Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Bicycle Life in Photos

It's OK to not bike every day.

I know, it's heresy.

But a 5 a.m. rainstorm that swept through Vero Beach left the roads way too slick, so I hoofed it to the gorgeous Riverside Park on the Vero barrier island. It's hard-packed earthen trail is a joy for a slow jog, run or walk.

Then after work, it was a mowing job, plus some red mulch purchasing and spreading in front of my house.

It broke a string of five straight "A Bicycle Life" days of posting a bicycle photo of one sort or another.

Here were the past five days:

Wednesday night: Vero Beach Marina

Tuesday morning: North Fort Pierce Beach 

Monday night: Fishing pier underneath State Road 60 Bridge in Vero Beach 

Sunday morning: A1A bridge at Sebastian Inlet

Saturday morning: Stuart, across from Bathtub Reef Beach

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Off Road And Out Of Sight

The retired folks and snowbirds of Vero Beach are driving their Lexuses, Mercedeses and BMWs along A1A and little do they know behind a wall of green trees and vegetation is this -- a super-cool single track mountain bike loop complete with homemade banks, jumps and camel backs.

The trail goes back and forth amid the trees and even skirts the beach area on the Atlantic.

Then, it off to the "Historic" Tropical Jungle road, a sandy road running along the Intracostal on the barrier island that dates backs to the 1920s when it was used to haul citrus op and down the Vero Beach island.

These days, there are some upscale housing along the sandy trail that's used by "slow moving vehicles" like bicycles.

At a super expensive island market on A1A on the north end of Vero Beach, the Surly fattie tire was a tad too large for the bike rack there.

It's The Ding of Aluminum Bats At Dodgertown Now

Robinson. Hodges. Reese. Campanella. The Duke. Koufax. Alston.

And then the likes of Wills and Garvey and Orel and Piazza.

They all came through here every March.

They have the word, "historic," in front of Dodgertown, which means it's a real old place by Florida standards.

The Brooklyn Dodgers -- and then the Los Angeles Dodgers -- used this patch of grass across from the Vero Beach Municipal Airport to get ready for the Major League Baseball seasons from 1948 to 2008. I went to one of the last games here in 2008 when Joe Torre and the New York Yankees stopped in for a game against the former team from Brooklyn.

The razzle-dazzle of MLB spring training amenities had bypassed what Dodgertown could offer. No fancy suites or craft beer restaurants. There also weren't the modern training facilities that new spring training complexes now offer.

Dodgertown has history and fun street signs named after famous oldtime Dodgers players.It just didn't have the snazzy bells and whistles that modern MLB spring facilities have these days.

But I'm a sucker for baseball romance and crappy cheap beer, so even before the Dodgers scooted out of Vero Beach for Arizona, I used to watch the Single A Vero Beach Dodgers games in 2002 and '03 when I worked for a daily newspaper in Melbourne, NY.

The major leaguers don't train at Dodgertown anymore, but there's still baseball -- and other sports -- played here.

Instead of the Big Leagues, you have Spring Break high schoolers and college kids playing on the Holman Field (built in 1953 out of an abandoned Navy base) in the month of March at Dodgertown.

Even pro football teams from Canada come down to Dodgertown to training for their regular seasons.

Ol' Holman Field is, well, old. The seats are showing the wear and tear of decades of use and exposure to the humid Florida air.

While the big leaguers aren't playing there anymore, the crack of the wooden back has been replaced with the ding of the aluminum bat.

There are still enough great touches at Dodgertown to drop you into the time machine.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Before The Rains Came -- And Afterwards, Too

Old man. Battery-powered trike. Storm cloud. Surgery center.

Yes. Florida.

This is Stuart, about 45 miles north of West Palm Beach.

It was after the rains came around mid-day and people come out after the rainstorms like little kids emerging from school.  

*     *     *

Before the rains struck Florida around mid-day I was pedaling north on A1A just north of Vero Beach heading for Wabasso and Sebastian.

It's a beeline of a road, with a capable bike lane and large green hedges, bushes, trees and plants creating walls of green on both sides. The Atlantic Ocean is hidden behind the wall of greenery on my right.

A road cyclist on a Pinarello Dogma catches up and passes me as we head for Wabasso.

I caught up with the roadie and told him I liked his lime green handlebar tape and that was all it took to trigger two hours of chatting and cycling on A1A from Vero Beach to Sebastian and back.

Turned out Robert was a lawyer from Orlando who grew up in Vero Beach and went to Vero Beach High School. He was in town with his son who was playing a tennis tournament and they were visiting Robert's parents who still live in the same home that he grew up in.

We reached the A1A bridge spanning Sebastian Inlet and stopped for photos.

