This is the second time I have done this event. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Bonita Springs and it was also a chance to visit with Nevada, my NJ riding friend who happens to have a house in Clermont, FL where the event happens each year and is hosted by the Florida Freewheeler's.
Nevada's new home in Florida
Chelsea, Nevada's silkie terrier. She was wearing a coat since it was so cold
I arrived on Saturday, the day before, to pick up the registration packet and to attend the bike expo which occurs both Saturday and Sunday. Nevada and I picked up our registration packet and we both purchased several items including a "Share the Road" jersey which supports safe cycling in the state of Florida.
The weather was expected to be very cold for Florida.....in the high 30's / low 40's. The latest start time for any ride was 9 AM as there was no mass start. At 9 AM the temperature was a balmy 44 degrees! I was cold even though I had brought enough warm gear to ride. The issue was that by the time we finished it would be close to 60. How you do dress for that??
Here are some photos from the event.
Getting ready for the ride. Can you tell it's cold??
The rest stop at Green Mountain Scenic Overlook
A fashion faux pax. Capri's with booties
Guess who we saw at the event? Snowflake the Paratrooper's three legged dog from the 2015 Veteran's ride
I was able to talk to Jake, Snowflake's owner, to ask him why he was not at the Veteran's ride this year and he told me that he was deployed and just came back this week and will go back next week. Be safe Jake and Snowflake!
There was a sign that I wish I could have taken a photo of but we were in the middle of the climb. It was after we came out of the rest stop. It said....."Are We Having Fun Yet" Too funny but just what I was thinking.
A view of the lake around Waterfront Park
The finish line
We did the wall.....a 14 % climb which is the same climb Joe b, Leslie, Liz and Dave C did on the Mount Dora ride. In the end we ended up with 36 miles with 2300+ ft of climbing. Nevada and I had a vegetarian lunch, walked around the expo one more time and decided to head back to her house on our bikes. That added another 4 miles and 200 ft of climbing. It was a great ride and if you have never done this ride I highly recommend it. I did make a suggestion to the event organizer to add a 50 mile option. To go from 35 miles to the next ride level at 70 miles is tough for Florida Flatlanders that don't do hills regularly. Let's see what happens next year.
On Monday Nevada and I did a short 19 mile ride with 1400 ft of climbing before I headed back to Bonita Springs. There are very few places you can go on a bike in Clermont without a climb being part of the ride. Many of the climbs are about an 8-10% grade but the last one we did was Skyridge Drive with a 14 % grade. Since we didn't have time to do Sugarloaf Mountain at 14%....this was its replacement.
This morning was chilly by Florida standards. That means it was in the low 60's. I have even brought arm warmers that I decided to ditch ( with a little persuasion from a north east buddy that was texting me before the ride....thanks Dave) and it was a great decision. One less thing to carry.
The SoWeFlo group gathered for a photo shoot before the ride
Martha L and Liz F getting ready for the ride
Gray and Liz F
Joe B and James K who are my Tuesday and Thursday riding buddies
Brad D posing for a photo inside the Humvee
A Florida National Guardsman. Thank you for your service not only today but every day!
We started out about 8:15 with a Humvee escort at the front as well as the back of the group. The ride was a bit disjointed in the beginning starting out at 24 mph and often slowing down to 14-16 mph at intersections and then speeding up again. It definitely felt strange to be riding on Rt 41 ( otherwise known as Tamiami Trail) but with the Humvee as well as police escorts in each county it felt safe. Many drivers honked their horns to acknowledge their support of the ride. This is a very patriotic part of the country.
We stopped in Fort Myers at mile 22 at the Crown Point Plaza hotel for a water and food break. Naples Cyclery was the host of this event and also provided the rest stop at Crown Point.
Once back on the road the speed was again slow until we rode over the Ft. Myers bridge. It was a slow ride over but once we got over the bridge the speed once again picked up and we were doing the advertised speed for the ride of 22 mph for pretty much the rest of the ride.
The next 25-30 miles were very flat and fast. My leg and hip started to hurt at mile 39 but I refused to give up and worked through the pain until the end of the ride. I stood a lot out of the saddle and clipped out a lot but I made it to the finish.
It felt good to get off the bike. There were showers and a changing area for the riders and the Naples Cyclery crew loaded the bikes while we showered and changed. Thank you for all your hard work!
