Monday, November 30, 2015

A Sunday Ride To Cauley Square

Before we make plans for where we will ride on Sunday morning, we always check the Everglades Bicycle Club and the Everglades Bicycle Club Rides Facebook pages. The Sunday morning rides posted there aren't EBC sponsored rides; they are rides put together by EBC members and open to anyone who can ride the posted speed and distance in a paceline.

Recently we saw a post by Ruben Fuentes about a ride to Cauley Square. We did some checking and voted to go.

We were pedaling down the Underline (AKA the M-Path) on our way to the ride's start at Ponce Middle School, a short pedal south of
where we live. A classy vintage Mustang with the top down carrying a bike drove past, the driver waving to us as he went by. It was Ruben on his way to Ponce.

When we rolled up to Ponce a few minutes later, a fair size group was gathering. We wandered up and back through the group, chatting and greeting friends. In no time at all we were lined up and ready to go.

Ruben clipped in, followed by the click, click, clicks of the rest of the group, and we headed down the road.

Ruben has been working on the route to Cauley Square. This week he promised a route that would include both roads and (surprise!) bike paths. The first part of the ride was a combination of routes used by several groups over the years. Traffic was light. The weather was pitch perfect for cycling. The route took us down some roads lined with lush foliage and sheltered by a canopy of large, mature trees.

The group rode well together. The riders up front maintained a steady brisk pace. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Soon we were at our first quick stop at Larry and Penny Thompson Park. Then it was pedal, pedal, pedal, and on to one of Miami's lovely bike trails. I was surprised that we could maintain a brisk speed on the trail. The trail was wide, and there were very few people using the trail Sunday morning. There were ducks and a large group of ducklings(!), and the water of the creek by the trail was a shiny mirror reflecting the sky and clouds.

Back on roads, we wound our way through Redland to Cauley Square. As a relative newcomer to Miami, discovering Cauley Square was fun. It is a quaint collection of old wooden buildings that date back to the beginning of the last century when there was a stop and siding for the Florida East Coast Railroad there. The buildings that now form Cauley Square Historic Village have survived a tornado in 1919 and a hurricane in 1926. They now house restaurants, artisan shops, and some other interesting shops to wander into. We were headed for the Latin Corner, a small walk-up coffee and snack spot with garden-style tables and seating. There we mingled and sipped our coffee and munched our  snacks.

Before heading back, we needed to get a group photo. So we all gathered in front of the Latin Corner building for the photo. Then it was back on the road for the ride back to Ponce.

A picture perfect Sunday pedal. Many thanks to Ruben Fuentes and everyone who kept us moving along so well. Great ride!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Pedaling through Miami's lush and lovely residential neighborhoods puts us in a holiday mood. Mature trees provide canopy overhead. Homes, large and small, are nestled behind hedges, walls, and dense tropical foliage, giving them both beauty and privacy in a crowded urban locale. Holiday decorations add sparkle and personality.

And then there are the peacocks. Peacocks are non-native birds that have made themselves at home in Miami. We keep count of the number we see on rides. We saw 43 on just one ride this week.

They are big birds. They roost in trees, on walls, and on roofs. Usually they walk sedately. Occasionally one will fly across a road. They tend to fly low, and we have on occasion had a peacock come close to hitting us. Peacocks are among the most beautiful birds you can find, but beauty has its price. Peacocks are noisy, and some people complain about the mess they make. Luckily, the Code of Miami-Dade County (and therefore also the City of Miami) specifically protects peacocks.

And for that we are thankful.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bonus Day In Central Florida: The Search For A Good Cup of Coffee

Miami spoils coffee lovers. Every corner cafe, every bakery, even the tiniest of coffee shops has great coffee. Strong, rich, delicious. Traveling in other areas of Florida, finding coffee like this can be challenging.

After two days in Central Florida, we were in the grips of Good Coffee Deprivation Syndrome. Every cup of coffee we tried since arriving in Clermont had been less than adequate. Today we headed out on a recovery ride with one target in mind: a good cup of coffee! So we rolled the bikes through the motel lobby, out the front doors, and pedaled off. We took the Horrible Hundred route up the North Ridge climb and picked up the South Lake Trail. The trail system is perfect for a recovery ride. We took the South Lake Trail to the West Orange Trail and pedaled through Winter Garden. It was too early to stop for coffee at this point so we continued on the trail system until we had ridden half the day's planned miles. Then we turned around and pedaled back to Winter Garden and a coffee shop that had been recommended to us. Yes! A good cup of coffee at last! Refreshed, we pedaled back to the motel.

Miles: 51.
South Lake Trail near Clermont

South Lake Trail

West Orange Trail

Bridge on the West Orange Trail

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Horrible Hundred

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving each year we drive to Clermont in Central Florida for the Florida Freewheelers' Horrible Hundred. It is our favorite annual ride in Florida.

Normally we do rides like this by ourselves. Riding in a group is easier, but the views from a paceline are not as interesting as when you are riding by yourself. But this year a large group from the West Side Sunset Bandits team was going, and they were nice enough to extend an invitation to us to join them. The biggest part of their group was doing the hundred mile route which didn't interest us. But a small group was doing the 70 mile route, and we like that ride immensely.

We decided to follow our pattern from past years. Rather than face the mob scene of the Waterfront Park start and the fairly uninteresting warm up ride around the lake, we chose to ride our bikes from our motel and join the route after the pretty but ho-hum ride around the lake but before the first climb of the day up North Ridge. We'd stop at the top of the climb and wait for our group to ride by. Which they did, and we hopped on our bikes and pedaled on down the road.

