PROLOGUE-all the armchair riders said the same thing about Florida; flat. hot. windy.
OK, I will do lots of flat perms and brevets in spring training. I did Keith Sutton's 300, and 400 in Va in april as well as the local 300. It never got hot here though, so acclimation to heat was off some. Make that a lot. The format was really cool for this ride. meet in Ft. Meyers beach on the gulf coast, ride a ferry to Key West, and make a huge sweep out of the keys and up the atlantic coast to Daytona. Then we'd march across the 'hills' of the Clermont area outside Orlando, through orchards and such. Climb a 'mountain' on route to Lake Wales. the final day would get take us home to Ft Meyers..Cool.
I took 2 days to drive down. I had a terrible sore throat that was worst at night time and made sleeping difficult. Upon arrival bike assembly was required so they could be hauled to Key West. on Sunshine eve we riders boarded a ferry boat to get to Margaritaville.
|Claire boards the truck|
|mr. Bill walks the plank|
|DD. king of the stateside hooligans|
|Breezin' with turbo.|
|West, east, and in between|
|if it fits, it ships!|
the key west express took about 3 hrs to get us to the dock. that was a fun way to get down there, I would do it again for sure. we shuttled over to our hotel, and began the wait. it took about 2hrs to get our room which chewed up touring time. finally Tim and I got to walk the streets for an hour or so. we had lunch at Willie T's, an open air bar with plenty of fans equipped with misters. nice. we ventured south on Duval st. where we were propositioned, saw chickens walking around, street people, Hemmingway's place, scooters and cruisers, you name it all mingling in a very layed back way.
next stop was bike inspection, and a dinner/meet and greet. upon inspection the bikes received these little nuggets:
|keeping up with the randos|
DAY1-Key West to Jupiter 265 mi.
|lining up at oh! four-hundred|
|lots of fun folks|
|sleepy ones too|
|zipping out of town|
|set the controls for the heart of the sun|
I spent some time with callista and werner for the first half of the run across the keys which was mostly long bridges and tiny towns. we made a good call on this long one and chose the path. for much of the way on A1A there was a bike lane, and later an actual secondary path with smooth asphalt. this was also where the shade was later on. the light rolled to the south of the road.
|no cars here :)|
|#1. who's counting?|
It was about 20 miles to Florida City where there would be stores and fast food. my buddy Tim pinged he was chillin at McD's 3 miles away.. when we got there Jose' was on the floor with cramps. I immediately took off the shoes, my pack, and ordered a big burger, fries, and blueberry smoothie. It was my first solid food at the 11th hr. and first bit of AC and a seat too. No hurry up stop here for sure. i donned my sunsleeves and the four of us rolled out as Bill Olson and another came in. the next section went by Homestead and then lots of palm tree nurseries and coconut groves.
|these are full of magic water|
as we neared civilization, vickie and Jose' got up the road a tick. Tim and I eased our way through rush hour and eventually wound up on paths along the road for the next 7 miles. the homes were spectacular, especially the super pimp moderns.
|but what sights to see!|
soon we made it into the city, and i had a squishy rear tire :( I stopped twice to add air. I had pinched it on the bumpy pathway it seemed. I was going to get to the 175 mark in Miami Beach even if it was on the rim. it was...
|crossing onto Miami Beach|
we had some company at the end of this stretch, but let them go when we saw a 7-eleven. the next store was at mile 216 (about 20mi). all in all the Miami crossing was about 4hrs!
Tim and I rolled through an industrial area, and on toward Ft. Lauderdale. the high rises resumed, and there was a party zone with the ocean roaring to our right. of course that wind was howling too. somewhere up here i flatted on the front end. while changing it I noticed a broken spoke too. no wobble, no problem. we made it to the next store and saw dave and dick again. they were sagging a rider to jupiter. I went for some caffeine and off we rolled. Tim had a red bull and got away on the grinder to palm beach. I had to stop and patch flat #4 in Palm. I napped on the bench too. this whole stretch totalled about 70 miles of amazing high rise properties, peppered with houses in the really affluent areas like boca raton and palm beach. this fact kept it interesting in the wee hours. at mi 245 I ran into the canadians carey and chris. we would cover the final 20 mi together after climbing a steeep, high bridge onto Singer island, arriving in Jupiter at 4:55 am 25 hrs after the start. I was covered in black dirt, and beat down pretty good. I jumped in the shower and was sleeping at 5:30. I got a roomie at 6:30 and that ended the sleep. I was up, dressed and looking for a partner by a quarter to eight. That turned out to be one Texan-Charlie Adams.
