I enjoyed this ride so much last year I wanted to do it again. And this time I invited, Margaret, one of our Roosters Racing, Inc. team to come and join me as well.
In the Everglades, we headed off on the tram trail. I thought that this wasn’t the best season to see alligators but we would make this work. Actually, it was a great time.
I misremembered when I was here last. It was March 2021. In other words, the same time as I rode last year by two weeks. That wouldn’t make much of a difference.
I thought that I rode earlier in the day last year but a check of the GPS file shows I started about the same time on both rides (1:00-1:30 p.m.).
Last year there were some alligators on the side of the trail. This year it seemed they were all hiding. But in the end, it was probably about the same as last year. In reading this is probably the best time of the year. It is still dry season and not overly hot. In the summer the gators are more submerged as they try to escape the hear.
I love this ride. The key is to not go too fast. Slow down and enjoy the roses. Or alligators. I probably saw 15-20 alligators.
We rode and I called out “gator!” I don’t think Margaret was thrilled about seeing them. At least I can say for sure she wasn’t as thrilled as I was about seeing them. I loved seeing the gators.
The ride is a 15-mile loop. Both years I rode in a counter-clockwise direction. Most of the gators can be seen on the portion going out to the observation tower and not much coming back.
I enjoy this ride so much. Will I do it again? I hope so.
About to board a party bus for the 2.5 hour trip from Tampa to Fort Myers. There are six of us on the bus. The others, there were about 35 riders today, got rides from somewhere.
This was Day 2 of a 200-mile charity bike ride. It has been 10 years since I last rode a double century – at RAGBRAI. With no rides longer than 15-20 miles most of the winter, would I even be able to do one century?
Yesterday went well and today went even better. The 100-mile second day was really 106 miles. But at no point were my legs ever hurting me or my energy level low.
The ride started when the A riders left the start line. About a minute later the B riders would go. I had looked at the group of four guys and thought I was in the right group (C). Yet I rode with those guys yesterday until I dropped them so maybe I should be with them. But I let them go.
Another minute or so and then the C group pulled out. There seemed to be 12 of us and I immediately went to the front. The others lined up behind me and I carefully pegged my speed at 16 mph. Our riding speed was supposed to be 15-17 mph and by my calculation, 16 mph was in that range.
“Too fast! You’re going too fast!,” I heard a voice, or maybe two, from within the group. This was not going well. I slowed to 15 then after five minutes decided to give others a chance. I moved to the back and sat behind Mark.
We were going 14 mph. I was not happy. I was also concerned about being in the sun too long today and needed to go faster. I could see about one mile ahead and could barely see some blinking red flashers on the four bikes of the B group.
It was more instinct than thought but I pulled beside Mark and told him that I was going to bridge up to the B group. I’m not sure what Mark may have thought but I only shared my plan with him. What’s the worse that could happen? Try and fail. But at least I had to try.
The line was stretched out on the shoulder or in a bike lane. I was 12th wheel when I took off. When I passed the front rider I was going 24 mph and still increasing my speed. I soon settled in and looked for landmarks up the road. The first was a pole and it took me more than 3:00 from the time I saw the group pass it until I got there. Then it was 2:15. And followed by 1:45 and 0:55.
When I got to 0:30 I caught a support vehicle. The driver asked if I was trying to catch the group and I replied that I was. He then asked me if he should go tell them to slow down. LOL. “No,” I replied. “I will catch them.”
If my numbers are right I had chased them for more than 16 minutes (lap counter on Wahoo). I chased for 5.3 miles. That was probably the most or second-most enjoyable segment on this two-day ride. There’s something very satisfying about doing a chase and being successful.
In retrospect, I probably should have gone right by then to the front of their group. Then I would have had five surprised faces instead of one. But I pulled in behind John who was surprised to see a shadow next to his. It was early morning and going north, we had nice long shadows to our left.
But there were five instead of four that I saw leave the start line. Then a woman peeled off the front. It was Laura who I had ridden with yesterday. She greeted me loudly as I did her.
The winds were strong. Almost exclusively headwinds as we were headed north. At Mile 50 we came to a rest stop and two riders dropped out. One said it wasn’t fun riding in the wind. We were down to a group of four.
