Monday, May 28, 2012

Going North

I head north today, for a number of reasons.

1. Because it's hard to go south from here ... unless you've got a boat.
2. I'm going to drop a chair off at Panama City Beach.
3. Saturday, I get to ride with one of my personal heroes.

The first two need no elaboration -- or at least deserve none. The last one, though, is the biggie.

You see, last year about this time in Franklin, TN (a suburb of Nashville, in case y'all didn't know), the Harpeth Bicycle Club hosted its annual Harpeth River Ride. It was a big deal. RandoGirl and I got to ride bike escort for the Governor of Tennessee and the Mayors of Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin. Since one of the sponsors of our ride was Nissan, who also sponsors a professional bicycle racing team, they had three of their guys come out and ride with us. One of them is a seven-time winner of the Tour de France.

Lance was a lot of fun, and a huge draw for the ride. We capped our riders at 1,500, and filled up days before. People were coming up to me and asking if I could get them in, almost like it was a Billy Ray Cyrus concert or something.

This year, Nissan's sending these three guys:

Ben King came last year, and Lance gave him a sports car. I think he had an Oprah moment or something. Anyhow, since Ben knows where all of the tricky parts are on the descent down Pulltight Hill, Chris Horner and Matthew Busche made him come along this time. They may only give him a Nissan Leaf. Think green, lad. Green.

(By the way, there are no tricky parts to the descent from Pulltight Hill. The laugh's on you, guys!)

So, now you're thinking that Chris is the personal hero that I was talking about. Well, you're kind of right, in that I've always loved Chris Horner. He seems like a straight-up guy and friendly, but a fierce competitor. At 40, he's also one of the oldest guys in the pro peloton, which is always a kick. I respect the heck out of Chris Horner, and I'm looking forward to meeting him.

But this guy is the hero I really want to see:

Yep, it's the man. The legend. The one and only ... Dan Dillon!

This is my third River Ride with Dan. The first time, we did 43 miles. In 2010, we did the metric. It was Dan's longest ride ever. He was in serious pain -- cramping, suffering in the 100+ degree heat, totally exhausted -- and I offered a number of times to flag down a truck to take us home, or at least take a short-cut and shave some miles.

No. Freaking. Way.

Of course, Dan would never say, "No freaking way." He is a true southern gentleman, always gracious and thoughtful, and would not resort to foul language. He has a wonderful wife, and a full rich life. He just celebrated his 70th birthday. He's been blind for over 50 of those years.

And he would probably tell you -- very honestly -- that he is the luckiest guy on earth.

That's just one of the reasons that I am so looking forward to riding another metric with Dan this Saturday. He's the honorary ride leader this year, and he deserves it.

I don't know a lot of people that would want to trade places with him -- probably because of the whole "blind" thing -- but you can put me down as one of the people that wishes that I could approach every hardship the way that Dan does. For him, it's just another challenge that it might be fun to overcome.

And I think that's pretty heroic.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Recoverage

I love nice easy recovery rides, which is I'm confused that I haven't been taking more of them.

I'm going to fix that.

Starting today, I'm going to try to give you, my loyal readers, at least one blog every week that's full of pictures of the weird, scary, ironic, lovely, and hopefully sometimes funny stuff that I see on my recovery rides. This should be a breeze, since I see this crap all of the freaking time down here. The hard part -- which will hopefully be the easy part eventually -- is slowing down and/or stopping and/or actually turning around to go back and take a picture of the thing.

Of course, there are some things that I just won't get, probably because I'm not fast enough pulling out a camera. For example, yesterday I was riding long and I saw a Dad out riding with his two kids to school. They had their backpacks, and we're working their way down the multi-use path along Imperial Drive, and I tried to get the picture but missed it. Could I have gone back and gotten it? Yeah, but I wasn't doing that kind of ride. Thus, a scene went un-captured that I would really like to see happening more in this increasingly unhealthy world.

