Saturday, December 26, 2015

Buy the ticket, take the ride. (Hunter S. Thompson)

Goals: We never set any. Bucket lists: We never have any. We just do the stuff we like doing. Things are either (1) scheduled on our calendar or (2) ignored and forgotten.

Which is problematic at the end of the year when an Annual Report is traditional and friends ask, "What have you been doing?"

OK. Here's a summary of 2015.

So we're settled into our new home and life in Miami. After many years of rural living, we are thoroughly enjoying all the things there are to do in Miami. We are still avid film buffs, and we watched hundreds of films during the year. We've read a lot of Scandinavian mysteries and crime fiction. We traveled, mostly to small towns and backroad areas of Florida and the Southeast. And we rode our bicycles a lot.

Over the past two years, we've found our cycling sweet spot. Long bike rides four mornings a week, riding around 250 miles a week. We vary the rides. Some fast. Some slow. Some with groups. Some by ourselves. We like doing metric centuries (100 kilometers = 62 miles).

We take our bikes wherever we go. And we do our metric centuries wherever we go. All the biking keeps us feeling great and sleeping like babies. Time zips along. We're rarely bored.

I rode over 10,000 bicycle miles in 2015. Al rode over a 1000 miles more than me, since I was sidelined for a month and a half with a broken collarbone. One good thing about riding like this: We don't have to train for anything. We're always ready to ride any event, or place, that interests us. (Despite the fact that I love long bike rides, I loathe training.)

Not everyone can ride this much, even if they want to. But we're retired. We get to do the stuff we enjoy, unencumbered by obligations to family, a job, or a business. For us, cycling keeps life interesting. In fact, many of our friends in Miami are people we met through cycling.

Buy the ticket. Take the ride. See what happens.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays To You

Have a very Happy Holiday season.
May they bring you many reasons to smile!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Follow The Leader

Al and I wanted to do some volunteer work this year. So we looked around. Everglades Bicycle Club posted that they needed volunteer ride leaders. Apparently they were pretty desperate: They accepted us into their program.

Two Saturdays a month Al and I are ride leaders for the 16-18 ride group. I must admit, I love riding with them. The group has a solid core of regulars. These guys don't just turn up. They own their group. They know what they want from their Saturday ride. They know what they want from their ride leaders. They expect group members to ride considerately and safely. And they aren't shy about voicing their opinions.

And they're fun.

These guys want a safe, smooth, no drama ride. They expect the ride leader(s) to make easy starts, keep a smooth steady pace at the designated speed, keep the group together, and navigate the route safely. After a ride or two with them, we made some suggestions. Ride in pairs. No wheel overlap with the pair of riders in front of you. Close gaps. Echo the sweep's "all in" call forward so the leaders know when they can return to speed after turns and lights. It's a work in progress for them and us. We're working on how to do our part better.

For my non-bikey family and friends and for my bikey friends who don't do paceline group rides, let me ramble for a moment about what you do as ride leaders. You see, it turns out being a decent ride leader is more than just being strong or fit. It is a skill set you have to work on.

There are usually two ride leaders with a group.

One ride leader is up front. That leader has to know the route and navigate everyone smoothly along the route. It is a lot like driving a big RV with a car in tow. You have to remember how long that rig is when you go through an intersection. You really can't stop it on a dime either. Pacelines work only when the whole group is disciplined and consistent. Any sudden changes in speed or direction are an invitation for an accident. When you are at the front you have to rely on your group communicating with you. It isn't just the ride leader that makes the group move along smoothly. The group needs to communicate with their ride leaders. Now it is group ride etiquette to call out road hazards. ("Hole!" "Car right!" etc.)  They also need to call out when someone has mechanical problems or if there is a split in the group.

The other ride leader is at the very back of the paceline and is called the sweeper. The sweeper passes information forward, which is echoed by the riders up to the front. ("All in!" "Mechanical!" "Car passing!" "Slow down!" etc.) The sweep also assists any riders that encounter problems like becoming fatigued or beginning to separate from the group. The sweep assesses traffic, watching behind and signaling and negotiating with drivers as needed. 

As I said, it's a work in progress. But each ride goes a little smoother than the last.

Our Saturday EBC rides have definitely gotten more fun and more interesting.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

2015 Escape to the Keys: We Did It Our Way

Friday was the first day of the 2015 Escape to the Keys ride. There was a ginormous rain system over South Florida. It was raining torrentially. Flood alerts had been issued. About 250 cyclists were set to ride from Homestead to Hawks Cay Resort in the Middle Keys, day one of a two day ride to Key West.

The weather gods were being cruel.

Al and I planned to ride unless an ark was moored next to the luggage truck at the ride's start in Homestead. But weather radar made us reconsider this rash approach to an 80 mile pedal. We packed the bikes on the car, threw our duffel into the backseat, and drove to Hawks Cay. We'd do a bike ride from Hawks Cay Resort if the weather permitted. (It didn't.)

Instead of riding our bikes, we did stuff we could do without getting too wet. We checked out the resort. We watched the resort's dolphins. We had a lunch at the buffet set up for Escape to Key West riders. (There were libations. There was music.) We met some new people. We chatted with some people we knew from Miami. We watched some riders arrive at the resort on bicycles. (They were tired and soaked but looking pretty happy with themselves.) Finally, we left the resort and headed into Marathon. A little shopping. Some munching. Then back to the resort for an early evening coffee. It was around that time that we simultaneously realized something: the spirit to ride to Key West had deserted us.

The Keys are a special, magical place for us, and riding our bikes in the Keys is usually wonderful. But the mood had left us, and we needed to make a decision. Ride for the sake of riding. Or do something else.

We talked it over. In an hour we had a plan. When we go to Key West we are normally riding our bikes. That means we don't have much of a chance to do real tourist stuff like walking Duval Street, browsing in stores, or hanging out in cafes. Why not do that? After all, we had pleasant lodging paid for and waiting for us in Key West.

Saturday actually turned out to be a nice day for cycling. The Escape to the Keys riders headed to Key West on their bicycles. We, on the other hand, packed our bikes on our car and drove past them and on into Key West. Once in Key West, we walked the town. We were sipping espresso at a bakery/cafe on Duval when the Escape to the Keys riders pedaled past on their way to the end of ride party. Later we waved to a group of riders (the West Side Sunset Bandits) who were pedaling towards the Southernmost Point as we were perusing souvenirs. We even bumped into Ruben Fuentes and Greg Neville on our walk back to our motel.

We'd spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon being a couple of regular tourists. It was brilliant.