranch. Finally we just got off our bikes. We were laughing. The border collie, tail wagging, ears alert, and eyes firmly fixed on us, had won. We got away the only way we could, by slowly walking our bikes past the dog and down the road.

The ride leaders are a lot like that border collie. Good leaders, they're friendly but firm. They keep the group heading where they need to go, at a consistent speed. They set the rules for the group, and (again, friendly but firm) let you know if you are doing something you shouldn't. It's not an easy job. Depending on the day and the group of riders, we can be undisciplined and skittish, more interested in the next sprint area than the next intersection. But somehow the ride leaders manage and make us look fairly good out there as we wheel down the road.

Thanks, guys. Well done.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's all fun and games 'till someone loses an eye, then it's just fun you can't see. (James Hetfield)

We have a long ride just three weeks ahead. I have managed to block it from my mind. (I'm very good at ignoring things.) We're doing fine on our bikes, and I know that things will work out. Or not.

Riding bicycles may be our obsession, but it just isn't the most important thing in life. What is? Well, sipping a great cup of coffee before dawn on the balcony. Laughing and playing. Getting mesmerized by a fabulous movie. Getting lost in a good book. Meeting interesting people. Keeping up with friends.

We've gotten better on the bikes this past year. We'll be better on the bikes next year and the year after that. How we actually do on any particular ride isn't something to worry about. We just keep giving ourselves goals that are a little harder or a little more difficult than what we know we can do. That's what makes life fun and interesting. Even if we fail, there's still the fun of doing what we can.

And if a ride is a total disaster, there's always something we'll see on the ride that makes us laugh.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Heat and BBQ at the Beach

August is the hottest month. We weren't surprised when we woke up one morning with Summer Heat Laziness Syndrome. We've been riding a lot, and the rest of our life has been busy, too. It caught up with us during the beginning days of August. It was time to kick back and go with the lazy mood.

We knew this would happen. We even went so far as to bank miles when the weather was cooler so we'd feel OK about not riding as much in the heat. It was time to do other things for a while. The new Christopher Moore book, The Serpent of Venice, needed to be read. There were a couple new Scandinavian crime novels on the bookshelf, too. We'd enjoy a few days of laziness.

We wouldn't, however, miss our weekend rides with the Everglades Bicycle Club. Last year we missed the summer beach party. We didn't plan to miss it this year. So last Sunday we pedaled over William Powell Bridge and down the Rickenbacker Causeway, over Bear Cut Bridge to Key Biscayne and Crandon Park. There were rides for all the speed groups as well as a beginner and family ride. After the rides there was a BBQ picnic with all the trimmings. We talked with friends, munched, and met some new members. But the most fun was seeing the families of the people we rode with.

Then it was back home. Where we gave ourselves over to Summer Heat Laziness Syndrome.

Bring on the books and ice cream.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat. (Ann Landers)

I want to thank all my friends for their Facebook and Instagram posts about their wonderful vacations. I'm glad you are having a great summer. But have a heart. Please. You're killing those of us who are spending the summer close to home!

It is hot. It is humid. Sweat drips off nose and chin as we pedal down the road, splashing on the top tubes of our bikes. The beginning of August is the hottest week of summer. August is also the wettest month of the rainy season.

On the other hand, July was a very good month. We watched every stage of the Tour de France. We've done weekend rides with the Everglades Bicycle Club. Last Sunday we enjoyed the club's Tour de France Party, which included a ride in a part of Miami-Dade that we've never been to before. (It was fun.)

When a friend asked where we were on our virtual bicycle tour, I realized I hadn't done an update in several months. OK. So here it is. We have completed seven months of our bicycle project. (Five more to go.) You may remember that the first leg of our imaginary bicycle tour was a ride from Miami to San Diego and back. Next we decided to head north. As of this week, we have gotten to Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada, and we've turned around and are heading back to Calais, Maine, on our way back to Miami. And we rode all the miles of the trip right here in South Florida.

We're getting a little stronger and a little faster each month. We start longer rides in the fall. But to reach our goals we have to keep riding and sweating in the heat and humidity of the South Florida summer.