We had a burger or hot dog or veggie burger and a beer/soft drink/water as part of our entry fee which was very welcome after a 54 mile ride. There was also a presentation by a volunteer of the Collier County Honor Flight. Here is more information about that organization.
There were two buses and I decided to take the earlier bus back with many of the others. It was an interesting ride back. The driver turned onto a one way street in the wrong direction. Yikes. Thank goodness the cyclists on the bus were paying attention and yelled to the driver in time to prevent an accident as there was an oncoming car. He backed up the bus and got to the right entrance to get us onto Interstate 75. He also made a unadvertised stop along the way to drop off bags of clothes and other stuff that he transferred to another waiting bus before continuing on to our final destination back at Naples Cyclery. We never did find out what that was all about. Hey....that's what you get for a $10 bus ride!
It was a great ride with a great group of people. Thanks to all who gave up their day....and a few bucks....to honor our veterans. It was a small price to pay for our freedom!!!
It's been a week since the Mt. Dora ride but it has been busy and I am just getting around to blogging about the weekend.
The Mt. Dora Festival Bicycle Festival was suppose to run from Friday 10/7 through Sunday 10/9 but Hurricane Matthew changed all that. The festival at first was only canceled on Friday but organizers were advised to cancel Saturday too to give first responders and clean up crews time to clear the roads. It was a disappointment but fully understandable. Over 1,300 riders were registered but with only one day a riding a lot of riders did not come to the event.
There were five of us registered for all three days including Dave C. from Buck County who flew to Florida to attend the event. Two of the group decided to go up Thursday regardless of the weather predictions in hopes of getting a ride in all three days. The other three of us went up on Friday afternoon when it was determined that the west coast of Florida was safe for traveling to the event and for riding. As it turned out, with rain and wind gusts of almost 70 mph and Hurricane Matthew not making a landing by mid day, the two that went early did a lot of scouting out of routes via car. Most everything in Mt. Dora was closed as was in the surrounding areas in anticipation of power outages and downed trees. There was also limited gasoline as there was no power for the pumps to pump gasoline to car fuel tanks.
Dave C and I arrived around 3 PM on Friday with no incident and plenty of gas on Interstate 75. Liz and Leslie, the other two people who had traveled to Mt. Dora the day before, were staying in the same motel and we met up for dinner and to discuss the next day and whether we would ride. They determined that the roads were rideable on Saturday and we went to an Applebee's for dinner which was one of the only restaurants open in the area. Liz and Leslie decided to do a century on Saturday ( with predictions of wind gusts of 30 mph!!) and Dave C, Joe B and I decided to meet others in downtown Mt. Dora and determine ride length and route then.
On Saturday morning bright and early, Leslie, Liz, Dave C and I rode towards Mt. Dora which was about a 6 mile ride but it was dark and we needed lights at 7 AM. We parted ways about a mile outside Mt. Dora because their route was going in the opposite direction of Mt. Dora for the century route. Dave C and I met Joe B and a bunch of others who decided to come up on Saturday and ride even though the event was canceled The three of us tried to ride with another bigger group but when they were still chatting at 8:15 AM ( and we were ready to go at 8 AM) we decided to do the 40 mile route on our own. It was called the Three Bob Ride.
The route was well marked but there was a lot of debris on some of the roads. We kept running into two other riders who were following a similar route but doing a 60 mile route. We met them again at the only convenience store that was open in the area. It was about 25 miles in the ride and I was glad to get off the bike for a while. The two guys said that they had met two crazy women who were doing a century. I laughed and said we knew those two crazy women who were part of our group doing a longer ride. Liz and Leslie had just left the convenience store and I tried to call out and get their attention since they were just at the corner near the store but they didn't hear us. That was about 9:30 AM and that was the last we heard from them until about 3 PM.
Dave C and I rode pretty much together while Joe B.was with us for a good part of the ride but was feeling his oats and rode ahead with a faster group a few times. My right side began to go numb and I had to stop and get off the bike to stretch. Thank goodness Dave was with me. I got back on the bike and had about 10 miles to go and I thought that it would be just Dave C and I but Joe waited up ahead and we all rode back to Mt. Dora together.
Joe B was staying with family in Orlando so he had parked his car in Mt.Dora for the ride and then went back to Orlando to spend time with them while Dave C and I had another 6 miles to ride back to the motel.....into the wind. That was the hardest 6 miles I have ridden in a long time. Rolling hills on a busy highway ( with a bike lane) into the wind. I was never so glad to see that motel entrance and get off the bike and collapse in the room. The shower was a welcome relief as well.
