Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright’ning me.

The operatic movement of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody pretty much sums up yesterday’s 60-some odd miler down the coast, as a fast moving boomer left us wet, sloppy and scrambling for cover.

It all started innocent enough as I headed out from my home at 6:00 AM in total darkness to meet up with he guys over at the Publix on Six Mile Cypress and Daniels. Not having a headlight, I broke out my full compliment of blinky lights and stuck to the riding paths off the street.

Riding under the moon and stars

It was somewhat surreal pedaling down the paths with only the moon and the occasional passing car to light my way. Surprisingly your eyesight adjusts quickly to the low lighting allowing you to see quite well…not that I would ever recommend riding without lights in the dark, but I have to admit it was rather pleasant, particularly the still and quiet associated with the morning.

The darkness had ceded to the rising sun as I reached the Publix and awaited the arrival of my fellow cyclists. Gus, Mel, Sammy and Manuel eventually trickled. A few more friends were going to meet us on the route which was going to take us over the Matanza Pass bridge, down Estero Island, past Lovers Key and Bonita Beach and then loop back up via Imperial, Three Oaks and Tree Line. All told, a little over 60 miles.

Cresting the bridge

The weather was exceptional as we headed out, with temperatures in the low 80’s and a nice cloud cover to shade us from the punishing August sun. There was some wind, but nothing out of the ordinary, just enough to make pulls interesting. We met up with two other riders as we passed Lakes Regional Park and continued down Summerlin for the last rendezvous at the Pine Ridge Road intersection. Once there, we waited, and waited, and waited some more. After perhaps 30 min, Laurence, “don’t call me Larry” showed up allowing us to get back underway.

We remained at a 20-21 MPH pace to the Matanzas Pass bridge, crossing over to Estero Island and Fort Myers Beach. Once regrouped, this bridge is not nearly as long as the Causeway Bridge of Sanibel, we set the pace at 21 MPH with everyone taking turns up front pulling down the Gulf shoreline. Curiously Laurence did one pull and then completely disappeared. It was very poor etiquette on his part as he held up the group for 30 minutes waiting on his arrival and then bolted off without ever saying a word…not cool. Regardless though, we pushed on enjoying the ride and each others company. In fact we were enjoying the ride so much that we failed to realize that some rather nasty weather was forming around us.

The cafe was packed with riders waiting out the storm.

As we made our way to the only planned stop at Panera Bread at Coconut Point, two huge bolts of lightning crackled low in the sky right before us. For those who have not had the pleasure of witnessing/being stuck in a classic Florida electrical storm, the clouds sit outrageously low…think near tree tops…and the lightning is so intense that you can not only feel it as it makes all the hairs on your body stand, but also hear it crackle before the booming thunder noise. Not a good thing when all you are wearing is a super thin layer of lycra, so needless to say we quickly changed directions hoping to avoid the oncoming storm.

As we rerouted, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and checked the radar. Sure enough there was a big blob of red nastiness bearing down on us from the West as well as another big blob right in front of us. We had to find cover quickly as being outside in Florida electrical storm is extremely dangerous, especially when on a bike…we make very good lightning rods. Florida is the lightening capital of the world, none of us wanted to become yet another lightning statistic.

Plowing through the rain

We ducked into a Tropical Smoothie Cafe just as it started to pour…not Biblical per say, but definitely Cat and Dog-ish. While there, we enjoyed some rather good smoothies as well as some trash talk with other cyclists who were also seeking shelter. After about 30 minutes the rain intensity diminished somewhat. Another check of the radar showed a small window we could take advantage of between the big red blobs. Sure we’d get wet, but there would be no boomers, so we embraced rules #9 (If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period) and #5 (Harden The Fuck Up) of the Velominati Rules and headed out into the rain.

We were completely soaked through in less than a minute. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the rain felt ridiculously cold. It took a bit to acclimate, but after a mile or so we were warmed up enough to take the sting out of the rain. Our return pace was a cautious 17-18 MPH as we snaked our way back to our starting point avoiding puddles, white stripes (which turn ridiculously slippery in the rain) and each others rooster tails.

When we reached Daniels, I opted to ride straight home versus returning to Publix, even with Gus’ offer to drive me home. I’d probably reach my home at about the same time they’d reach the Publix, and frankly, Tree Line is a safer bet under adverse conditions than Daniels, so I parted ways with the group. I eventually made it home completely soaked and covered with road grit, but I still had a big smile on my face.

Still smiling…even with all the grit in my teeth

A thorough bike and kit cleaning later, not to mention my grimy body, I took my family out to celebrate my wife’s birthday at Inca’s Kitchen, a delicious Peruvian restaurant very well hidden near Golden Gate followed by some relaxed digestion while watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. By the way, kudos to the Brits, damn good show!

Route: Coastal Loop
Ride Time: 3:33:52
Stopped Time: 1:37:52
Distance: 65.13 miles
Average: 18.27 mph
Fastest Speed: 48.57 mph
Ascent: 79 feet
Descent: 77 feet
Calories: 2973

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