Just thinking about it makes me dream of the sound of tinkling ice cubes...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good. (Dr. Seuss)

We have new bikes.

The old bikes were great. But when we moved to Miami last year we started biking more. (And more. And more.) We got a bit faster and stronger. Pretty soon we began talking about doing some exciting, memorable rides. But we discovered that our old bikes couldn't handle road chop without beating us up more than we wanted. We needed bikes with a gentler ride. Easier shifting. And a better way of gauging how much energy we were using as we rode.

There are bikes that can do these things. No time like the present to get the right gear.

I hadn't anticipated that there was a learning curve to riding the new bikes. I thought I'd just hop on my bike and pedal happily away. The new bike is smooth riding and pleasantly fast. But, at first, the very light bike with its wide aero wheels felt quite "twitchy" to ride, especially in wind. The gearing felt different, too. Shifting is just a matter of lightly touching some buttons. And, to my embarrassment, I kept mixing the buttons up. Their positions haven't become automatic for me yet. I'd get distracted and find myself in an insanely inappropriate gear after just a few light taps to the wrong buttons. (Happily, it's getting easier with every ride.)

Why bike like we do? Because physically pushing yourself hard is wildly exhilarating. It is totally fun.

And fun is good.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh, the things you can find if you don't stay behind! (Dr. Seuss)

It's hard to beat breakfast on the beach.

On Sundays we do a group ride to Hollywood. It's a bit more than 50 miles round trip from Miami City Hall where the group meets up. Usually we ride to Georgio's for croissants.

It's now full-on Miami summer. Really hot and really humid. When you stop for a traffic light, your sunglasses begin to fog. Sweat drips off your nose as you pedal. And when the sky is blue and almost cloudless, it seems even hotter. You can feel the heat radiating up off the pavement.

Greg Lang, who had organized our first ride to Hollywood over a year ago, suggested heading to Little Venice, a small restaurant on the Hollywood boardwalk just a block or so from Georgio's. The number of riders for the Sunday ride gets smaller during the summer. And you need to have a smaller group for breakfast at a small beach restaurant. A big group would simply overwhelm the place. Little Venice even has inexpensive breakfast specials, so it wouldn't cost much more than coffee and croissants. A treat in the heat. The group liked the idea.

It's a winner.
Photo by Greg Lang

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The older I get, the better I was. (Van Dyke Parks)

Most of us never were as good as we remember. Me? My athletic skills are the definition of average. I sit at the very apex of the athletic bell curve, looking down one side at the truly athletically gifted and down the other side at the truly athletically inept. But I have a lot of company here in the middle.

This week the weather gods smiled. Rain chances were low. So Tuesday we rolled the bikes to the street well before dawn and pedaled west.

We rolled though the charming residential areas along Coral Way, skirted the Miracle Mile, and watched the sun come up as we passed Tropical Park. We made a stop into a Publix as it opened, buying two warm and fragrant guava pastries from their bakery, munching them down in the pleasant air conditioning of their entryway. Then it was onward through Kendall. Finally we rolled into Redland, the agricultural region of south Miami-Dade. The ride from Brickell to southwest Miami-Dade is nice since most traffic is heading into the city while the roads out of the city have only light traffic.

At mile 43 we came to Robert Is Here. We stopped there to munch a banana and refill our water bottles. Then we pedaled around Homestead and Florida City, stopping at a Publix to buy a picnic lunch which we packed into a little backpack before pedaling on for a big loop of the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

At mile 60 we reached Biscayne National Park where we stopped for our picnic lunch in the shade of scrubby trees looking out at sparkling Biscayne Bay. Then we pedaled north passed Black Point Marina, stopping again at Deering Park where we drank cold sodas and laughed at the manic chatter of a group of pre-teens. We rode home from there, a pleasant back street ride through Coconut Grove and Brickell.

A front door to front door circle loop of Miami-Dade. A pleasant though very hot and humid century. Who needs to look back on glory days when you can get out and do something special today?


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains? (Steven Wright)

It's the summer rainy season in Miami. Hard to do a long ride without being caught in a deluge.

