Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride

This week was the Everglades Bicycle Club's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride. We've done this ride a number of times. As a metric century by ourselves. As a metric century with a peloton. And as a leisurely century by ourselves.

This year we were doing something new. The Freedom Ride benefits the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, a branch of Achilles International. This year we were going to be be cyclist buddies to one of Team Freedom's handcyclists doing the 65 mile route. So Sunday Al and I met Larry at ride headquarters at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. We chatted briefly with Larry's wife and some other folks who were there, then we all pedaled off on the ride.

Larry, it turned out, was an interesting guy. He was easy to talk to, friendly and unpretentious. We shared stories about who we were, what we did, and stuff like that. He talked about his handcycle and the handcycle he was hoping to get sometime soon. The new one would let him ride in a more recumbent position, a position that would be less stressful on his back. I hadn't thought about the nuances of the fit of handcycles. It was interesting stuff. Larry's cycling style was also interesting, particularly his approach to climbs. His face held a focused little half smile. His head tipped forward, and he cranked with a smooth steady rhythm that didn't slow a beat all the way to the top of whatever incline the road put in front of him. Our down-the-road team was Larry, Al and me, and RV, our Honda Gold Wing Motorcycle Club escort. RV (yep, that's his nickname) rode a luscious dark red motorcycle trike, and at rest stops we coaxed him to tell us a little about his travels on it. Fun stuff. Not long after heading out on the ride, we were joined by Carole, another EBC cyclist buddy. Even farther down the road we added Tom, another EBC cyclist buddy. It was a nice size group wheeling down the road.

And I'll admit there were some amusing incidents on the ride. Like when I "lost" my group at the start.

We were at the starting line. I was laughing and talking with some friends. The ride started. I heard Al call my name. But when I looked up to find Al and Larry, they had disappeared into the mass of rolling bikes.

Crap! I did this last year and "lost" Al at the start. It took me miles of pedaling before I found Al. I was soooooooo not going to hear the end of this. Two years in a row!

I headed over to a guy I thought was Al. It wasn't him. Trying not to look hysterical, I devised a strategy and put it into operation. I drifted back through the mass of riders, just in case they were behind me rather than out front. Most of the low handcycles had tall orange flags over their back wheels. So I sprinted from flag to flag. By the time I had done the mile and a half ride around the speedway, I hadn't found Larry or Al, but I got lots of amusing comments from friends as I pedaled furiously past them through the ranks of riders.

I continued my chase down the road. A team let me slide into their paceline, which gave me a bit of a rest as I continued chasing handcycle flags down the road. Finally I found them. There they were, chatting amiably as they pedaled down the road, no doubts in their mind that I'd get there eventually!

Then there were the flat tires I got on the second half of the ride. I managed to run over a nail that damaged my rear tire. The group rolled on down the road while Al and I fixed the flat. We caught up with Larry and the gang at Card Sound Bridge after a full-tilt boogie chase.

It went from amusing to annoying just miles from the end of the ride. The tire gave out and flatted again. This time Al said, "Wait here, I'll go get the car and come back for you." (My hero!) I parked my bike in the shade of a palm and gave the tire a thorough check. It was a new tire, but that nail had messed it up but good. We ride too much to keep a problem tire. My opinion was that there was no use fixing it. When Al returned with the car, he agreed. Time to get to the bike shop and pick up a new tire.

An interesting way to end this year's Homestead Speedway Freedom Ride, to say the least.
Waiting under a palm tree for Al to pick me up.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The That-Away Ride

Sometimes when you ask yourself where you want to ride, you just point into the wind and say, "that-away."

A front had moved through South Florida. At first it was a rain event. Next it was all about wind. The wind was from the north. So we decided to head straight into it for the first half of our ride. We rode over a causeway to the barrier island that is Miami Beach, turned north, and pedaled up the island and onward to Hollywood. We wheeled over to the Hollywood boardwalk on the beach and settled into an outdoor table at a cozy little beachfront restaurant. What could be better than sipping coffee and watching waves?

Then it was back on the bikes for the ride back home. Some cities and states have hills. You work your butt off pedaling up a hill for the reward of going downhill (wheeeeee!) In Miami, you don't have hills, but some days you have wind. Pedal into the wind for a few dozen miles, then turn around and (wheeeee!) head back home with an awesome tailwind.

Life is good.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. (Lin Yutang)

We are traveling again, and it is wonderful. There is an adjustment, though. Traveling means no longer seeing friends every week. Traveling has its joys, but the cost is spending less time with people you like.

