Thursday, March 21, 2013

You're Never Too Old to Get on a Bike

      Whenever possible, I like to brag about someone who I think accomplished something extraordinary.  This time it’s about a family friend and “snowbird” whom we meet every couple of years in Florida.  We usually try to plan some outdoor activity such as kayaking in Ocala National Forest or skydiving at Deland airport.  This year the event was a bike ride across Florida from Deland to “the Villages” just north of Orlando.  I had originally planned a 100-mile loop for my brother-in-law and me, but decided to cut it back to 50 miles when this family friend asked to join.  You see, he is 74 years young, never rode a bike more than a couple of blocks, and rented a hybrid for the journey.  He’s the middle guy in the picture. Normally, I tell these bicyclists just to go home and not to attempt something this crazy.
      Nevertheless, before heading out I checked him out with family members that knew him better than I.  They  told me that he could probably do the ride, and would die trying before giving up.  However, I said, “Stick close to the phone just in case we needed an emergency pickup.”
      The route I mapped traveled along the southern edge of the Ocala National Forest, was a two-lane road with a 55-mph speed limit, and had an 18-inch shoulder.  It was relatively isolated with three tiny burgs along the way.  Again, this scenario was not ideal for a first-time bicyclist.  Regardless, he was not intimidated.  He grumbled a couple of times about my road choice, but was not about to change his mind.  I offered encouragement by explaining the “turtle philosophy” – not to worry, it’s the journey and not the destination that mattered and that we would stop as often as necessary to insure all riders are comfortable.  However, I wasn’t quite prepared for what that was going to entail.
      At 9:30 we started out at a decent pace.  Originally, I had planned to average 19-mph, since the route was relatively flat, but with a new bicyclist I cutback and estimated a 4-1/2-hour journey, allowing 30 minutes for a lunch break.  Also, in true “turtle style” I planned stops for Kodak-moments.  Instead of turtle pictures, we got alligator pictures.  Even with adjustment the timing took longer than expected.
      I rode along at about 16-mph until I couldn’t see my other two companions.  I would then stop and wait for them to catch-up and, again in true “turtle style,” let the last one to join the rest stop decide when the group moved again.  Unexpectedly, that meant stopping every two or three miles.  I also hadn’t planned a cigar break.  On most of my past turtle rides, the participants didn’t light up during the pedal, but how could I refuse?  He rode along without a single complaint or crab and, when asked, he was always “doing fine.”
      It took us seven hours to get to our destination – an outside table in the Village Square with a margarita in hand.  However, once we did get to “the Villages” we continued “touring and photographing” in true turtle style. So, one must add that delay into our elapsed time.  With seventeen golf courses “the Villages” have a vast network of golf-cart roads, which we now traveled instead of battling motorists.  But, I am not sure which is more dangerous – dodging hundreds of golf-carts on their way to “happy hour” and driven by retirees with cataracts or avoiding the couple of dozen high-speed motorists who could at least see us.
      It turned out to be a great adventure. I felt it necessary to reward my companions who never said anything but “I’m doing fine,” by buying several rounds of margaritas.  However, in true “Tennessee style” I substituted “Jack” for the tequila.  The moral of this story is: being 74-years-young is not too late to start riding a bike.  It just takes commitment and a very positive attitude.


bed2 said...

Well said...

Christy said...

Inspired as usual - It's always about the journey, otherwise, we'd just take a car.

J R (Jerial) said...