Day 2-Jupiter to Daytona 185 miles
Charlie and I headed out before the control closed, agreeing nice and easy does it. We eased through a nice neighborhood and past a park where we rolled through these banyan trees. we got onto the first of many trails and bike paths we would ride today..
Charlie and I took turns leading the way early. It already seemed hot out. wind and humidity were strong too, as we would be waterside the first half of the day. Around mile 20 or so, half way to control 1, we saw a store and decided a cold drink was in order. while there, Chester from canada showed up. he was suffering from the heat and was taking a breather. we crossed another of the many bridges of the day, and began the 19 mi cruise up Indian river rd.. this was fairly scenic and more old school than the glitz of day ones' amazing blue glass high rise cribs and yachts.
|those little shade balls are precious|
somewhere along this stretch Charlie began to pull away slowly. i know the road was flat but it seemed like a climb. I had little to spare and Chester was spent, spinning a few cranks and then coasting, over and over. Soon cars were coming at us with lights on and wipers running. Rain! Psych. we chased the dark cloud for over an hour and never caught it. we did see one more store with a subway. and no A/C, dammit. oh well, fill 'em up.
|it's rough out here|
finally we were getting close to Merrit island and i was feeling better-cooling off and finding some legs. not chester, so i waited on him to blow cookies or faint or whatever needed to do. the neighborhoods up here were really cool near cocoa beach. out of nowhere, susan came blasting by and vanished up the road. we would see her and others at the store at mile 115. susan is a nurse and did everything she could to revive chester. mustard, pickles, a battery charger for his garmin. we rolled about dusk. more groovy houses and salty things. by dark we were on a busy hwy and stopped to get chester more water and food. we cleared titusville (ugh) and marched onto the canaveral seashore. chester was off the back after a huge bridge and susan and i were cruising. i really wanted to kick it, but she was just too much, determined to get to the barn and rejoin her pals on the next morning. I had to let here go. the next 20 miles were a funky solo affair across the eerie, abandoned NASA area. I saw some critters, and went by a pond or swamp with about a half million frogs singing at a deafening roar! at the end of it I sat there for a moment and chester showed up. we rode for a few cues and i was sleepy, wanting something fizzy and caffeinated. of course, there were no services from the last control at mi 115 to Daytona at mi185. we asked a cop about stores and he pointed a mile or so off course. close enough, we went for a drink. it was close to midnight. back on course, with about 15 to go, we got to work. soon we were on the last few cues and who shows up? the canucks! we make the last couple moves along the halifax river and turn onto the biggest bridge of the ride. if the flatlanders here in NC have a few cat. 2 overpasses on some routes then this is an HC for sure. up and over, roaring down the other side to a stop light. left to the hotel, the longest 4 miles of the day. hello Oceanside Inn. almost 5 hrs gained back, I am gonna get a real nap. there were big deli trays out and I had a killer sandwich. made another for the next day too. the take-away again was the daytime heat was just so oppressive that it was hard to pedal at a lively pace, and frequent little rests were needed. eating solid food was difficult too, and I really only did the one time in vero beach around mile 60..
Day 3-Daytona to Lake Wales 161 miles
we only had a few quick roads to get on Intl. Speedway / us92 which we cruised for 17 miles. at the end of that stretch was a store, and several bikes pulled in for a quick drink. we went from 2 to 6 or 7 riders which remained in fairly close proximity to each other for most of the day. at this point, after trolling a small town, we headed into the rollers. there were a couple nice ones too. after 2 straight days of flat headwinds it was fine with me. I didn't get far on to the 11 miles of cr42 when I flatted. in minutes, Dave and dick rolled up and helped me out. a floor pump, extra tube, and a moist towlette and smile from Dicky boy and I was rolling (that was #6). I made the control at mi 42 in Paisley while the other riders were there. Michelle was getting a flat fixed there. a volunteer had a truckload of stuff. ALWAYS a welcome thing! we roll about an hour or more, over some hills including one called thrill hill. it's HOT again. we're about 8 miles from the days summit- sugarloaf mountain. there is a nice store and everyone pulls in and eats because they have a grill, booths, and air conditioning. I eat half of the sandwich I packed with some chips.
