After last Thursday ride, Tara mentioned that a change of riding scenery would be welcomed, so I suggested that we all head out to Sanibel and Captiva for a nice barrier island tour. With a soupy weather picture in the Gulf, we gambled on a Saturday ride, good thing too as that low pressure system turned into a messy tropical storm later in the day.
Five of us showed up at the Publix for the rides start, which included Angela, Tara, Gus, Michael and myself. Other riders had showed interest in coming out, but the gray ominous morning and super busy radar picture probably kept them at home. We rechecked our weather apps while prepping our bikes, guessing that there would be just enough time to squeeze in 70 miles before the rains hit us. What we didn’t figure on was the strong headwinds on the return ride, but like I always say, it just makes you stronger.
We headed out of the Publix lot sticking to the roads instead of the paths. A very welcomed change in my book as I find the road safer and faster than the paths, even without a dedicated bike lane. Our pace was quick as the strong tailwind easily let us keep speeds above 22 MPH. At this pace we’d be at the causeway bridges in no time, but sure enough, at just 6 miles in, I hit something with my rear tire causing it to blow out in spectacular fashion.
Gus took full advantage of the situation to break out his phone and snap a few pics of my, as he called it, “flat of shame”…good thing it wasn’t a flop. Speaking of taking advantage of the break, rumor has it that Tara had a little besoin naturel by a lampost while I was repairing the flat. Heck, with my slow tire repairs, everyone could have taken one!
Once repaired, we headed off at a torrid pace, maintaining speeds over 25 MPH (my fault as I was venting frustration from the flat tire), eventually settling into a friendlier 22-23 MPH pace as we approached the “Mighty mount Causeway bridge. The tailwind made for a very easy ascent of the bridge as well as a ridiculously fast descent. I actually got on the brakes as I approached the 40 MPH mark as some wind buffeting was making the handling a little tricky, but by this point it was safe to do so as our tight pace line had broken up as everyone attacked the bridges at their own pace.
We regrouped on the Sanibel side and started our loop up East Gulf Drive. Light traffic and that favorable tailwind let us keep a quick 21-22 MPH pace all the way to Rabbit Road. We actually picked up the pace to 23+ MPH when we turned West towards Captiva. Angela jokingly mentioned to me that I was pulling too slowly since everyone in the pace line was still easily conversing. Tailwinds rock! In fact we actually felt as though we had to check our speed a bit in Captiva as a police car drove pass us.
We reached our rides midpoint at Chadwicks Square for a refreshment break at Starbucks. The day, although menacing was actually turning out to be spectacular. Sure it was overcast, but that meant it was cooler, and lets not forget that strong tailwind. We knew that we’d be in for a tougher ride back, perhaps some of it in the rain. Regardless though, we took our time enjoying our break as we refueled on powerbars and drinks. Heck we even took time to FaceTime with Tina (she had chosen not to ride since her knees were a bit sore).
Conversation during the break was colorful as always. For some reason we got on the subject of poop, particularly Chrissy Wellington’s expertise in it. We all pretty much unanimously drew the line when it came to doing number two during a competition or ride, but that still did not stop our in depth discussion of the matter…good thing the vacationing family seated next to spoke another language .
Refueled and pooped out, at least conversationally, we began our ride back. As expected, the wind was going to be a bit of a handful. By now it was blowing against us at 15 MPH with gusts above 20 MPH. The return ride was definitely going to be slower…so much for the 21+ MPH average we were maintaining. To complicate matters more, we had a bunch of slightly hobbled riders. Gus was nursing a bad foot which had just been injected the day before, Tara was still recuperating her knees, and Angela had a sore hip from her vacation up North (although it was hard to tell from her 23+ MPH pulls). So we adjusted our speed to a more relaxed 18-19 MPH pace.
By about 50 miles in, Gus was really starting to feel some discomfort in his foot necessitating a stop at a convenience store for some analgesics. It was limiting his speed as he had to feather his pedaling, but being the strong competitor that he is, he continued to push on instead of calling in the SAG wagon.
The weather was starting to deteriorate quickly as we approached the causeway bridges as a light rain started falling. Not enough to drench you, but definitely enough to make things slippery, especially with the strong buffeting winds. We therefore decided to kick it down substantially on the crossing crawling up the main bridge at a whopping 7 MPH and sticking to the bike paths instead of the road once back on the mainland.
We eventually made it back to our starting point, wet, hungry and happy we beat the really bad weather in. The return might have been a little harder than expected, but regardless, it was still a fun ride! Nino’s, a local Italian restaurant that’s been around for over 20 years, was opened, so we headed over for a post ride meal. Tina, Maggie and my son drove out to join us for some delicious calzones and pizza as we recounted the day’s heroics on our barrier island tour.
By the way, that stormy weather turned into a full blown tropical storm named Debby which has been dumping some serious rain on us since we left Nino’s yesterday. The cycling outlook doesn’t look too favorable for the next few days, hopefully everything will be back to normal by the end of the week…such is life in Florida during hurricane season.
Route: Barrier Islands
Ride Time: 4:30:48
Stopped Time: 1:44:05
Distance: 73.92 miles
Average: 16.38 mph
Fastest Speed: 36.60 mph
Ascent: 716 feet
Descent: 686 feet