Thursday, December 27, 2018

The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all. (Harry S Truman)

This past week I spent time organizing my 2018 digital albums and journals. My notes, plans, thoughts, and memories are totally digital these days. While storage space is virtually unlimited, clutter just keeps me from appreciating the good stuff I chose to keep to remember 2018.

As I diligently worked at deleting the junk and trivia, I saw a pattern emerge in the files and photos that remained. During 2018 I had begun doing solitary rides. Riding alone but not being in the least bit lonely. This was something new.

Of course there were still lots of rides with Al and friends.  There are benefits to riding with a group. A group is more easily seen on the road than a single rider, and riding in a group allows you to benefit from drafting, letting you ride farther and faster with less effort. But it requires more disciplined focus. Riding in a group means learning to focus fully on the bikes and riders around you, riding predictably and following group ride rules and etiquette.

But in 2018 I learned the benefits of riding on my own. I get to go where I want and stop when and where I want. I was surprised to find it makes me much more aware of traffic. My eyes are always scanning back and forth across the road ahead of me. I'm hypersensitive to movements around me, as dogs, pedestrians, and crazy squirrels and peacocks have been known to appear quite suddenly. I do have one small confession: I have no shame about using my sweetest, sunniest, septuagenarian smile, or doing my best abuelita performance, if I think it might give me an edge with drivers when I'm trying to get through a sticky piece of traffic.

Success at taking long rides alone has built my confidence and has, to my surprise, made me a happier person.

Not a bad thing to learn at any age.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

You must enjoy the journey because whether or not you get there, you must have fun on the way. (Kalpana Chawla)

I took a solo century ride this week. I did it in Miami, and I did it like I was on a trip. Travel style. The idea was to enjoy the scenery and people and not to worry about how fast I was riding or how long it took me to finish the route.

I started out from home, heading to Everglades National Park (ENP) following a route that took me through beautifully landscaped residential neighborhoods, with stops at places with lovely water views of Biscayne Bay, and through the Redland Agricultural District with its miles of exotic trees, fields of tomatoes and beans, and nurseries of tropical landscape shrubs.

My meandering route made the entrance to ENP exactly 50 miles from my home. After a stop at the visitor center, I headed back on the same route I had taken to ENP, enjoying the curious fact that things look different (and that you notice different things) when you are heading in the opposite direction on a ride.

Talking with strangers is an under appreciated amusement of travel. I chatted with a man carrying an unbelievable number of grocery bags on his bike. ("I've got company coming, and I didn't want to make two trips to the grocery store," he explained with a shrug and a shy smile.) I talked with and took pictures of tourists at Everglades National Park and Robert Is Here. I met a couple from Milwaukee, and we talked about Wisconsin.

A solo century like this one is easy. You spend a day seeing your own city as a tourist might. And it is an adventure that even a timid traveler can accomplish. Yes, things can happen. Bikes break down; weather gets weird. But a ride like this is local, and home is just a call away, whether that call is to Uber or a friend.

All I can say is, the best holiday presents are often the ones you give yourself. And this year I gave myself a solo century ride, travel style, and it was great fun.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you're not lost, you're not much of an explorer. (John Perry Barlow)

GPS and navigation programs have made getting around a lot easier for people like me who are (ahem) navigationally challenged. I use my bike's Garmin Edge for navigation, but when I'm riding around a town or city, I find the map app on my phone infinitely more helpful. Why? Because it talks to me. "In 1000 feet, turn right onto 22nd Street." And if I wander off my course, it politely nags me back onto my route. "Make a u-turn, then turn right on 11th Street." Way, way better than the "beep" the Garmin makes as I approach a turn. So it's not unusual for me to use both the Garmin and the phone app on a city ride.

I've been exploring Miami on my bike. Now Miami and the close in communities like the Gables, the Grove, Midtown and Miami Beach are pretty easy. But as you go farther afield into the suburbs, things get more challenging.

Take my most recent ride from my home in Brickell to the wilds of West Kendall and back. Kendall and West Kendall are the true suburban wilderness for a downtown dweller like me. Looping side streets, cul-de-sacs galore, elevated freeways with few crossing points, major roads without bike lanes, strip malls randomly scattered about, and other car-centric/bicycle-unfriendly features. I did about a 50 mile ride, at least half of it doing loops on roads while the little navigation voice in my right ear was nagging me to do this and to do that so I'd get back to my designated route. All to avoid route segments I felt were too dangerous for me to ride. (And I am not an overly timid rider.) It was totally insane.

But I had a great time, and I plan to do this a lot more.