We decided it was time for a Loopy Local Century.

It's a good century plan for the rainy season. You pick a couple of connected routes you know well and like to ride. You ride them as loops, as many times around the loops as necessary to do 100 miles. The key is to keep yourself reasonably close to home and in an area where you know all the places for restrooms, water, snacks, lunch, and, of course, shelter should it really storm. Not exactly exciting. But it works when the weather forecast calls for a rainy day in Miami.

Tuesday we woke up at the regular time, rolled our bikes to the street, and headed out. We'd decided to do the Rickenbacker. The lighthouse on Key Biscayne is just about 11 miles from home. There are three loops we can do on the Rickenbacker. They're about 3, 10, and 13 miles in length.

We rode our loops taking 1-5 minute breaks every 15-20 miles. We kept the speed moderate. We checked our weather radar app on each break to keep track of nearby rain. Some of which we could vividly see across the waters around the Rickenbacker. At about 70 miles we got caught in the rain, but it wasn't too heavy and it stopped in a bit. We decided to have lunch and dry off. We went to the nearby grocery store for a turkey wrap, some blue cheese stuffed olives from the antipasto bar, and ice cold soda. We carried these to a nearby park bench. There we noted that the eastern sky wasn't just dark. It was black...

We had a quick conference. Getting caught in rain wasn't a problem. Getting caught in a thunderstorm was. We didn't want to be on the east side of the William Powell Bridge in a storm. So off we pedaled back to the mainland. Radar was showing the mass of the storm just off shore. We still had about 20 miles to pedal.

We ran the odds and opted for a pleasant but mundane just under 2 mile loop in the Roads neighborhood near our home. Traffic was light there because of the oddly angled streets, and there were lots of spots for shelter if the storm caught us.

Our little loop took us past two construction sites in West Brickell. On our first passes, the construction guys ignored us. Then more and more of them watched us as we passed. Then they started smiling and waving each time we passed.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Our odometers finally slid past 100 miles. Done! And it was 8 percent faster than our previous fastest century. (Let's hear it for weather induced speed.)

We wheeled around and headed home.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The most dangerous food is wedding cake. (James Thurber)

Ahh, June. The school year ends. The hot, humid, rainy hurricane season begins. A month for weddings. A month for anticipating a summer vacation.

It is also month six of our bicycle project.

Since all we do is pedal around Miami and South Florida, it's more interesting to convert those miles into an imaginary bicycle trip. The June status report: We've biked from Miami to San Diego and back. (Did anyone miss us?) Now we're headed north up the East Coast Greenway to Calais, Maine. Maybe we'll keep going and visit Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada. (One of our favorite places.) Right now? Well, we're somewhere between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida, on this new leg of our imaginary trip.

Ice cream shakes at Robert is Here taste better on a hot June day. Time to splurge. No worries about ice cream snacks when you are riding a bike for hours and hours.

After all, in June, wedding cake is the dangerous food.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Everglades Birthday Ride

A Tom Burton birthday selfie with
the Visitor Center's Florida panther sculpture 

Tom Burton is a man who has learned the secret of enjoying a birthday. Do something you love.

Tom is soft spoken, genial, and a gentleman of the first order. Tom loves long rides, and he loves the ride to Flamingo in Everglades National Park. How to celebrate your 70th birthday? Invite your Everglades Bicycle Club friends to a long ride through the Everglades. He even had a plan to allow each rider to pick his ride length. Park in Ernest Coe Visitor Center and ride about 80 miles or park anywhere farther along the road to Flamingo for a shorter ride.

Beginning the ride to Flamingo (photo by David Fernandez)
David and Lissette Fernandez offered to be the ride's SAG. A SAG is important in the Everglades. The road to Flamingo is beautiful, but there are no facilities or places to replenish water along the route. Large chests of ice, water, cold soda and snacks were in the back of their their large vehicle. Riders liberally applied insect repellent before starting out. Buzzing clouds of bloodthirsty Everglades mosquitoes are a legendary part of the Everglades experience during the summer months. It was a nice size group that wheeled down the road. The skies were blue with light wisps of clouds. While it was warm and humid and the beginning of South Florida's rainy season, the beginning of the day was as perfect a summer day as you could order.