However, we also entered more rural roads and we had a support driver who was willing to let us draft off him. I was always willing to hug a bumper but didn’t want to hog a bumper. And we encouraged our weakest link, a rider whom we were always dropping. Once he got the hang of drafting at 15 mph the driver sped up to 17 mph and our rider quit. “I can’t ride at 17 (mph),” he said. This was in the B group – 18-20 mph. The C group, in which I started was 15-17 and we had a rider who couldn’t ride at 17. The more I thought about this the more I thought I was right about my riding speed. It’s just that everybody else was way off.
At a lull on a backcountry road, I worked on getting our group to do a rotating pace line. After 3-4 minutes one of our riders said “good luck with your chain gang” and quit cooperating. That was very unusual. After the ride, he said to me, “well this wasn’t my first rodeo.” I guess he was too good to cooperate with us. Oh well.
I asked Christopher why he was on a cancer ride. He told me he lost his mother, Theresa, 60, to brain cancer one year ago this weekend. I asked him what he thought about our two riders quitting. He told me that he was riding in honor of his mother and he was going to finish the ride no matter what.
I shared the same conviction. I was riding for every name on those stem caps I had. As soon as I put a new name on the bike I was riding. There was no way I would jump in a car.
Chris also told me he is a plastic surgeon in Miami and his wife is a surgeon living in Minneapolis. I think she is finishing her residency and they will live in Miami. But she flew down to visit him this weekend and he took off on a two-day cancer ride. This is what love looks like.
I never felt any energy depletion. I wanted to ride. At the last rest stop, I put on the name Jacob. And I knew that “Jake the Hero” would get me home. I would be riding for him but also with him.
We picked up some stragglers and Chris and I went to the front the last five miles. I heard people calling out to go slow so we would all finish together. Okay, I could do that. It didn’t mean anything to me if I was in a group or a group of one.
We finished in a small park. My luggage was there so I changed into casual clothes and out of my riding kit. They had dinner in a picnic shelter catered by Mission BBQ. This was my kind of dinner.
We were to board at 5:00 p.m. but are waiting on one person to finish. We had been told yesterday that anyone out on course at 4:00 p.m. would be SAGged in but I guess that didn’t happen. And I’m okay with that.
Then she finishes. She appears to be one of the oldest participants. What an effort she gave to finish. I don’t mind being delayed so she could complete her ride. What a contrast to the two in our group who just quit at Mile 50.
What a ride. Two Hundred (206) miles fighting cancer. With no real winter training. I like this!
My Uncle Dan became a widower in 2020. My mother was already a widow and the two of them faced the possibility that they would never see each other again. I promised my mother that if she could sit 12-14 hours, one-way, in a car, I’d make a trip from Pennsylvania to Florida so she could visit her brother.
Over the winter I started looking for a cancer charity ride and found the Pan-Florida Challenge. This was a 200-mile ride from Fort Myers to Sebring then Sebring to Tampa.
What follows are my observations. I have no complaints, just observations.
I checked in yesterday at a Brewery in Bonita Springs. Nice volunteers checked my name off a list and handed me a bag that contained stickers for my bike and helmet plus a bib with my number to wear. Also included were an event jersey and bib shorts that I ordered.
The event hotel was the Hyatt Place in Fort Myers. When I checked in I learned their breakfast was not until 7:00 a.m. We were supposed to check-in at the event by 6:30 a.m. I thought I’d pass a fast food restaurant on the way to the event but I was wrong.
My GPS with a saved location took me out in the country and I went by the entrance without realizing it. Mild panic set in as I was thinking I’d miss the start. My bike’s Wahoo computer had the day’s ride on it so I turned it on and answered yes when it asked if it should navigate to the ride start. And that is how I got to the event on time.
My biggest decision was what to wear. I had been given an event jersey but for two days which day should I wear it? If both, then I’d be trying to wash it later tonight. I decided to save it for tomorrow and wore my Rooster Racing Inc. kit today.
At the starting line I could see that only 3-4 other riders were not wearing an event jersey. I was fine with that because I would wear it tomorrow.
I wanted to do something very special for this ride. I had stem caps made for my bike to ride in honor or memory of cancer warriors.
