Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS Post-Event Report from our guest contributor Kathy Foster.
The Sebring Tandem Rally, already unique for starting at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway, got an extra taste of yesteryear racing this weekend.
For the mass start Saturday, we were instructed to ride to the Start/Finish line at the race track instead of gathering in front of the hotel. Each team had been given a stick-on number at registration and pedaled their bike to the matching lines positioned diagonally down the track. Soon close to 50 bikes were lined up as if they were ready to do a “Le Mans start,” the custom at this Florida track until 1970.
As race car drivers once did, stokers took their positions on the opposite side of the track while the captain stayed astride the tandem. When ride organizer and car enthusiast Bob Thompson gave the signal, stokers ran, walked or sprinted across the pavement and climbed on their bikes as drivers once climbed into their cars. Then they clicked into their pedals and took off.
Of course, this wasn’t officially a race, although some of the riders on the 63-mile ride said they averaged 19 miles per hour.
As for us, we wanted to smell the roses, or in this case, orange blossoms. Our 50-mile ride took us on country roads through orange groves. We stopped at a Shell station at the halfway mark, where we got to trade stories with the riders on the 35-mile route. “This is Laura, and I love smelling the orange blossoms on this ride,” Laura Aaron of Vero Beach laughingly dictated into my iPhone voice app.
Later at the buffet lunch of cold cuts, cheese, breads and hot soup, Susan Kelly of Fort Pierce said, “I have to tell you today was the best-smelling ride I’ve ever been on. The orange blossoms were wonderful.”
Actually, the whole weekend was wonderful, except perhaps for the 23-mile ride we did Friday afternoon with our friends Norm and Denise Shurak, where the sun and heavy winds made it seem like many miles more.
This is the fourth Sebring rally put on by the PANTHERS (Partners Aboard Neat Tandems Happily Enjoying Riding Simultaneously). President Bob Thompson and his wife, Jan, do the lion’s share, or should I say Panthers’ share, of the work.
The first year we had 23 teams. This year, 53 teams registered and close to 50 teams showed up.
At the Saturday night banquet, Bob thanked Hugh Aaron for doing GPS files, although I still prefer the printed route sheet I clip onto the back of my husband’s jersey. Bob also recognized Jack and Pat Deacon, who have clocked thousands of tandem miles since 1999 and usually win the prize for having the most combined years. Pat, an outstanding athlete who was the first Women’s Athletic Director for the University of Transylvania in Kentucky, will be traveling back to the school in April when a new 860-seat grandstand complex, part of the University of Transylvania athletic complex, is named the Pat Deacon Stadium.
Tandem teams at the rally usually have a combined age of at least 90, but three or four couples this time fell below that mark. Bobbie and Alex Lonsdale, ages 27 and 28, brought several younger couples to the rally from Florida’s Lake County. They were having a great time and enjoying the added treat of watching Corvettes, Porches and Ferraris roar around the track.
For the rest of you who want to join the fun, the PANTHERS will be back with another rally, the Fifth Annual FTR, Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at The Villages, Florida.