2012 New Year’s Day Ride

I don’t want to confess how long it’s been since I was on my bike. I carried it all the way to Missouri, let some great riding weather slip by while I was working on some projects and then decided I didn’t want to expose my Florida Surly Long Haul Trucker to ice and sleet. OK, I didn’t want to expose ME to ice and sleet.

Osa said she had been slacking off while I was gone, but had gone riding three or four times.

When we got to the end of Hypoluxo Island on a perfect New Year’s Day, I warned her that she might want to slow down since her bike handling skills might have deteriorated. Sure enough, she didn’t pay any attention to me; if anything, she pedaled harder. Just as she saw seawall and water looming closer, she grabbed the front brake. I’ve done an endo and gone flying over the bars, but I’ve NEVER landed as high as she did. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Fire departments don’t get cats out of trees

“Osa,” I explained. “We may have a problem. I was in fire dispatch one day when a 9-1-1 call came in from a distraught woman who said her kitty cat, Snookums, got out of the house and was perched at the very tiptop of a tall tree in the front yard. She was emphatically requesting a ladder truck be dispatched immediately to effect a rescue.

“The dispatcher tried, as gently as possible, to say that fire departments didn’t rescue cats from trees anymore. It’s just to dangerous for the firefighters. Finally,” I said, “the exasperated dispatcher snapped, ‘Lady, Snookums will eventually come down on her own. When was the last time you drove down the street and saw a skeleton of a cat in a tree?'”

Fortunately, Osa, like Snookums, managed to extract herself from the tree. I noticed that she was a lot more careful grabbing that front brake on the way home.

Every word of this story is true. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to eschew exaggeration and tomfoolery.


Ladies Cycling Society Night Ride

I’ve been getting invitations to the Ladies Cycling Society Tuesday night rides for some time, but I’ve either been out of town or lightning has scared me off. I’m not saying I DESERVE to be hit by lightning, but why take a chance that Thor is having an off night and misses the target he was aiming at. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Riding partner Anne on the mend

Riding Partner Anne has been to several of them, but was afraid she wasn’t going to get medical clearance after a fall that resulted in broken ribs and a punctured lung. She’d like to brag that it happened on her bike, but the real story, while frightening, doesn’t involve road rash or crashing out. (That’s Anne in the pink jersey on the right in the top photo.)

Gender reassignment not necessary

When I got my first invitation from organizer Tyra Forker, I wanted to clear up something first.

Here’s my message to her: “Thank you for adding me to the Ladies Cycling Society. Before I accept the honor, I have to ask one important question: there’s no gender reassignment involved in the membership, is there?”

She quickly assured me that I wouldn’t have to switch to a girl’s bike, but guys are asked to kick in a $5 donation that’ll go toward paying MS150 expenses.

(That’s Tyra, in green, installing a spoke card above.)

Carvel is West Palm Beach institution

Former coworker George Primm and I met Tyra on our way to our first West Palm Beach Critical Mass ride a couple years ago. We were stopped at a red light when a car went blasting through the intersection and almost T-boned another one. She was on one corner and we were on the other.

When the light changed, we stopped to compare notes about what we had seen and started chatting about bikes. She was new in town from Kansas City, down to work on arty stuff at the Armory. We invited her to join us. That marked her introduction to the Freakbike Militia community. We like to thank that chance encounter at a red light has had something to do with her sticking around the area.

Colorful bikes

The rides form up at Carvel Ice Cream on South Dixie on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Roll-out, strictly enforced by Tyra is 7:20 SHARP. A coin flip decided whether the group was going south to Lake Worth or north to Palm Beach. The coin came up heads, so Palm Beach it was.

Spoke cards by Tyra

Before we pulled out, though, we were given one of Tyra’s creations: laminated spoke cards to put between our bicycle spokes.

We headed over to Flagler Dr., across the Southern Blvd. bridge, then up A1A to the lifeguard stand on Palm Beach.

As fast as slowest rider

The ride was almost exactly 10 miles from my house, which is only a few blocks from Carvel. It’s a ride that’s billed to be as fast as the slowest rider. My average speed for the whole evening was 9.6 mph. Considering that Anne and I picked up the pace when we were riding back by ourselves, the group ride speed would have been even lower.

A good part of the time was riding in a double line because traffic was so light. If we saw someone coming up behind us, we’d single up. We got lots of friendly waves and had no unfortunate encounters with anyone.

Charlie Brown would have been at home

The invitation said the evening was going to consist of a bicycle ride, a dip in salt water and flying kites. At least three riders brought kites. We arrived at the beach just about dark-thirty. Kites were launched in near – then pitch – darkness. There were a few Charlie Brown moments, but no riders were permanently injured.

