Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Restorative Powers of Toffee

You think to yourself, "Self: You've been riding long distances for a few years now. You know a few things. You know what a tire feels like when it's going flat. You know when you need to take a layer of clothes off, or put a layer on. You know to drink regularly, even when you're not thirsty. And you damned sure know to continuously eat so you don't bonk."

Self chuckles and says, "Yep, yep, I know all that stuff. Gosh." And chuckles again.

In case you haven't noticed, Self is a moron.

So, Wednesday was another excellent weather day here in southwest Florida. Temperatures would stay in the mid-70's all day, with a light breeze out of the southwest. I had a lull at work again (odd how I seem to manage those once a week), and few enough tasks around the house that I could get out just after 9 am.

I went north on the bike lane in my neighborhood, enjoying the last of the morning chill. That morning, the weather report had been of snow showers back in Nashville. Poor things.

After a couple of miles of neighborhood bike lane, I continued north through Pelican Bay. Although there is no bike lane here, traffic is light on the divided four-lane roads, and the speed limits are strictly enforced. The cars are used to seeing all kind of cyclists in here, making for a hassle-free setting.

On one side of the road you get manicured golf courses and villas. On the other side are high rises lining the beach. Not a bad place to ride a bike or take a walk.

From there, it was back to a bike lane on Vanderbilt Beach Road ...

 ... and then turn in to the bike lane on Livingston ...

... which becomes Imperial Parkway when you cross into Lee County ...

.. and then Three Oaks Parkway before it ends at Alico Road. That's almost 19 miles of bike lane. At this point, Self would say, "Jeepers."

You can see on the other side of Alico where they're building more. Eventually, this thing may go all the way to Fort Myers, which would be pretty cool. If there's a downside to this, it would be that it's pretty mind-numbing. I mean, take another look at the last four pictures. Bike lane next to two or three car lanes. Straight. Level.


As I've said before, it is ridiculous that Florida is one of the states where it is illegal to ride a bike while listening to Primus's live version of "Tommy the Cat" on your iPod. I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket for it, of course, but if it ever happens I hope they protest it to the Supreme Court. Doing a solo century is one thing, but doing it while being forced to listen to nothing other than noisy cars passing you is cruel and unusual punishment.

Anyway, from Alico you cross under I-75 (again, with a bike lane) and continue north on Treeline Avenue. I would show you a picture, but it's almost identical to any of the Livingston pictures.

For fun, I stayed on one of the standard routes there and went east towards the airport.

There's about a mile of this route where you're on the shoulder with cars rushing to make their planes, but it's a wide shoulder so it doesn't suck that much. Then, you turn on an access road that goes towards the freight terminals, putting you on a much quieter road. There are some trucks here, but truck drivers are folks who drive for a living (I guess that's why it's part of their job title), so I've rarely had any problems from them.

I think UPS had more planes going in and out than any of the airlines did. Santa Claus must be coming to town.

The road markings got a little hazy at the end of this stretch, thanks to construction on Daniels Parkway. Once I figured it out, however, I was back on Treeline. At this point, I'd been about 40 miles, so I stopped to refill my bottles. I had not eaten much for breakfast, so I also got a candy bar. Had I just bought three candy bars, things would have been better.

Topped off, I continued north on Treeline, following the marked route again. It cuts east through a huge planned community, where I saw natives riding strange contraptions past ancient burial mounds.

Actually, I think these were more examples of the "people want to live by the water" style of development prevalent here in Florida. The developers give the homeowners what they want by moving a few hundred tons of dirt. Where the dirt was, water pours in. You can then use the dirt to eventually build up the road beds. It's really so simple that it's smart ... although you do have to wonder how the animals that used to thrive on those miles of flatness are adapting to their new aquatic and mountainous terrain. Judging by the volume of dessicated tortoise shells littering the bike paths, I would guess that it's not going well for them.

This took me to the planned community of Gateway.

There are bunches of developments and office complexes in Gateway, so I think that this is supposed to be the Gateway To Prosperity for the area between Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres. I just kept thinking that it was a gateway drug to golf addiction.

As I went north through Gateway, I started to get hungry. I also started to lose the road markings. If there was a turn for the airport route, I never saw it. I did find a new set of arrows, so I used them for a while. When they continued to coax me further east and inland, I pulled out the GPS and found the quickest way back to Treeline. It wasn't fun or pretty, but it worked.

After a few miles of busy roads without bike lane or shoulder, I was glad to be back in the land of mind-numbing simplicity.

But now I was really hungry. I considered stopping at a convenience store, but kept thinking how good a sandwich from Panera would be. There's one at Coconut Point, just off the route, and it's so nice. Why waste time and calories grabbing another 100 Grand bar from that 7-11? Sure, it's right next to you, and you're hungry, but you can hold out until Panera.

That was Self talking again. I'm starting to hate that guy.

I continued south, enjoying bike lanes through Miromar Lakes and past Gulf Coast University, then taking another bike lane on Estero Parkway back to Three Oaks. I finally got to Panera about 1:30 ... 70 miles in to my ride. I parked the bike at the rack and went in, getting more than the usual stares from the lunchtime crowd (What? Everyone doesn't walk in here wearing spandex?). It was not until I went to the rest room later that I realized why: My face was covered in crusty salt and dirt. I looked like Lawrence of Arabia ... but without the blue eyes.

I was kind of woozy standing there, so while they made my sandwich, I scarfed down a big toffee nut cookie. Then I found a table outside where I could eat my sandwich and drink lots of Diet Coke. Half an hour later, I was restored and ready to destroy your puny planet.

Well, maybe not that restored.

No comments:

Post a Comment