Once again I went with a group of guys to Florida in February. This has been a great trip the last few years since it helps me get a lot of miles/hours on the bike early in the year. There are always good times, lot of verbal abuse and a little recovery drinking going on. As expected with a lot of people crammed in to a condo and spending several days together, there can be times where a little space is needed, but over all it has been a great group of people to hang out with and ride with.
The typical plan is to stay somewhere around Clear Water Beach. This gives us walking distance to a lot of food places and good bike lanes all the way out to Fort De Soto. The trip out and back to the Fort with riding all of the road section @ the fort, we end up with 70 miles. Then our other option is to head north to Tarpon Spring and back to get the other 30 miles in. The bike lanes north are not near as good as the ones heading south, but still doable. There also tends to be more traffic that way.
This year was a little different for me since I was flying both ways. Previous years I have drove at least one way. We flew down Tuesday morning fairly early. We ended up getting to the condo somewhere around 1:30. The trailer was emptied and we got ready to ride. The weather was amazing. It was 78 degrees and sunny. We headed down the road around 2:00 for our first ride of the week. It didn’t take long for something to happen to make me wonder how good this week will be. We came across a rough road section and with the train of 10 guys, sometimes the reactions can effect the back of the pack. Unfortunately one of the back riders hit the hole as a bad spot and went down. He re-grouped and seemed to be only out some skin and bruising. We continued on, but a little more cautious.
We went out to a spot that we had planned on going to, but we had to make a decision. The weather was looking like rain on Wednesday so we were not sure how many miles we would be able to get it and thought about adding miles to that day’s ride. With the weather being so good and in Florida, everyone wanted to go for more. We headed out the rest of the way to Fort De Soto. We ended up having a flat tire on the way out. This is not unheard of, but not very common, but a trend that we would find ourselves in the rest of the week. Once we hit the Fort we knew we were pushing the amount of daylight to get back. No time for pictures this day and put the hammer down toward home. We were not going to make it in time, but figured we could get close enough before the sun went down. But, we had our second flat tire of the day and held us up longer than planned. Some dumb ass made the comment that he was surprised that we don’t have more flats down there with all the road debris. Well, that pretty much told me how the rest of the week would end up and it was not very forgiving. It was still a good 68 mile start to the week.
Wednesday welcomed us with the rain that was in the forecast. We kept an eye on the radar and made a plan to head out later. With the later than planned ride the day before, a little late start was welcomed by my legs. Eventually we got ready and headed north. We didn’t make it 20 minutes down the road before we were getting poured on. Not what I prefer, but what do you do. The good thing is that the rain didn’t last too long and we were riding in clear weather again, but with some wet roads. The wind was not being very nice and with the rainy start most legs were hurting. We did the 30 to Tarpon Springs and back, but didn’t head all the way out to the Fort. With the late start and everything we just rode part of the way and turned around. It was the shortest day of the week, but still a good ride. We ended up with close to 65 miles for the day and another two flat tires.
Thursday was a little cooler, but still much better than Indiana weather. The wind was still strong, but it was not raining so all was good. We headed south again towards the Fort. This time we could stop for a few pictures and rest up knowing what kind of head wind we were going to have on the way back. It was brutal at times and other times it was still hard. My legs were really feeling the effort and the previous days. I was ready to get back to the condo. My plan the whole day was to just ride out and back and call it a day with 70 miles. The wind was telling me that was a great decision. Then we rolled back in to Clear Water Beach and when the pack split in to the ones heading north and the ones heading to the condo, I found myself climbing the bridge to head north. I have no idea why I did that, but here I was. The wind was still strong and every mile I was thinking about turning around. Then I would think, just a little farther and before too long we all were turning around. I knew at that point that unless something major happened, I would get my 100 miles completed. The way back still hurt, but when I start to smell home I tend to get a little stronger. I was just ready to get off of the bike.
Friday was more of the same, but after the effort I put in Thursday my brain didn’t make me take the right to cross the bridge. I was happy to not go farther, but I was also a little disappointed that I didn’t get the 100 in. I still got in over 70 miles with plenty of head wind. I really had nothing to complain about and my legs thanked me for stopping. Saturday was going to be a little shorter day since the trailer was going to head home after the ride. I was not sure what the plan was going to be, but by this time my legs were tired no matter how far I went and my seat was not my friend anymore. We still put in 70 miles with plenty of wind, then we packed up as quick as we could so the drivers could head north. It was a great week even with all the flat tires.
Saturday night turned in to a good refueling session and a late night back to the condo. That didn’t make the 4:45 taxi pick up very pleasing, but it was well worth it. The condo was awesome and had pretty good room for 9 guys under the same roof. The weather was not as good as some previous years, but it was still a lot better than it could have been or here at home. I didn’t get in the full mileage of the 410 miles that some put in, but I am pretty happy with right around 375 miles for the week. There are always lots of laughs and verbal abuse with this group of people. I would not want it any other way.
Several days later my legs still feel the effort. I am hoping that all the pain with pay off in future weeks. Starting with the Death March and shortly after that will be a fun trip to Pisgah. Good times as always!!