Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Everglades Bicycle Club Sebring Weekend Getaway (Renewed and Improved)

The Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) has been doing a Sebring Weekend Getaway for a lot of years. Three days of riding in beautiful Highlands County. Until this year it was based at Sebring's Kenilworth Lodge, a historic hotel that dated back to 1916. This past year the old place shuttered its doors and windows, ending a hundred years of continuous service.

The creaky historic lodge had sentimental memories for EBC, but its closing was an opportunity to upgrade. Event director Greg Neville was up to the task. He searched Sebring and chose the Inn on the Lakes, a modern hotel designed to mimic the elegant luxury of the hotels found in Sebring back in the 1920s. And that is how this past weekend, EBC found itself rubbing shoulders with a Porche club and a lot of golfers.

The lake view from the restaurant and pool is gorgeous, complete with a nearby colony of egrets. Al and I and some EBC friends sipped our breakfast coffee watching a little blue heron slowly walk past us on the shoreline while snowy white egrets came and went from their colony and an anhinga caught its breakfast near the shore of the lake. The nearby pool deck is dotted with tables, comfortable furniture, and a beautiful assortment of potted flowering plants and trees. Friday's wine and cheese social was held indoors in a large conference room. Saturday's barbecue dinner? Out on that gorgeous pool deck. This was a mini resort weekend with bicycles! (Thank you Greg Neville and all your helpers!)

The routes and SAG support provided by the Highlands Pedalers is a big reason EBC enjoys Sebring and Highlands County. They give us routes so that we can enjoy the gently rolling hills, the glittering lakes, the Spanish moss draped oaks, the pastures of cattle and horses, and the miles of citrus groves. And this year there was another treat. Legacy Bicycles, our favorite Sebring bicycle shop, had moved to a new location near the center of town. They surprised us by having a special sale while we were in town. And I ask you people: what cyclist can resist visiting a bike shop to do some sale shopping?

We had a great time. We will definitely be at the 2018 Sebring Weekend Getaway.
Beautiful rural Highlands County.
You don't find roads like this in Miami...
Gently rolling hills and trees draped in Spanish moss.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. (Gregg Easterbrook)

A bit of fun started when I decided to tidy up some old bicycle records. Old files. Pre-GPS era files. Pre-ubiquitous-cell-phone era files. Luckily, they were all post-home computer era files. So they were tidy little spreadsheets instead of scrolls of parchment or clay tablets.

The truth is, your cycling data can make delightful memories. Especially if you know what to keep and what to throw away. You don't want to keep just the stuff that makes you look good. We've been on gruesome rides where I was totally happy with a single-digit average speed.  And my favorite tale for years was the 5-mile "shortcut" that was supposed to save us over an hour but ended up costing us a whole lot more than that. Then there are the rides of (ahem) unusual length thanks to wrong turns and mis-read or absent signs or cues. Or the rides to outrun approaching weather. You can get some pretty amazing data doing that, particularly if there's a favorable tailwind.

Old, well-curated statistics can be better than old photographs for cyclists. Remember: you never know when you may need a good laugh or two.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Many are called but few get up. (Oliver Herford)

Four days a week we start the day with a long bike ride. Some days I just want to stay in bed and sleep. Those are the days when coffee doesn't begin to wake me up and the first miles of the ride are painful and ugly. My eyes feel heavy, my legs wooden.

Then the magic happens, just like always. Some people call it "the zone"; I call it "flow". Suddenly my speed increases slightly as my pedaling smooths out. My shoulders relax. My muscles feel better, looser and stronger. The day seems brighter, the route more interesting.

That is what happens when you slip into the flow of the ride.

The hardest lesson I had to learn when we began riding was that some days you really, really, really don't want to get out there and ride. You want to sleep in. Or go shopping. Or grab a coffee with a friend. I had to learn to trust that the day will be better if I start it with a bike ride. No matter how you feel when the alarm goes off, the flow comes if you just get out there and ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Palatka Bicycle Weekend

A lot of cycling events take place in the area around Palatka, Florida. We wanted to know why. So we decided to go to one and see why the area was so popular. Al picked the Palatka Bicycle Weekend.

It was a very good choice. The event sponsored by Putnam Blueways and Trails. It is an annual event with a variety of ride lengths. The routes we rode (two metrics) were excellent. The roads were quiet. The scenery excellent. The SAG stops well handled. The routes were well marked. The GPS guidance was good. Most important, this was one of those delightful events where pacelines were few and groups of 2 and 3 riders were the norm.

The routes make use of the fine trail system in Putnam County to move riders into the quiet of the rural countryside. Most of the route is coastal flat. On the second day a portion of the route was through some lovely rolling hills. Nothing to scare flatlanders, just enough climbing to put a bit of fun into the ride.

Palatka is a small city on the west bank of the St. Johns River. The ride headquarters were at the new visitors center which is right on the river at the head of a lovely riverfront park. It is just a bit over a half-hour drive from St. Augustine, but there is pleasant lodging right in Palatka. (We stayed at the new Hampton Inn right next to the ride headquarters.)

Will we do this event again? Yes, we certainly will. This is a two thumbs up event.
Riding through the farming section of the county.

The portion of the route along the St. Johns River was delightful.
One of the tiny old towns were rode through.

A typical quiet rural road from our Sunday route.