My noodling this morning took me into a neighborhood on the northern edge of Port Royal. The road dead-ended here, and you could see that there was a nice pink classically Florida house back there, and the grounds included a dock with a cabin cruiser, a pool, and tennis courts. At first, I read the sign as "House of the Dog," but then realized that would be "Casa del Perro." This, instead, is "Dog House."

I would love to know the back-story on this place. I want to see the human's house, and know what transgression it would require to be sent to such a nice dog house.

This was just around the corner. The neighbors had the same sign stuck in their yard, and I do have to give them props on their unified front. Of course, the area is about the demographic that you expect for this kind of thing -- affluent retired white Protestants who don't want to pay taxes on their hard-earned money (well, Grandpa worked hard to earn it), don't believe in free health care for anybody (although you better not touch their Medicare), and hate all immigrants other than the ones that keep their yard so nice.

I was hoping that the rope was something they hung up for the grandkids to play on, and not part of the political statement. Gauging by the height of the thing, it would only work for hanging midgets ... but these are the kind of people that might do that, too.

The other interesting thing about this picture is the little addendum that they taped to the bottom of the sign, which reads "You're on Video!" I think that they've had people defacing their signs. Not that I would ever condone trespassing, and as an American I personally believe that everyone has a right to voice their opinion no matter how wrong-headed, but it does give me hope for south Florida when I think that someone is willing to dick with this moron's sign.

Finally, these trees. They're blooming like this all over down here, and I think that they are just gorgeous. I took a picture of this one near the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, but there are even bigger ones up and down Bayshore and Crayton.

About five minutes after taking this, I was on a road that didn't have a bike lane for about 100 yards when a big new BMW got behind me and honked. He believed that I was slowing him down, and wasting his time (which is, of course, more valuable than anyone else's). There was no shoulder, and we were going into a roundabout, so I slowed even more, and flipped him off on the other side of the roundabout, just before the bike lane returned. When I got into the bike lane, he finally zoomed passed, not even looking at me.

That's the other thing that I like about rich people: They'll bluster and make a scene, but they won't run over a cyclist if there's a chance of any witnesses. Contrast this with a good old redneck up in LaBelle -- if they honk at you, it's a message to get the hell out of their way. If you flip them off, then that honk counted as a warning shot.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

RandoBoy in the News (Again)

Even though we only had about 25 folks come out for the Ride of Silence here last week, we got two news crews. One of them interviewed me.

Yeah, that's me talking at the start, too. I meant to say, "We're here, we steer, we're on the road so get over it." I flubbed the line. I've always thought that one of these days I would yell that at some passing car. Of course, the car will probably turn around and run me down, and say, "I thought he said get over me."

Okay, that may not be funny given the somber occasion. Sorry.

This isn't my first time on camera, or in the news. And, I don't mind that the camera adds 10 pounds to you, but why is it that those 10 pounds actually showed up when I got on the scales the next day? Really? That's just not fair, guys.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

There is Hope for the Youth of America

I'm dying to see how this one turns out ...

Biking Kenowa Hills seniors punished:

So, rather than dump detergent in the fish pond, stealing the mascot, super-gluing locker doors, or blowing up a half-dozen commodes, these kids decide to bike to school. For this they get suspended.

Fight the power, people. Ride your bikes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Bike-to-Work Day

You're going to hate me.

I'm serious. You're going to read my bike-to-work story for Bike-to-Work Day this year, and you're going to hate me. It's inevitable. You're going to hate me because you will envy my ride to work. And you may envy my work situation.

You see, I work from home here. I've got a little desk set up just off the kitchen, next to the double doors leading to the pool. Behind my computer monitor is a window, and I can open the shutters on those windows and look at at the pool, and my orange trees beyond.

See? Feel the hate?

Anyway, I've done Bike-to-Work Day for the past five years, and wanted to do it again this year. But, of course, my office is at home, which left me with a quandary. Fortunately, the universe solved my quandary.

It had rained every other day this week, and part of my training for my big trip in September is to do at least one ride every week of five hours duration or more. Friday, the weather was going to be great, so I decided to bike to work via Ave Maria, and thus get in my five-hour ride with a solo century.

Ouch. Now I'm feeling the hate. Or maybe it's just sore legs.

