Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday at the Suncoast

Alex & I drove down to Tampa Bay on Friday so that we could join Sharon Saturday afternoon at the reunion of the Suncoast Youth Ranch. This was a church group from the '70s and while I met some of the folks when Sharon and I were dating, there were some I knew nothing about, other than what Sharon described to me. In like manner, they had heard something about Alex and me from Sharon, now that she has reconnected with so many via Facebook, and she wanted them to meet us too. It was an interesting and enjoyable gathering. A wide range of talents and professions was represented. A common thread running through many of the stories was the twisting and turning that life's pathways held for each one, and how they have in general found their way back to a solid base. The food was delicious, the singing by Kitty and Ruth exquisite (and very accomplished piano playing by Stan) and the fun contagious.

Part of the plan was to squeeze in a morning ride before the reunion so I packed a bike. Despite dire predictions of a deluge for the day by various weather "experts," it was only breezy and overcast at 8 AM on Saturday, when the Suncoast Cycling club weekend ride was scheduled to depart of the parking lot of Chainwheel Drive on US19/Tampa Rd. I invited Irene who is just getting into cycling (a Haro Rail Trail bike) to meet me there so I could introduce her to the "C" group riders. While the parking lot filled with over 2 dozen race kit clad, skinny tired carbon bike types with top tier Giro helmets, Irene and I were the only "C" riders! While waiting for her to arrive, I told Ray, the ride leader (as I signed the club liability waiver) I would ride with the quicker group should Irene be a no-show. He looked at my bike (70's steel crit racer with 32mm tires, leather saddle, large saddlebag, mustache handlebars) and said, "on that!?!" Maybe it was the platform pedals and my Addidas Samba soccer sneakers? "If I can't hang with you, it won't be because of the bike," I replied. I rued the fact that there were no 20% grades in FL (like we have in Prattville) that I could drop his smart-*** on while he would probably be off his bike and duck walking up the hill in his "Look" cleated shoes. (I no longer even stand on those climbs. I don't race up 'em, but I stay in the saddle.)

Happily, Irene showed up, and she and I took off by ourselves on the route map. Ray mentioned to Irene that a collection of comfort bike riders met often at 8:30 in a Publix parking lot, so I hope she checks that out. We headed west on Tampa Rd towards the Pinellas Rail Trail. There were honest to goodness bike lanes to use! Turning north on the trail, we came across a gal standing with her bike. I asked if she needed help, and she replied that she was just waiting for the "C" group. "We're it!" we said, and Ann joined us on our ride. Here we all are at the park by Anclote Power Station.

We were given business cards by a fellow there who lost his regular job after a motorcycle crash, and now gave drunks and broken down cyclists rides home. He blamed aid to the Haitians for taking away from his benefits, but when Ann gently asked, "Were you wearing a helmet when you crashed?" he had to accept SOME responsibility for the head injuries (he showed us his scar) that interfered with his career as an equipment operator. We looked briefly at the water in the background to see if there were manatees about, but were told they recently had moved out into the channel.

Ann is a local and gave us a neat neighborhood streets tour through back roads Tarpon Springs, and took her leave of us as we returned to the place where she originally joined up. Irene and I stopped to see the primates who have retired to a care facility adjacent to the trail, and here is a picture she took of me with some new friends.

The wind coming back was brisk. Flags were standing out straight in the breeze, and Irene asked me if that was 20 mph of 20 kts. It made no difference. It was a brisk headwind. Not a drop of rain though fell on us and we returned to the parking lot after our 27.7 miles in the same time as the speedwagons did 41 miles. We got a close look at a bald eagle and its eaglet however, as well as ospreys and egrets. The fast crowd got a look at the lycra-butts on the bikes in front of them and not much more. You sight see in a pace line and you wreck. I hope Irene stays with it. Ruth and Nancy both said last night they might also like to start riding. If any of you people make it to Prattville.....

A lot of driving for a day in F-L-A, but it was sure worth it.


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