A few of the riders headed down to the surf for a quick swim. When Tyra sent an invitation for a swim ride while I was out in the Midwest, I made a suggestion: “Do it sans suits and I bet the guys would kick in more than $5.”

Her response wasn’t exactly a no: “We’re saving the sans suits ride for the calendar photo shoot! Hope you’re enjoying MO besides the heat…”

Getting comfortable on the beach

We had just stated getting comfortable when we saw the glow of a nearly-full moon pulling itself out of the ocean.

Here comes the moon

I had just about decided that this one of those nights when make I’d memories, not photos, when the temptation to grab a few frames got to be too much. I discovered that I’m not capable of hand-holding a camera with an exposure of 8 to 10 seconds. Still, I sort of like the effect.

Just think a couple generation ago, beachcombers might have been illuminated by the soft glow of a campfire. Today, the illumination comes from a smartphone screen.

Waves in the moonlight

You can see from the moon that I was moving the camera around during the long exposure, but the waves came out fairly well.

Goodnight, Moon

Finally, almost too soon, it was time to hop on the bikes and head out. Several of the folks wanted to make a bathroom break, so we rode over to public restrooms in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beachers don’t like to provide those kinds of amenities.) Anne didn’t want to stretch her first bike outing too much since her fall, so we peeled off from the group and headed home by ourselves.

If you are on Facebook, here’s the fan page for the Ladies Cycling Society of the Greater Palm Beaches.




Atlanta Cyclists Pause in Palm Beach En Route Key West

Back in the Fall of 2010, I got a message from Kelly Bilak asking for information about riding to Key West after seeing a couple of Palm Beach Bike Tours stories.

We traded several emails where she said that she and two friends – Carol and Barbara – from the Atlanta area were planning to start in St. Augustine, ride down the east Coast of Florida to Key West. Kelly rides a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Carol and Barbara are recumbent riders.

Video of Atlanta Trio’s visit to Palm Beach

Bent, bike and tents in back yard

In the middle of January, I got a message asking if I knew of any place to camp in Palm Beach County. The county park they had planned on required them to pay for a two-day stay since they were coming in on a weekend, and they were going to be charged by the tent, not the site. It was going to cost more than staying in a hotel.

I offered up our spare bedroom, but they said they’d be fine camped in our back yard.

Long Haul Trucker with Click-Stand

I notice that Kelly’s Long Haul Trucker was being held up by a Click-Stand. “I read about it on your site,” she said. I was impressed that she had it made to match her LHT. I noted that she had copied my PVC pipe mount (attached to the the left side of the bike).

Kids grew up and the dog died

Barbara, packing her bent, said she’s been touring since she was 21. It’s gotten easier, she said, “once the kids left home and the dog died.”

Georgia mascot

Barbara’s mascot on her bent’s fairing was neat. If she’d spent much more time in Florida, she might have traded it in for a Love Bug or a Glades Mosquito, though.

Appearance counts

They arrived early enough to get a driving tour of the area and have a good Mexican meal. They were impressed enough with Palm Beach to decide to go for a side trip on the Palm Beach Lake Trail the next morning before heading off to Ft. Lauderdale.

Just because you’re sleeping in tents and sweating on a bicycle all day long doesn’t mean that you aren’t conscious of how you look. Barbara makes one more adjustment before heading off to Palm Beach.

Kapok Tree dwarfs LHT

The roots of a giant kapok tree near the Flagler Museum dwarf Kelly’s Long Haul Trucker.

Tree almost swallows bikers

Kelly and Barbara posed in the roots of the tree. While we were there, a mother and her daughter quizzed the women about their trip. You’ll have to listen to them on the video below.

West Palm Beach’s impressive skyline

West Palm Beach’s skyline looks impressive in the background. The Flagler Museum is on the right.

Palm Beach Inlet

We stopped at the north end of the island for the obligatory Palm Beach Docks photo. On the way south, the riders asked if I knew of any public restrooms since the morning coffee was looking for release.

I explained that the good folks in Palm Beach don’t provide things like beach access or restrooms for commoners. On our way south from the inlet, I suggested that we stop at the fire station to see if they would let some tourists get some relief. They were more than helpful and friendly. You might want to file that bit of info away for a time of need.

Donald’s Mar-a-Lago

The ladies posed for one last photo under the arch leading to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago before I headed for home and they headed to the Keys. They made it safely home. You can see Carol’s photos and journal here.

Cape Girardeau, a Bike-Friendly Community

I shot this photo looking up Themis St. in Cape Girardeau when I was home in October 2009. The historic Common Pleas Courthouse is at the end of the street.