I left the house about 6:30, but stopped for breakfast at Panera. It was just after 7, when I was sitting at the light to turn on Golden Gate Boulevard when I saw this.

If you'll look just a little more closely, you'll see the rainbow. It made the early morning car traffic seem almost irrelevant.

Winds were light and the temperatures fairly comfortable as I cruised west on various roads through Golden Gate and on to DeSoto Boulevard. The construction on Oil Well Road is still in progress, but they have finished enough of the shoulder there to make biking a breeze. I got to Ave Maria about 9 am, with almost 40 miles in.

Since the only food option that was open then was Publix, I explored Ave Maria a bit. I rode down to the Water Park, which was empty. It was next to a playground at North Park.

There is, of course, no South Park at Ave Maria. You'd have to go there to understand why.

Shopping at Publix was, as always, a pleasure. I put ice and Gatorade in my bottles, ate a candy bar, and headed back east. I stayed on Oil Well Road all the way to Immokalee Road, and can tell you that the shoulder there, too, is now good.

I zipped down Immokalee Road, then up Livingston to Coconut Point. It was lunch time, so I stopped at the Panera up there.

Yeah, I likes me some Panera.

From there, it was just 20 miles to home ... er, work. I stopped just before the end at Fresh Market and got a gallon of Chocolate Almond Breeze and a package of yogurt-covered raisins. I was in my "office" -- showered and dressed and eating sugar while beginning to answer e-mails -- just after 1 pm, and put in a good four hours of work.

Wow. I almost hate myself now.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Top of the Trace - A Two-Day Tour

When we lived in Brentwood -- a suburb just outside of Nashville, TN -- RandoGirl and I took this two-day tour a couple of times. It's very simple, since most of it is on the Natchez Trace. The Trace is a federal road closed to commercial traffic and carefully maintained by the Park Service, making it a truly superb bicycle route along this stretch.

You can do this route purely as an out-and-back, or change your return to use more of the Trace (as described below). Either way, it's less than 60 miles each way, but with plenty of hills. The roads are good, with some dogs to watch out for when not on the Trace (this is rural Tennessee, after all) but decent pavement overall. You can stay in a room at the Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast or Fall Hallow Village, or camp at Fall Hallow Village. Note that the bed and breakfast is very small, and Fall Hallow Village only has two rooms, so if you don't want to bring camping gear you should book early!

Day One

Picking a place to start is actually one of the trickiest parts of the ride, since there is no overnight parking on the Natchez Trace itself. The Loveless Cafe is at the northern terminus, but you should get permission from them first. Another option is to bike to the Trace from Gran Fondo Cycles (, which will also give you a chance to get some local recommendations and a quick tune on your ride before you head out. Gran Fondo is about seven miles east of the Trace on Hwy 100. Note that if you go this route, there is a Publix and a Kroger on your route, just over one mile from the on-ramp to the Trace.

Once on the Trace, you have a long climb to warm your legs up, and then cross the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge -- the first segmentally constructed concrete arch bridge in the United States. You'll stay on the Trace for 25 rolling miles, getting off at Hwy 7. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp and go 1.5 miles to the Fly General Store.

This place is a classic example of a real southern country store. Mr. Fly makes a great one-dollar sandwich, and he has plenty of drinks, ice, and moon pies. During winter months, the pot-belly stove is fired up in the back, and a number of locals are usually sitting around it and talking.

Off the Trace

You could retrace your route back to the Trace from here, but part of that is a long climb on Hwy 7. I recommend you instead continue the rest of the day off the Trace and see more of rural Tennessee. The parts of the Trace that you miss by going this way you can see tomorrow on the ride back up.

From the Fly store, retrace Hwy 7 west, back towards the Trace, for half a mile, then take the first left onto Leiper's Creek Road. After 3.5 miles, you will be in Water Valley. Turn right at the stop sign to stay on Leiper's Creek Road. Go half a mile to the top of the hill, then bear left to stay on Leiper's Creek Road. Go another 3.5 miles to where this road ends at Snow Creek Road (TN-247).

