They closed schools where we live in Tennessee because of the snow Friday, and a lot of flights were cancelled in and out of Nashville airport. It took many people hours to get anywhere on the snowy roads. The 200K out of Murfreesboro was postponed.
It didn't seem that bad here in central Florida.
Okay, I felt guilty enjoying myself when so many people back home were in obvious straits. Just a little guilty. It lasted 20 seconds, when I checked The Weather Channel, and they kept going on and on about the ice in Memphis and what to do when your power goes out and blah-blah-blah. What a buzz kill. Just show me that the temperature here in Tampa is 65 degrees and shut the heck up.
We got in to Tampa airport Thursday before noon, gathered luggage, and jumped into the van with Clayton Grindstaff. After a quick lunch at Moe's on the way, we were in Inverness before 3 pm, where we quickly changed clothes and jumped on our bikes. A quick trip down to the Ridge Manor Trailhead and back, and we had done almost 50 miles. That was enough to knock the rust off the legs, and burn sufficient calories to get eat dinner at Papa Joe's.
We had originally intended to go long Saturday, but the weather that was making Tennessee a mess was actually going to bring rain to Florida, we we swapped the long day to Friday. We started the day right at Little Italy in downtown Inverness, having capuccino and cookies.
The owner, Alfredo was glad to see us ... as usual. He always takes great care of us on these trips, keeping us properly fueled morning noon and night. I'll write later this week about the incredible feast he fixed for us Saturday night.
Since this was RandoGirl's first time on the Gran Fondo Florida Excursion, Alfredo also took great joy in showing her the special picture of him in the restaurant bathroom. You'll just have to go to Inverness someday to appreciate it.
I had originally planned a long route of 120 miles, but when we did not roll out until 10 am I made some quick thinking and decided how we could curtail things into a nice century. It would get us down to the "hill country" of Dade City and San Antonio, but not allow us to get cuban food at the Las Palmas Cafe near Pebble Creek. Doing the original route and getting back before dark would have required us to average almost 20 miles an hour -- fighting a headwind for about 50 of them -- and nobody was up for that.
I certanly proved that I wasn't.
Lynn and Vida Greer, Michal Miller, Vic Rodgers, Britton Kinnard, and myself nonetheless averaged about that down to the south end of the Withlacoochie Trail in Trilby. Once on the rolling "real" roads there, we found the going much harder, since we were not as sheltered from the strong steady southern wind. After five miles of this, Lynn, Vida, and Michael decided that they would rather finish their century on the Trail, and headed back.
This left me with Vic and Britton. Vic -- who was the Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association (TBRA) champion for five years -- and Britton -- who used to race professionally in Belguim and talks nonchalantly about doing training rides with "George" (I think he means Hincapie, and not Hiscox).
Help me, Momma.
This was my view for most of the next 40 miles. Since things are not tinted red in the pictures, I can only assume that my eyeballs really were filling up with blood.
Britton, and then Vic, would pull us into a steady Florida 20 mph headwind doing 25 -- which those of you who understand physics and combined vector calculations know is roughly equivalent to riding in dead air at 136.37 miles per hour (maybe I should say those of you who understand physics as poorly as I do, since I still don't get why we all don't go flying off into space). Then I would go to the front and kill myself to keep the speed close to 20 mph for a few seconds, tap out, and hope to hang onto the end again when it came by. I kept hoping to summon up Max Watzz, but just like the way the Hulk never gets there before Bruce Banner gets a fat lip, Max stayed away.
Fortunately, as I led them further towards Tampa, I was the only one that knew the roads. Vic and Britton had no choice but to keep me around.
Once we started north, though, and the wind was behind us, I realized what a whipped puppy I was. Vic and Britton were easily able to take the pace up to 30, and all I could do was watch them fade away. Of course, this happened before we turned left onto Handcart Road, so they missed the turn. I waited at the corner and let them enjoy a few bonus miles to teach them a lesson, and they were then willing to suffer my prescence again.
Yes, I am a mean S.O.B.
In San Antonio, I recharged my batteries with a great sandwich from the San Ann Market, and was then able to pull again for a few miles. Of course, we still had the tailwind, so it was no big deal.
That's Britton clowning around in the back. It is really wonderful to ride with someone as strong as he is ... someone who can take these pulls, sit up, eat a cliff bar, and basically be one with the bike. If you thought that you could actually transcend to that level, it would give you something to aspire to; instead, it just lets you know that these things actually are possible.
This part of Florida, by the way, is rife with orange trees like these.
We rode through miles of groves. For those of you who are worried about the effect that the early January freeze might have had on the crops: Fear not. We saw trucks full of them. You will still have orange juice this year.
Once we got back to Trilby, I sent Vic and Britton on their fast way and rolled back at a more leisurely pace. I even stopped to take pictures of the bike shop in Hampton.
And the solar-powered bathroom in Istachatta.
Back at the hotel, I downed a chocolate milk and then crawled into the shower. I had to lay around a bit moaning in pain and rubbing my legs before I could get cleaned up and crawl over to Walter Thompson's room for a dinner of antipasta from Little Italy.
Much like the woeful tales trickling in from friends in Nashville buried beneath snow had cheered me earlier, listening to everyone else describe their long hard ride during the day made me happier here.
Misery loves company ... particularly when that company is able to take long pulls into the wind for you.