Friday, February 26, 2016

We Saw The Monkey!!

We got updates on the latest sightings of wild monkeys from our new forestry service friends when we saw them each day at breakfast. Most sightings were in Eastpoint, the town just across the bay from Apalachicola. The monkeys were roaming the area near where we ride, just not at the time we've been there.

Today we were pedaling home through Eastpoint when suddenly Al whooped, "There one is! I saw a monkey!" The monkey had run across the road right in front of us. It is official: we saw the monkey! No picture, though. I wasn't fast enough.

We've had an interesting week of riding. The weather has been wild.

We started with warm, sunny days. We made good use of them for some fun rides.
Downtown Carrabelle.
The scenic coastal highway.

Then we had some fog.

Then it turned cold and windy! We bundled up and pedaled.

Even when it is cold, this is a beautiful area for biking.

But best of all, we saw the monkey!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Beware of Monkeys??

We talked to some state conservation guys at breakfast the other day. When they heard we were riding our bikes inland through the Tate’s Hell state forest and the adjacent wildlife conservation areas, they gave us some advice: “Watch out for bears and monkeys.”

OK. That got our attention. We lived for a lot of years in areas with bears. Bears we understand. But monkeys?

“Yeah, they showed up over by Eastpoint in December,” said the state guys. Our waitress was pouring us coffee.  “Yeah, and one of them is really mean,” she added before heading to another table.

We saw the state guys at breakfast the next day, too. We talked monkeys. They pulled out their phones and showed us pictures of the monkeys. Not cute little monkeys. These were big fellas with formidable teeth. They’d been seen in the nearby towns raiding fruit trees and bird feeders.

The story was that the monkeys had been on an island monkey sanctuary in the middle of a north Florida river. The idea was that monkeys don’t swim so they would stay put on the island. Apparently all the monkeys hadn’t been told that they couldn’t swim. So they jumped in the river and made their escape. Which gave us a new addition to Florida’s ever expanding list of exotic non-native wildlife. Like all the pythons in South Florida weren’t enough. Makes you wonder how far this thing could go.

We’ve seen a bunch of critters on our rides so far this week. Dolphins. Raccoons. Possums. The usual assortment of birds. A very friendly cat. All kinds of dogs (all friendly).

But no monkeys.

Always good to have something to look forward to.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Apalachicola (Twice is Nice)

Most of our travel plans are made through consensus. While sometimes we both agree, often one of us wants to go somewhere more than the other guy does.

But two trips a year are different. In September Al picks a destination, and in February I pick a destination. No arguments or discussion required. This year we had a travel first: we both picked the same place. Apalachicola, Florida.

Apalachicola is a small town with a population of only a few thousand. It is the county seat of Franklin County, one of the least populated counties in Florida. It's neighbors Gulf, Wakulla, and Liberty Counties are sparsely populated, too. Large portions of the region are protected natural areas.

In September we took our all-purpose slow bikes (mountain bikes with 1.5 inch street tires). That let us ride pretty much anywhere: highways, trails, pavement, gravel, hard-packed sand, mucky wet sand, you name it. But those bikes, being slow, kept ride distance to a maximum of 50-60 miles a day. (We like our bike rides to be wrapped up by lunchtime.)

This trip we have our road bikes. We're sticking to pavement and taking longer rides. The coastal highways. The highways leading inland. Visits to tiny towns with interesting names. Sumatra. Dalkeith. Sopchoppy.

Who could ask for anything more?

Monday, February 15, 2016

If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. (Jack Benny)

In a few days, we will once again be checking into a quaint "Old Florida" motel. But this trip there is a twist. This quaint motel has chosen to go without in-room WiFi. Talk about old school. Even Motel 6 has in-room WiFi.

This isn't a backwoods motel. The place has everything we want other than that. A perfect location on the river, in the center of town, surrounded by shops, great restaurants, and galleries. Rustic charm. Nicely furnished private balconies with fabulous river views. A noteworthy restaurant that, among other things, has the best oyster omelets in the state.

But no in-room WiFi.

Now they aren't total barbarians. If you'll drag your stuff down to their central sitting area, you can enjoy WiFi. Just not in your jammies in your room.

Friends have described this as the perfect opportunity to relax without the beeps and bells of notifications and all the other interruptions of the connected life. After all, one of the reasons I love this area is because the cell phone coverage is so inadequate. (The phone doesn't ring. No messages. Nada.)

Just miles and miles of quiet roads for long rides every day. Comfy chairs for reading on the balcony. Galleries to wander through. Dinners on the river. And those oyster omelets.

OK. In just two years in Miami I have grown soft. I'm taking a few days to edit my travel gear so I can survive without constant WiFi.

I'll just pretend it's 1995.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster. (Clint Eastwood)

A public school downtown.
Our Sunday group ride was cancelled just 5 minutes before we were to push our bikes out the door and take them to our car. We quickly checked what other rides were going out, realizing a short time later that a group ride was not going to happen for us this Sunday. The only one we could hook up with in time was taking a route we'd already done twice this week.

A new plan was needed: We decided on a Miami Tour de Neighborhoods.

Miami neighborhoods are fascinating. Miami, like most cities, is a patchwork of unique neighborhoods, each with its own cultural group, style of homes, stores, restaurants, colors, and panache. It makes Miami a fascinating place. (And it's why we can't imagine living anyplace else.)

A very interesting alley.
It was a cold (55 degrees) and overcast morning with a blustery wind from the northwest. We were bundled up in Miami cold weather cycling clothes (think upper Michigan in June). We pointed our bikes north and began pedaling.

We wheeled up Biscayne Boulevard, detoured down the parkway along the bay so that we could check out the big boats at Port Miami. We rolled around Bayfront Park, then headed a few blocks inland. We went through Wynwood, the Design District, Little Haiti, Little River, finally turning around in Miami Shores. We headed back south on Biscayne Boulevard to downtown, occasionally waving to groups of cyclists headed north. Then we headed inland again winding along the Miami River, finally crossing it, heading inland through Little Havana. We made a quick stop at the Versailles Restaurant/Bakery. Then we turned south and pedaled into and around Coral Gables.

We saved the best for last, a long, fast ride through the Miracle Mile and down Coral Way into Brickell and home. On Sunday we barely ever had to slide over into the bike lane. Traffic was light, and we just took the right hand lane. Wonderful.

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride.

Along the Miami River west of downtown.

Black bikes against a black and white mural.
Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street)
An always amusing piece of public art in Coral Gables.
Cafe con leche at one of our favorite local cafes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless. (Bill Watterson)

If you own a bicycle and enjoy riding it, on any weekend morning there is a good chance that you are out pedaling before most of your friends have considered getting out of bed.

You know all the good coffee places along your favorite bike routes. You are probably having coffee at one of them while your friends are still padding around at home in pajamas.

Or you have gone someplace in the middle of nowhere, spending money for a room in an ancient motel (the only one nearby), just to ride a route you heard about from someone...someone who also rides a bicycle.

This weekend we took an 80 mile ride on Saturday, stopping for coffee around the half-way point, then taking a route home we had not been on since last summer. Sunday we took a gravel ride out in the Everglades with Everglade Bicycle Club friends. It was a short 20-mile ride that rattled the bones, an entertaining change from riding on pavement.

We've gotten over the need to explain our bike ride addiction.

Our favorite question we get from people (even some bicycle people): Why are you doing that?

Answer: Why not?