By 3 PM we had not heard from Liz and Leslie so I texted them and they were still 30 miles out and facing headwinds of 20+ for those 30 miles. They arrived back at the motel after 5 PM. They later told us that the counties of DeLand and Volusia were devasted by Hurricane Matthew. The convenience stores that were marked on the route sheets were closed because there was no power. Debris on the roads and power lines down made their ride very tough. They finally found one biker bar open and it took them an hour to get food. They need to stop, though, as it was the place open and they were running low on snacks They needed their time off the bike and food to fight the winds for 30 miles back to the motel.
Dave C and I decided to go into Mt. Dora at 2:30 PM to walk around the town and pick up our registration packets at 4 PM. Liz and Leslie asked if we could pick up their registration packets and I said I would try. I had made arrangements with one of the registration staff when we returned from our ride earlier in the day to pick up Joe B's registration materials. We also made dinner reservations at the Lakeside Inn through one of the registration staff who graciously offered to do so. Dave C and I walked around town and then picked up our registration stuff at 4 PM. What we didn't know was that we were in the first 150 people picking up registration stuff so we were able to go on the wine walk. That allowed us to taste 6 wines at 3 locations. Here are some photos from that walk.
These bike wall hangings were in the second shop where Dave C and I relaxed with wine tastings two and three.
We heard from Liz who was going to meet us at dinner at the Lakeside Inn which is a hotel/restaurant on the historic register of buildings. Leslie decided to stay in and relax. Their room had a full kitchen so she had plenty of food to eat so that she could refuel for the ride the next day.
Here is a view from the Lakeside Inn porch where we had dinner.
Dinner was very good despite the noise from a wedding being held in the main dining room.
We were back in our motel early so that we could get a good night's sleep and be ready to drive over to the ride start at 7:15.
On Sunday the ride was fully supported with sags and ride leaders. Here's a group photo before the ride started.
In fact, the ride leaders had neon zip ties tied to the top of their helmets so they could be easily identified. It was really a great idea. The most popular ride, The Assault on Sugarloaf Mountain, was 39 miles with Sugarloaf Mountain being the hardest climb at 14 %. Dave C's Garmin said 17% but who was going to argue a 3% difference. It was a hard climb. The first rest stop was several miles before the climb and they had lots of goodies, including pickle juice in small cups. Why pickle juice? It is suppose to prevent cramps! It was the most sought after item at the rest stop. ( but not by me) The also had bike valets which were people who held your bike while you enjoyed the rest stop. First time I have ever seen such a thing.
The climb up Sugarloaf Mountain was tough. Dave C. compared it to Jericho Mountain in Bucks County. Several people had to walk and one person stopped in the middle of the road and just stood there. I am not sure if she was cramping up or just couldn't do the climb. Guess she didn't try the pickle juice. At the top was the second rest stop. The host was Harry, a retired veteran, who puts out large canisters of water for cyclists. He does that every day not just on the day of this event. He also puts a donation jug next to the water for donations to The Wounded Warriors as well as instructions on how to fill the water canister if it is empty. Just go up to the house to where the hose is located and fill up the canister and return to the table in front of the house. It's just that simple. I was lucky enough to meet Harry and shake his hand. I doubt if you would see that in NJ or PA.
Harry did have a few interesting signs posted on his front lawn.
I thought I was getting away from politics but even on this ride it was not going to happen.
We had one last rest stop which was the same as the first. The bike valets were there ready to hold our bikes again. Very cool.
We rode back to Mt. Dora and there was one last hill to finish the ride. They really know how to hurt a tired rider. However, there was a little surprise at the end of the ride when you showed your number and proved that you finished.
Last Saturday there was another century ride....this time by our group here in Florida....the Southwest Florida Cyclists. Of course Liz and Leslie joined on that train of riders. The rest of the group....7 of us....did a 43 mile ride.
The group that I ride with in Florida. Southwest Florida Cyclist ( So We Flo) decided to have a brunch ride. What is a brunch ride? Well.....we rode half way through the ride, had brunch at Flipper's restaurant, and rode back to the start. For a group who is so driven all of the time with distance and speed, it was nice to kick back and have a more casual ride. Maybe it's Florida's version of the " All Paces Ride."
There were 16 riders and 6 spouses or significant others who joined in the brunch festivities. We were pretty much the only people in the restaurant at 8 AM but the place was full by the time we left around 9 AM. The service was great with two smiling waitresses who served the entire group. It's a hidden gem. The view and conversations and relaxed pace of the ride made it one of the best rides I have done with this group. Hopefully there will be more of these!
