Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day Five, Wrapping Up the Ride

Cue the Motley Crue. We’re on our way, home sweet, home.

First, the good news. Five days and more than 100 miles of riding with two little boys and no wrecks or accidents. We didn’t even get honked at.

Morning at the beach

Friday night, we were fortunate to have the company of our support team, Jill, for the whole night. She had to leave early Saturday morning though. Jill has a weekly group ride with some guys that meet at Village Bikes in Sarasota. They ride over Ringling Causeway and up Longboat Key, before turning around just before the bridge at Longboat Pass.

This is where the richness of our week of planning reaches its peak. She left to meet them, and we left to meet her and the group. We timed it so that we would arrive at their turnaround spot at about the same time. The plan was for Ben to join the group for the ride back, if he felt like it. His brother and I would make our own way, with a special stop for goodies, before meeting up again at our pickup location.

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Sailboats and Kayaks at our meeting spot
My boys and a cyclist on his recumbent (riding past)

A special treat for the youngest rider - he actually poured that Fanta Orange into his Camelbak

And that’s how it all went down. Our smooth week of riding and fun finished harmoniously, with another well executed day. I even nabbed some Thin Mints in the deal.

I don’t think the week could have worked out much better. The weather was perfect. The distances were just right. We got a lot of help. Awesome.

Total Mileage
Ben: 135
Dad: 133
Cal: 116

Bridge Crossings: 36

Special Thanks

I’d like to thank Jill, my beautiful wonderful wife. Without her, the ride definitely wouldn’t have been possible. She made phone calls and ran errands before the tour started. She visited us each evening to resupply, assist, and share in the fun.

I also need to thank my mom and dad, who accommodated us for a night and lunch visit, while also taking care of our little monster, I mean princess, Jaime.

Our neighbors, Heather and Jim and Linda were also indispensable, as they helped us take care of our dogs Sammi and Milo.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day Four, We've Got Anna Maria on Our Mind

The best way to tell the story of our very long, laid back, stop everywhere, talk to everyone ride to Anna Maria Island is in PICTURES.

Getting an early start from our drop-off point, Bayfront Park

Taking a photo of a great blue heron posing by the bay (Ringling Causeway in the background)
Bayfront panorama
Rest break along Longboat Key

Sometimes it's hard to imagine being alone at the beach. Here it is.
The boardwalks of Durante Park on Longboat Key
Yep. We stopped to smell the roses.
We had to wait on the drawbridge over Longboat Pass
Waiting at Longboat Pass, panorama

Coquina Beach is a one of a kind spot
Time to fuel up at a roadside, outdoor restaurant
The accommodations hit the spot
As Ponce de Leon once said, you can never spend too much time at the beach
He climbed Mt. Anna Maria and looked out over the land and his accomplishment.
Historic Anna Maria Pier

Day Three, Homeward Bound

Snuggle buddies
The captain of the boat
Sunrise on Lemon Bay
Today we’re headed home. Why? Why would you hit home in the midst of a biking tour?

As you might imagine, one of big priorities for the trip was safety. By making our tour a big loop around where we live, we were able to put many of the miles on The Legacy Trail and the Venetian Waterway Trail, instead of roadways where we’d share space with cars. In fact, of the first 90 miles, about ½ were on these no-car trails.

Coming home also allowed us to fulfill another part of the mission - FUN! We invited several friends over for a quick pool party. The chaos and hilarity was memorable. The highlights of the night came in our “diving” contests, where the kids competed for best belly flop, best English accent while falling into the pool, best cowboy, best just-been-shot-and-dying, best fart, best flip, and so on.

Pool party!
Mileage, to Date
Ben and Dad: 90.5 miles
Cal, who opted out of an optional loop: 73.4

Bridge Crossings: 26

Things I’ve heard along the way:

  • “We should do this every year.”
  • “Daddy, can we go faster?”
  • “Daddy, can we go slower?”
  • “Daddy, how much farther?”
  • “Daddy, can we go farther?”
  • “My butt hurts.”
  • “Can we race to the _______?”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day Two, Ride to Boat

Today was our easy day. You need easy days too, and we were heading to one of our most anticipated stops of the week. More on that in a moment.

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After a quick stop at a local bike shop for more spare tubes, we hit the roads. We meandered through the roads of South Venice, two up, three up, whatever worked. My 9-year old quizzed me about social studies. How many judges are there on the Supreme Court? Is it part of the executive, judicial, or legislative branch? Who was the first women judge on the Supreme Court? Sandra Day O’Connor. Who doesn’t know that?

We only had 10 miles to go until we reached our houseboat. That’s right. We were staying on a houseboat! Our route took us through South Venice to Manasota Key and along the key to Englewood Beach. We paused long enough at Blind Pass Park to marvel at all of the beach umbrellas.

Beach umbrellas at Blind Pass beach

Manasota Beach Rd.
Hardened, veteran cycling crew enjoying Italian ice at Englewood Beach
We reached Chadwick Cove in no time. It was a fast and easy ride for my hardened veteran crew. We were definitely impressed and rewarded. The place was quaint and, well, totally awesome. The lady registering us was super friendly. And yes, we had rented a houseboat for the night.

Houseboat, our accommodations for the night
A great egret visits our boat
Put out your cigarette before entering
Jill arrived just as we were finishing up. The poor girl got the day off because she had been called in for an overnight emergency at work. As it turned out, this made the day complete.

At the advice of our hosts, we walked to a local restaurant, the Lock 'N Key. After telling them we were vegetarians, they were happy to accommodate. They whipped up a special meal, just for us, and it was fabulous - a salad with mozzarella and mango, pasta with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes, egg plant paninis. They even dressed up the boys’ waters.

Our waitress dressed up the boys' drinks - water
Jill brought her bike. So we took a family ride down to Stump Pass Park and then across the bridge on Beach Rd. to a local park. We managed to see our second and third dolphins of the trip - three dolphins in two days of *biking*. Not bad.

One of many bridges we'd cross, south of Lemon Bay

Our bikes at a local park on Placida Rd., near Grove City

There was only one thing left to do, dinner and sunset on the houseboat.

The sun setting at the marina

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day One, Ride to Venice

Our first day’s agenda was fun and simple. We’d ride down the Legacy Trail to Venice, take a detour down to the Jettys, eat downtown, and then finish up our ride on the Venetian Waterway Trail to Shamrock Park and Granny’s house.

Only five miles in - The Legacy Trail in Sarasota
Investigating at the train station in Venice
A dolphin (left) popped up while I was taking this photo

Well, that worked great, until we hit our first big stop, the Venice Train Station. It was then I saw that I had four voicemails and five emails. Work was tracking me down. Wireless digits are faster than wheels. I had a client whose site had been “hacked,” and he needed my urgent help to fix it.

That immediately derailed our plan. We adjusted though, heading straight for Granny’s house and my laptop, which was waiting for me. I skipped lunch, remoted to my workstation, and fixed the problem. It wasn’t real hack, but some dudes or dudettes in Sweden caused me some serious angst and delay.

It was late afternoon when I was free. We had already logged 22 miles, but my oldest and I took off for more adventure. And this is when the fun really started. He and I rode down the Venetian Waterway Trail again to the South Lookout, near Caspersen Beach. I was taking a quick shot of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), when a dolphin popped up. You can see him on the far left of the photo above.

We also spotted a gopher tortoise, a little blue heron, and some other wading birds.

Gopher tortoise on the Venetian Waterway Trail

We rode down to Caspersen Beach, then along the shore to the Venice airport, the old Ringling Circus area, and then across the Circus Bridge, back to our night’s resting spot.

Caspersen Beach, Venice

Venice airport