Turn right on Snow Creek and go west 1.4 miles to Williamsport Pike. If you need a store, you can turn left on Williamsport Pike and go about a mile south to the Williamsport Store (details below). If you don't need a store, turn right, and then take an almost immediate left onto Greenfield Bend Road.

Greenfield Bend goes along for 4.5 miles. There aren't many signs, but it's hard to get off the route here if you stick to paved roads. Just before the Duck River, the roads changes its name to Kettle Mills Road.

Kettle Mills goes on for another two miles, with a long climb near the end. At the top of that hill, there are roads going right and left, but you'll take the one in the center -- Love Branch Road. None of these roads are marked, by the way, so choose carefully.

Love Branch Road gently descends for 2.4 miles, where you bear right on Stephenson Schoolhouse Road. This road climbs through a forest, runs down a field, and crosses a one-lane bridge to end at Cathey's Creek Road, where you turn right. In one mile, turn right back over the bridge to stay on Cathey's Creek Road.

Go 1.5 miles on Cathey's Creek Road from here to another optional stop at Keg Springs Winery. This is a great place to take a break, taste some wine, eat some cheese, and maybe listen to some local music. To get here, just turn right on Keg Springs Road and ride on fairly flat mile (the climb up their driveway is the tough part, but you can walk it).

After this break, retrace Keg Springs Road back to Cathey's Creek and continue west. This road is one of the highlights of the trip, as it quietly rolls alongside the creek on smooth pavement in lush shade for almost five miles. The last half-mile is a climb, but fairly gradual for Tennessee and still nicely shaded. Cathey's Creek Road ends at Ridgetop Road.

Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast

If you're staying at Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast, turn left on Ridgetop Road and go 1.5 miles. The bed and breakfast is on the right, down a long gravel driveway. There's a sign, so you shouldn't miss it.

The bed and breakfast has two small guest houses, and one room in the main house. We've always been partial to the log cabin, which has a fireplace.

Note that Ridgetop does not serve dinner, but does have an incredible breakfast for tomorrow. The owners have been known to loan an old pick-up truck if you want to go to Hohenwald for dinner (about half an hour's drive), or take you to Fall Hallow Village for dinner. We usually bring sandwiches, and enjoy these with a bottle of wine bought at Keg Springs.

Fall Hallow Village

If you're staying at Fall Hallow Village, turn right on Ridgetop Road and go 2.2 miles to Columbia Hwy (US-412/TN-99). Be careful with the last half mile of this, since the road descends steeply near the end.

Columbia Hwy is busier than the roads you've enjoyed so far, but has a good shoulder. Turn right at the end of Ridgetop Road and go another 2.2 miles. On your right is Fall Hallow Village; on your left is the entrance back onto the Natchez Trace.

Fall Hallow Village has two hotel-style rooms, but plenty of camping. They also have a restaurant.

Miles to Next
Cumulative Miles
Get on Natchez Trace Parkway
Turn right at off-ramp towards TN-7 S / New Highway 7
At bottom of ramp, turn left on TN-7 S / New Highway 7
Fly General Store on left
Retrace route west
Turn left on Leiper’s Creek Road
At stop sign, turn right to stay on Leiper’s Creek Road
At top of hill, turn left to stay on Leiper’s Creek Road
Turn right on Snow Creek Road / TN-247
At stop sign, turn right on Williamsport Pike / TN-50
Turn left on Greenfield Bend Road
Greenfield Bend becomes Kettle Mills Road (unmarked)
At top of hill, bear straight on to Love Branch Road
Turn right on Stephenson Schoolhouse Road
At stop sign, over one-lane bridge, turn right on Cathey’s Creek Road
Turn right to stay on Cathey’s Creek Road
Turn right on Keg Springs Road
Keg Springs Winery on left
Retrace route south
Turn right on Cathey’s Creek Road
If you’re staying at the Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast …
Turn left on Ridgetop Road
Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast on right
If you’re staying at Fall Hallow Village …
Turn right on Ridgetop Road
Turn right on Columbia Hwy / US-412 / TN-99
Fall Hallow Village on right

Day Two

The return trip back to the Northern Terminus is pretty simple: Get on the Trace. The only tricky parts are in knowing where to find food and drink.

