I had the opportunity to visit my father while he was recovering from some surgery. He lives in Orlando and I travel to Orlando several times a year for business. I was going to be in Orlando for a week and decided to look for a used road bike and do some riding while there. I was able to arrange for a spot in my fathers garage for the bike and I thought "hey, an excuse for yet another bike".
So I started scouring Craiglist Orlando looking for a bike. I called several of the local shops and found a number of shops but none had much in the the way of used bikes. There were a number of possible options on craigslist and decided to wait until I got there to actually get one. (I did find one at a pawn shop and asked my Dad to pick it up... when he got there, they were being raided by federal marshals for dealing in stolen gift cards). I found a guy who sells a bunch of used bikes... all kinds and he had a older aluminum Trek 1000 is reasonable shape. So I picked it up and started a brief once over, including repacking wheel bearings and putting new rim strips, bottle holder, pedals etc. Some seat adjustments, lube, and some test riding got me a reasonable bike.
I had started looking for a local ride or route. I had a great experience in Oklahoma City so was hoping for a repeat. I didn't find much in the way of regular weekly rides that were anywhere close to where my father lives (nothing is close in Orlando... totally sucky traffic... takes forever to get anywhere). I really did not want to venture off on my own too much, and the 3 mile loop I could around my fathers sub division jsut wasn't going to cut it. Orlando roads and some areas are so bad, I really wanted to find a recommended route or a local club ride to make the whole thing more enjoyable and safe.
I managed to find what turned out to be a great ride. The Tampa Bay Freewheelers Strawberry Century.
The weather for the ride looked to be rainy and once I got to the start it was indeed raining and stormy. Including lightening and some very black clouds. The ride is typically a very popular ride (I was told, normally 400-1000 people) but the weather made it seem that many people stayed home. They held the start up for an hour and a half waiting for the storm to pass before finally starting. Of course, the rain did not let up. It wasn't a heavy rain, but was a steady cool rain. The ride was started and was a bit dangerous and I found that the bike I had needed a new set of brake shoes...they were just a little old and hard and made it a tough time stopping in the rain. But I managed the ride without incident on my part.
So, Florida pay rides, are just like Midwest pay rides. The people are nice, the pace is just as varied and the SAG's and support are very similar. Florida is, however, at least on this ride, dead flat. I had no way to tell how fast I was going but it seemed fast (I had the garmin with me but in a pocket), I don't think I got off the big ring except to start once stopped. The ride was through some wonderful Strawberry fields that, I am told, are very aromatic when it's not rainging. Spanish moss draped from the trees overhanging the roads and it was very pretty. I left the camera in the car since I had no way to keep it dry.
I got in 38 flat, wet uneventful miles and found that most of the 62 and 100 mile riders decided at the first SAG to only do the 38 as well due to the weather. I say uneventful, but I was in a group that had a run in with a set of wet railroad tracks. We all know about crossing tracks at a 45 degree angle, but when the tracks cross the road at a right angle that is pretty easy. When the tracks are angles already, and it's wet, well.... one of the riders slipped ontop of the tracks, another rider hit them as they were going down.... It was all so slow motion. Two riders who went around the two already down, both ended up catching wheels in the gap between the road and the track rail... again, slow motion. Fortunately, no injuries, no equipment damages and we all rode on.
All in all, I really enjoyed the ride and knocked Florida of my list of states I have ridden in. I hope to take advantage of thaving a bike down there to ride on my next trip.
On a side note, if I were to do the remote bike thing again, I would build it here and send it. I had a couple of trips to the local bike shop (20 miles takes like an hour in Orlando) and still need to tweak a couple more things. It would have been easier to do here with parts, tools, etc.