Different speed groups coalesced. Some took it fast. Some kept mellow and just enjoyed the scenery at a more modest pace. There is a 17-mile stretch of raggedy pavement at the beginning, and the SAG vehicle had parked right at the point where the smooth pavement began. A nice place to give the undercarriage a well-deserved rest while munching a snack and sipping a cold soda. Then it was pedals up and we headed down the road again. A second impromptu stop was at Paurotis Pond. No SAG, just the amazing sound of hundreds of nesting wood storks in the mangroves across the pond and glimpses of roseate spoonbills, herons, and egrets. Then it was off again for the final leg of the ride to Flamingo.

As we approached Flamingo we waved to some riders in their bright orange Everglades Bicycle Club jerseys who were already heading back. At Flamingo, a group of riders was relaxing in the shade of a tree next to the SAG vehicle. We chatted with them as we refilled our water bottles. While Tom and some others were having lunch before heading back, these riders were heading back before lunch. We wanted to stay for lunch, but we weren't feeling at peak. A shorter day would be a sensible choice for Al and me. So after pictures and more chatting, our new group waved goodbye and headed back. Serious rain clouds were forming, but we wheeled down the sometimes wet road with only sprinkles falling on us.

Only later did we see the Facebook post that told us of the ride back for Tom. While we skirted the rains, it was a monsoon for those who stayed for lunch. David Fernandez in the SAG took the quintessential picture of Tom, rolling relentlessly down the road on his 29er in the pouring rain.

Adventure and challenge reside not out in the world but between your ears. Tom is the kind of guy that understands this. Flamingo was a ride Tom had made many, many times before. But never as a 70th birthday ride. And what better way to celebrate a 70th birthday than the challenge of completing the ride no matter what the weather gods threw at you. That is an adventure.

Gentlemen, take note. This is the sense of adventure women find so appealing and attractive. It's not the years, it's the attitude...

Heading back (photo by David Fernandez)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tri-Rail and Short Bicycle Road Trips

We are bicycle tourists at heart. We love bicycle road trips. But why wait to do some grand bicycle tour when you can do a short bicycle road trip? Out and back home in 48 hours or less. Why load your bike with panniers and gear when a small backpack or a big rear seat bag will be enough for a quick overnight trip?

We do credit card bicycle touring. That simply means we roll our bikes into a motel and check in. You carry only what you absolutely need to have. (For heaven's sake, in Florida you can get away with beach clothes and a toothbrush.) It's an easy and comfortable way to do bicycle travel. The secret to doing bicycle road trips when you live in a city is leapfrogging out of the city using available transit systems. After all, the city is where you ride all the time. Why spend part of your fun bicycle tour riding one of your regular routes?

Tri-Rail is a commuter railroad that runs between West Palm Beach and Miami. It connects to Miami-Dade's MetroRail rapid transit system. Bicycles are welcome. Just bring a bungee cord to secure your bike in the bicycle area of the passenger car while you ride nearby in air-conditioned comfort.

We use Miami-Dade's MetroRail all the time. But Tri-Rail was new to us. We decided to change that. Recently we took the MetroRail green line up to Tri-Rail station. This, if you can't guess from its name, is the station that's the transfer point from the MetroRail system to the Tri-Rail system. At the ticket office there we purchased Tri-Rail cards. These cost just $2, are the size of a credit card, and are emblazoned with your picture. (And, yes, like driver's license pictures these photos are always humiliatingly ugly.) You can just buy paper tickets to ride Tri-Rail, of course, but we're big believers in the convenience of using little plastic cards. No worrying about having the right money on you. Just load the money amount you'll need onto the cards with a phone call a few days before your trip, and you're set to travel. Then you simply go to the little machine on the platform of your starting point and tap your card on it. When you get off the train you tap your card again on the machine on that platform. What could be easier? Need more money on the card for another trip? Just call and add put more money on the card.

