The start was an informal rolling start and with a shout it began. We hit the road and withing 200 feet I knew we were in for a painful day. The road was washboard and the shoulders were very soft sand so there was not mild areas. After a couple of miles, I adjusted the air pressure in the kids tires to try to eat up some of the chatter.
Speaking of chatter, the kids were nearing mutiny. The first 7 miles took just over an hour with all of the little breaks to adjust. At that rate, we were moving at the speed of smell and were not going to be done anytime soon. We arrived at a small bridge and I decided it was a good place to lean our bikes for a few minutes.
Nothing but blue sky....
Trying to look motivated....sort of.
Managing fluid and calorie intake is not always easy with kids. I understand the concept, however, getting them to eat every 40 min or so is challenging. They snacked a little and then we hit the road, it seemed to smooth up a little bit and attitudes changed slightly. We cruised for while when off in the distance I could see the I-75 interstate overpass. I seemed like an eternity to get there. This is actually one of the most challenging aspects of riding in Florida.
Whether it is trees like this or open glades, the view doesn't change and the roads tend to be long and straight.
We certainly know that mountains or even small hills, are not an issue in Southern Florida, but the strait line and distances of the roads kind of messes with the mind. I was beginning to get frustrated, you actually don’t feel like you are going anywhere. The horizon, it is a place, you can see it, but you can never get there. That is how it feels to ride in the hinterlands of Southern Florida.
It was the best shade we would have for a long while so we stopped under the I-75 overpass and had some decent food. I broke out the fruit and nut mix, hoping they would eat more than power bars and gels. This ended the first round of the Grief Cycle. It was a short distance from there to the Bear Island, Big Cypress Campground area and the roads were in great shape.
As we turned into the Bear Island Campground, there were three rednecks fishing. Textbook coveralls and all. A man had just reeled in what appeared to be an Oscar. I had friends groing up that had Oscars, I never thought to fish for them…. Anyway, I asked the man and he confirmed that is what it was. He stated that they are invasive and easy to catch, especially with bread. Then the lady approached me and said they tasted really good too, not as good as bass, but good. Then another man said, “there is another fishing spot just around the corner, there is more room for the kids, but whatch out for the one eyed alligator. If it comes near, just get the kids out of the way.” Always nice to get good life hacks like this.
Smooth as glass........
We started turning the cranks again and found that this stretch was the best we would encounter all day. Shade and a packed sandy road that was smooth and hard packed as any asphalt road. We enjoyed seeing lots of alligators, but this stretch came to a quick end. It was time to start the return and we got onto highway 29 and began heading South, I thought that the kids would love being on pavement for a while, however this turned out to be the beginning of the second bout with the stages of grief.
Sometimes it is necessary to taste the bitter in order to know what sweet is. This was hero dirt.
It is Florida, in the middle of a huge swamp. We met the biggest alligator we have seen to date!
Off course there was a grass in front of my face. Oh well, nobody wants to look at me.
After this stretch, it was about 15 miles of pavement and it would turn out to be the no fun. The road runs through a panther preserve and it, like just about every other road is straight and the view doesn’t change much. As stated earlier, this also leads to a certain amount of frustration, especially since it was warming up to the low 80s. The no shade was becoming an issue and the crosswind was annoying. The grief cycle began again, for a second time. We eventually sought sanctuary under a large tree and sat in the shade a little while. Then we took off for the only water stop on the ride.
When we arrived at the designated water spot, we found the ice chest full of ice and water. It was cold and refreshing and we filled hydration bags and water bottles. I planned on taking a longer break there since the grass was mowed and the area was shady. We were a few minutes from leaving when Karlos showed, he offered us sandwiches and cold Coke.
This truly saved the afternoon, thus ending the second grief cycle. We hit the road for the final few miles of pavement. Then it happened again, we turned East onto the final 15 mile stretch which included the first 7 miles of the route. Fortunately for us, the other 7 or 8 miles was just as bad with plenty of washboard and prepared us for the final stretch. It was at this point that the kids began their third iteration of the grief cycle. Their was denial that the last 14 miles would be bad, then there was anger.....intense anger, followed by bargaining, then depression, and finally acceptance that they still had to get to the car.
Last stop before the finish, only 7 miles left!
We took our final break at the intersection that would take us South on our last seven miles. It was rough and slow. The kids continued to crank through quietly focused on finishing. I tried to pump them up with some music from the Rocky IV soundtrack (to no avail). In the distance I saw a car stopped and a guy hanging out with a camera, no big deal, probably an alligator sunning on the road. As we got closer I saw that it was a snake and Diga was heading right towards it. I yelled for him to move over, he looked back at me and asked "what." Just as I yelled snake, it opened it's mouth hissing at him from about one foot away. Nothing like a close encounter with a cottonmouth to liven up and re-energize the last three miles. This closed out the third cycle of grief.
The event ended with us spending a total of 7-8 hours on the course (total time moving and resting). The kids completed 59 miles, their furthest and no doubt hardest to date. Carlos from the Single Track Samurai put together a great route, that was no doubt a challenge for anyone who participated. Next year, we will do the back country version and we might even train.
An honorable mention from Karlos.
I wiped away a bit of dust (below brake cable) to demonstrate the layer of dust on Chick's bike.