Florida Tempo

[Note: this is an old post from the former ABRT Blog that I am archiving here.]

We just spent 4 days in south Florida at my in-laws and it was a very welcome change to the weather we’ve been having in the Mid-Atlantic this year. The temperatures were in the low 70s and other than a little rain the first day, there was bright sunshine and very dry air. In past years I did a fair amount of running when we visited and the last time we drove down a few years ago, I brought a bike. Remembering  how much I enjoyed having a bike here, this year I decided to bring a bike on the plane. After all, I did buy an Iron Case a few years ago for the Spain trips, so I might as well get some use out of it. I took my Surly Steamroller fixed gear because it is pancake flat in the Ft Myers area and my 76 gear inch rig would let me spin nicely. Also, if it did rain, I wouldn’t stress about not having my usual cleaning gear with me. Plus, it’s dead nuts simple to pack/unpack, and even though I don’t do it very often it only takes about 15 minutes start to finish.

I did a little homework on local bike shops and roads so that I could get a CO2 cartridge without riding sans a safety net and to do some route planning. I’ve spent enough time here to know that finding good ridable routes in this sea of ungodly urban sprawl, asphalt, 6 lane roads and Hummers can be a little tricky.

We flew down Sunday night on Southwest, which has the chapest bike rates of the domestic airlines – $50 each way. We did have to upgrade to a minivan so that the bike box would fit for the ride to N Ft Myers.  Anyone have suggestions for bike boxes in small cars? I thought about bringing a strapon roof rack that Lisa bought 30 years ago for her windsurfer, but didn’t want to get stuck if I couldn’t make it work.

Monday rained pretty much all day, so I used the opportunity to get the bike together and get to the LBS.  The next day we were planning a family outing to Matlacha (pronouced Mat-La-Che), a funky artists community about 20 miles northwest of Ft Myers right before you get to Pine Island. Perfect. I’ll ride out there, hang with the family and ride home. But how to get there? I used Google Maps for my travels to the LBS and to scout some roads in that direction and at one point I saw the universal “Bike Route” sign out of the corner of my eye. Between following it partway in the car and on Google Maps, I found that this “WO&D-like” trail goes all the way through the southern part of Cape Coral with very well marked and signaled crossings at major intersections. Cape Coral is tricky  because it is all cut up with canals like one of those kids games of find the end through the maze which makes for few through roads and lots of dead ends. Along with some other side roads I managed to plan virtually the entire 20 miles each way without riding on a major road.

Tuesday morning was cool and windy from the west 15-20 mph after the passing of a cold front. The ride to Matlacha was very nice but quite a workout into the wind, but I knew coming home would rock, and rock it did. Cadence on the way there hovered around 70. On the way home around 100, and I don’t think I ever really got much out of zone 3. I think I almost made it back to the house as fast as Lisa and the kids driving. My in-laws condo has a hot tub and pool, so I made copious use of that for recovery, followed by a nice dinner out with the family. Doesn’t get much better than that! Ride details:

Wednesday was our day out on Sanibel/Captiva and annual trip. The last time I had a bike here I did the round trip, about 70 miles. Wednesday was a carbon copy of Tuesday except that the breeze was a little more northerly. Perfect. I got a head start from Lisa figuring they would blow by me on McGregor Blvd going south. But, with the tail wind, I was averaging 22-25 hovering about 110 rpms. For the sailors in the crowd, this felt like doing a Mexican Ocean race – effortlessly surfing downwind – it just feels sooooo good. The only hill around was going over the Intercoastal Waterway bridge on the Sanibel Causeway.

Once on Sanibel, I made way better time than the cars due to the stop and go traffic. Excellent. There is a really good bike path that goes the whole length of Sanibel and once I got away from the hotel area and the people who can’t ride bikes in a straight line, it was smooth sailing all the way to Captiva. And on top of that, they have widened the road after the path ends at Captiva so there is a wide enough shoulder to accommodate cyclists, runners and cars. A win for everyone. I pulled into the Mucky Duck about 5 minutes ahead of Lisa. We spend the day on the beach and after wards, I contemplated riding home, but it was getting late, so opted for the car ride, although while sitting in traffic getting off Sanibel, it didn’t seem like such a good decision. But nothing that a few minutes in the hot tub didn’t cure when we got home. Ride details:

Thursday, I took off early in the morning while everyone was just chillin to check out Ft Myers Beach, about 20 miles from my inlaws. It was a bit warmer and almost no wind, which would make a perfect riding day. This ride was all on busy surface streets, but at least there are very wide lanes that can easily fit a car and a cyclist, so not that big a deal. When I got close to the causeway, the traffic was really backed up, but, sweet, not for me. I got over on the beach, took a few pictures, absorbed what appeared to be your basic redneck version of Atlantic City and hit the road back. The traffic was backed up probably 5 miles trying to get onto the island. Yech. I spun both down and back hovering about 100 rpms. Fast but comfortable. And of course, the hot tub and the pool at the end. Ride details:

I ended up riding about 115 miles for the three days. When you consider the basic cost of $100 for the plane and $100 for the minivan upgrade, I was a little under $2/mile, about the same as cab fare. But given the lack of riding this winter and the pressures of work/family, it was great to be able to put three consecutive days of riding together in the warm sun followed by my favorite recovery activity – hot tub and gin. The only thing that was missing was Deb’s massage! Well, the Spain Training camp it was not, but nonehteless some much needed – mentally as well as physically – tempo. I get the feeling that just how things roll there naturally.

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