This trip I thought I’ d take the picture from the opposite direction, looking down Themis St. toward the Mississippi River and the Old Town Cape area.

Notice the bicycle light?

While I was shooting a series of other photos, I noticed a flashing bicycle light at least three blocks away. It turned out to be two cyclists coming up the street.

While I was putzing around trying to get this shot composed, a young woman materialized from the shadows. We exchanged some pleasantries and she disappeared. An elderly gentleman sitting on a park bench nearby and he said, “Do you reckon we scared her off?”

Courthouse stairs don’t faze Shana Gemoules

About five minutes later, she showed up again.

“Did you just run up those courthouse stairs? Twice? On purpose?”

“Yes. It was three times.Yes. I’m training for a triathlon in Florida in April.”

When she disappeared down the hill again, the man on the park bench said, “Tell her there are 55 steps, not counting the landings.”

When she got back to the top, she was barely breathing hard and her heart rate was in the low 170s (resting is usually 52 BPM, she said.) A stint of working in a downtown restaurant where she had to hump meals up three floors prepared her for running up and down the courthouse steps, she said.

It’s possible to go car-free in Cape

Shana, who grew up in Perryville, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and has worked at a variety of local restaurants. She’s at Imo’s Pizza now, a place she rates highly for its employee-friendly management and good food.

Right now, she’s working to get debt-free and to sell her car to cut expenses. Cape is small enough that she feels like she can get around on foot or or her bike. Her boyfriend lives in a house with three other guys. The four of them make do with one car for those times when they go a long distance or need to carry something bulky.

When she finished her fifth climb up the hill, she said she was going to call it a night. All of the talk about food and restaurants had made her hungry.

Velo Girardeau Bicycle Club

Despite all the yammering by yahoos in the letters to the editor, Cape is a reasonably bicycle-friendly community.  Now that the weather’s turning nice in the Midwest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a lot of bikes on the road. A lot of them are on the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail, but a lot of them are utility riders going from place to place.

Velo Girardeau Bicycle Club is an active, friendly group with a wide range of rides. I ripped off their Tour de Cape logo (with artist Don Greenwood’s permission) for my business cards and branding.

Mary’s Life 3 Years After Her Crash

Three years ago, my friend, co-worker and riding partner crashed on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail.

Her skull was fractured in five places, she had double vision, vertigo and short-term memory loss, plus the normal road rash. To keep from rehashing the details of the crash, go to my July 9, 2008 post.

H-Word Warning

Some cycling forums and lists ban the mention of helmets because the topic invariably creates more heat than light. Be warned that the H-word does come up in the video and in the original story, but helmets aren’t the focus of either piece. For the record, neither Mary nor I were wearing magic foam hats the day of her crash (mine, in fact, is visible in the photo, strapped to the back of her bike).

How’s Mary doing?

Mary’s friends (both real and virtual) and former coworkers ask me from time to time, “How’s Mary doing?”

I have to confess that we’ve had less and less contact over the months, especially since she and her significant other, Tammy, moved a county away with 2-1/2-year-old Nicholas.

I used the anniversary month of the crash as an excuse to visit them in their new home in Palm City.

I’ve never been much partial to kids, but Nicholas immediately won me over. He’s bright, inquisitive and has the most beautiful eyes imaginable. After watching me take pictures, he ran to get his Viewfinder to “take pictures” of his two moms.

What’s the good news?

Mary seemed as happy and content as I’ve ever seen her.

She’s fit and tanned. She still has a few road rash “badges of honor” barely showing on her knees, but there’s no visible signs of her head injuries.

She loves her new life as a stay-at-home mom caring for Nicholas while Tammy is out working as a police officer at FAU.

Their new home is perfect for raising a family. It has plenty of room for Thomas the Train toys and all of the other stuff that a growing boy accumulates. There’s a sizable backyard and kids nearby.

What’s the less good news?

Three years after the crash, she’s still unable to work because of the problems with double vision and vertigo. Special glasses with prisms help with the vision problem, but the solution isn’t perfect. She copes with the memory loss by sticking reminder notes on the refrigerator.

She’s been told that surgery could end up making her vision worse instead of better, so she’s not going to take the risk at this point.

She hasn’t been back on a bike. She says she goes out to the garage and looks at it from time to time and she enjoys looking at the Adventure Cycling Association magazine, but she can’t bring herself to climb back on two wheels.

Part of it is the vertigo that would cause balance problems, but she told me for the first time this visit that she thinks she’s afraid to get back on the bike.

Overall, though, she’s glad to be alive

Here’s a video where she tells the story about how her whole life changed in milliseconds.