Monday, April 27, 2015

Urban Living, Part 2

We moved to Miami a smidge over 2 years ago. Part 1 of our transition to urban living was getting in the habit of not using our car. Almost everything we need is within walking distance or easily reached by either of Miami's two light rail systems (MetroRail or the free PeopleMover). So, after 2 years in Miami, we don't use our car much. It often sits gathering dust for a week or more. When it does get used, it most often is to transport us and our bikes someplace.

This year we are ready to start Part 2 of our transition to urban living. We will be using bikes as transportation in the city. If something is a mile or so from home, it is an easy walk. But there are things that are, say, 3-5 miles from home. Too far to walk. And often not on the route of the light rail system. It seems silly to use the car for such a short distance. We could take the bus. But it's even easier to use a bicycle.

So for the next few months we are going to make some changes. Instead of walking to the local coffee shop, cafe, or restaurant, we are going to pick one that is too far to walk to but just right for a short bike ride. No spandex bike clothes or clipless pedal systems either. Urban bike fashion only which is to say, regular casual clothes and shoes. (I toyed with buying an urban-style bike helmet, but decided against it. I find the urban-style helmets hot and uncomfortable compared to my regular road bike helmet. And I'm too much in the habit of wearing a helmet when I'm on any bike to go without, even for a short, casual city ride.)

It's going to be fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

If a woman doesn't chase a man a little, she doesn't love him. (E. W. Howe)

We are back on schedule with our riding. (Out on our road bikes four days a week.) The weatherman even treated us with a preview of things to come: heat, humidity, and rain. The Miami summer trifecta.

We've been getting back to the routines we follow when we ride by ourselves. No drafting. No whining and no bitching.

The no drafting thing is just safer, especially with distractions and traffic. I aim for 3 to 4 bike lengths between us. Following too closely is a major cause of car accidents. It's the same on a bicycle. When you are riding a bicycle in a paceline, drafting definitely makes riding easier. But, since we aren't racing or planning a pro career, why tempt fate when you aren't on a paceline ride? I just chalk the extra difficulty up to "training" - which makes work sound so much more smug and upmarket.

And the "no whining, no complaining" routine? That also is a safety rule. Whining and complaining may be one of the most overlooked causes of homicides among married riding companions.

Our last ride was a case in point. We had spent several hours pedaling furiously, dodging rain clouds (successfully), and finally were within a mere 12 miles of the ride's end. Al (who was up front leading the parade as usual) said he was going to do a series of local loops in the residential area near our home. That way if it started raining hard, we'd be close to home. OK, that sounded reasonable. But when we started the loops, my undercarriage did not like the raggedy road we were taking. Ouch! Ouch! So I whined about it. A bit too much. Suddenly Al signaled a stop. We stopped. He turned and gave me "The Look." "The Look" is that flat-eyed slightly squinted gaze that signals a man close to the edge. Oops. Time not to bicker. Time to quickly negotiate a new plan! Which we did. No weapons were drawn. No blood was spilled. We pedaled off briskly for a loop to Key Biscayne.

Routines are a very, very good thing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bicycle Tourists for a Day

We sipped coffee on the balcony watching a cargo ship float by on the Savannah River. It would be light in an hour. We had a few hours to do what we wished this morning. We chatted up the options.

Our decision was to use those hours biking slowly all over the historic area. I had a store in the historic district I wanted to visit briefly, and Al suggested we bike out to Fresh Market south of town and resupply the munchies in our refrigerator.

It was different pedaling slowly around town. Not worrying about how many miles the ride would be. Enjoying the ambiance of historic homes, live oaks, Spanish moss, and cobbled streets. Our road bikes are good at absorbing road chatter, and we have wider tires on them. Which was just the ticket for Savannah's streets.

We rode our bikes into one of the squares. It was the square with the tribute statuary to Casimir Pulaski, the Polish nobleman who created the American cavalry during the Revolutionary War. I wanted a photo. But before I could grab my camera a grizzled voice bellowed, "No cycling in the squares! Bicycles are vehicles. Stay on the street!" A frowning elderly gentleman walking his dog glared. I smiled at him, said "Yes, thank you!" and pedaled briskly to the street. That was a first!

We were back at our rented condo early. We rolled the bikes inside. It was unlikely we'd be able to get out and ride any more on this trip.

It certainly was great fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Out on the Road with the Big, Big Trucks

Al showed me the laptop's screen. "How does this look for tomorrow's ride?" I squinted up my eyes with concern. He was heading us right past the State Port, the fourth busiest container port in the United States. That meant lots of big, big trucks.

Actually, the overall route looked pretty good. Al had decided to skip the customary bike routes into South Carolina. They swung wide around the State Port, adding a lot of very uninteresting miles. Al's direct route (with the trucks) was just 7 miles of pretty decent 4-lane highway. After that, the truck traffic went way down. A few miles more through a small Georgia town and crossing the Savannah River on an old trestle bridge and we were in a lovey area of South Carolina. OK. I could do trucks for 7 miles. Easy peasy.

Big trucks aren't that bad really. I'd rather ride among professional big-rig drivers than regular car drivers any day.