Getting to the Trace

If you stayed at Fall Hallow Village, you almost slept in the shadow of the Trace.

If you stayed at Ridgetop, you just have to retrace Ridgetop Road west back towards Cathey's Creek, then continue on Ridgetop Road down to Columbia Hwy. Again, the last half mile is a steep descent. Turn right on Columbia Hwy and go 2.2 miles to the Trace.

When you climb back onto the Trace, there will be a sign pointing left saying "Tupelo" and a sign pointing right that says "Nashville." Head towards Nashville.

Almost immediately, you'll cross Big Swan Creek and begin to climb. Take a break about half-way up this climb and view the water falls just off the Trace on your right.

There are a number of rest areas as you head back towards Nashville, and most offer bathroom facilities and fresh well water. After 25 miles on the Trace, you'll come back to Hwy 7, where you turned off of the Trace on Day One. If you need food or something else to drink, you can go back to the Fly store here.

Another option is to stop in Leiper's Fork. To do this, continue on the Trace another 12 miles to the Pinewood Road / TN-46N exit. Turn left onto the exit, and right on Pinewood Road at the bottom. Go 0.7 miles to Leiper's Creek Road, and turn left.

You'll come to a convenience store in 0.2 miles, or you can continue another mile to downtown Leiper's Fork. There are a number of good places to eat here, including Puckett's Grocery and Joe Natural's Bakery. Afterwards, just retrace your route back to the Trace.

The last 13 miles on the Trace include some tough climbs. You'll cross back over the bridge over Hwy 96, climb a little more, and then enjoy a long downhill that lets you coast all the way to the end.

Miles to Next
Cumulative Miles
If you stayed at the Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast …
Leaving bed and breakfast, turn left on Ridgetop Road
Turn right on Columbia Hwy / US-412 / TN-99
Bear left on to ramp towards Natchez Trace Parkway
Turn right (towards Nashville) on Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway northern terminus
If you stayed at Fall Hallow Village …
Turn right on Columbia Hwy / US-412 / TN-99, then immediately left on to ramp towards Natchez Trace Parkway
Turn right (towards Nashville) on Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway northern terminus

Contact Information and Notes

  • Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast:
  • Fall Hallow Village:
  • Fly General Store is open every day except major holidays from 7 am to 7 pm. Some groceries are available.
  • Williamsport Store hours are Mon-Fri 5a-6p, Sat 6a-6p, Sun 5a-5p. More groceries than at Fly.
  • If you wait until you get to the bottom and need a store, there is a small general store in Hampshire, about four miles away. To get there from Ridgetop B&B, go east on Ridgetop Road for 2.8 miles (bear left at the fork where Ridgetop somehow splits and goes to the right and left). The road will end at US-412 / TN-99; turn left and go 1.2 miles. The hours for this store are usually similar to the Williamsport Store's hours. The ride along Ridgetop Road is very pleasant, however.
  • Most stores in Leiper's Fork are open seven days a week, following standard business hours.

Other RandoBoy Articles

For more information about touring other parts of the Natchez Trace, see these blog posts:

Friday, May 11, 2012

The "F" Word

Thursday mornings in Naples, there's usually a decent-size group that rides up to Florida Gulf Coast University and back -- a 50-mile ride that often takes under two hours. I've joined them about a dozen times so far, and it's always a great workout.

But this past Thursday, it was F-d up.

Yeah, I don't like to use the F word. It is one of the most vulgar four-letter words there is. But it fit.

The group was a little smaller than normal, with just eight of us. We took the bike lane on Vanderbilt Beach Road up to the bike lane on Livingston, where we started north. We had just crossed into Lee County when I hit a piece of discarded lumber lying in the bike lane. I could hear the tire go immediately, and knew that I had gotten a pinch ...

Okay, I'm going to say the F word now. Flat. I had a pinch-Flat on my front tire.