I would begin the ride in memory of my wonderful cousin, Kay Walborn. Kay died in 2018 from brain cancer.
We had to declare a riding speed before the event. The A group was 21-25 mph. The B group was 18-20 mph. The C group was 15-17 mph. I knew I could ride in the B group but for a recreational cancer ride I registered for the C group. I was prepared for riding 100 miles solo and 16-17 was an honest assessment. Honest.
The A riders were sent off first followed by the B riders one minute (or so) later. The C group was sent off and I was somewhere in the middle of maybe 12 riders when we reached the main road. Almost immediately I was in a group with two women, Lucinda and Kristine, and one man. Lucinda took a lengthy pull until I went to the front to take over. The guy dropped off and the three of us rode to rest stop one.
At rest stop one my priorities were change stem cap, refill bottles, grab something to eat, then roll on. But we seemingly grouped up, maybe all of Group C, and rolled out together.
I pulled out of line while on a country road to ride double file. I was next to Dave from Westfield, Indiana, when he asked me if he was riding on a flat. I looked and told him he was. He both called out “flat” and pulled off. No one came with us. I was with him for 10-12 minutes when his flat was fixed. Dave told me he was riding the Metric route and was turning around at that point. I was by myself.
If someone else had stopped at least there would be two of us to “chase.” But I was ok by myself. And sort of enjoyed it. A SAG vehicle came by and the driver must have wondered what I was doing. I was beginning to understand this was a ride where people stayed together, much like the Saturday morning no-drop shop ride. And I was all by myself, through no fault of my own I will add. The driver asked if I was OK and I assured him I was.
At rest stop two the group was resting. I pulled in, changed a stem cap, grabbed some water and a bar, and off we rode. Into the wind. We were going mostly north and there was a strong headwind coming from the north. We stayed together, probably a dozen of us, with me dropping only once for a photo op. I quickly caught back on.
And then the day would change for me. We came to rest stop three.
After quickly refilling bottles, eating half a banana, using the port-a-john, and grabbing a bag of trail mix for the road, I informed Lucinda that I was going to soft pedal until they caught me. I don’t do well standing around as lactic acid builds up and my legs feel like crap.
After 15 minutes and they still hadn’t caught me a vehicle came by and pulled right in front of me. I followed him closely – 18, 20, 22, 25, 28 mph – all into a wicked headwind. We did this for more than five miles until we caught the first group on the road. I went by two men then caught two women who had their own support vehicle. I felt good enough to blow by them and go ahead but was content enough to ride with them.
My ride partners for the final 20 miles were Laura and Kristina. Kristina was from New York City and visiting her parents. I asked her if she ever drafted a vehicle and she hadn’t. I went up to the car and encouraged her to join me. Eventually she did and then she was hooked. It was beautiful to witness. I tried to get Laura to draft but she finally revealed a secret. The driver was her husband.
We finished our 100 (99) and I went back to make sure it was 100. Then I went back again and found some of my group coming in. Lucinda had never ridden a century before and she needed to turn the odometer to 100 so she and I went out again to get the final mile.
At the finish, for the third time, my support driver thanked me for knowing how to draft. He said he offered a couple other guys the same courtesy but no one knew how or would draft off him.
At the hotel I found they did not have a reservation for me. I had inadvertently signed up for the 100-mile ride and not the 200-mile ride which I was doing. Thankfully our event director had an extra room to be used so that worked out ok.
Dinner was provided and was part awards and recognition as well. It was in a building between the Residence Inn and Tru by Hilton, right on Little Lake Jackson. Good food and great location.
I worried most about how my body would respond. Riding every day in preparation is one thing. But doing one-hour ride in winter of 14-15 miles is not the same as riding 50 and 60 mile rides. But I did ok. No twinges of cramps. My big question is how the second day, a hundred after a hundred, would go.
What to wear. I may have missed it but saw no guidance on when to wear the PFC kit. Since I was riding for two days and had one jersey, I made the decision for the second day. I did this in part because I wanted to finish the 200-mile ride in the PFC kit. This is similar to Ride the Rockies where the cool kids know to wait until the last day to wear their RTR jersey for that year.
I would say that today 90% wore a PFC jersey. They were either blue or yellow depending on fundraising level. But there was a special green one – for survivors. I only saw one ride, Lucinda, wearing the green. And tomorrow, I will be in green.
