If anyone has !
So yesterday I biked into town again. I say again as I've done it twice before on this trip and I have to say, it's been easier each time. Either I'm getting fitter or, and this is much more likely, it helps that I have been taking it easier/slower each time !
Now first up, I have a question to ask all budding meteorologists out there. When one is peddling into a decent head wind on the way somewhere and looking forward to the return trip when one fully expects that wind to be at one's back when one is much more tired......WHY DOESN'T IT FREAKIN' HAPPEN ???
Can wind blow in opposite directions at about the same time ? Cause it damn well seemed so yesterday. Thankfully it wasn't too strong but I really could've done with it at my back as after 20 miles or so in mid 80's temperatures, I needed all the help I could get.
I'd initially wanted to make the trip sans backpack as it can end up being quite heavy and it makes my back sweat. But I wanted my phone. I wanted my camera. I wanted at least 2 bottles of water. I wanted some sweeties. I wanted a new iPad and desktop computer but that's a different story.
So backpack it was.
I set off at 11:20 and within seconds was out of the park and onto the back road into town. For the first 25 minutes I saw no other vehicles. Nothing passed me and understandably, I passed nothing.
Actually no. I passed a snake but it was very dead, and flat, and therefore not going very fast at all.
And I loved it. The flat open road, the sun beating down and Val Doonican on the mp3 player. Now you've really never experienced life if you've never biked along in Florida listening to Val Doonican crooning about Delaney's Donkey or Paddy McGinty's Goat. The whole experience was surreal and brought a smile to my lips which helped me coast along at a decent pace, despite the wind and having to process the large bowl of puffed wheat I'd foolishly consumed before setting off. Thinking about it, one may have caused the other.
My plan was to continue on the back roads until I was about half a mile from the junction with US-27, the main 6 lane road through Sebring and then branch off to the golf course we go to every Monday. I was hoping I could weasel my way to getting a cart and going out to take photos of certain holes for nostalgia purposes. This was not to be.
The course was almost empty (a good sign) but so was the club house (a bad sign) and so there was no one to ask. I took the opportunity to have a short rest and then I rode on to join US-27.
By now it was 12:25 and I was hungry again. From previous rides into town I knew I was pretty much limited to using a fast food drive thru for my food choices as I've no lock for my bike. I knew it wasn't likely that anyone in a car driving US town with an aged population would want to 'borrow' my bike but I couldn't take the risk. Some migrant orange picker might find himself on the run from the border police and decide he'd get to Mexico faster by bike !
Hey, it COULD happen !
As I approached the nearest Burger King, I saw there was an RV park across the road. At the first property, right by the entrance, an old man was cutting his lawn and I asked him if I could leave my bike at his place while I nipped over and had something to eat. Of course when he heard my accent and found out I was from England, he asked me if I knew so-and-so as he'd been based in England during the war and made lots of friends there.
Telling him that I knew lots of so-and-so's in England (!!) I inched away slowly and said I'd be back soon for my bike.
I have to admit it was wonderful to walk into that BK with no bike worries (I'd left the old man talking earnestly to it about the women he'd met in Gloucestershire in 1944) and I immediately recognised a friend from Buttonwood Bay in the line. Knowing Hank would never be out without his wife, I scanned the seats and there was Sharon reading the supermarket ad papers over in a corner. Small world.
I put this phone photo up onto Facebook and have just taken it from there to save time so it's not great quality but shows Hank & Sharon in Burger King and that's what matters !
I got a kids meal so that I wouldn't be processing a lot as I continued my riding. Always thinking you see.
The old man had gone inside when I returned to his house and so I quietly recovered my bike and rode away, my guilt at not being able to thank him being easily offset by not having to listen his war stories.
The ride from there into Sebring Old Town was wonderful as there is a cycle path (ok it's a sidewalk but well used by cyclists) and it goes along the south and east of Lake Jackson. After only about 10 minutes I was at my destination, Sebring Circle, which is a roundabout at the focal point of the old town with 6 streets leading to and from it like the spokes of a wheel. This is classic old town America as beloved by Bill Bryson with Ma & Pa stores, small family run eateries and wonderful emporiums where you can buy anything from a hub cap for a '69 Corvette to a pack of scented ribbed condoms. In Sebring, there would be many more enquiries for the former over the later.
And right by the Circle there was a fire hydrant and it was spewing water ! Now I know this is a tad silly but I was overly thrilled as I'd never seen this before. Not personally. Not in real life. I'd seen all those movies when little kids would dance happily through the gushing waters of an open fire hydrant in mid town New York during a hot summer. Now it was MY turn.
But the Sebring locals were spared this experience and I was probably spared a night in the cells as the water pressure was so low that I'd have been hard pushed to get my feet wet. I've seen more pressure from a drinking fountain.
But it was still cool.
Minutes before, the water had been a rusty brown colour, so hot as I was, I didn't fancy taking a drink. You're probably not supposed to drink water from a hydrant at the best of times so I returned to my backpack and had some of the bottled variety instead.
Then I crossed over into the little park created in the middle of the Circle and sat down on a bench to rest and take in the views. As always, there was a humungous flag pole in the centre, towering over a memorial to the Sebring soldiers who had gone off to fight in various wars, never to return alive.
Behind me I looked along the path that led to one of the 6 streets leading from the Circle and noticed a classic street clock right out of Back to The Future. The face of the clock was in deep shadow as there were numerous tall trees within this little park area but hopefully these photos give an idea of the style of the clock.
By now I'd been out in the hot sun for almost 3 hours, discounting my time in Burger King, so it was time to head back to Buttonwood. Just a few yards from the Circle, I came upon a police car parked up with its lights flashing. In front was a small truck with someone sitting in the back (don't think that was the crime) and the officer was handing over a ticket to the driver. I thought it best not to try and take a photo of this incident as for one thing, by the time I'd taken my backpack off and got out the camera, both parties would be gone. It'll have to be my little memory, and thus probably forgotten by this time tomorrow !
I don't know if it was the rest I took, the BK kids burger with small fries or the Cherry Coke Zero I'd just finished off, but something gave me the energy to ride the 10 miles back with ease, not stopping once. Even the wind in my face couldn't slow me down. I was Lance Armstrong for those 45 minutes.
So it WAS probably the Coke then !
I returned hot, sweaty but only slightly tired. I used MapMyRun to work out how far I'd ridden and it was 21.88 miles. Not too shabby for an old guy who has to pay a fortune for medical insurance as I have 'a pre-existing medical condition'. Pah.
I think when I go home I'll ask for a partial refund.