Category: cycling


The Lengths I Go to Ride

Bike Lane A1A

One week ago (5-6-17) I had a dilemma. I woke up to a warm and hazy morning, but it wasn’t hazy because of humidity. It was the haze of smoke – from the West Mims fire in the Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, to be exact. There was a strong smell, and occasionally small flecks of gray ash would float down from the sky. It would have been an uncomfortable, and probably unhealthy, ride on any of my normal cycling routes. I would instead have to load my bike onto my car’s bicycle carrier and drive south and east.

One of my favorite places in my new state of Florida is the “GTM” – officially known as the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. It is just off of Florida’s Route A1A, which is a road that follows the entire Florida coast. It starts in KeyWest, heads northeast to Miami and then runs mostly north to Fernandina Beach. It ends just before you reach Ft. Clinch State Park and the St. Marys River outlet on the Florida/Georgia border. What I’ve seen of the road – I’ve gone as far south as Daytona Beach – is pretty spectacular. In countless sections you get a pretty good view of the ocean from the road. Near the GTM there are several parking areas with crosswalks across A1A where you can get over to the beach.

A1A also has bike lanes! And so with smoke filling the skies in Jacksonville I headed to the GTM to park, and then rode my bike south to a place called Vilano Beach, just north of St. Augustine. Overall about a 20-mile round trip of cycling. It turned out to be one of the nicest rides I’ve ever had, simply because of the scenery (and the weather). Traffic was relatively light, and though the speed limit through the area is 55 mph, the cars weren’t too annoying. Vilano Beach is a cute little village where the Tolomato river outlets into the Atlantic. There’s a nice pier that juts into the river (though I didn’t walk it this time).

Vilano Beach Pier

There is a cool looking retro/art deco hotel called the Magic Beach Motel located in Vilano Beach as well. In both of the photos you can see the slightly orange tinted smoke from the big fire.

After stopping to explore a bit more of the area, it was time to head back to the GTM. The picture at the top of this post was taken from the northbound bike lane, and as you can see, the ocean is in full view from the road (and so is the smoke – those aren’t clouds). The ride was slightly more difficult heading into the northwest wind, the one that was blowing the smoke southeast. After completing my ride, I put my bike back on the car. The drive north gave me a better view of what was hovering over Jacksonville.

We’ve had varying amounts of haze and/or smoke filled skies since. Many residents of towns northwest of Jacksonville are still monitoring the fire to see if they’ll need to evacuate. The could use some rain, without the lightning, to knock down the fire a bit. The fire has burned almost 150,000 acres and it’s currently only about 15% contained.

When I used to train for cross-county running and track in high school, it was a matter of putting on running shorts, lacing up my shoes, stretching and heading out on the road. With cycling there is a bit more of a production, with filling water bottles, adding gloves, helmet, a pocketed jersey, and occasionally pumping tires. Add to that the concern over the smoke in the air, and there was the need to set up a bike carrier and get the bike safely and stably on the car. I had to drive a good 30 miles just to get to a healthier area to ride. In the end, it was truly worth it – and all trivial compared to what some residents, and of course the fire fighters have been dealing with.

So I consider myself lucky to have so many novel and fun places to ride. Next time maybe I’ll ride all the way into St. Augustine. Did I mention I was lucky?

Got Running?


I have an admission to make. I have a bit of a crush on someone. My wife kind of knows about it, but doesn’t know the full extent of it. She (my crush) has a lilting British accent and she talks to me in the most calm and soothing way. Here’s what she sounds like:

For the last 9 weeks I’ve been on a running program called Get Running. I ran back in high school until I discovered cycling. I have run at various times to “get exercise” – on the beach on vacation, when I got sick of cycling. I usually ran (excuse the pun) right back to cycling because I hated running. Not unlike someone else I know. Between 8th and 9th grade I ran 500K over the summer. Between 9th grade and 10th grade I ran 1000K. I was a pretty serious runner as a 15 year-old. Cycling took me over at 16 and the running slowly faded. Years passed, I became at times a hard-core cyclist. I did some races when I first moved to Fredericksburg. Running was always about doing something different, but it never stuck.