We've used the Tri-Rail once now with our bikes. It was great. Points north of West Palm Beach are now in reach for a short overnight bike tour!


Monday, May 19, 2014

After all, tomorrow is another day. (Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind)

If you live an average life, it is a statistical reality that some weeks will be bad. Things go wrong. Problems come up that you can't solve. Things happen that you can't control.

You need a way to cope. Us? We ride our bikes.

First, there is the calming ritual of getting ready for a long ride. Decide on a destination. Check the tires. Fill water bottles. Pack snacks. Apply sunscreen. Put on riding clothes. Grab your helmet. Roll the bikes to the street. Warm up at a gentle pace for a mile or so.

Then you up the speed and get into the ride.

In the beginning your mind slides to the problems of the day. You ride a while. The routine of scanning traffic, checking your mirror, shifting gears, and monitoring your exertion slowly consumes your attention. Problems and worries are pushed into a back corner of the mind. Soon you find yourself lost in the rhythm of riding. Muscles tight from unproductive tension begin to move smoothly. You shift your weight as you corner, again as you accelerate. You feel your muscles work, your heart rate increase, your breathing become deeper. You feel sweat on your skin and wind in your face.

Somewhere miles into the ride, you feel as if your bicycle is simply an extension of you. Your body and mind shift into overdrive. You cruise along at a pace you can sustain for miles and miles, hours and hours. Your mind is fully occupied with the wondrous exertion of the ride.

Arriving home, there are the post-ride rituals. Showering. Enjoying the post-ride glass of milk and bit of dark chocolate. Cleaning bikes and gear. Washing ride clothes. Taking a nap.

And your problems? No worries now.

After all, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Listen to the sound of silence. (Paul Simon)

A while back my smartphone went insane.

It was an android phone that I got because it was cheap and waterproof. (Waterproof is really a handy feature when you ride a bike in Miami during the summer rainy season.) It was just a basic smartphone. No bling. Nothing special.

Until it started talking.

This wasn't like Siri or that kind of talking. This was Smartphone For The Blind. It read aloud my messages and emails.  If I touched the clock icon, it told me the time. (Inexplicably, it was western mountain time rather than Miami's eastern time.) It made constant announcements about battery status. If I touched any icon, it named the icon out loud. It spoke every action it was taking ("dialing", "shutting down", "keyboard open", "sending message"). Using apps was a whole new experience.

And there was no way to make it stop. (Believe me, we tried everything.)

I knew I had to replace the phone. But I didn't for a good while. I realized I had become secretly attached to its craziness. The phone was embarrassing at times, to be sure. I frequently had to switch it off or plug in my headset. (Just for fun, try to imagine the most embarrassing thing your phone could say out loud in public.)

This week I got a new phone. It doesn't talk except when it should. It does what it should in its boring but efficient smartphone way. Life is not so noisy or so exciting.

I'm missing that crazy phone already.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Team EBC

A funny thing happened this spring. I first thought about it when Al and I started wearing matching Everglades Bicycle Club jerseys on club rides. (In a gazillion years of married life, we had never worn matching outfits before.  Never.) Then we wore the jerseys on some event rides, happily wheeling down the road in a double paceline with a lot of other people in EBC jerseys. All eras of EBC jerseys, too. After all, the club has been around since 1976. Then last Sunday on a charity ride, it hit me. We were riding with Team EBC. Everglades Bicycle Club was a club and a team.

There had been times before on rides with fellow Everglades Bicycle Club members that we acted like a team. But those times were very different from feeling like a team. Al and I joined EBC because of its rides program. We wanted to learn to ride with other people. Pacelines and all that. What sold us on the club was the support we got. They had our back. They didn't leave people on the side of the road alone with a mechanical. If you got dropped during a ride, somebody was sure to come looking for you to make sure you didn't get lost. Week by week, ride by ride, helpful gesture by helpful gesture, we slowly moved from strangers riding about in a big city to friends out pedaling and having a lot of sweaty fun.