◆ Everyone has a story. Some I made stem caps for. But riding for others empowers me and I talked to someone today about every single donor.
Note: Any names which may appear in this post on riders’ bibs that are similar to the names of people mentioned herein, are purely coincidental.
This started as a review of the Legacy Trail. So I can start there. I stayed overnight in Brandon, Florida, and was headed south to Fort Myers. I wanted to ride the Legacy Trail but did not do my homework as to my starting location.
I told Siri to find the Legacy Trail using both Waze and Apple Maps. Neither succeeded. When I ended up in Venice I made my way over on Venice Ave. to where I thought I would find the trail.
There is parking at the bus terminal in Venice. According to TrailLink.com (which I should have noted) there is additional parking:
Patriots Park (800 Venetia Bay Blvd., Venice)
Nokomis Community Park (234 Nippino Trail East, Nokomis)
Laurel Park (509 Collins Rd., Laurel)
Oscar Scherer State Park (1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey)
Bay Street Park (300 Bay St., Osprey)
Potter Park (8587 Potter Park Dr., Sarasota)
Payne Park (2010 Adams Lane, Sarasota)
I ended up at Nokomis Community Park. I found the trail and then headed north. I intended to head south for 1-2 miles knowing I was close to Venice. I thought I had parked east of the trail so a left turn would take me south. I also learned about the directional arrow on my Wahoo (after two years of using it). The N is not at the top of the map/computer but at the bottom of an arrow pointing up. And so when I was headed north the N was on the bottom of the screen which, in my mind, confirmed I was going south. Confused? I was.
Did you know there is a 15 mph speed limit on the trail? You will as there are signs everywhere. Even this recreational rider, into the wind, had a hard time keeping the speed to 15 mph.
The trail is straight. The trail is flat except for two overpasses. The overpass by the train depot at the southern end might be the coolest fixture on the trail.
Being a Friday morning I can’t judge whether the trail was crowded by local standards. I saw very few runners/walkers and no dogs. Don’t they like dogs here? I also saw plenty of trikes. Not just three-wheeled bicycles but trikes with Amish.
My initial plan was to ride the length of the Legacy Trail and back. Then I would meet my friend, Darrin, for lunch. But the trail has a reputation as being straight and boring.
But any new trail to me is exciting the first time. The pavement was excellent, perhaps the best I have ever ridden. Smooth pavement and no tree roots.
The trail lacks fixtures. No tunnels and no great trestles. There were a couple of bridges next to the old rail line but that was it is one was looking for rail history.
The trail crosses some busy streets and I stopped and waited for the ped-head light at each. Some seemingly were pretty long which adds to a local complaint of the trail – too many at grade crossings.
When I reached the end of the trail in Sarasota I headed over to the waterfront. I wanted a photo at Unconditional Surrender, the statue that commemorates the kiss in Times Square at the end of World War II.
I had already decided not to return via the Legacy Trail. Was it boring? Or was the coastal route more exciting?
I headed out to Siesta Key. It’s a beautiful strip of land and overly crowded. There was a bike lane for much of it and I almost went down hard on it. At one point it was next to a sidewalk and I had to transition from bike lane to the sidewalk. I did not turn sharply but was going to ease over gradually. There was a lip and my tire caught briefly in it. But I made it and was very thankful I did not crash.
Leaving the island I came to the Tamiami Trail, aka Hwy 41. There was a bike lane on this high-speed highway. I will stop short of recommending any highway riding but for this stretch neither would I discourage it.
I was on the highway for six miles going south then turned on Blackburn Point Road out to Casey Key. I crossed a one-lane steel grate bridge over the waterway and was on Casey Key.
What a joy this ride was. The next four miles were the finest four miles I had in Florida. I regret I could not capture it in photos. On the right side of the narrow road was the Gulf of Mexico. On the left side was the waterway/bay (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). If there was enough room there was a beautiful home, maybe even a small mansion. This really did look like the most perfect place to live. Or ride.
I rode back over to where I parked and decided I needed to the last mile of the Legacy Trail down to Venice. I was glad I did.