ok let's go get this climb done. before the grinder is roundabout and I am off the front alone. the sheet is lacking info here and i stop to figure it out, and Marti comes along and says 'gps this way' so I follow and pick up the pace again. the whole climb is only about 4-5 10ths of a mile, but the last bit is steep to the tune of about 17%. it's a big deal around here! up on top was Marion with shaded chairs and plenty of refreshments. Yay! we cheered as all the other riders appeared one by one over the crest of the hill.
super awesome:the fenstad oasis
up on the hill lives a couple, the Fenstads,who have had a water cooler and cups for riders and runners for over 10 years. very cool! we had an info control here which was to answer the question 'how much $ has been raised?' they have a donation receptacle by the water station that goes to charity. very nice..
off we rolled down the hill on some really rough roads. I figured someone would flat, but didn't. soon we were on another ridge and around a really pretty lake and cherry trees. It was only 20 miles to mascotte, another control. major cooling inside with 2 naked smoothies and a banana. shoes off too. did I say how hot it was?
It was 5 o'clock, and the next section was really cool so we took off so we'd have plenty of light. I didn't make it far and had flat #7. lucky again, Marion rolled up and had a floor pump.
|I'm getting good at this|
I was able to catch back up and join the others and soon enough the road ended. we hopped on the Van Fleet Trail- a 14 mile rails to trails paved carless sanctuary. I was visiting with Peter from UK and having a good time swapping stories. we were headed south and also getting no wind because of all the shelter. the one thing we were all looking for on this trail were the alligators. we found them not quite halfway down..
|what are you lookin' at?|
I goofed around a bit long here and had to put in a little effort to get to the end of the trail at which point we headed east again. back to work, damn wind. after 4 miles we headed S on
old grade rd and it was a soft uphill for 6 miles. blinkies were coming on as it was dusky now. by the time we reached the Lake Alfred control it was 8:30 and fully dark. the store clerks were busy getting ready to close and not messing around. there were riders behind us. Mickey from japan got there in time but 2 others did not. we left some water and stuff for them and we left the store with an even bigger group. another long climb ensued and a mile from the top and the next town my front tire was going down so i jetted ahead to a corner with a street light and started the repair on #8..Tim stopped to check on me, and threw a tube my way. I was rolling soon, but never caught them due to mixed up cues thru the town. on the away out there was a road that looked like the surface of the moon! I rode down the jagged center stripe in the road. cursing like a sailor in the dark. all the cues were short 1 and 2 milers. it was taking forever to close this day out but I made it just past midnight. the volunteers had some nice pasta and goodies at the hotel. Tim and I got a room and got 4hrs sleep. pretty good, since we'd ridden 611 miles and I'd slept 4hrs since the start..deeelux.
Day 4-Lake Wales to Ft. Meyers Beach 150 miles
alright now. I think I was out before 7 with vickie and Jose'. It was nice out. At mile 6 i flatted in back and let my friends go. I changed the tire at a church. It was sunday, i figured it couldn't hurt. #9 would be my last flat, but not my last problem. I was rolling alone, nabbed the info control which was the gas price, and turned the corner. up ahead I caught Marti, she was upset about the control she missed, and I helped her out. we started working together and made some good tempo. she went for a drink and her bottles were empty! with 20 to go, I gave her one of mine. Like angels, Dave and Dick showed up, asking how we were doing, and hearing our tales, pulled over so we could fill up. our friends ahead did too..
through the next section was a prelude to the afternoon. orchards. and more orchards. I was tempted to grab an orange at times. coming into avon park i hit some RR tracks a little hard. I popped a second spoke up front and the wheel was wobbling too much. I stopped and let the brake out to stop the rubbing, and eased into the store about a mile later. there were bikes everywhere! the californians were there, and so were the folks I was with yesterday. we had a quick talk, they had all heard about my ride- the record number of flats was already legend throughout the field. I said i may need a wheel but I was using a dyno. like that, battery powered lights, tubes, and stuff hit the table. these amazing people i had known for three days were willing to give up some of their gear to get me in. gotta love some randos I tell ya. I watched them leave as I went to work. I posted to FB my location and situation, tagging my NC boys, knowing they would be done in a couple hrs and if needed I hoped I could get a dyno wheel from one of them them.