And then there was the orange retro jersey. One Saturday the idea of our ride group having orange retro EBC jerseys caught on. It took a while to work out the kinks, but they got ordered and a lot of us bought them. Even people who weren't big on orange as a fashion statement. Seeing all the team jerseys on a group wheeling down the road did it. We looked like a team. We acted like a team. We were finally there. We felt like a team.

Everglades Bicycle Club. It's a club. It's a team. Who knew?

It's going to be fun going to big events with Team EBC.
Photo by Javier Lejardi

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Biking on the SW Florida Gulf Coast

An Everglades Bicycle Club friend had told us about riding on Florida's Gulf coast. She asked if we wanted to join her for a couple days of riding there. We did. The weather was changing from the warmth of spring to the soft, humid heat of summer. Winter residents had returned to their homes in the North. Roads had less traffic. Restaurants were manageable again.

Our friend was familiar with the area. She had created two routes for us to ride. This was the real treat for us. The area is rich with bike lanes and paths. But it has numerous large gated communities which can make route planning difficult. She knew which roads to follow. Excellent.

Our first ride (about 77 miles) took us to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Beaches were busy with people, many stooped searching for the seashells for which the islands are famous. Birders prowled the area with binoculars and cameras. We visited an access point for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, a must do on another trip to this area. The islands are a treasure.

On our second ride (about 46 miles) we meandered to Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples for a bite at a sidewalk cafe. It was an exceptional ride with lovely intown and beach parks, lushly landscaped residential neighborhoods, wonderful quiet parkways, and glimpses of canals lined with large power boats and sailboats. Beautiful homes were everywhere.

We must not fail to mention that we spotted a rider in a bright orange Everglades Bicycle Club retro jersey in Naples.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life is a long lesson in humility. (James M. Barrie)

The qualities you strive to achieve in life shift suddenly in unexpected ways as you grow older.

Most of our neighbors in our Miami highrise are considerably younger than Al and I. We like that. They are interesting and upbeat, attractive and active. Best of all, seeing ourselves through their eyes can be instructive and amusing.

This week we decided to do a century ride all by ourselves. Well, mostly by ourselves. We used our regular Sunday group ride to Hollywood to do a quarter of the miles with a group. Then we headed north by ourselves, following A1A. Wandering through John Lloyd State Park. Gawking at the cruise ships docked at Port Everglades. Eventually we hit the road construction obstacle course that is the Fort Lauderdale airport area. Our plan had been to head north up the coast along the beaches. We spotted route 818, Griffin Road. Hmmm. Why fight the crowds and traffic along the beaches when we could head west into the quiet and quaint suburbs of Broward? It would be a lovely ride out to Southwest Ranches. Off we pedaled west. We stayed in the bike lane of 818, leaving the bike path and sleepy Orange Road to the family bike groups. When we turned around at our halfway point, we had a pleasant tailwind all the way home.

As we rode the last miles we were feeling fabulous. We'd ridden over a hundred miles, and we felt like we could go farther. We wheeled toward the entrance to our building. One of our neighbors was there. She spotted us, gave us a huge smile, and asked us where we'd ridden. We told her. "Wow. That's awesome," she chirped.
Photo by Brian Coomes

And then it came. The unexpected signal that we'd somehow slipped into fresh territory.  We were wearing our Everglades Bicycle Club retro cycling jerseys. "Just look at you. You guys are just so cute!"

Cute. So much for feeling awesome. Matching jerseys on a couple our age does scream cute.

Humbled, we laughed and rolled the bikes to the elevator.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I intend to live forever. So far, so good. (Steven Wright)

It's April. Month four of our cycling project. If we were taking an imaginary cross country journey by bicycle, we would have arrived in San Diego, turned around, and be pedaling through west Texas on our way back to Miami.

The good news. Our project is working. The constant long bike rides and time in the gym are having an effect. Core muscles are getting stronger. Legs are feeling better. We've got more energy left at the end of rides.

But, of course, there is a disclosure statement. We're still not fast guys, nor does anything like that appear likely in the future. Riding a lot does not roll back the odometer or grant you any additional athletic talents. (Anybody surprised? I didn't think so.)

