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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps. (Bob Black)

There is nothing more time-consuming than mapping out new in-city bike routes. It starts with maps and planning. But it all comes down to trial and error.

We wanted to ride from our home in Brickell to Redland, the agricultural section of the county. And we wanted to minimize our time on the M-Path. We also wanted a route to Blackpoint Marina and Homestead Bayfront Park. But we wanted a route that didn't repeat all of the Everglades Bicycle Club route that we rode every Saturday.

We knew we might not make our mileage targets some days. And we knew it was inevitable that we'd have some long, long days.

We were doing it old school. No Garmin or other GPS device on the bikes. Since Miami-Dade uses a grid layout for streets, it's really not that crazy. Streets are east-west. Avenues are north-south. Easy peasy.

The worst day was the one that we waved goodbye to our building's lobby staff at 7 in the morning and returned in the late afternoon. Lots of back-tracking and turnarounds, but we ended up with a sweet route to Robert Is Here. We almost found ourselves in the same situation getting down to Blackpoint Marina. It was a windy day, and it was a tailwind for the ride down to Blackpoint. We talked the situation over as we munched bananas and watched a lazy dock pelican. We needed to go to Bayfront for the miles, but we were going to be riding into a stiff headwind all the way home. We voted to sacrifice the miles.

Eat your heart out, Marco Polo.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 Tour de Redland

It was the second annual Tour de Redland. It was an outreach ride organized by Everglades Bicycle Club, this year extending an invitation to the Bike 305 folks. We'd done the first TdeR last year, and we'd put it on our rides-to-do-each-year list. We sipped our coffee and ate breakfast out on the balcony before dawn, chatting about our plans for the ride. There were two routes, one just short of a half century and the second 30 miles long. We would do the longer, then head out on our own to finish our miles for the day. Soon it was time to put the bikes on the car and head south to the ride's start.

We arrived a bit early. It gave us a chance to sign in and to socialize some with people we knew. There was a woman we last rode with on a ride in Everglades National Park, a bunch of people we ride with on the Saturday EBC rides, and some people we see on our rides on the Rickenbacker-Key Biscayne-Virginia Key route. A great turn-out, easily 150 riders. Greg Neville (Everglades Bicycle Club president) and Juan Alban (EBC vice president) welcomed the riders and made some short announcements. Then the start flag was waved by this year's honorary starter. We were off.

Soon a nice double paceline developed. Al and I were positioned toward the front. We were expecting a easy Sunday pace, but the group was obviously feeling more enthusiastic. We were soon cruising along at a pleasant 20-21 mph. The morning haze was soon the beginnings of a nice sunny day. The wind was light. Pedal, pedal, pedal.

As we moved into the heart of agricultural Redland our group's leaders notched up the speed. Soon the group was rolling along at 22-24 mph. Gaps formed, and I watched my speedometer climb up to 26-27 when we worked to catch back up. Fields of green beans and squash blew by as a pleasant blur. At around halfway through the route, the group negotiated a turn to the left. I saw a rider hit a bump and slide out. Everyone slowed, a couple riders stopped to check on the rider, who appeared understandably shaken but otherwise OK and ready to rejoin the line of riders. The next few miles were slower, back to that pleasant 20-21 mph. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Then the speed ramped up again. Robert is Here, our mid-ride break, was just ahead. The group surged enthusiastically down the road.

Suddenly I had that peculiar experience of having my power cord disconnected abruptly. In the fun of the fast ride I had forgotten the basics. I hadn't taken in enough fluids or food. The riders in front of me were accelerating, and there was no way I could match even their modest acceleration. I watched my speedometer as I pedaled, finding a speed I could maintain. Al saw my problem and got in front of me so I could grab on to his wheel for the last couple miles to Robert Is Here.

When we got to the break, I quickly devoured a banana and jelly beans and slurped down a half bottle of fluid. Happiness. Soon I was feeling a whole lot better. We wandered about talking to other riders during the break. Word had passed around that there would be two speed groups for the ride home: a fast group and a less fast group. Sweet!! Fast was fabulous, but I was ready for a little social riding! We headed back, happy to chat and take in the scenery.

Soon we were back at Larry and Penny Thompson Park, the ride's end. We stopped and ate a granola bar then headed to the area where riders' cars were parked. We spotted our friend Jon, a randonneur. We needed to add miles for the day so our plan was to ride back to Robert Is Here for a couple of shakes. Would he join us? He would.

So we pedaled back, following part of the day's route and meandering some as well, arriving soon at the roadside market for our milkshakes. (Yum.) Then Jon headed off toward Florida City and his route home while we headed back to our car at Larry and Penny Thompson Park.

When we arrived at the park, our car sat alone in the parking lot. We popped the bikes into the bike rack and headed home, happy and ready for a nap.

Monday, March 3, 2014

How be caught up in a game and have no idea of the rules. (Caroline Stevermer)

Rules and routine make relationships roll smoothly over life's bumpy road. They don't make the bumps go away, but they do let you handle them without too many crashes.

Cycling with a spouse has it's challenges. At the end of the ride, your spouse doesn't go off to a separate home. Routines get you out riding and the bikes maintained and the chores done. Rules keep you from resorting to small arms fire to settle disagreements and misunderstandings. The weaker rider will always have to work harder. The stronger rider will always have to hold back.

We've got four rules that work for us.
    Rule 1. No whining.
    Rule 2. No quitting.
    Rule 3. Al is always right. (Wink wink, nudge nudge...)
    Rule 4. Marsha always gets what she wants. (Wink wink, nudge nudge...)

We decided that our old routine of riding 5 days and taking 2 days off the bikes needed a change. It wasn't giving us enough time for the rest of our life. Which made us feel stressed. And when you are stressed, you aren't getting the quality sleep that you need. We decided to make a change. Ride 4 days a week with 3 days off the bikes but keep the same miles for the week. Which means we'll ride about 15 miles more each day.

So now we have a new routine.

And the rules? Oh, they stay the same. They always stay the same. They work just fine.

And it's always important to know the rules.

(Photo by Tom Burton)