My friend Tina invited me to a ride yesterday with a bunch of her running friends….yes that thing that does not require two wheels and beats the “HE-double toothpicks” out of your knees and ankles…on a long ride down the Naples coast, after their 5K running event at FGCU. She even went so far as invited me to the run…funny, as I don’t run unless something very big and scary is chasing me.
I arrived at FGCU just in time to see the start of the torture…er race and ran into Gus, who was sensibly not running and on paparazzi duty for the running team. Being a 5K event, the wait to start our ride would not be long, and sure enough the first runners were tripping the timers in a little over 15 minutes. Once they were all in, I watched the award presentations and genuinely got excited for those poor tortured souls. By the way, kudos are in order for Tina, Wisnick and Michael as they all received medals…Wisnick broke his PR by 11 seconds while Micheal broke his 5K cherry!
Our “more sensible” cycling plan was to ride down Three Oaks/Imperial/Livingston, to Vanderbilt, and then parallel the Naples coast down Gordon Drive till it ends, and loop back. The total mileage would be around 60 or so miles, basically a metric century down the coast of opulence. We were nine riders in all at the start of the ride. Three would be cutting it short at Bonita Beach Road, while the remaining six would go the distance.
We headed off a little after 8:00 AM and maintained a very comfortable 20-21 MPH pace. The day was spectacular with just a light breeze from the East. Having ridden to the University, I was warmed up and loose, so I took the lead for the first ten miles. Wisnick and a couple others shared the pulling duty to Bonita Beach Road where our group split up.
Traffic was extremely light, allowing us to really enjoy the ride as we continued down Livingston at our moderate pace. We reached the Vanderbilt turn off in short order, and then headed westward towards the coast. When riding on this stretch, there are two olfactory treats I always notice. The first is the pleasing aroma of smoldering hickory, cherry wood and mesquite from the wood fired ovens of the Agave Southwestern Grill followed shortly by the mouthwatering smells of fresh seafood from the Real Seafood Co. I’ve yet to set foot in either establishment, but if the foods they serve taste anything like the savory emanations coming from behind their walls, then diet be damned, I’m making reservations!
As we passed the Fit & Fuel Cafe, we made a quick call for a water/pee break. Everyone was fine so we pushed on and turned South into Pelican Bay to begin the coastal segment of the ride. Less than three miles in, Michael’s rear tire appeared to hit something…well actually more like launch something, as it came right at me. As it turns out, he threw a spoke on his rear rim, turning his wheel into a wobbly mess. We found the spoke lying in the street about a hundred feet back. Close examination revealed that it had sheared at the nipple making field repairs impossible. Luckily we were able to open his rear brakes just enough to allow us to backtrack to Naples Cyclery for a repair.
The long unexpected break (no pun intended) allowed us to grab a cold drink and a bite, as well as ogle all the new toys at the bike shop. Then news from the mechanics wasn’t as welcomed, as the wheel would have to go back to the manufacturer for repairs, but in the interim, they would provide a donor wheel for Michael to finish up his ride. Big props here to Naples Cyclery. This is why we all support our local bike shops, the added value they bring can never be duplicated by big box stores or online retailers.
Once repaired, we were back underway, meandering our way through Pelican Bay, the luxurious coastal high rises on Gulf Shore Boulevard and the quaint multi-million dollar cottages of the extremely affluent. I still go into major sightseeing mode when cycling through this part of Naples. The homes are indescribable, with architecture ranging from ultra modern to polynesian resort to gothic fortresses and everything in between, but it’s the scale which really impresses…and to think, many of these are just vacation homes!
We reached the end of Gordon Drive and backtracked a few miles for a rest stop. The temperature had quickly been creeping up, so hydration was going to be paramount yet again. With a coffee shop, sandwich shop and convenience store to choose from, we all flocked to the Seven Eleven for ice cold drinks. It’s hard to beat ice cold drinks and limitless ice when one hot and thirsty. Tina on the other hand, elected a brain freezing iced coffee from Bad Ass Coffee (I kid you not, that is the shop’s name) and some “crunchy salty things” (the not so proper British way to say chips) to satisfy her cravings while making some cleat adjustments to her new shoes.
Cooled down and rehydrated, we mounted up and continued our return ride up the coast. Tina unfortunately was beginning to feel the strain of the distance and heat. Remember she had started the day competing in a 5K run, and with an increasing oblique wind to fight, her ride was quickly turning into a chore. She correctly chose to end her ride prematurely as we passed the Fit & Fuel Cafe again. It would have made no sense for her to continue riding and risk injury, something many of us often forget to do. So we left her behind in good hands, surrounded by food and drink, to be rescued by Gus when we finished or ride.
One more hydration stop was in order before turning North on Livingston for the final leg back up to the University. We were about 60 miles in now, 71 for me since I rode into FGCU. By now, I was completely burnt out on Gatorade, (I normally dilute my Gatorade in half, but tend to just drink it straight when on long hot rides for maximum hydration effects) and switched to plain water. I wasn’t the only one as both Michael and Wisnick also switched to water, while Gus filled his bottle with a coke slurpee.
We hopped back on and started the final leg of the the trip. By now the guys were starting to feel the toll of the ride and run, so I tried to stay out front and let them ride my wheel as much as possible. Unfortunately, my CatEye batteries had given up around mile 60, so I was “riding blind”, often pulling away from the group. Although I can keep a pretty constant pace without electronics on a calm day, without a working cadence meter I always tend to increase my pace when battling a headwind. Luckily Gus kept me in check, letting out a loud whistle when I started to pull away.
With just a few miles left in the ride, the distant sky was becoming menacing. We caught just a few light drops of rain as we approached FGCU and pulled in with nearly 80 miles showing on everyones odometers…well except mine since my batteries were dead. It had been a long, but thoroughly enjoyable ride with wonderful company. The heat again played havoc with the ride, making me reevaluate start times for long rides. Perhaps a 5:00 AM start time is in order for anything approaching a century. Regardless though it was still a fun ride.
Kudos again to Michael for completing his first 5K run, and Wisnick for hitting a new PR on the run as well as a distance PR on his bike…I always enjoy being present on a cherry busting ride! A big pat on the back to Tina too for hanging on as long as she did under unfavorable/painful conditions…just blame it on too many crunchy salty things 😉
Route: Coastal Tour
Ride Time: 5:29:32
Stopped Time: 3:10:37
Distance: 90.05 miles
Average: 16.40 mph
Fastest Speed: 25.72 mph
Ascent: 1617 feet
Descent: 1593 feet