The last mile or first mile features the Venice Train Station which appears to be a city bus and commuter parking center. Here is where the feature fly-over ramp is also.
I finished the ride then drove back up the highway to meet Darrin. Had I known where I was going and where we’d meet, I would have stopped in on my ride. Or if he knew he would have said to stop at Mad Moe’s in Osprey.
But it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed sitting outside.
While this is a cycling blog, this post is a little different. Just a little off the normal track so to speak.
I was headed to Florida with my mother for the Pan-Florida Challenge, a 200-mile cancer charity cycling event. Rather than drive, I decided to try the Auto Train.
The train departs from Lorton, Va., which is about 10 miles from my home and about 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. It goes to Sanford, Florida, which is about 80 miles from our first destination. We couldn’t do much better as far as those logistics.
I am not going to do a cost comparison. The Auto Train is more costly than driving. I also think I got nailed with a fare jump from looking the day before. But we paid $1000 for two with a sleeper car.
Driving would have been 800 miles (30 mpg) and gas was averaging $4.15 per gallon. We would have stopped en route and needed a hotel.
We traveled during a time COVID restrictions were in place, the main one was wearing a mask while in the public areas of the train. One doesn’t need a sleeper car (room) as coach seats are available. But I wasn’t going to subject my mother to wear a mask for 16 hours straight. In our room, we did not need a mask.
For rooms, we had a choice of a smaller and cheaper roomette that did not have a private bathroom. Or, as we did, a room that sleeps two or a family room that sleeps four.
The train was scheduled to leave at 4:00 p.m. Check-in was between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This is for loading cars. We were in line by 12:30 p.m. I checked in and was not required to show my reservation on the app or an ID. Simply name. My mother never presented herself to the agent. We waited outside, it was a beautiful day, until 2:30 at which time we boarded.
We had to go up steps to the second level of the car. The corridor was small and we found our room – B. Inside, the main “sofa” was two seats side by side that would open down into a bed. There was a rear-facing seat as well. The bathroom was a one-seater and had a shower as well. There was a sign stating that it might be easier to shower seated (on the closed toilet). Maybe if one was traveling 2-3 days but this would be an overnight trip. No shower is necessary.
Our car attendant was Rob, a very nice young man from Fort Washington, Maryland. He came to our car after we were underway to get our food orders. He brought dinner to the car and then came in at 10:00 p.m. to convert the room for sleeping. The dinner was actually very good.
The top portion of the cabin was pulled down and formed a top bunk. The bedding was comfortable enough but we were on a train. There was rock and rolling, not quite violently, but shaking at times.
Breakfast was ala carte and was four cars back from ours. I donned the mask and went for a walk, returning with two hot breakfast sandwiches. There was coffee in our car. Rob came in and removed the bedding and restored the seats to their upright position.
The train pulled out of the station at Lorton around 3:50 p.m. We seemed to be on a siding for 45 minutes before rolling. I imagine that was coupling the cars carrying the automobiles to the train.
The train is non-stop except for a crew change and refueling in Florence, South Carolina, around 11:30 p.m. The train runs on freight train tracks and is at the mercy of freight schedules. It may or may not be on time. We were pretty close, arriving 15 minutes behind schedule.
After we got off the train, and gave a generous trip to Rob, we made our way outside and waited for our car. It cost $75 for priority unloading. They would take up to 30 cars for this service. For everybody else, they announced the cars would be offloaded in completely random order. It did not matter if your car was loaded first or loaded last. It was in one of those six auto carriers all parked side by side.
The first cars rolled off at 9:47. Our car took 52 minutes and was near the end.
So it was expensive. But it was stress-free. The average moving speed (52 mph) wasn’t great. One could drive faster but are subject to weather, road, and traffic delays. If it was free it certainly would be the way to go. But there is a lot to factor in whether it’s right for you or for me the next time.
I took it one way because my return trip was going to be direct to Somerset, Pa. and included bike riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I’m glad to have it as an option.
It was a group ride with Prince William Cycling Club billed as “Shake off the dust and clean off the rust.” The departure location was the Old Bust Head Brewing Company in Warrenton.
I arrived on a cold morning (45º) with plenty of time but fiddled with my contact lenses. By the time I rolled up to the start at 8:59 a.m. (I could have moved quicker.)