So off we pedaled. The trucks were noisy and intimidating, but they weren't much of a problem. We wheeled into South Carolina, pedaled through the Wildlife Refuge, then headed towards the lovely Lowcountry town of Bluffton. Part-way there Al signaled a stop. "Would you mind if we didn't ride all the way to Bluffton?" he asked. Ha! I was happy to swing to another route. The infamous South Carolina secondary roads were beating us up big time. This particular road was cracked, raggedy, and filled with scattered small holes. We talked over some options, picked one, and got back to pedaling.

It turned out to be a great ride, even without a visit to the charming town of Bluffton. And we found another giant critter statue! This time a Great Dane.
A giant Great Dane outside the Great Dane Trailers building.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Out on the East Coast Greenway

"Want to ride part of the East Coast Greenway route?" I asked Al. He said,"Yes."

I have another new app on my phone. It's an app for the East Coast Greenway (ECG). ECG is a bicycle route from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida, and the organization that supports it.

If you've been paying attention, you know that I'm trying out a lot of GPS services and apps on this trip.

Al and I always take our bikes when we travel. Which means we are often out riding in areas we don't know. No problem if we are doing an event ride. But most of the time it's just Al and me wheeling around on our own. And we wander a fair distance from our lodging. We do metrics. A few miles more than a metric is dandy; a few miles less than a metric sometimes has to do. But never less than 50 miles.

Until now we haven't bothered with GPS. It didn't seem worth the hassle. But that attitude was beginning to feel a bit stodgy. We had the gadgets. Why not take the time to find a way to work them into our style of touring? It's been rather interesting and fun.

The ECG route runs just a stone's throw from our lodging. We pedaled onto the route and followed it south. It's an OK route. Very easy to follow. The best part of the ride was finding a giant mailbox at the entrance to a ranch. (It was almost as tall as the power poles marching along the side of the road.) A few miles further there was a great giant cow with a hat and earrings standing in front of a flea market. Excellent.

What more can you ask from a bike ride?
Giant mailbox at ranch (compare it to the fence below it and the power pole!)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lost? Us?

We got up early, navigated the River Street cobbles to Bay Street and headed west toward the Talmadge Bridge. We were crossing the Savannah River on the Talmadge, and doing a long ride. We'd head north into South Carolina, arc northwest and west back into Georgia, then pedal east back to Savannah on Georgia roads. Sounded like a plan.

We had some maps and cue sheets for the area. We had GPS navigation on the phone. And we had Old School Navigation. ("Hey, that road is going in the right direction!") What could possibly go wrong?

We were really looking forward to the ride over the bridge. The Talmadge, a lovely suspension bridge high enough for the big cargo ships to go under, is steeper and higher than most Florida bridges. We chugga-chugga-chugged to the top, then stopped for photos. Then we went down and into South Carolina.

Ah, the South Carolina roads. Until you have pedaled on a raggedy South Carolina secondary highway, you are not a seasoned cyclist.

We passed saltwater marshes. Then we rode though large areas of cypress swamp. Soon we came to wide, wide river flood plains. Then a series of slow-moving muddy rivers. Waters rich with mud that started its journey in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Towns were far between and tiny. Roads had little traffic.

We were several hours and a lot of miles into our ride. It was about that time we confirmed that reality and our navigational aids were not in agreement. We pulled off the road. "We cannot be lost," I stated firmly. "We are heading in the right direction." Since my navigational skills are atrocious, Al just frowned and grabbed a map. I grabbed my phone. Google Maps isn't great, but today it looked like Ride with GPS wasn't either. As it turned out, Google at least gave us a good look at all the roads in the area and where they led. We bickered a bit, then formed a plan and headed down the road again.

A few hours later we wheeled back into Savannah. It had been a great ride. Besides, we'd had the amusing experience of getting "lost" with GPS.
View east from the Talmadge Bridge.

A saltwater marsh, early morning.
Entering the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

Cypress swamp in the wildlife refuge. 
Slow-moving muddy river and the river's wide flood plain.
Quiet rural roads with widely spaced tiny towns.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Savannah, Georgia, is a smallish city just an hour and a half north of the Florida/Georgia border. It dates back to 1733. Savannah has atmosphere big time: live oaks dripping with Spanish moss; lots of cobble streets and brick sidewalks; architectural details galore.

We are in Savannah to ride our road bikes. But first, we get to enjoy some time by ourselves. Walking the historic district for hours. Having breakfast in a Creole restaurant on the riverfront of the old historic port. Going to the Saturday farmers' market in Forsyth Park. Exploring SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) which has expanded into scores of buildings throughout the historic area--even into an old theater downtown.

We are staying in a very comfortable condo on River Street. When we do a bicycle road trip to an interesting city or locale, renting a home, condo, or apartment is much more appealing than staying in the usual hotel or bed and breakfast. By using a service like Airbnb or HomeAway you can find some wonderful places. Our selection for this trip is a condo located in a converted cotton warehouse originally built in the very early 1800s. Exposed brick and mortar. Beautiful decor. There's a nice balcony overlooking the river for sipping coffee and watching the cargo ships and tourist boats chug by. Not to mention, our own washer and dryer, a big screen TV for Al, and great WiFi for me!

Tomorrow we ride through Savannah then north into South Carolina.
Bikes in the condo's front hall.
The kitchen (foreground) and living room.
How's this for a headboard?

Cobbles of the River Street area.

Forsyth Park

Fountain in Forsyth Park

Historic cemetery re-purposed as a wonderful city park.

Some late-blooming azaleas.

One of the many squares in the historic area.
Watching a container ship from the condo balcony.