During the past few weeks I've visited the doctors, been tested for everything but rabies, and had x-rays taken of various moving parts. The verdict seems to be that things are going fine, and the cycling project can continue.

Happy dance time.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The 2014 Roland Mazzotti Snowbird Century

The Everglades Bicycle Club's Snowbird Century is special. It's held at the end of March, a windy time of year. The Snowbird wheels about the rural agricultural Redland area in south Miami-Dade. It's a wonderful area with long stretches of open road. There's a route for everyone, from short rides to long rides, all with SAG cars sweeping the roads for cyclists in need of assistance and wonderful rest stops with water, sports drinks, yummy snacks, and friendly faces. Some years the wind is more challenging than others. This year it was a bit windy, strictly Cat 1, but certainly not a legendary HC. It would be challenging but fun.

It was dark when we pulled our car into the Homestead Air Reserve Park and followed the waving flashlights of the volunteers who were keeping order in the parking area. We slipped into a parking space and unpacked the bikes.

We follow the Everglades Bicycle Club page on Facebook. It's where you can go to find information on rides, both EBC sponsored and informal ones being put together by EBC members. We saw a group forming to ride a metric century (62 miles) at the Snowbird at a friendly 16-18 mph pace. The people joining up were fun to ride with. Excellent.

We quickly found our group among the sea of riders milling about under the floodlights, waiting for dawn and the ride's start. Slowly hundreds of riders filled the road leading out of the park. We were about in the middle of the pack. Then it was pedals up, and we were off down the road. While it was a mass start, it was a polite, orderly, and pleasant mass start. Nice.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. We wheeled happily down the road, chatting with friends. Our group had decided before the ride to ride straight through to the Aerojet rest stop at 29.4 miles into our ride. The wind was predominately from the north at around 16 mph with gusts into the lower 20s. We were doing a great job with the wind, moving along in a nice double paceline. The speed inched up. No problemo.

Then we turned into the wind. Oh my. I was in a lucky place. There were eight strong riders in front of me. There was no way I was going to let myself loose the wheel of the guy in front of me. I glanced into my rear view mirror. A gap was forming behind me. I put my head down and pedaled, forcing myself to ignore anything behind me, focusing only on the guys ahead of me. Ever see a pack of big dogs with a little chihuahua wildly running at the end of the pack as they boogied down the road? Yep. Well, that's what this group looked like for sure.

Just in time we turned. The wind was at our backs! Hallelujah. The little group up front was quickly rejoined by the rest of the riders. Pedal, pedal, pedal. The rest stop was just ahead!

We pulled into Aerojet rest stop. We wandered about chatting with friends in other groups, munched snacks, and sipped fluids. Mary Beth Garcia, the chair of the rides program, was there with the volunteers, laughing, teasing, handing out snack bars, and cheering us on. Refreshed and cooled down, we headed out again.

Once again we were heading into the wind. We'd talked it over at the rest stop. We'd keep the pace a bit slower heading back. We kept the paceline tight and moved down the road at a pleasant pace. Then my bike had a sudden flat. Rear wheel. Al and I waved for the group to keep going.

We'd just pulled out a spare tube and tools when the Andante Bike Shop SAG vehicle stopped and offered to help. They fixed the flat in minutes, and we were back on the road. (Thanks, Mauricio!)

Now we were on our own. We could see other riders in the distance. We became a little paceline of two, switching places every mile. Pull for a mile, draft and recover for a mile. We gradually caught up and passed some other riders who were pedaling down the road on their own. Then we saw in the distance blue StormRider jerseys in a paceline. Our day would be a lot better if we could tag along with them to the next rest area. So we began the chase. Using shorter turns at the front, we dragged ourselves closer and closer to the StormRider paceline. Finally (pant-pant-pant) we hooked on. Yeah!!

Down the road we pedaled. In no time at all we were at the rest stop. We rolled over to our group. We'd caught up to them! We told our tale, sipped fluids, and munched. Then it was pedals up for the last leg of the ride.

