I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving break spending some quality time with their family, friends and loved ones, not to mention getting a jump on your holiday shopping. I broke tradition a bit this year celebrating the long weekend feasting with my extended family out in Coral Springs followed by three days of cycling with my two wheeled family…I needed the full three days just to work off all I ate!
The weekends weather was crisp…ok it was down right cold for Florida with morning temperatures barley breaking 50 degrees (yeah, yeah, I know that 50’s this time of year is considered balmy for my Northern friends, but I guarantee your definition of cold would change if you were dressed in lycra while pedaling at 20 MPH into a stiff headwind). Luckily though, in typical Florida fashion, the sun would quickly bring the mercury up and warm the temps back up into the mid 70’s, resulting in picture perfect days tailor made for two wheeled fun.
Thursday: It all started with a long, cross state drive across Alligator Alley to Dr. Dave and Susie’s house for an extravagant feast with family and friends, followed by some good old fashioned tryptophan laced downtime while watching football on the big screen TV. The trip across the “alley” brought back very fond memories of my recent ride to Key West. Although I75 does get you across the Everglades quickly, it is nowhere near as spectacular as driving, or in my case, cycling across old 41. US 41 puts you right in the heart of the Glades, surrounding you with the the sights, sounds and smells of an incredible natural habitat filled with an unimaginable display of flora and fauna, something which is completely absent while barreling down the “alley”. If you ever find yourself in South Florida and have to jump between coasts, do yourself a favor and drive across old 41, you will never forget it.
The feast at Dr. Daves was only exceeded by the marvelous company of our extended family and friends, not to mention the hospitality of our hosts. We said grace, gave thanks and then ditched our diets gorging ourselves on all the savory delicacies…kudos to all the cooks…the meal was delicious! Although we were tempted to give in to the tryptophan and spend the night with our friends, I had a pressing two wheeled engagement the following morning to burn off the over abundance of calories I had consumed.
Friday: I was surprised to find so much traffic while driving back across the “alley” in the wee hours of the morning. It was actually welcomed as it kept me alert while fighting my post-gobbler digestive lethargy, while at the same time bewildering especially when I realized it was all Black Friday traffic. I have never been the one to fall prey to the post turkey mob mentality of standing in line and fighting off rabid consumers to get a remote chance of buying some outdated, overstocked item at a discount, particularly since you can always by the same item online the following week from the comfort of your home. My choice instead would be to cycle down the coast with my friends, which is exactly what we did.
Although a bit sleep deprived, and stil a little on the stuffed side, I layered up and met up with a bunch of my riding friends for a 50-some miler down the always opulent coast of Naples. Sure it was cold, but it beat the hell out of battling post prandial, sleep deprived, shopping zombies. Luckily our route avoided their paths of mindless consumerism.
Route: Naples Loop
Ride Time: 2:57:54
Stopped Time: 1:11:25
Distance: 48.75 miles
Average: 16.44 mph
Fastest Speed: 27.23 mph
Ascent: 2849 feet
Descent: 2849 feet
Saturday: Friday’s ride put a good dent into Thursdays caloric binge, but a few more miles were needed to put that lingering turkey to rest once and for all. An easy forty miler would definitely do the trick, problem was, try as we might, we just couldn’t get a group together. Many were still out of town, but I’m sure the cold weather had something to do with it. Sure it would be warm by rides end, but getting out of a comfortable warm bed to tackle the cold with only lycra as your protection is never easy, but being diehard followers of the Velominati rules, Gus and I just “hardened the f*ck up” and headed out anyways. We ran across our Tri friends while prepping our bikes at Sweetbay. You can always count on them to be crazy enough to ride no matter the weather.
We rode with them until our Coconut Point turn off. Hot tea, coffee and freshly baked goods were waiting for us, which in all reality was, as Gus said, “the reason we are riding today”. Hopefully while there we’d be able to pick up a few riders for the windy return, but as luck would have it, Panera was not the hotbed of cycling that it normally was, as only a handful of riders trickled through. Fortunately my old friend Señor J came riding up solo and quickly joined us. While enjoying our extended break…we were in no hurry today, we struck up a very delightful conversation with two little girls sitting at the adjacent table. They were both irresistibly charming, especially with cream cheese smeared on their faces.
We remounted our bikes rather apathetically and started our return ride home. Not that we didn’t want to continue our ride, we were just very comfortable, and having too much fun conversing with our two little friends. We made a rather unimpassioned attempt to pick up the pace back home, but quickly settled settled back to an easy spin. Like I mentioned before, we were not in any rush. As we approached our rides end, we saw Mike, one of our Tri friends, working on the running part of his workout brick. We cheered him on as we passed and then waited around for his return for some additional cheers. Major kudos to him as he is prepping for his first full Iron Man competition this January!
