Friday, December 12, 2008

Today's Ride: The Annual Rite Known as the Lake O Ride

Followers of Bicycle Stories know that I renew a bike ride rite every late fall when the weather locks into winter mode and the air is dry and the winds are often out of the north. I cherrypick a day when the weather is cool and dry, and there is no threat of rain.

Which is why I'm reporting to you from Moore Haven in Hendry County at mile 59.2 as part of my annual 120-mile bicycle journey around Lake Okeechobee. Usually I get up at 4 in the morning in Tampa to reach the city of Okeechobee on the northern tip of the lake by 7 a.m. for the all-day around the Bike Lake.

But this year I came one day early to South Florida and left S. Fla. at 5:15 am today to reach Port Mayaca on the lake's east side on the western edge of Martin County. It was cool and clouds flirted with the sun as I put on two long sleeve shorts and my trusty Yahoo bike jersey when I took off from a recreation area at the Port Mayaca Lake Okeechobee area where boats and barges take the lock into the St. Lucie Canal for its eastern voyage to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Lake O ride demands just a few things -- will power, faith that if you pedal all day you'll return to your starting point and a bunch of Clif bars. It's long stretches of lake to my left and prairie land to my right, with cattle, fish camps and big sugar amid the small, poor oldtime central Florida cities of Moore Haven and Okeechobee, Clewiston and Pahokee, Belle Glade and Lakeport.

The first half of the ride is in the books as I battled fierce winds out of the northwest. Starting from Port Mayaca, I biked right into the teeth of the north winds, and I biked west from the city of Okeechobee, where there were more headwinds to contend with.

But when I biked south on State Road 78 on the lake's west side, I began to catch a hint of tailwind. Then I made a left turn on US 27 for a quick two-mile excursion into Moore Haven. The tailwinds were delightful as pedaling 20 mph came effortlessly.

It's on to Clewiston, Belle Glade, Pahokee and ultimately a return engagement at the Port Mayaca recreation lock area on Lake O off US 441. Stay tuned this afternoon for more coverage.

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