Once again in with our group, we chatted and pedaled. Soon we were at a point where the 100 mile riders turned left into the wind and the 62 mile riders turned right. Our group headed right, but a couple of riders headed left. "Well, that's one way to separate the lazies from the crazies," quipped someone. "Lunch ahead," said someone else. The last miles flew by.

Back at the Homestead Air Reserve Park we grabbed some lunch from the excellent buffet. We socialized, wandered about, watched and listened to the raffle, then headed back to our car.

We'll be back next year. This is one fun, well-organized ride!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fuentes 100 (A First Century Ride)

Ruben Fuentes is an Everglades Bicycle Club member. He is also a ride leader on Saturday EBC club rides. Ruben lives life fully, and he's a lot of fun to be around. A while back we heard that Ruben was putting together a special ride. It was for him and some EBC friends who wanted to do their first century as a group. The route was from Ruben's home in Miami Shores to Boca Raton mostly along A1A. Talk about a lovely route. The weather promised to be perfect. Could we tag along? He said we could.

It would be the first century for Maria Boza, Brian Coomes, Ruben Fuentes, Carmen Hiers, Anthony Nicholas Ingham, Maite Oca, Nelson Moreno, Alex Pruna, Alexander Restrepo, and Boyd Taylor. Other riders were along as moral support for our EBC friends.

We arrived at Ruben's place before dawn, parked our cars, organized bikes, and got ourselves sorted. Jerry Boyarsky, another EBC member, had generously offered to SAG for the ride. He had coolers in his car for our food and drinks, and there was space for our spare gear as well. There were three pre-arranged rest stops, and Jerry would meet us at the stops.

Lots of pictures were taken in the pre-dawn light. Then it was pedals up, and we were off down the road. We quickly formed a nice double paceline, and wheeled smartly down the road, lights blinking cheerfully as we rolled along. The first miles went by swiftly. Soon the sky brightened, and the sun crept up over the horizon's edge.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Soon we were at our first rest stop at the 17th Street causeway in Fort Lauderdale. We descended on Jerry's SAG car for refreshments. Then it was back on the road. The day got warmer, but spirits were high. We chatted as we rode. The pace was good, 16-17 miles per hour, a pace we could all manage for the full 100 miles.

Being a long ride, the unexpected happened. There were a couple of flats which were rapidly fixed. There were a few wrong turns that were quickly sorted out. Jerry Boyarsky's SAG was invaluable. He saved the day with a mechanical or two, and he was there, too, when a rider needed a bit of help. (And extra special credit goes to Anthony Nicholas Ingham's century since he did the century with a broken pedal clip! Now that, boys and girls, is true grit.)

The second rest stop was Palmetto Park. We got to see it twice since it was five miles short of our turn-around point. We made the first stop, enjoyed the shade of the covered overlook by the beach, then pedaled on the five miles, turned back, and enjoyed the shade again. We were past the half-way mark. The heat of the day and the miles had wilted some of our early enthusiasm, but there was still a lot of smiling and chatting happening. We were heading home.

We had a good number of draw bridges to cross over the 100 mile route, and it became a joke because it seemed every one of them was up when we approached. Of course, that meant we got a brief break to drink some fluids, check our phones, and take some pictures.

Our last rest stop was back at the 17th Street causeway in Fort Lauderdale. We popped into the nearby Publix. Air conditioning! Goodies were purchased and consumed. We were 3/4 of the way done. The end was in sight. We stretched our legs and savored popsicles and munchies. Too soon it was pedals up, and again we wheeled down the road.

The last miles of any long ride are always the most difficult. The little discomforts that were so easy to ignore earlier in the ride seem harder to put aside. Your eyes seem always to be straying to the trip odometer. Your speed hasn't changed, but the miles seem to take longer to roll by.

And then something awesome happens. The odometer reads just a couple of miles to go. Your mood gets lighter. Almost there...97...98...99...99.5...And then the number rolls up. 100. We're there. 100 miles. We've done a century!

It was time to celebrate.

Riding a hundred miles in one day is a landmark. Ruben posted on Facebook that it is like your first kiss, something you never forget. It's that and more.