Meandering Ride on The LOST and Buckhead Ridge

Anne and I headed up to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail this weekend, not so much to ride the LOST as to go past the paved trail at the northwest corner and ride through the small neighborhoods in Buckhead Ridge.

Most of the residents are snowbirds from the Midwest who are like Jimmy John Shark who love fishing and rural life.

We only logged about 20 miles, but we saw an interesting mix of homes, waved at a bunch of people, snagged what I hoped was a wild orchid to replace one I found in Okeechobee years ago (it wasn’t) and let Texas Gal Anne moo at some cows.

Surly LHT needed a rest

There was a killer head wind on the way back, but that worked out fine. We were going slow enough that we spotted several gators, a bunch of great blue herons and other wading birds and scores of some kind of eggs along the trail. Someone had, obviously, been chowing down. I’ll have to ask Gary Ritter, who lives out there and rides almost every day, what they were. I’m thinking they might be turtle eggs dug up by raccoons.

My Surly Long Haul Trucker got tired fighting the wind, so I let it rest for a few minutes.

Eight Bike Tips from LOST Ride

Anne (of lovebug fame), Pam, a new rider – Hillary – and I took off Saturday evening for a ride on what I call Ghost Road 27. It’s an abandoned stretch of what used to be the major north-south highway through central Florida. The stretch we were riding is about 15 miles long between South Bay and Clewiston. It’s slowly going back to nature, and it’s blocked off by about five gates that have to be gone over, through or around.

Dodging gates

The temps were on the warm side of comfortable and we had a strong tailwind that made it feel even warmer, because the technical nature of the road kept us from going too fast. About a mile past where I warned the other riders about watching out for cracks in the pavement, the wide front tire of my Surly LHT fell into one. I was able to maintain control, but I felt a little sheepish.

Non-poisonous snake

We had several dogs give chase, but they weren’t serious. Some friendly folks along the way waved and spoke. We didn’t see any gators on this trip, but Mr. Snake made an appearance. Anne used her Texas snake-charming skills to try to herd it where I could get a better photo, but Florida snakes must be immune to her charms.

I was seriously sleepy

When we got to Clewiston, we stopped at a Sonny’s BBQ for dinner. I was so sleepy I thought my head was going to fall in my plate. When we headed back, the temperature had dropped and our tailwind became a headwind. At dusk, I suggested we stop to don some bug spray. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, I didn’t think mosquitoes would be a problem, but it’s easier to put on the spray when you’re not dancing and swatting. I decided to pull on my knee warmers, too. You Yankees will scoff, but I ride better with warm muscles.

Nothing between here and Europe to block wind

When we got on top of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) it became very clear that there was nothing between us and Europe blocking the wind. I told my much younger riding partners that they were welcome to ride their own pace. “You can’t get lost on the LOST. I’m going to gear down, crank up the tunes and get into my own zone.” They quickly disappeared.

A few miles down the trail, I saw them waiting for me. It wasn’t an act of kindness. I had the car keys. I told them that I liked it better when they were a speck in the distance. If they were close, I’d try to keep up with them. They took me at my word and blasted off again.

A couple more miles down the road, I saw they had stopped again. This time it was because Hillary had a flat. The good news is that she had a tube and a CO2 cartridge. The bad news is that Pam didn’t have a light; Anne’s light, which used a rechargeable battery was dead, and Hillary’s light, which used some kind of funky battery was also dead. Oh, yeah, Hillary didn’t have an inflator to go WITH the cartridge.

B&M IQ Cyo R N Plus and Flare 5

I have a ViewPoint Flare 5 LED light on my helmet to use as a flashlight and another one on my bars as a ‘be-seen’ flashing light. A B&M IQ Cyo R N Plus generator light is my primary headlight. It’s nice to have spare lights, particularly when you’re riding with folks who may not be quite as prepared. A generator light will provide power as long as you have legs (although mine were a bit questionable on this ride).

I also have an inflator, so I told Hilary that we’d give her tire a shot of air from her threaded cartridge that would, hopefully get her home. I also clipped my spare be-seen light on her bars and said, “Ride like crazy.” My CO2 inflator takes both threaded and the cheaper non-threaded cartridges.

Pulled out the Topeak Road Morph pump

She got about 200 yards before the tire was flat again. I dig out my tools and we took out the old tube and put the tire back together. A few squirts of air from my Topeak Road Morph Pump with Gauge made it feel like all was right with the world, so I pulled out one of my CO2 cartridges to top it off. It flatted almost immediately. Hoping that it was just that we hadn’t closed the valve all the way, we gave it another shot of air. Same result.

One of the nice things about the LOST is that you’re completely isolated from motorized traffic. That’s one of the bad things, though, because some of the pickup points are seven to 10 miles apart. Fortunately, we were within a mile of one, so I gave Pam the be-seen light and sending her off down the trail to the cars. I told her I’d follow. We left Anne and Hillary to walk to the pickup point, after asking them if they know what a python slithering through the grass sounded like.

Pam beat me to the cars by a wide margin. Wide enough that she had time to get to the car, drive to the non-python-eaten riders and get back just as I was racking my bike.

What 8 valuable lessons can we take from this ride?