Jeff Lippincott sponsored a joint camping/cycling trip through the Princeton Freewheeler's and the Appalachian Mountain Club which I was lucky enough to attend. Most of you know that I don't camp....only at the Hyatt....so Al L found a small motel nearby the campsite and that took care of lodging....at least for us.
Al L and I headed up a day early to Chaumount, NY since my flight schedule dictated that I came in on Tuesday and the trip was scheduled to start on Thursday. Jeff was kind enough to allow me to stay at his house for a night until Al and Icould get ready to leave the next morning.
We stayed at a small....so small that we couldn't even fit a second bike in the room....motel, the Duck Away, about a half hour from Long Point State Park where the other 17 people were camping. They actually had the best campsites in the park with the best views and right next to the shore of Lake Ontario. I would highly recommend this state park if you ever decide to go camping in that area of the Thousand Islands.
On Thursday morning Al and I rode out bikes to check out the area and to do some sightseeing. Jeff had recommended that we head to Cape Vincent via Route 12E to visit Tibbett's Point Lighthouse. It was well worth the trip.
The original Tibbett's Point Lighthouse. Enlarge the photo and read the history. It is actually sitting in the parking lot of a general contractor's business on Rt 12E
These scenic by way signs are all over Rt 12 E
This is the new Tibbett's Point lighthouse
A view of Lake Ontario from the lighthouse. That's the ferry, in the distance, that takes people and cars to Wolfe Island in Canada
You know this Princeton Freewheeler......
We decided to add some miles so we did some of the points on the island. We did Point Salubrious and saw this relic. Where is Jimmy Hendrix when you need him??
We also cycled Three Mile Bay before heading back to the motel. We were meeting the group at the campground for more detailed information about the trip.
One of the tents. It was nicknamed "The Taj Mahal"
Andy and Heidi C had a large camper which was actually a motor home and provided breakfast for the group if they wanted each morning. Coffee, OJ and cereal.....what could be better.
The sunset over Lake Ontario from one of the campsites. Amazing!!!
On Friday the plan was to cycle to Cape Vincent to ride the ferry to Wolfe Island in Canada. The far was US $3.
The group waiting for the ferry
We had to go through customs on Wolfe Island in Canada before cycling 7 miles to the next ferry that would take us to Kingston, Ontario
Unfortunately we only had an hour in Kingston, Ontario so food was more important than photos so I didn't get a chance to take any photos while there. We cycled back to the campground for a total of 54 miles. We were all glad to get off the bike even though we had an awesome day getting to know the area better.
One of the sights we saw on Saturday when Al and I were cycling over to meet the group in Chaumount boat launch area.
An Osprey nest
We cycled on Saturday to three different points. The first was Three Mile Bay, the second was Point Salubrious and the last was Pillar Point. Jeff had friends who live in Adams Cove on Pillar Point and who graciously provided the place for a picnic.
An artist put this Object d' Art together on Pillar Point and I couldn't help but stop to take a photo.
Someone else had other ideas of what to do with this Object d' Art!!
Jeff's friends who provided their home and the grilling....and Bundy the dog.... to keep us fed and entertained
Bundy was begging for food from one of the riders. I think he convinced this rider to give up some food in the end
Their home in Adams Cove facing Lake Ontario. Great location
A bunch of well fed Freewheeler's / AMC folks relaxing on the porch. What a life!!
Jeff worked very hard to put together a dinner at the Chez Heron Restaurant on Saturday evening. The group met at the building next to the restaurant where group dinners are often catered by Chez Heron.
Al and I nicknamed the building "The Mausoleum."
I had to get back to NJ so that I could get my flight back to Florida so Al and I left Sunday morning. Sunday was a rest day off the bike for those who stayed and some did a boat tour of Boldt Castle and some brought their kayaks and paddled on Lake Ontario. Here is the link for more information about the castle
On Monday the group did a short ride and then headed to Clayton for lunch. I was in NJ by that time and met up with Nevada to ride NJ roads through the Sourlands before heading home to Florida on Tuesday.
It was a great trip and I hope that Jeff will organize another trip to this beautiful area. I highly recommend this trip if he decides to organize the trip again next year. If you don't camp there is always the Duck Away Motel. Just be prepared to keep one bike in the car if you are sharing the room!