It was a pokey ride.
A lot of my rides are pokey rides ... or, they used to be. Back in Nashville, I would go out rambling for a few hours. Like the song said, "No particular place to go." Vague destinations surrounding store stops I would make along the way to fill bottles and belly, with expectations to be met regarding when I would be home, but none surrounding when I would hit any spot along the way.
I miss those rides. There are only so many roads worth riding -- or, more accurately, safe riding -- down here. There are no forgotten farm roads that meander for miles past prairies and the occasional mailbox. If you put in a road in south Florida, it better go somewhere that people want to be. Once it's in, as it gets more traffic they usually just make it wider. In Tennessee, you could always find "Old Something" road, which generally went the same way as the "New Something" road, but wasn't as level, straight, or wide.
I miss Old Something road.
There are group rides here every day, and I've been going to those. We get a tight pack of 30 or more people heading somewhere very fast. When we get there, we may pause for a minute or two, and then we come back ... usually faster.
The result is that I feel that I am as fast a rider as I've ever been. I've also ridden more miles than I usually have by this time of the year, but they are predominantly shorter rides. I could probably crank out a 200K tomorrow, but anything longer? That would hurt.
So, Saturday, I needed a pokey ride. The weather was perfect, RandoGirl had a morning appointment, and with Daylight Savings Time I didn't feel like joining the 7 am crowd, anyhow. I don't mind riding in the dark, but would rather do it slowly and with fewer people around.
Soon, I was out in Golden Gate. There's a nice 20 miles route out there, always with a bike lane. I went further, joining the cars to go to Everglades Road. I came north there to Oil Well Road, which they're still working on. Lanes come and go as you weave through orange-and-white striped barrels, avoiding the detritus inherent with expanding two lanes into six.
I thought about heading further east at that point, on out to Ave Maria and beyond, but opted to keep it simple and short. Frankly, I was a little tired of the cars. Here I was, 25 miles away from the beach, and there were still a lot of vehicles going past. Most of them passed nicely, but enough of them did not. I turned westward on Oil Well, and a few miles from Immokalee Road came across a small grove of orange trees.
I had forgotten that. The smell of orange blossoms in Florida in March. Sweet, with a diaphanous aftertang of citrus. When we lived north of Tampa, you could ride up into the hills through a grove just outside of San Antonio and the smell of the blooms was almost overpowering. You wanted to get off of your bike and just lie down somewhere, breathing it in. I never did, of course, and maybe it's better that way. Certain treasures should only be retrieved from their hidey holes briefly, when you can luxuriate in their glow for scant stolen moments.
The grove slid by, and the odor of the blossoms went with it. Soon, I was back on my bike sliver on the edge of six-lane Immokalee Road, cruising along with a light tailwind. I continued from bike lane to bike lane, and hobbled together a fine 80-mile ride.
Was it worth riding that far for just a half-dozen deep breaths of orange-tinted air? Sure. I would have done the ride either way. Hopefully, I will always enjoy throwing a leg over the top tube of a bike and getting out on a fine day. But finding that long-lost treasure once again, however briefly, made that ride great.