  • Bring a light, even if you think you’ll be done by dark.
  • Make sure your batteries are charged and/or bring spares.
  • Carry a backup light.
  • A CO2 cartridge won’t do any good if you don’t have an inflator. You can’t always count on riding with someone who has one.
  • Tire tools make removing the tube easier.
  • Carry a spare tube. If you’re out in the boonies, two is better.
  • A pump will do the initial fill of the tire; you can finish it off with the cartridge, but a pump will provide air as long as you can pump. The cartridge is one-shot.
  • Watch nature programs so you can be familiar with the sound of slithering pythons. If you hear one, don’t warn your partner, just start to move away quietly. Snakes go for the closer prey. (It dawns on me that I was the slow rider on this trip. Maybe I shouldn’t give away ALL my secrets.)

Lovebugs on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

I need to tell you a little bit about one of my riding partners, Anne Rodgers. She’s got a quarter-century or so of newspapering in her past, so she has, to use the old Civil War expression, “been to town and seen the elephant.”

She and Dr. Maureen Whelihan are working on a book tentatively titled Kiss and Tell, based on 1,300 surveys asking women ages 15 to 97 six questions about their sexual desires. Based on some of the interviews she’s shared, it’s pretty obvious that she’s learned a lot about things involving the juxtaposition of Slot A and Tab B and it takes quite a bit to shock her.

Look what they’re doing on my seat!

All of that didn’t prepare her for what she saw when we unloaded our bikes for a night ride on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) Saturday evening.

In the 60s, a popular wall poster showed a pair of ducks flying in a very friendly position, with the headline, “Fly United” printed over them. This is the time of year when the aptly-named lovebugs fly united doing their mating dance.

While we were getting our bikes to meet up with Adel and Everett, lovebugs by the hundreds swarmed around her bike, demonstrating a friendliness that disconcerted Anne. She was particularly offended by a Ménage à six or seven taking place on her bike saddle.

Lovebugs coming to a highway near you

Lovebugs, also known as also known as the honeymoon fly, kissingbug or double-headedbug were first spotted in Texas in 1940. They look sort of like a firefly, but without the flash, and with significantly lower moral standards.

When we first moved to South Florida in the early 70s, they were rare as far north as West Palm Beach, but they’ve since been spotted as far north as Wilmington, N.C. Two major flights occur during late April and May and during late August and September. We South Florida folks are often blessed with a third swarming in December.

Lovebugs don’t bite nor sting

They don’t bite nor sting, but their huge swarms – resembling, in a lot of ways, a black snowstorm – can clog car radiators, cover windshields and eat the paint off cars. They have very soft bodies which splatter on contact.

Because they’re so thick, they can fly down your shirt, under your helmet or stick to the sweat on your body, where they splash around like college kids in a hot tub on spring break. If you try to brush them off, they are so soft you’re more likely to smear them than remove them.

Fortunately for us, the bugs didn’t bother us much once we got rolling. The drought conditions that have Lake Okeechobee at a near all-time low have cut down on the mosquito population and may have dropped lovebug numbers slightly.

8th Annual LOST Ride Video

March 26 was probably the best riding day of the seven Okeechobee Rotary Club LOST Rides I’ve been on. The temperature was just about perfect and the winds weren’t bad. I wish I had put on sunscreen about mid-morning, though.

If you took the time to look around, there were gators and wading birds galore. This was taken at Nubbin Slough. The black dots in the water are alligators. This is where a boy had his arm ripped off in 2008.

Video instead of stills

I normally put up a large number of still photos in a gallery. This year I concentrated on trying to capture the spirit of the event in a video shot with one camera looking forward and the other aft. (By the way, that annoying “click-click-click” noise is the carabiner attached to the video camera’s safety lanyard. I’m going to have to find a solution that is quick to release, but doesn’t make noise picked up by the mike.)

The “flow” was different this year, too. Usually I shoot the group start, which puts me at the end of the pack. I can usually work my way through about a third of the group of slower riders by about the 15-mile mark, at which time a lot of the faster riders are on their way back.

This year there seemed to be fewer “slow” riders and the faster riders were more scattered.

Henry Creek rest area

Ice-cold water, grapes and other goodies were welcome as the sun started beating down. Rumors that Henry Creek would be a beer stop were unfounded. (Or, maybe I just didn’t know the password.)

Folks along the trail were friendly

With very few exceptions, everybody on the LOST – bikers, joggers, dog walkers, volunteers – smiled, waved or spoke as we passed each other.

Nubbin Slough 10-mile point

Nubbin Slough was at the 10-mile marker. A 20-mile out-and-back trip was enough of a challenge for some riders. Others, like this biker, did the full 54.7 miles to Port Mayca and back to the start.

I hope the riders doing the Loop the Lake for Literacy this weekend have weather as good as we had.

L.O.S.T. Ride Report Coming, Honest

I know I told folks I’d have an account of the 8th Annual Okeechobee Rotary Club’s Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail Ride-Walk-Run event posted in a couple of days.

It’s taking me longer than I thought to edit the video. I had one camera mounted to the bars facing forward, and one attached to the rack pointing the the rear. Trying to integrate those two views and their audio is more than twice the work of a single camera and infinitely more complicated than editing stills. (Particularly if you’re still learning the software one little skill at a time.)

Keep checking back. We’ll get there. (Great ride, though, wasn’t it?)