Ride Time: 2:44:25
Stopped Time: 2:09:41
Distance: 39.05 miles
Average: 14.25 mph
Fastest Speed: 26.70 mph
Ascent: 2412 feet
Descent: 2421 feet
Sunday: It was time to go long and head out to the islands today. I was particularly looking forward to the ride as it has been quite a while since I last headed out to Sanibel and Captiva. Unlike Saturday’s ride, we had a good group lined up for the 80 some mile ride along with two first-timers in Señor J and Young Pup (the old gang is back on two wheels). The weather was spectacular, although very chilly, even colder than the two previous rides, but it was going to warm up quickly.
We met up with Craig and Jeff along the way. Laurence, don’t call me Larry, was also gong to join us, but while answering a call from Craig to set up the rendezvous point, he fell off his bike and bruised his hip. Speedy recovery Lawrence, hopefully some day we’ll get a chance to ride.
The ride out was uneventful, but in a good way…little traffic and no mishaps are always a good thing. You could tell Señor J and Young Pup were a little antsy about the infamous causeway crossing, but today’s crossing was going to be very easy as none of the classic buffeting and swirling winds were present. Just crisp temperatures and a stunningly beautiful deep blue sky from horizon to horizon. The crossing brought back fond memories of pedaling across the seven miles bridge off Marathon…funny how my mind keeps going back to the Key West ride…perhaps it’s time to plan for another multi day/cross state ride.
Although we had planned a leisure tour type pace through the islands, we crept the speeds up (hey it wasn’t me this time) resulting in a big gap between us and the Young Pup. Adam wasn’t at 100% as hadn’t been riding regularly and had just come off a bit of food poisoning. I asked the group to slow it down to 18 MPH, but even at that pace he was still falling back. Now at Rabbit Road, I mentioned to him that he could basically break at any time and rejoin us when we returned from Captiva. He grudgingly agreed an we pushed on at a rather brisk pace to our mid ride stop at Starbucks.
While there fueling up on some warm drinks and pastries we were all surprised to see Adam ride up solo with a big grin on his face saying, “see I told you I’d make it”…good job Young Pup! Spirited conversations followed as well as a visit from the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen…as it turns out he was also the biggest baby I have ever seen as he actually was being towed around the island on a bike trailer by his owners! That pup has a nice life!
A quick photo op and we were back on our way, this time with a gentle little wind favoring us. No sooner had we left, another sizable gap opened up between us and Adam. Sure we might have been riding a little faster than expected….got to take advantage of the tail winds, but it was still a rather relaxed pace. Since there is literally only one road on and off Captiva, as well as a big chunk of Sanibel, we just pushed on, knowing he could not get lost.
As we approached Rabbit Road, Adam was no where to be found. Feeling a bit worried, I told the guys I’d wait and accompany him off the island while they pushed on. We normally don’t split our groups up, nor leave someone behind, but obviously we had to make an exception. After about 30 minutes or so Adam came cruising up on the bike path. He was fine, just a little tired, so we set our pace to a very leisure 15 MPH and made our way to the causeway. I had arranged for my wife to bring the car, aka, The SAG Wagon, and meet us on the other side of the causeway. That would save Adam additional 20 miles or so of riding. He protested a bit, but after a slow steady successful crossing of the bridges, the SAG Wagon became very appealing.
Now we can kid Young Pup about having to take the SAG Wagon back, but there is no shame, especially after completing 66 miles after a previous days bout with food poisoning. It is no easy feat to do an 85 mile ride without having ridden regularly. Sure he may have bit off a little more than he could chew, but it was still a successful island ride for all involved, even if he came back in air conditioned comfort.
Route: Island Route
Ride Time: 4:06:45
Stopped Time: 1:52:47
Distance: 66.54 miles
Average: 16.18 mph
Fastest Speed: 32.33 mph
Ascent: 2926 feet
Descent: 2931 feet
All in all it was a spectacular weekend filled with family, friends, amazing food, great company and 160 miles of two wheeled fun… definitely more than enough to work off that turkey. So, now with Thanksgiving behind us, we enter the heart of the event riding season. I’m being a bit more selective this year, choosing those that best support my favorite charities. Next week we’ll be busting century cherries again as we ride the Ave Maria Century, which, in turn, makes a great tuneup for the always fun Everyone Rides event the following weekend.
Until then, a Happy Christmahanukwanzakah to all!