I packed my bike and suitcase wondering if I was going to make it to South Florida for the “Boca Kanner,” a 314-km loop in South Florida. I set the alarm for 3am, resigned to accept my fate; if the roads were passable at 4am, I’d head for the airport, if they were icy, I would just stay home and shovel snow.
Apparently I wasn’t going to get out of this ride so easily. Roads were dry so I had no reason to not go. A few drizzles right before the airport but it looked like I was going to get out of town before the storm really got started. I landed in Ft. Lauderdale to temps in the 80s while at the same time it was snowing at home. Checking into my hotel and putting my bike together, I decided to ride to the start from there just to see where it was in order to reduce my anxiety about unknown factors. For the same reason, I later reviewed the cue sheet together with the online ridewithgps map. I discovered that, while there would likely be a few navigational challenges later in the ride, a bigger challenge would likely be keeping ourselves amused for the many long stretches with no navigational concerns…the direction that said, “Turn Left and go for 20 miles….” Those are hard.
The organizer John Preston, and his staff–Juliet, Agnes, and at least two other volunteers–waited patiently at all controles but one to feed and water us as well as to provide unflagging encouragement. They really were wonderful…many thanks to you all for your support. Just to give an example: when I arrived at the start line, I was almost immediately greeted by Juliet who came up to me, gave me a big hug, welcomed me, took my picture and laid out the registration process for me. She was equally cheerful 133 miles later at the controle in Hobe Sound. This group sets high standards for ride support!
I come from an area where a fair amount of ride support is normal, so I truly appreciated the volunteers’ time, energy and good cooking. The lunch stop had sandwiches, pasta and rice salad, and all sorts of drinks and cookies. Yum! There are not a lot of other likenesses between NJ and South Florida rides though. Even flat rides in Jersey are usually (not always) a little hillier than this ride was. And we had a good dose of wind for most of the day to keep us working hard. When you’re riding in hilly country, you don’t feel wind so much, but when you’re riding for 18 miles along a levee that sits above Lake Okeechobee and it’s a windy day, you know about it. For most of the day, then, we had headwinds or cross winds. Only for about 8 miles did we have a true tailwind. For a good part of the last 60 miles we had a crosswind that was sometimes a tailwind, but I felt pretty beat up by the end of the day.
The first 30 miles were covered primarily in the dark. During this section we seemed to be riding through an area of gated communities and strip malls. Not a lot to see. When it got light, we started to hit open country and then cane fields…and with the cane fields came the cane trucks. They provided us with company to Lake Okeechobee and for some time past that area. It was occasionally a little unnerving to be so close to the big trucks barelling down the road, but for the most part, they gave us wide berth.
When we turned east for a 30-mile stretch to Hobe Sound, that is when the headwinds were the strongest. The only thing to do was to put your head down and keep pedaling. If I had been riding alone, this section would have been incredibly discouraging, but I was fortunate enough to hook up with Roger and Ali Holt, randonneurs from Vancouver. Early in the ride they had passed me but then I found that I was able to keep pace with them. Not wanting to just take advantage of the draft off of them, I asked them if they minded me riding with them for at least a while. We rode together for the whole day. And while Roger was definitely adjusting his pace to “keep up” with us, it seemed that Ali and I were pretty fairly matched. So I had company and assistance through the really windy sections and truly appreciated both.
From about mile 150 on, there is a bit more navigating to do, so it was good to have the three of us paying attention to the cue sheet as we worked our way through more urban and touristy sections of the coastline. Even though it had seemed like a lovely thing to have the opportunity to ride down the coast, it was dark when we got there, and there were simply too many people and cars to allow us to relax. Vigilance is highly recommended in this section of the ride. However, the roads open up again for the last 10 or so miles so the very end is a relatively easy section.
I promised myself before the ride that I would treat it as an adventure, and that I would do my best to settle into the experience and enjoy it. I think I did a pretty good job, not flawless, but pretty good. I’m very glad to have done the ride and to have met and enjoyed the company of other randonneurs. It was an excellent trip, and when I got home, Nemo had left town.
P.S.: I’ve also completed two-thirds of my training for February.