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.
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.
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.)