There were six of us in our little group. One rider was only doing the 35 mile route, which meant he would ride with us for a bit over 25 miles. He was just beginning to develop his climbing skills, but his descending skills were amazing! He was a natural: fearless, a perfect tucked position, body fluidly shifting as he maneuvered down each hill to rejoin our group. We caught up with the larger hundred mile group and rode with them for a while. At the rest stop before our two groups would head in different directions, one of the guys from our small group felt confident enough to commit to the hundred mile group. So there were then four in our small group.

So on down the road the four of us pedaled. We had some minor climbs and then Sugarloaf ahead. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Finally it was up Sugarloaf, the well-earned rest stop at the top of the climb, and the short 10-ish miles to the finish. But it was in these final miles that we had our treat for the day. The route had been changed! Two mean climbs near the end had been replaced by a route that gave us a long awesome descent! Best end to a ride in the hills of Central Florida ever.

We left our friends not far from the finish to head back to our motel. As we pedaled towards the motel, we made our plans for the evening. The evening's plans whispered louder than our plans for doing a few more miles. We laughed and headed back to our room for a shower.

Miles: 66.8. Climbing: 2637 feet.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter. (James A. Garfield)

It was an entertaining week.

We pedaled with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We pedaled in pacelines and by ourselves. We pedaled city streets, suburban streets, and rural roads. We pedaled in places where we could hear birdsong and breaking waves. We pedaled in traffic, where the loud traffic noise drowned all other sounds. We pedaled in the dark, in the first light of day, and in bright midday sun.

No two days were alike.

Each day was a different mood, a different ambiance. It strengthened our belief that our enjoyment of cycling is based on the contrast between different rides. The rush of a high intensity fast ride is more interesting when you also do short, quiet rides for coffee or errands. A social group ride on one day contrasts vividly with the focused energy of a long solitary ride on another day.

Art, design, music, and life all rely on repetition and variation. Repetition creates unity and order. Variation creates interest and meaning. We have routines that get us out on our bicycles. The routines build a sense of order, unifying the flow of time, and organizing the parade of days. The different types of rides and the different places we go keep cycling interesting and a vital part of the pattern of our lives.

Man cannot live by bread alone...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Marathon, Day 2 (Is This A Catchy Post Title Or What?)

Today we wandered the back streets of Marathon before heading north past Duck Key and the Hawks Cay Resort and continuing on into Layton. That was all into the wind. Then we turned around and (wheeeeee!) pedaled back home with a tailwind. Today's ride was all about checking out the improvements to the Overseas Highway bike trail here in the Keys.

Riding your bike through the Middle and Lower Keys is fun and beautiful, but traffic on the Overseas Highway is constant and noisy. Being able to move to a bike path just 20 feet or so from the highway may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in noise and road debris. The downside of riding on a bike path is that other bikes are also on the path, some of which may be whizzing along at speeds up to (gasp!) 10 mph!

Today we enjoyed some long, long bridges built just for pedestrians and bikes.

This trip was a spur of the moment thing. We talked about it late on Friday, and we had it put together in an hour or two. We have an easy recipe for trips like this:

  • The destination is any place within 2 hours from home by car.
  • We keep things simple, easy, and inexpensive.
  • Lodging is ideally a two-star hotel or motel with high customer ratings and something that makes it a little different from the others around.
  • It has to be an efficiency because we'll be hitting the local grocery store each day for meals.
  • It has to have good Internet.

 For this trip we booked into an older motel located on an old marina-style lagoon just south of the airport in Marathon. It has simple but spacious efficiency units with large screened patios. The bed isn't a memory foam wonder, but it is comfortable. The appliances all work, and there are adequate pots and pans, dishes, glasses and cups, kitchen tools, and silverware. It is decorated in mismatched vintage pieces from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, all painted white or cream. Towels are scratchy but adequate. Internet service is solid.

What's the "something different" that makes this place interesting? Well, I mentioned the big screen patio that each efficiency has. And you know the breakfast coffee room in most hotels and motels? Well this is the "coffee room" at this place:
Not bad, eh?
(Today's miles: 50.8)

Monday, November 2, 2015


The Old Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge
My first visit to the Keys was when I was just 4 1/2 years old. My family was crossing the country with my father's job, living on military bases or in our family's tiny house trailer. When we got to South Florida, my mother took one look at base housing and drove the trailer to Marathon. Dad, she said, could commute to work. She and her children were living on the water's edge in Marathon. So I spent part of a glorious year exploring shallow aqua waters, discovering sea urchins, conchs, sea cucumbers, and a wondrous multitude of tiny tropical fish.

Marathon is just a 110 miles to the south of our current home in Miami, the perfect distance for a spur of the moment trip. Which is what we decided we needed a couple days ago. So here we are in Marathon.

Today we rode our bikes south, crossing the 7-Mile Bridge. We rode through Bahia Honda State Park, our favorite state park in all of Florida. Pedaling back to the East Coast Greenways bike path, we continued south to Big Pine Key. We criss-crossed the back roads of Big Pine Key, stopping at a grocery store for cold sodas. We rode over to No Name Key, headed back to Big Pine Key, then turned back toward Marathon, taking a detour down Long Beach Drive, a lovely ride which gave us our one and only sighting of a tiny Key deer.

The first half of the ride we had the tail wind so common this time of year when you are heading south. It was glorious. We flew down the road. The second half? Headwind, of course. We were dripping with sweat when we got back to our motel.

Needless to say, the post ride swim in the motel's pool was awesome.
(Today's miles: 63)
Bahia Honda State Park