Until I met, HER. She encouraged me for 9 weeks. She even let me listen to music while she occasionally broke in to tell me of my progress. She would say things like “Fantastic!” and Brilliant!” when I would finish the run. I got addicted to that as much as the running itself. The music part was great too. I could listen to my own music, Spotify, and in the end Pandora (XTC Radio, FTW!). I never listened to music when I ran back in high school. Those unfamiliar with the technology at the time, we had these things called “Walkmans”. A “portable” tape player that seemed to weigh as much as a bowling ball. There was also no such thing as “ear buds”. What we have today in the form unlimited music choices on a light, truly portable device is amazing. So it all came together with this program. And now I’m done.

I’m kind of sad now though. The relationship ended so abruptly. I got the final message that you see above, but no spoken words like “I’ve really enjoyed running with you”. There was a hopeful mention of a “next time”, but there is not any sign of where I go next to find that. It’s almost like she isn’t real.

Anyway, the program is pretty good. In all seriousness, I would change one thing about the program itself. The progression is pretty good, but you get to a point (I suspect others would to) where you need to “plateau”. That is where you reach a certain distance/timed run and you stay there for a while before you go to longer distances/times. So when you get to 15 minutes continuous runs, they should hold it there for a couple weeks, and even introduce some shorter runs again. Then increase the length of runs again. Maybe they think people will get frustrated with it needing to take more than 9 weeks to get to 30 minute runs, but I think it could be too much for some. There were days when I had all I could do to finish. A couple of times I was so tired I would easily trip over roots on the ground and fall on my – well you know. Now I feel good and will look at other programs or maybe configure my own. I am aching for cycling now, but the wintery weather we are having lately isn’t conducive. I don’t want to ride indoors. So we’ll see how things move forward. I may continue running while I begin my cycling again. The best part of this is I still go into the cycling season with good fitness. Not good cycling fitness per se, but at least less weight to haul up the hills when I do get back on the wheels. Exercise is such a wondrous drug. But I’ll miss that voice.

A Call to Ride

. . . for MS that is. For those of you who don’t know, every year in early June (sometimes it’s been late May) I do the Central Virginia MS Ride. It starts in Richmond, Va. and ends in Williamsburg, Va. after a 75 mile ride. Then the next day, it’s back to Richmond. This will be my 14th ride since moving here from upstate NY (my first ride was back in June of ’99 on my mountain bike). I ride for a guy named Bruce Lowery, who actually is recovering from a nasty bout with an infection in the ICU of the local hospital. It wasn’t directly related to his MS, but it was made more difficult, and life threatening.

So on June 2nd I’ll be on the bike again supporting Bruce. His wife Pam who works at UMW as well, turns into a dynamo for this event. She works one of the rest stops, providing hydration and food the riders. I’m always amazed to see how hard she works and I know she’ll be dripping with sweat again this year, and she doesn’t even ride!

Anyway, this is the part where I once again ask you for help. Go to my donation page and contribute what you can. Hey the DS106 Kickstarted project is over and I know you have some money again burning a hole in your pocket. I know I, as well as Pam and Bruce, will truly appreciate it!

Hey, I’ve even gone to the trouble to provide you with an easy to remember URL if you’re at a computer and don’t have this post handy.

Go here and pledge:

Climbing with technology

For the past several years I have had a couple of what I like to call “marker” bike rides. They are rides to let me know that I’m progressing adequately in my training. The Virginia MS Ride is one I’ve been doing for 12 years now. It is a ride that involves riding a long distance (75 miles each day), and it includes some hill climbing. No major elevations, but enough to challenge the legs. So my marker rides are a long day in the saddle, and a hill climb.

Today, I did the hill climb. Virginia has the great benefit of having some beautiful mountains in the western part of the state, and beaches in the east. The Blue Ridge Mountains happen to be just over an hour from my home, so I start from a base there and head almost immediately uphill.

This year I brought along some technology with me – my iPhone. Alright, I usually bring my iPhone, but a service called Strava allows me to use the iPhone’s built-in GPS to track my ride and plot my course, as well as my changes in elevation. The result is the page with the map you see above.

I am using the free version (5 rides a month) to get an idea of how the service works. It’s $6 per month to have unlimited rides. I like getting details on rides like the climb to Skyline Drive, but I don’t personally need details on every ride. For me it’s just fascinating to see the data on those special rides, and seeing how hard I did ( or didn’t ) work.

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