Tuesday morning, I woke up at 6 am. I'd been up late the night before packing things at the house in Naples and getting the house ready to sell, but the old inner alarm clock did its usual thing and, BAM, I was awake.
My original plan for the morning was to walk the dog and head over to do the 7 am Naples Velo club ride. As I lay there in bed, however, I found myself making excuses not to go. I needed a ride -- particularly that kind of ride, where the pace would be high and everything would get properly taxed -- but just didn't feel like doing the group ride. Eventually, I rolled out of my driveway about 7 am, too late for the pack, and did roughly the same route as the group had done, but by myself.
The problem is obvious. I'm avoiding the confrontation.
There are a few people who know that I'm leaving, and I'm worried that they would say something during the ride and other people would ask the inevitable: "You're moving away? Why?"
And that's just not an easy question to answer on a ride when you're going so hard that you can barely suck down enough oxygen to keep your major bodily organs working.
So, to answer that, let me tell all of my cycling friends in Naples this:
It's not you. It's me. And it's also a lot of other people.
You're great. Really. I love sitting on your wheel most of the time ... except when you're going so fast that my eyes literally pop out of my skull, or maybe when you don't point out stuff in the bike lane and I end up changing a flat tire. Thanks to you, I'm a stronger rider today than I was last year, and my paceline and cornering skills are better than ever. Sitting around at Fit & Fuel after the ride is always a blast, and the little bit of time that I've gotten to socialize with you all off of the bike has been fun.
I wish that I'd gotten to know more of you better. To be honest, I probably held back in the past few months, sensing that the whole "Naples/Me" thing just wasn't going to work out. Maybe I never really committed to our relationship, so it was doomed to failure.
So, like I said, it's me. And some other people.
Some of those people are my Tennessee friends. They tempted me, and are unrepentant in that regard.
But a lot of the other people are, frankly, the drivers of Naples.
I've biked a lot of places, but I must admit that Florida drivers exhibit more antipathy around cyclists than any other drivers that I've experienced. As I've noted before in this blog, it's typically the drivers with a sense of entitlement who most often behave badly around bikes, and Florida frankly seems to have the most entitled drivers around. It has gotten such that I expect to be treated as a troublesome encumbrance when I try to share the road with a car, which is probably why most cyclists stick to the bike lanes and multi-use trails and (horrors!) sidewalks, only venturing on to "real" roads when they have a sufficiently large pack.
Not that there is even safety in numbers. Cars crowd us with disdain, ignoring our rights to the road and buzzing past our shoulders on bridges and shoulder-less streets. They pull out of side streets right in front of us, pass us just to turn right 50 yards further on, and constantly creep over on to the measly strip of bike lane or shoulder that the state has granted us.
Maybe it's the nature of the land. There aren't many meandering roads, and living this close to the beach means that there are more people here. Maybe it's the demographics -- older drivers are not known for their reaction times, and they probably think they need to hurry up and get wherever it is that they're going fast since they don't have all that much time left on this planet. Or maybe it's just because, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The rich are different than you and me."
To which Hemingway replied, "Yes, they have more money. And -- even though they pay less in taxes -- they think that they somehow own the road more than some dork in lycra on a bike does."
Maxwell Perkins edited that last part out, of course. Scribner made him do it -- and what else would you expect from a rich guy?
Anyway, I'm going to miss the Naples Velo folks, as well as the folks at The Bike Route, Fit & Fuel, and Naples Cyclery. But I am not going to miss the southwest Florida drivers. I hate to give them this victory, but they've managed to get one less bicycle on their precious roads.