Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS Post-Event Report from our guest contributor Kathy Foster, the PANTHER’s publicity chair.
Debby’s stormy days bring back the Vero Beach weekend we almost skipped earlier this month. The skies were as dark as they are today as we loading our Co-Motion and our bike gear. The forecast was so doubtful that my husband, Bill, decided to fit the bike INSIDE the Jeep instead of on the rack in the back. He managed this maneuver without uncoupling the couplings by taking off both wheels and moving my seat as far forward as possible.
Despite the gloom, we took off, as this annual gathering of members of the PANTHERS club from various parts of Florida is one of my favorites. Club president Bob Thompson and his wife, Jan, are able to get an amazing rate at the waterfront Holiday Inn, and members paying an upgrade can get an oceanfront room. Even better, the snowbirds and the accompanying traffic are gone, leaving the roads less traveled and returning an Old Florida feel to this tony beach town.
We had driven for two hours and were close to our exit from Florida’s Turnpike when the skies unleashed a torrent with the fury of a pre-hurricane downpour. For about 20 miles through rural Florida, we kept a close watch on the tail lights ahead as that was as far as we could see.
By the time we had driven through Vero and crossed the bridge onto the beach, we had outrun the storm. Later several of us had a chance to unwind and gaze down on the ocean from the railing just beyond Rose and Bob Jordan’s room.
For dinner, everyone was to meet in front of the lobby at 6:15 to walk the four blocks to an Italian restaurant. By then, the rains had arrived full force. Fortunately, we were able to snag three large tables in the hotel’s Mulligan’s Beach House Bar and Grill.
Just as we’d finished our dinner – the eatery is known for great, fresh seafood – the lights blinked off, then back on. A few minutes later, at 8:09 p.m., the power went off again. This time it stayed off. The waitresses brought our bills and we used cell phone lights to read the total and sign the receipts. Then the eatery’s smoke alarm went off and we decided we’d better scoot.
By now the rain had stopped. Some of us walked to the end of the road and watched the waves while a few headed to the ice cream shop. We saw no lights anywhere. As we were returning to our room, we saw a beautiful sunset framed by what, fire trucks? Had there really been a fire?
The next day we learned there’d been no fire. The trucks were there to rescue guests from the elevator. Who knew this old, two-story hotel HAD an elevator?
Anyway, without light or electricity, we had plenty of time to rest up for the Saturday ride of 53 miles.
And what a ride it was. We started en masse, working our way from the oceanfront Ocean Drive to Highway A1A, which scoots northward, hugging the shoreline for eight miles up to Wabasso Beach.
We regrouped at the traffic light before heading westward across two bridges. From the top of the second bridge, we craned our necks to see an A-frame once owned by Jimmy Buffet. Unlike faster moving cars, we could enjoy the panoramic land- and seascape below us.
Again, we regrouped and refueled at a gas station, then continued westward and northward, winding through residential areas and occasionally encountering ocean-bound canals. At our second stop, those wanting a shorter ride turned back toward Vero.
The rest of us headed northward. Soon we were crossing an impressive, but wide bridge with the Intracoastal Waterway on the right and the Sebastian Inlet on the left, for those who weren’t breathing too hard to notice.
This rest of the ride meandered through tiny Micca and then back toward Sebastian and Vero Beach. Unlike so many group rides, we mostly rode as a pack until the last 5 miles or so. Then, like horses, we got frisky as we neared the metaphorical barn and took off. By the time we arrived in the parking lot, we were steaming. Before long, we meandered to Mulligan’s, sitting outside on the beach this time to enjoy a “cheeseburger in paradise.’’
The storms stayed away. Many of us cooled off with a dip in the ocean or the pool, ready to get refreshed for Sunday’s ride.
What can I say about Sunday’s ride down A1A? Fantastic, fast and fabulous.
First we pedaled past millionaires’ homes and then we joined the highway, which has a bike lane. At times the road felt like a washboard, but the ocean scenery more than compensated. The return route crossed over to the mainland, then headed north along a tree-shaded road with virtually no traffic. We were back by 10:30, time for a stoker to take a quick shower if the captain is willing to load the gear.
We said goodbye to old and new friends, including Kerry and Karen Hughes from Baton Rouge who were ending their vacation.
We’ll meet again in August for a weekend outing in Lake Wales, FL. Watch for details at http://www.floridatandemclub.org
Hope to see you there.