Monday, June 8, 2009

2009 Ride For Hope

I heard that there were over 300 bicyclists in Tallahassee's fourth annual "Ride For Hope" on 6 June 2009. That's not a fact that for which I could give testimony, even though I was there, because there were more accurately five rides for hope--a 100 mile, a 100 kilometer, a 40 mile, a 15 mile, and a five mile. Starting times were staggered, with the 100-mile ride and the 100-kilometer ride starting at 7:00 am, while the 40-mile riders and the 15-mile riders started at 8:30 am, and the five-mile "fun ride" started at 10:00 am. Because I rode the 100-kilometer route, I saw very few of the people in the three shorter rides. In what seems to be cycling tradition, the posted distances were very approximate. The 100-kilometer ride, for instance, came in at about 59 miles or 95 kilometers, while the 15-mile course included a free bonus mile and was actually about 16 miles long.

The starting time also turned out to be approximate, but we were sent off about 7:10. From Celebration Baptist Church the route headed onto Centerville Road then north, quickly losing 100 feet of elevation as we descended to where Lake Kanturk drains under the road. Unfortunately, we were going to have to give all that elevation back on the last mile of the ride.

The course went from Centerville Road right onto Roberts Road, right onto Crump Road, right onto Miccosukee Road, left onto Miles Johnson Road, and right onto Chaires Cross Road. Then after fifteen miles of pedaling we were in the village of Chaires, the location of the first stop. Not that you had to stop, but I was glad for the excuse. I wasn't alone. If nothing else it was a chance to get a drink and visit the plumbing, both of which were available in Chaires.

After the stop we proceeded through Chaires, crossing the railroad tracks before turning east onto Capitola Road. Passing through Capitola, we headed onward to Lloyd and the second stop. Arriving at the Lloyd stop, it turned out that one of the 100-milers I had been riding with had a stuck brake and a flat tire. I was wondering how I had been able to keep up. However, from Lloyd, the hundred-milers were turning south, while the hundred-kilometer course continued east on the Old Lloyd Road. There was another stop a mile past Lloyd, but a mile was too early to make another stop, even for me, and even though the bananas looked tempting.

There is not much good to say about the Old Lloyd Road. I suppose that the pavement is good, and the scenery is fine, but the road is wide open, exposed to the sun and wind. The terrain is mostly rolling, but as you head between Interstate 10 and US 90 there is one major uphill (where I geared down and took it easy). No, there is not much good to say about the Old Lloyd Road, except that it eventually dead ends into US 90, at which point you've finished half of the 100-kilometer course.

US 90 is also known as the Fred Mahan Drive, after Monticello pecan tycoon Fred Mahan, who donated thousands of plants for beautification of the highway right-of-way between Tallahassee and Monticello. Unfortunately, after a commemorative plaque was erected in 1953, maintenance on the landscaping was minimal, and most of the plants are dead or strangled by kudzu or muscadine vines. Even so, Mahan Drive is an attractive stretch of road. We turned left onto it and headed west, passing what was left of Mahan's plants, some blooming crape myrtles that were added more recently, and Lake Miccosukee. We also had to pedal in and out of the Lake Miccosukee basin, but those slopes were surprisingly gentle. Best of all, there was a bike lane along the highway, clear save for a dead possum or two.

Old Magnolia Road photoLast year the course had left Mahan Drive on Sunray Road, but this year we had to push on to Old Magnolia Road. Apparently too many cyclists had complained about the pavement on Sunray. I had enjoyed it myself, but I had been riding a steel hybrid with 2.125" tires, while the whiners had probably been riding carbon-fiber insects on pencil-thin rims. In deference to the road bicycles, we traded the oak canopy of Sunray Road for a few more miles of Highway 90, followed by a right turn onto Old Magnolia Road. There was another stop at 39 miles, near the corner of Sunray Road and Old Magnolia Road. Real food here; sandwiches and strawberries. The gentleman staffing the stop lived here, so we talked about his goats (a cute pair of youngsters) and the roads in the area before I climbed back on my machine to push it for the last twenty miles.

We turned left onto Rococo Road just before the unpaved section of Magnolia Road started (which is beautiful, but the road bikes can't take it), and then right onto the Veteran's Highway. I went by three cyclists getting a flat tire fixed on Veteran's Highway, then arrived in the village of Miccosukee, where a rest stop was getting packed up. Was I really that far back? In Miccosukee the route turned left onto Moccasin Gap Road, where I overtook Jeanne O'Kon and two other cyclists who were doing the the 40-mile ride. I rode with them to the next stop at Bradley's Country Store. There was ice cream at Bradley's; there was no way I was skipping that stop.

"Two of our friends missed the turn at Mahan Drive and ended up on the hundred kilometer course," Jeanne said. That didn't seem like it would have been hard to do. I hadn't seen any marks at that intersection for the 40-milers. On the other hand, I hadn't been looking for any marks for the 40-mile route.

Moccasin Gap Road photoBradley's marked ten miles to go, which made it that much easier to enjoy the gentle slopes and canopy oaks of Moccasin Gap Road, which mysteriously becomes Centerville Road as you get closer to Tallahassee. The course turned left onto Bradfordville Road, and then onto Santa Anita Drive, the location of the last rest stop. From there, you were into the maze of residential roads of Dublin Downs, Killearn Acres, and Killearn Estates--turning right onto Pimlico Drive, right onto Clarecastle Way, right onto Shannon Lakes Drive, left onto McLaughlin Drive, and then right onto Tralee Road. All these turns were well marked. On Tralee Road, we had to climb back out of the Lake Kanturk basin. Gear down, pay the elevation debt, and curse the memory of Isaac Newton. After climbing the hill, Tralee dumped me back out onto Shamrock Drive next to Celebration Baptist Church, where I had to avoid getting creamed by cyclists leaving in their cars while trying to figure out how to get to the finish area. I think that I guessed right, but who knows? There were no signs or arrows on the pavement.

Back at the church the food was good and I found that I wasn't too tired to chew. The rain had held off and the weather was still gorgeous with (relatively) mild temperatures (for north Florida in June). A few hundred milers were still coming in, but I was suddenly very tired--In addition to the ride, I usually don't get up at 5:00 am and Saturday morning and change the tires on my bicycle.

Ride For Hope is a fund raiser for the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center. After four years it's also getting to be a pretty good bike ride. It should be back next spring.