I waved everyone on and got the bike up on the sidewalk. One of the riders came back to make sure that I had everything that I needed; I did, and told him that I would catch them on the way back. Then, I fixed the flat, taking an extra minute to make sure that nothing was still stuck in the tire. There wasn't -- you could tell from the snake-bite holes on the old tube that it was a pinch-flat.

Wow. The more you say that F word, the easier it gets. I'm going to turn into a real pothole mouth if I'm not careful.

I was about done when three of the guys came back for me. It was really nice of them, and as we headed off on the route again I told them that I appreciated it. One of them said that the Naples group often has a reputation for aggressive riding -- I think the phrase was, "We eat our dead" -- but the reality was that they all looked out for one another.

We continued on, holding a pretty stead 25 mph pace. I was feeling tired from riding long Monday and fast on Tuesday, and was thinking maybe I should shorten the ride when -- BAM! -- I hit something else in the bike lane. Less than a minute later, I could hear my rear tire whistling and feel it getting soft.

I hate when my rides screw up, but I hate it even more when my ride screw-ups in turn screw up someone else's ride. I told everyone to go on -- they were only five miles from the turnaround anyway, and I would see them on the return. They asked if I had a spare tube, and I lied and said yes.

I knew that I didn't have a spare tube, but was certain that I had a patch kit. I always carry a patch kit, right?

Yeah. No F-ing patch kit.

It was only about three miles to the Estero Trek store by Coconut Point, so I tried using my last cartridge to fill the tube enough to ride there. That got me about a mile. Then, I remembered something that I have heard about from other randonneurs -- stuff leaves and grass into your tire. I've always wanted to try this, so gave it a go.

Okay, I'm pretty sure that those randonneurs were using high-spoke count wheels and at least 25c tires. Zipp 101s with 23c Continental Grand Prix 4000s, however, do not hold pine straw well. I stuffed them as well as I could, but within half a mile the straw was mashed into pine flour. Maybe it would have worked better with grass or leaves, but I'm a little dubious about this as a future emergency fix option.

Ah, well. I've walked two miles with a bike before.  I started trudging.

Less than half a mile later, the Naples guys came by. They quickly changed my tire for me (getting a good laugh when I pulled all of the pine dust out) and we finished the ride. Another rider had a flat less than half a mile from the end, but I think he did that on purpose to keep me from feeling like a total dork.

The F word is probably inevitable when riding around here, when you need to stay in debris-filled bike lanes or get squashed ... well, flat. But you can survive it if you have another word that begins with F.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Serve and Protect

Most of my blogs I write while I'm out riding my bike. Not so much commit them to paper -- does anybody do that any more? -- as map them out in my head.

It it's something that happens on the ride, or something I see, or just the route itself, the blog is easy. I try to get pictures of the most interesting or pretty things, and then I just have to describe stuff.

Sometimes, however, I get an idea. These things don't usually do well in my head -- I'm not a smart man, Jenny -- but often bounce around and make little noises and bruise the backs of my eyeballs.

Monday, I got an idea when I was passed very closely by a Lee County sheriff's car.

It's not the first time that a law enforcement vehicle of one kind or another has failed to follow the "three-foot law" with me. It happened with a bunch of us near Kingston Springs, TN, a couple of winters ago, even through the road was fairly empty, straight, and the cop did not have his lights or siren going. The three-foot law -- which states that you should give a cyclist at least three feet of clearance when passing in a vehicle -- was pretty new in Tennessee then. It's been in effect here in Florida for almost six years.

My idea on Monday was to write a blog asking members of law enforcement to follow the three-foot law themselves when they pass a bicyclist. I know that they never seem to enforce it -- according to an article published last May Florida police issued 337 citations for the law in its first five years, and I've heard numbers are even worse up in Tennessee -- but I think it would be nice if they at least led by example.

And the more that idea bounced around in my head, the more my head said back, "screw that."

Look, I know that being a cop is hard work. People are breaking the law all around you, and you would probably rather focus on catching murderers and rapists. If you had to pull over every car that went a couple of miles over the speed limit, or didn't quite come to a full stop before turning right at that red light, or made a technically illegal lane change ... well, you'd be really busy.

