Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bike Life: Florida Edition

Having to be in Florida for work-related meetings and such, I've taken the opportunity to bike a few times. Rentals are easy to find, often in beautiful settings, and not very expensive.

DeAnn and I rented beach cruisers (which, curiously, were not allowed on the beach) at Fort De Soto Park, a really nice free county park south of St. Pete Beach. It's got a magnificent beach of its own and ample opportunities for kayaking, swimming, fishing and such. Because of geographical constraints, the paths tend to run very close to the roads, but since we can't ride on the beach it's the best we can do. Notice the incredible Road Warrior semi-truck of pedaling that this family was able to rent:
We pays our money and picks our bikes—big heavy three speed aluminum jobs and wobble off. The wind blows directly into our faces which makes it tough for DeAnn, an infrequent rider. It's cold and sort of miserable. As we tack into the wind, I notice a "hammerhead" dude about a half mile behind. I warn DeAnn that he will likely pass soon, but a few minutes go by and nothing. Glancing backward again, I can see that my "hammerhead" is really slow. As in ridiculously slow.

Over the next few minutes a scenario unfolds which I have since seen a lot in Florida: guys with racing bikes, racing duds, racing helmets and racing sunglasses that are S L O W. Finally this guy overtakes us going a whopping 12 miles per hour, if that. He's in the drops and very serious. So obviously I kick my bike into second gear and draft him for a half mile or so. Well, to be honest I could not have drafted him if I wanted to as my head sticks up a good two feet above his back. At any rate I hang with him effortlessly.

Now, lest you think that I place some sort of value on speed, I can assure you that I do not. It is of no consequence. However, if somebody goes to all the trouble to dress like a racer, ride a racer bike and has a serious, this-is-work-no-fun facial expression it seems like the least they could do is go fast. That or embrace the pace and smile. Although in this case it's hard to imagine him going much slower without toppling into the sand on the side of the trail.

Once we turn around and ride with the wind, it's obviously easier on DeAnn. She's having fun now, and we both laugh and smile. We stop to visit with a group of kayakers that are taking disabled veterans on a day trip. They have ingenious rigs for para and quadraplegic paddlers which enable them to enjoy the quiet backwaters of the park. Everyone is having fun here.

We return the bikes at the end of our short hour and explore the fort and beach. It's a terrific park and we are glad that we took the time to visit. The ambling pace suited the day and palm trees beats the hell out of snotcicles anyday.

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