the wheel had a spoke gone from ea side, close together. I removed the broken one and started truing. I got it really close and packed up. the next road was nice. 6.8 miles with a tailwind. I think it was the only one of the ride. I held 20mph all the way. back into the wind for 10, then after a wooden bridge, (where I inspected tires for splinters) another 8 miles on a road that changed to dusty dirt and gravel. WTF!? after that it was heat in the desert. very slow, lonely riding. 50 miles with no services. I have no idea how anyone did it on 2 bottles. seriously. it looked like this for miles and miles.
i got back on the highway and saw a sign for fruit, and a half mile later was getting waved down by a rider. Timbo!!
our soon to be riding buddy Werner was there too.
he was not having a good day either..
there wasn't any water here, but..
mmm, watermelon. WET.
we took off and headed toward Arcadia which was still 8 miles away. about halfway there we passed a couple of closed stores, but I saw a man outside a church. I asked if there was a spigot on the building, and he said "come on in and have some iced tea and water". they had pitchers on tables in the fellowship hall and a big ice machine. hallelujah. back on the bikes and in to town. the store had a beer cave. yes I will chill out, thank you.
we moseyed to the taco bell to eat sitting down and rest. Werner was really hurting and telling us he went too hard and made some rookie errors. he asked if he could join us and we said sure. by the time we left, we had 100k to ride, and 7 hrs to get it done. no prob, right?
the sun was shining, blazing was more like it. Werner had very little in the tank, and was stopping at every chance. we had a couple short cues, then a 7 miler. near the end of that, we paused and a lady pulled up in her SUV and asked if more riders were out here. "yes" we said. "well, there is one laying down back there, wasn't sure if he was alive, or what." 'oh, we are on a really long ride. sometimes we do that." ''OK, y'all be safe." True story..
the middle half of this stretch is one long stretch. 25 mi down SR30. and yup, no stores for 50 of the 60 miles. Werner is dying. he can only go about 6mph by himself. the math doesn't get him there in time. we've done the math, and need about 12mph to allow some stops. Tim tells him about some badasses quitting on the first day. and that we have like 10 1200's between us two. he says- ' if you make it to the last day, you finish it.' Werner says "you guys are great, i can't thank you enough" I say "thanks man, let's go". Tim flats and tells us to keep going, he'll catch up. We see a dude with a cooler on the roadside. he has no water, the earlier riders got it all. Another angel shows up right after that and we get the fluids we need. one more hallelujah. we get it moving and some clouds start to roll in. looks like storms around us, but we never get rain. like a turtle, we eventually get to the outskirts. we are talking time, and we stop and I tell Werner the story of YoA! he again is amazed by randonneurs and the stuff we do. 'Dude, you are one of us and about to pull off something so tough very few even try it" "well, I'll never do it again" hehe. right..
we put on our reflective stuff, and light up. gonna be a dark finish. after a long stretch we were closing in. Werner needs a break at every traffic light. Tim tells me to run in if I wanna get a YoA! time. I hop on it, and I feel crisp and sharp. I am scooting in town at 17mph like a boss. I had the timing just about nailed but blew by the hotel street when I misread the cue after all those miles! I pulled a U-turn and landed in the driveway at 88:59. The welcoming committee was big and loud. Really cool. Tim and Werner came along about 15min later. It was a pleasure to help a rookie finish the ride. It was an honor to share the duty with my Bro Tim Lucas, a class act and great rando. We were burnt to a crisp, and glad to be done. By the time we went to sleep we were talking about the next big one.
Any rider will tell you what a great job, David and his band of merry rando volunteers did with this ride. with the logistics involved, and expansive route, it was no small feat to pull off. Chapeau!!! I recommend it, if you get the chance. quite challenging, but hey, if it weren't, why do it? I'll do it again. but with a bigger camelbak, and more tubes and tires :) G-