Robert knew where the best surfing was in this inlet and scanned the oceanside of the A1A bridge, then walked to the Indian River intracoastal side and snapped a photo of his bike there, too.

We turned around and headed south, with a slight detour to hammer up the Wabasso bridge and back over that bridge to A1A for a southern excurision to his son's tennos action.

We promised to stay in touch -- another bicycle friend made on the road of life.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Annual Lake Okeechobee Pedaling Rite Renewed

New writing job. New house. And saw my beautiful sister on Sunday.

And today I officially hammered home that I'm back in Florida with my one-day, 120-mile cyclefest around Lake Okeechobee.

With slight winds out of the northwest, I pedaled easily around the Big Water, Lake Okeechobee, the second biggest freshwater lake within the US borders.

I started late. But it didn't matter. I saw the familiar scene at the northern end outside the city of Okeechobee.

 Even saw this ripped up pavement for a good 10 miles on State Road 78 on the way to Lakeport.

It's eight hours of fish camps, sugar cane fields and trucks rumbling by with the Big Sugar.

Normally, I would bike on the paved trail atop the earthen berm that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, but the US Army Corps was working on patching up the berm.

And a pedal around Lake O wouldn't be complete without a pitstop at J&S Fish Camp

And who knew Port Mayaca had a polo club? I thought it was two houses and a lock on the lake.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Florida Retailer Standing Proud Without Razzle Dazzle

There are some impressive retail bicycle shops out there that look like mini velo cathedrals like Las Vegas Cyclery and Wheat Ridge Cyclery outside Denver.

But there are many hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop operations like Pro Cycles, a 1,000-square-foot shop in an anonymous strip center among many non-descript strip centers along the wide-paved strip known as U.S. 1 in Stuart, about 35 miles north of West Palm Beach.

John Silvia is a one-man operation in this shop and at age 60 and with more than three decades in the bicycle retail business, he now owns all the inventory in the shop. He sells Jamis and KHS bikes, choosing to sell brands that have been muscled out by the big guns of Trek, Specialized and Giant.

There are about 25 bikes or so in his small shop, So his bread and butter is service. He estimates at least 60 percent of his revenues come from repairs and service.

Silvia is the flip side of the retail bicycle scene that mostly focuses on the razzle-dazzle big shops. Instead of sparkling and brightly lit retail spaces with impressive display shelves and walls covered with outdoor scenes, Silvia's shop offers more of the old-school sheen. He's proud of two case units he brought from his house to display helmets and shoes.

Signed race jerseys on one wall show that Silvia has been around the block in the bicycle industry and he still comes out to Interbike in Las Vegas to hang with some Belgium bike industry folks.

The retail scene is a big tent and it's good to see the John Silvias still getting his hands dirty with chain grease.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Don't Take Bike Rides; The Pugsley Takes Me For The Ride

The Surly Pugsley fattie bicycle is a beautiful pedaling machine because it's giant oversized tires can take me anywhere -- everywhere.

I bicycled on pavement from my house to the Atlantic Ocean, then hit the beach to pedal seven miles up the coast from Vero Beach to Wabasso. It was a great workout and I was able to maintain a speed of at least 10 mph in the morning sand the entire way.

Then it was back over the Intracoastal to a funky convenience store on US 1 that has everything from boots to highend craft beers to homemade Mexican food.

And then onto sandy Tropical Trail, a dirt and sand road that hugs the eastern edge of the Intracoastal on the barrier island side.

This tiny Mercedes caught my attention because of the Confederate souvenir plate on the front. There are pickup trucks and Confederate flag gear around here but I haven't seen one on a Mercedes before.

And when I got home check out who is snuggled and sleeping with her new toy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

It's Century Time In Florida

The bicycle reacclimation meant my first 100-miler back in Florida.

It was a ride south along the Indian River Drive to Jensen Beach, then an in-land jaunt to Stuart. And then I headed to Stuart Beach and headed north to Vero Beach, where I biked another 10 miles or so to pedal the century.

My High 5 about this ride.

1.. Indian River Drive from Port Pierce to Jensen Beach is amazingly beautiful and serene and even has a few slight ups and downs.

2. It was great to meet this guy -- former Palm Beach Post photographer Paul Milette who is now a state ranger at the sprawling Savannas park between Port St. Lucie and Jensen Beach.

3. Paul and his wife Sue have done an amazing job sprucing up a double-wide into a very cool place to live at the park.

4. I have no data or scientific information to back this up but if I had to guess I would say most war re-enactment buffs probably like Donald Trump. Along Indian River Drive.

5. So, I found the best pizza along the 100 miles in Fort Pierce. It's this place on US 1 near the cross road that leads to the Fort Pierce North Causeway. A Taste of Brooklyn in the Publix shopping center on US 1.