I mean, you probably don't have the time to enforce some of those new laws against cell phone usage. It's hard to tell if that fellow was weaving all over the road because he's an idiot, or because he was answering an e-mail from his boss. He didn't hit anybody this time, so you let it slide.

You gotta focus on the murderers and rapists, right?

But, what do you do when the texting shmuck kills a family of four next week? And will it bother you when the guy that never moves over for cyclists kills one?

So, I'm not going to ask you to just follow the law yourself. Instead, I'm going to ask something more from all of the police officers, sheriff's deputies, and state patrol men and women out there.

Do your job.

Serve and protect, right? Uphold and enforce the law. And that means all of the laws -- not just the "big" ones or the obvious ones or the easy ones or the popular ones.

How would you feel if you had cancer that required surgery to remove it, and when the doctor opens you up there's a bit more than they thought -- not bad enough that you won't survive, but it's gonna take some time. Should she just say, "Ah, forget it?" What if she just cut out the parts that were easy to get to, and left the rest?

What if firefighters had the option to skip a house fire if the address is for a small house? Or if we gave them the choice to not respond if they are at least 90% sure that nobody lives in that house right now? Nobody's gonna get hurt ... probably.

You're probably saying now, "Be careful what you ask for -- you may not like it when you get it." Maybe your right. Maybe I'll be really pissed off the first time that I get a ticket for driving 46 in a 45 mph zone, or going through a stop sign on my bicycle in one of the neighborhoods that Naples riders frequent for fast training.

But if these are the rules and everybody is forced to start playing by the same rules, I'll adjust. Because when everybody starts playing by the rules, when I am out on my bicycle they will pass me safely, won't veer into me while sending a text, or make an illegal lane change that winds up with me being dragged under their trailer. If we can stop that, then maybe I can live long enough to adjust.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why It's Not Crazy to Go Long Here Now

Apparently, May is when the last of the madding crowds abandon southwest Florida and return to their homes up north. Maybe it's because the "feels like" temperature climbs into the low 90's before noon, or the letter from the Home Owners Association finally catches up to them and it's either take down that Rick Santorum for President sign in the front yard now or pay a $100 fine.

Whatever the reason, the result is that I can again ride my bicycle up to Fort Myers Beach without getting buzzed going over every bridge and stuck in stop-and-go insanity when you hit the high rises. Monday, I celebrated this new-found freedom by riding long.

I took the usual way, up through Pelican Bay to Vanderbilt Beach, and then up through Bonita Beach into the state park. All of the maladies that had kept me off the bike for the past two weeks were gone, and my legs felt springy. That wouldn't last, of course, since I ended up asking a lot of them.

Other than being a little warm, the day was perfect for a long ride. Winds were light in the morning, and only got up to a steady 5-10 mph in the afternoon. This gave me a tailwind for my ride north; coming back, the wind was more against me, but never really harsh.

The last time that I had done this route, I had turned back before the bridge over to the mainland. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper for a mile before, and it just made sense. This time, the roads were almost empty, even though it was about 9:30 am.

The Naples Velo bike club does this route up to the bridge and back on most Saturday morning. For them, it's a 25-mph speed limit ride for the pack. Yes, that's not a typo -- we often have to yell at the guys in front when they take the pace up to 26 or 27 mph. Coming back, the speed limit is off, and it's usually 28-30 mph. There's a big sprint going over the bridge, and you're never going the kind of pace where you can slow down enough to pull out your camera and get a picture of all of the boats at anchor in the river.

Since I was having this much fun, I kept going. The next couple of miles are not really pleasant, as you have to ride on four-lane San Carlos Boulevard. Traffic was still light, though, and cars had no trouble moving over and leaving me a lane. Some did so grudgingly ... including one Lee County Sheriff's Deputy who failed to follow the three-foot law.

Summerlin Road also has no bike lane, and cars zip by at over 60 mph here. You can get on a multi-use trail on the other side of the road, but again traffic was light enough that I just took one of the lanes. After a couple of miles, you get to McGregor Boulevard -- which has a bike lane -- and climb the bridge towards Sanibel.