At Cauley Square with friends from the Everglades Bicycle Club
This week we were jump-starting our cool weather cycling season. We pushed the miles, getting our legs and "undercarriages" ready for the fun rides we plan to do. So it was 330 miles, Sunday to Sunday.

This week's 16-18 ride group (Photo by Dino, edited for the blog by Marsha)
The week reminded us of the costs and rewards of travel. The bittersweet loss of time with Miami friends. And the warm sense of home those Miami friends give to us when we are back in Miami.

It's all good.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Withlacoochee Trail Ride, Part Two

Partly cloudy, temperatures in the 70s, and low humidity. Perfect weather for a bike ride. We decided to do the trail again.

Yesterday we got soaked for 60 miles while riding on the southern end of the trail. If we re-did that section of the ride in today's nice weather we would have the perfect distance for an enjoyable recovery ride. We had a plan. So off we went, south down the trail from our motel.

There are several bike shops along the trail. Recumbents are popular on the west coast of Florida and particularly in areas with good trails. We loved the way one bike store had painted the back of the store facing the trail.

There's a great old bridge that passes over a busy divided highway on the southern end of the trail.

We rolled a block off the trail to visit the tiny town of Trilby. The post office, an old church, and a couple of old repurposed buildings are all there is of downtown Trilby.

The trail doesn't cross many roads, but when it does, traffic is amazingly respectful to cyclists. We came to one road at almost the same time as a large pick-up truck driven by a middle-age guy dressed like he might work on one of the nearby ranches. He stopped, waved us to cross, and actually called out an apology for not yielding the right away sooner! If anything, that guy was typical of the friendly attitude we ran into here in Inverness.

We needed to ride north of our motel to pick up some extra miles. We headed to Inverness for a photo of one of those amazing public art pieces you can find in tourist areas. These two smiling turtles were on a giant bench near the lake at the Inverness trail head.

You know, biking is much more pleasant and fun without rain.

Miles: 63

Sunday, October 4, 2015

40 Miles of Nice, 60 Miles of Rain

The ride started well enough. We come to the Withlacoochee State Trail for the annual fall ride because it's a great trail and because it has tons of well stocked rest stops. These people know how to do rest stops. Like oreos with a dollop of peanut butter, a slice of banana, and a couple of raisins. Or salty cheese crackers with peanut butter and banana slices. This on top of the usual fruit, sports drinks, cookies, and cups of little munchie things. It is one of the nicest places to ride a century in the state.

But early in the ride we began to see a problem. Clouds were on the horizon.

At about mile 40 it began to drizzle. By mile 50 it was a steady light rain. I call this "a steady light rain" in deference to the people of the Carolinas who are being inundated by torrential rains. Whatever term I use to describe the rain, we did get very wet. At one rest stop we bolted to the welcome shelter of the rest stop's tent. "It wasn't raining till you got here," said the volunteer ladies shaking their heads. And so it went. A mile and a half from our motel, and the end of our ride, we saw the first lightning.
We made it to our room. By the time we had stripped off our wet gear, tended to the bikes, showered, and dressed in street clothes, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking through.
What we looked like riding in the rain.

We couldn't help ourselves. We laughed.

Miles: 101

Saturday, October 3, 2015


We packed the car and the bikes and drove 4+ hours to Inverness, a town just northeast of Tampa. Small lakes are everywhere. Streets are lined with oaks draped in Spanish moss. Through the center of town, near the county courthouse, runs the Withlacoochee State Trail, Florida's oldest rail-to-trail, 46 miles of wide paved bike path.

We are here for a ride tomorrow which is sponsored by a Rails-to-Trails group. It is an annual ride we chanced upon years ago. We were fascinated by the interesting mix of people who attend. It is both a standard ride for people wanting to ride 62 or 100 miles and a big bicycle festival for casual riders of all ages. It routinely draws 800-900 people.

We wandered around town briefly, stopping at a local bike shop for some things and checking out a couple restaurants. We laughed at the town's demographics. Silver and gray hair predominate. The Villages, that vast retirement haven, is just 20 miles from here. The area is positively overrun by retirees. Most were just regular folks, but some were clearly living in a time gone by. We saw one guy who apparently hadn't changed his wardrobe or haircut since 1972!

We headed back to our motel. We doubted we were ready for the tingling excitement of Saturday night out on the town in Inverness.