I was just kidding yesterday. There's no bear in this story, although there could have been since Florida has Black Bears. They're protected, of course, so if one had wanted to eat me it would have been my ecological duty to be devoured. This is why you're supposed to sleep with a sprig of parsley on your belly when camping in Florida.
Last post, I described my trip up to Caloosahatchee Regional Park to camp overnight. I didn't say this outright, but you hopefully read between the lines: It was a blast! About the only way that it could have been better would be if somehow there had been no cars on the road with me, but even that was only an issue on a few of the busier roads when someone would pass me close enough to rock the bike. Otherwise, the weather was great, the people were nice, and the country was beautiful.
I slept fairly well Tuesday night. The ThermaRest is not quite as cushy as the worst hotel bed you've ever been in, but is better than a rock wall next to the Trans-Canadian Highway. I awoke a few times, and even got chilly after midnight. When I got up to use the (very nice) bathroom at the campground about 5 am, I briefly considered packing up and starting south. I had gotten a good eight hours of sleep at this point (if you put it all together) and felt good, but opted to wait until daylight instead.
I almost regretted that decision when the wind started moving the trees a bit just before sun-up, followed by a brief rain shower. I went ahead and began packing inside the tent, however, and the rain ended before I got out. It was only after I had begun breaking down the tent when I remembered that I had not yet taken a picture. So, here's a shot of the partially disassembled tent:
After a hot shower, I got dressed and finished loading everything back on the bike. I was on the road just after 8 am.
The wind had died down, so I made good time to the convenience store on Hwy 31. I had a quick cup of coffee and a sausage croissant, and then continued south.
Hwy 80 wasn't as busy as the day before, and Orange River Boulevard was quiet but for school buses heading back to the barn on Leonard Boulevard. As I was going the same way, I saw a lot of these buses. Fortunately, they all passed nicely -- a good thing, since when you're on a bike a school bus passing you at 60 mph has more "road suck" than just about any vehicle.
It was also on this stretch that I saw more markings for another club ride. Apparently, there's a route just for some guy named Ike.
The wind came up as I got to Gateway, but it didn't really begin blasting until I returned to Treeline Avenue. I was ready for "Second Breakfast" anyway, so I stopped for a break at the Dunkin' Donuts just past Daniels Parkway.
As I headed towards Southwest Florida International Airport, the wind was mostly in my teeth. Passing cars pushed the wind around, so I was forced to maintain a pretty tight line in the right-most third of the bike lane and grip the handlebars more than I care to do while trying to stay low under the wind. That evening, my shoulders were as sore as they get from a tandem tour.
I was glad for the half-mile break on Estero Parkway, where I cut over to the west side of I-75.
On a clear day you can see ... well, about as much as you see from here.
Then it was another 20 miles into the wind on Three Oaks Parkway. I looked down at the bike computer to see that I was going 12 mph and thought "I may not be working hard, but I'm working hard enough to go faster than this."
So I did something that I haven't done in months: I shifted to the middle chain-ring. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the front derailleur still worked.
Now, this did not make me faster. In fact, it probably made me slower. But I knew that I had two hours to ride less than 30 miles, and a few of those would be going west on Vanderbilt Beach Road where the headwind would be gone. Shifting chain-rings was almost like shifting my brain. This wasn't a race, or even a brevet. There was no closing time for the next control -- I was just riding home. If I was late for my 2 pm conference call, it was no big deal.
I was a bike tourist, with big panniers and a bedroll on the back of my bike to prove it. This gave me the right to go just as slow as I wanted.
Of course, I was still happy when I finally saw this sign:
From here it's a few miles going west (off the wind), followed by more sheltered roads south through Pelican Bay. I was home in time for my conference call, but was glad to be able to use the mute button. Otherwise, everyone would have been treated to the sounds of RandoBoy devouring a bunch of food.
So, was it fun? Yes! Will I do it again? Damn straight! I may have to change the front fork on the Lynskey so I can put a rack on it (it's carbon fiber, and that's supposedly a no-no), but otherwise I felt like I had the right gear in the right place on my bike, and enjoyed a generally comfortable ride. The tour that I'm considering will have a few more hills, but I think that if I keep my daily mileage requirements down to a proper level I will be okay.
I may have to figure out a way to carry a small cooler, however. The parsley got a little wilted on the way home.