I'd ridden up here a few times, but never really explored the islands. First, I headed up to the southwest end, where a beautiful beach overlooks the pass. You can just see the high-rises all the way down to Naples from here.

Next, I went over to the lighthouse. It was about this time that I began thinking, "This might make a nice permanent ... but only during the off-season."

While I was taking this picture, another tourist asked if I had been to Captiva, too. I admitted that I had not, and she said it's also lovely. Who am I to argue? I headed north.

It's just over 10 miles from the south end of Sanibel Island up to Captiva Island. There is a multi-use trail, but it gets a lot of tourists on beach cruisers and even some of those big four-wheel pseudo-bikes with awnings and seating for four. I stuck to the road for most of the trip north -- again, with no trouble.

If you blink, you'll miss the pass where you cross onto Captiva Island.

Captiva opted for bike lanes instead of a multi-use trail. Also, the road moves closer to the beach for most of its length, making for better views.

I went as far north as I could, although I think that I could have snuck past the guard shack and into the resort at the tip to go another mile or two. I stopped at the public beach, instead, for a quick picture.

There's a ferry that you can catch up here that will take you to North Captiva Island, or even Cabbage Key, neither of which is connected to the mainland via a bridge. Someday, I'd like to catch this and explore one or both of those islands.

I was just over 50 miles at this point, so I stopped by the Island Store for a bottle of Gatorade and a candy bar. Folks were out here, now, but mostly getting by via foot. The vibe was nicely laid back.

Going south put me closer to the beach. The array of plant life along this stretch was incredible, with lots of sea oats and various varieties of cacti and succulents. You're almost happy that the wind is now making you move a bit slower.

This time, I took the multi-use trail. It was fairly empty, and the few folks that I encountered moved aside to let you by as soon as they knew you were there. Unfortunately, a lot of them had headphones or ear buds in, and didn't know you were there unless you yelled.

I really hated to leave the islands, but the view of San Carlos Bay made it worthwhile.

The color of the water in the sunlight was spectacular. This, my friends, is aquamarine. Nothing other than water should ever be called aquamarine -- it's instead just some variant of blue or green. From now on, reserve aquamarine for use only when referring to a body of water.

Thus let it be written.

On my way over the bridge earlier, I had noticed a television crew filming some sort of event. Coming back, the crew was just leaving, and I realized that this had been something commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of Tracey Kleinpell -- a cyclist who was hit by a motorist here. As part of the ceremony, the ghost bike here had been decorated.

The mixture of tragedy and beauty made for a poignant scene.

Traffic was up a bit by now, so I opted for the multi-use trail on Summerlin this time. San Carlos was also a bit more hectic, but the huge bike/bus lane on the bridge when you cross into Fort Myers Beach gives you a break ... not to mention an excellent view.

I stopped for a quick lunch at the McDonald's just over the bridge. The break took some of the pain from my legs, which were feeling my recent lack of miles. Earlier, my back had been bothering me as well, but it had gotten in line. My speed was down considerably as I headed on down through Fort Myers Beach and onto the bridges through Lover's Key.

Some minor cramps were starting to set in as I passed through Estero, which usually means that I have not been drinking enough. Once back in Naples, I stopped at Publix for a few groceries.

The Almond Breeze was for sugar and calcium, and just because it tastes good. The Vitamin Water was to top off my bottles, which were mostly ice from my stop at McDonald's by now. The pickles were my standard remedy for cramps -- I drank the juice and ate about a third of the jar. I'm sure that I was a sight, sitting on the curb out in front of the store with my picnic, but it did the job and the cramps never took hold in full force.

It would have been really nice to have ridden this route back in January, when the weather was cooler. It's strange that you have to wait for the heat here to set in before you can safely ride some of these roads. Maybe more people driving car will see the ghost bike on San Carlos Bay and think carefully about their interactions with bicycles on the road.

It's probably foolish to think that anything good can come out of something so bad, but that's what a day like Monday does to me. Hope springs ... particularly in the spring.