Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Florida Bike Safari

The first event of my cycling year has come and gone. The Florida Bike Safari was a combination of beautiful rural Florida scenery, wildflowers, and good eating. This year instead of taking a tent down and camping like last time, I carried the camping trailer and took Bev and David along. I should say firstly that they had a good time and enjoyed the good company and good foods. But as is typical with using our camping trailer, we brought rain to areas that had been having a lengthy dry spell. I've been thinking we should just go from place to place with it bringing rain to dry areas. Maybe we could even charge for the service. So just like every other camping trip, while we were parked in Live Oak, it rained. Then when we moved it up to Cherry Lake, it rained. We hope the Floridians appreciated the gift.

Riding down there is quite a bit different from here. Up here, with our hills, a 55 mile ride can bring you down to jello legs and make you hunt the couch. Down there, 100 miles is just for starters then you can hoist the Grandson onto your shoulders for a long walk in the evening. Now to say there were no hills isn't true. They had some small ones. I found myself powering over them nicely. And what Florida lacks in hills, they make up for in wind. There was one day in particular where I personally witnessed the wind changing direction while we were fueling at the SAG stop so it would blow against us on the way back to the campground. No wonder the ancients believed the forces of nature were governed by gods and demons who needed to be appeased. Wind shifting like that seems like a personal attack.

Another thing that seemed to be abundant this year was "road kill." There were more things dead on the highway than the vultures could handle. In fact there was a dead vulture on the road as well. Cyclists weren't typically in danger. The roads around there carry the least traffic of anywhere you will ride. And when you traveled a busier highway, there was a generous shoulder to ride on. I think the reason the traffic is so low is due to the decline of these small farm communities. Often you will pass a cemetery in the middle of nowhere. It is as if the whole populace has died and been buried leaving no one there. In more than one of the little towns we SAG stopped in, the store fronts were empty and appeared to have been that way for decades.

The Freewheelers Members made us really welcome. Although it is a long drive down to Live Oak, the food and people are worth it. I saw lots of the same faces from last year's Safari. It was good to see Mike's friend Howard back. He is an 83 year old phenom. My hero. I want to be riding 50 milers when I am 83. But there were more just like him. Paul rode both centuries with us and he is a youthful 77. George was out there on the centuries maintaining a 17 mph average at a young 81. It is a wonder to see.