There were about 40 cyclists but in two groups leaving at 9:00 a.m. I had to make sure to find the faster/longer group. If there was a division at the start I could certainly tell by the riders in each group. I also figured, correctly, that the faster group (15-16 mph and 40 miles) would be smaller than the 30-mile group. But we were in one large group and I needed to make sure as we rolled out. I also asked as we pedaled away.
There were nine of us. John (Orange Pinarello on Facebook), Charlie, Ed, Jamie, and Louis, three others, and me. I was the oldest.
On a group ride, no one says they check out everyone’s bikes but everybody does. Who’s on the neon carbon bike? Who has the oldest bike? Anyone with a classic bike? And who is riding a gravel bike on a road ride? Uh, that would be me.
I was perfectly dressed. But I guess we all were. Most worse leg or knee warmers. With an expected temperature of 60º, I wore my Roosters Racing kit. I had a light Roosters jacket which meant I was the guy in black/grey on a black/grey bike. I had knee warmers but my screaming color socks from Ridge Supply gave me a little color. And black “cookie” long-fingered gloves. No headcover under my helmet.
Only four of us said they uploaded the route to their computers and I don’t know who they were. I did and my Wahoo was working perfectly.
Well, I wasn’t quite ready to roll. I didn’t have my gloves on. So I stayed at the back to get them adjusted then joined the group. We stayed together for a while. There was a split at the traffic light in Catharpin so the front group pulled over waited for the back group.
As we rolled into the country we gapped two riders. I do believe it was one rider and a sweeper. We were rolling along at 18-19 mph and someone asked us to slow the pace to no more than 16. I went to the front then did nose-breathing riding. Easy pace. After two miles I was told I caused a further split in the group. Damn me. We pulled over and waited for everyone to catch up.
We came to a country store where we caught the slower group. Since they left after us they obviously went a shorter way. They left before us and we caught them again in Cassanova but quickly turned onto our longer route.
It was at the store that John remembered where we had ridden together before. Two years ago I was riding from Manassas to home and he asked if he could ride along. He had remembered my Seinfeld story. At first, I was confused and then we both said “Delores!”
In October 2019, I was at Phil’s Cookie Fondo in Malibu, California. I happened to recognize the actress that plated Delores in the Seinfeld episode where he didn’t know his girlfriend’s name and it went too far that he could no longer ask her. So he had to figure it out. It was a classic episode and the actress, Susan Walters, posed for a photo with me. I talk too much.
At 27 miles in, one of our riders, Bill, hit his wall. I told John I’d sweep and ride with Bill but John dropped back too so both of us did. We lost sight of the group. At Mile 34 we caught them as they had waited. I lost Bill and clawed my way to the front three riders. I guess I wanted everyone to know that I had not been dropped and could be riding at the front if I wanted to. I caught them at Mile 37 then let them go as this was a double left-hand turn. I wasn’t sure who knew the route and felt someone should wait for the stragglers to show them the way.
I counted seven riders then, after five minutes, decided to ride back to find our last two. I went 3/4 of a mile, uphill, before I saw them coming. Briefly, because so much time had elapsed, I had begun to worry that they took their own way back. But once I made contact we rode back down to the Battle of Coffee Hill then toured up Rogues road. Bill had to stop. Cramps. Badly.
Our game plan was for me to ride back to the start/finish (5.5 miles) then check on them. If they needed up I would go back and pick them up. I got back, called, and Bill had stopped completely and John was waiting with him. So I went and picked him up, This was Bill’s first outdoor ride of the year. It was my 60th.
The ride was supposed to be 15-16 mph. I came in at 17 and it would have been higher except for the 3-4 miles I rode sweeping with Bill. John’s ride was 16.5 mph so he lost 0.5 mph sweeping Bill. I may have lost that much too. I could not find someone in the first group to compare to but since we rode together that would have been my average.
But it was a beautiful late-winter day. And it served as a reminder that I have three weeks before my double-century ride in Florida. Need to get in the miles.
John thanked me for helping. If not me, then who? Hopefully, anyone in our group would have stepped up but no one did. I’m sure John would have but we had the luxury of him waiting with Bill for me to come back and pick him up. I had no room for John.