Monday, June 27, 2016

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things. (George Carlin)

This past week I found myself talking with friends about the pros and cons of different places to ride around the metro Miami area. I finally concluded that the difference between cycling in urban, suburban, and rural areas is essentially the contrast between routes and destinations.

The more urban the area, the more diverse the destinations you have to pick from for your rides. The more rural the area, the more numerous the pleasant routes you can pick among for rides.

Urban routes are a challenge. You have to know traffic patterns. There can be a lot of stop-and-go because of traffic lights, stop signs, and traffic circles. But urban rides have a wealth of parks, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, places of interest, and landmarks to serve as destinations and rest stops. And there are more structures and landscaping that block the wind and provide shade.

Rural routes have a different set of challenges. Shade is harder to come by, and wide open spaces mean little protection from the wind. While there are more long stretches of uninterrupted road and more low traffic roads, destinations are fewer and often have to be fabricated. A convenience store where you can get ice, water, and Gatorade. A fruit stand or grocery store if you are lucky. Any state or county recreational facility. You have to get pretty creative sometimes.

So what is our favorite Miami area ride? Well, if I made a list of my favorite urban bike rides in Miami, the ride to Hollywood from Coconut Grove would be near the top. We like going to the Hollywood Broadwalk beach. The ride is long enough (50 miles) to be satisfying. The route is pleasant: A handful of small bridges to cross. Beautiful highrise buildings. Glimpses of beaches. Glittering morning sun on the ocean. Mansions and small older buildings and homes. Strips of retail shops. Ocean front parks.

Traffic is light on Sunday mornings making it a perfect time for a ride by ourselves or with a small group of friends.  There are lots of groups out on the Hollywood route on Sunday, so you can count on seeing friends along the way.
Sometimes we go beyond Hollywood to John U. Lloyd State Park. You can take a break at a pavilion on the beach or go look at big cruise ships across the Stranahan River. Sometimes we just stop at a roadside picnic area on the Stranahan River outside the state park. Sometimes we go to one of the many Atlantic beach parks all along A1A. (Choices, choices...)

We ride all summer in Florida's heat and humidity. Urban, suburban, and rural areas all work for us. They each have their challenges and virtues. Wherever we ride in the summer, it is going to be hot and sweaty.

I can handle sweaty summer pedaling as long as I can look forward to an occasional ride to Hollywood, crossing from island to island along the way, shaded by the glittering highrise buildings, cooled by the ocean breeze, watching the morning sun on the ocean and intercoastal, and happily enjoying the best of bicycle.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adventure is just bad planning. (Roald Amundsen)

There is nothing like planning trips and vacations to light the imagination. You start batting around some ideas. You kick around logistics and such. We've been doing this enough to know you shouldn't believe the trip will happen according to plan. Trips never do.

Which is fortunate since that is how adventures happen. Trips are fun. Adventures are wonderful.

We are planning some trips for the summer and early fall. Our trips are never big ones. The destinations are not glamorous. Their interest comes from seeing them by bicycle, something that took us many years to understand. We took trips to ride our bicycles in places thousands of miles away only to realize we had just as much fun visiting places by bicycle that were much closer to home.

When you are on a bicycle, people talk to you. You may be a stranger, but you are an interesting stranger. All you really have to do is be very polite, be friendly, and listen as much as you talk. People love to talk about the place where they live. The novelty of meeting a bicycle tourist is fun for them. And you can learn all sorts of odd tidbits about the places you visit. Who needs a travel guide when you can talk to the local people?

So we research our destinations, make our hotel reservations, check out the GPS sites to see routes being used by cyclists, and sketch out our trip plans. It all looks so sweet and simple and flawless.

With luck the rides won't be that sweet, simple, and flawless. With luck we'll have some adventures.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When I eventually met Mr. Right I had no idea that his first name was Always. (Rita Rudner)

We are celebrating our anniversary this week.

We wanted to celebrate by doing something different. We finally decided on taking a trip without taking our bikes. That's something we haven't done in probably a couple of decades. And what better place to have this strange adventure than the Florida Keys. We've ridden our bikes up and down the Keys countless times. But a trip to the Keys without bikes? We haven't done that since the 70s!

Our travel bikes have never been selected for speed. Travel bikes need to be stable. They need to be able to carry the weight of luggage and gear. They need gearing to allow you to climb with a fully loaded bike. They need to be comfortable for day after day of long distance rides. They need to be rugged and easy to repair. We've had yellow Bike Fridays. We've used our trusty old Seven titanium mountain bikes. Travel bikes have a lot of the same qualities you look for in a spouse.
Very tame Key deer

This trip we have no bikes. Here we are on Big Pine Key, looking at the ocean out the window of our room, a room without bike gear or bikes, without bike clothes hanging to dry before tomorrow morning, without the faint sweet smell of bike lube lingering in the air. Instead a kayak sits beside our patio, paddles and gear propped nearby, with swimsuits, flippers, and snorkel gear filling spaces where bicycles usually are parked.

This trip will keep us off our bicycles for five days.

I'm happy, but I'm already missing that wonderful smell of bike lube!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes. (Jim Carrey)

Before we moved to Miami, we didn't know many couples who rode bicycles together. And all those couples were touring cyclists.That has changed. We ride with couples all the time in Miami.

Cycling is a very time-consuming sport. You can sit on the sidelines...or you can join the fun. Joining is much, much better.

It can be frustrating to be the slow-poke novice when your spouse is fit and speedy. If you want your spouse to take the time to ride with you, you have to commit to working your butt off.

I remember when Al and I first started riding together. He had a road bike. He found one for me. Problem one: I just couldn't learn to shift all those gears. I "solved" my problem by going to K-Mart and buying a cheap 5-speed. It had skinny-ish tires, hand brakes, big fenders, and a huge kickstand. It weighed a ton. But I could shift the gears. Al hung his head in dismay, but he sucked up his pride and rode (and rode and rode) with me. In time I got a better bike. (And another and another.)

At first I was slow, and I couldn't ride very far. He got me faster. He pushed me to ride farther (and farther and farther). The big family rule was no whining, no bitching, no bellyaching, no quitting. (I did, however, sometimes cheat and vent in some blog posts.)

I was lucky. Al knows me well. I can be bribed. Shiny new bikes. Nice bike clothes. Fun trips. Lots of good times together. At the end of long, hard rides, I was sore and exhausted. But I felt wonderful. And I really got hooked on that feeling wonderful part of cycling. Cycling keeps us both fit and healthy. It keeps us busy and involved. And it gives us a circle of cycling friends. Fun people who like being active.

We ride a lot. We see a lot of wonderful sunrises. We wander Miami's neighborhoods. We pedal barrier islands, causeways, bridges, and parkways. Best of all, we are riding together.

My recommendation if your spouse rides a bike: Don't let 'em pedal off without you!