Impressions of Florida 300, February 2012:
Flat, except for the causeways. Varied terrain: lots of shoreline, cattle farms, scrappy orange tree orchards, and desolate terrain near the Kennedy Space Center. Kitsch too. Swampy the World’s Largest (and tackiest) ‘Gator: big enough for all five of us to get inside the alligator’s mouth for a tourist photo. Nigel and Chris both set their cameras on the timers and dashed back to join us behind the alligator’s teeth.
The Best Parts:
The benefit of finishing this post five months after the ride is that it’s easy to remember the best bits of the ride and the moments that weren’t as much fun have drifted to the back of my mind. It was fun to do this ride with Katie, Chris, Nigel and Dawn even though I’ve typically thought of myself as much slower than all of them. Somehow, when you undertake such a long ride, speed isn’t everything. It’s not nothing either, but it isn’t everything. We started at 4am with a minimum amount of food and caffeine consumed beforehand, so the first stop was a Hess Gas Station with a Dunkin’ Donuts. The caffeine helped!
During one notable monotonous 20-mile stretch, Dawn (an honorary slow rider for a day) tried to whip us into a paceline. Much under-the-breath grumbling and sarcasm ensued but we did kinda do the paceline for the 20 miles. And we covered this stretch in something like record time for Escargots. Looking back now, this is one of the most memorable parts of the day because I have to laugh at us. I don’t know; we could have said “no,” we’re not going to do the paceline thing, or we could have just done the paceline gracefully. The muttering and grumbling about being “forced” to ride a paceline is pretty hilarious. However, as soon as we turned off this long stretch of road, the paceline fell apart and we resumed riding in our normal shambling format.
Food memories are always good, and we had two lunches on this day, one at a gas station/Subway stop, and another in park near one of the ubiquitous causeways. I have a photo from the first food stop only, probably because I was starting to get pretty tired by the second lunch stop and didn’t take very many photos in the latter part of the ride.
Across the street from the controle was an old trailer out of which boiled peanuts were being sold. We thought about going and getting some, but inertia won out.
The long stretch through Cape Canaveral was strangely isolated and empty of life. We kept a look out for eagles’ nests (didn’t see any) as we passed mile after mile of (if my memory is right) kind of stunted forest. You don’t see very much of the Kennedy Space Center from the main road, so it almost felt as if we could have been riding through a section of NJ Pine Barrens.
The night stretch, the last thirty to forty miles, presented the biggest challenge for our little troop because we were tired, ready to be finished, and learned that we each dealt with stress a little differently. We had a long stretch along a busy highway; no one was happy about this but we handled it differently. Some wanted to go faster to get through it, some wanted to stay together even if that meant going slower…. I am not sure what we should have done differently…maybe we should have just stopped and talked through a strategy for doing this section, or maybe we should have just let everyone fend for himself or herself. We were all happy when we got to turn off of this highway onto a quieter road! It’s hard to think clearly and act smartly when you’re really tired.
The Absolute Best Part:
We finished the ride in pretty good time (especially for Escargots), and immediately went to the restaurant/bar for some food and beer. We sat around on cushy couches, ate and drank and remembered the day’s events. This is the best part. A good kind of tired. Guilt-free beer. Shared memories and laughs. The promise of falling asleep easily. And then a story to tell and retell later.