Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS Post-Event Report from our guest contributor Kathy Foster.
Tandem rallies seem to be stretching from two days to three. The fifth annual Florida Tandem Rally in The Villages opened registration on Thursday afternoon and offered various rides and routes Friday for the 50- some couples attending.
My husband and I led a 26-mile ride at 8:30 a.m. introducing riders to the newest areas of this sprawling retirement community where the rally is held. After 10 miles, we stopped at Brownwood, the new town square designed to look like an early Florida cow town. We posed for a group picture and then Kerry H., our tallest rider and one of the newest PANTHERS, gave us a tour. The life-size sculptures of cows and horses at the entryway amazed us. Kerry said they cost $10,000 a piece and had to be hoisted into place with cranes. There’s even a cow grate.
Later, another 6 or 7 teams, taking advantage of Friday’s perfect weather, rode the 44-mile Sunday route around Lake Weir. In the afternoon Dr. Gabe and Diana M. and Joe S. led another ride along the golf lanes and wide boulevards in The Villages.
Meanwhile Bob Thompson, club president, and his wife Jan were handing out registration packets, which included salmon-colored polo shirts monogrammed with the PANTHERS logo, and showing folks where the ice cream social would be held that evening,
By Saturday morning the temperature was dropping and the wind was increasing but that didn’t appear to deter the 50-some tandem pairs. They just bundled up, except for Laura A., who had a jacket but no socks to add to her sandals.
The mass start got off in grand style, with at least 4 police cars clearing the roadways. For 4 miles, we pedaled behind a police cruiser. Then at four–lane U. S. 301, two sheriff’s cars held up north- and south- band traffic while a parade of tandems pedaled across the highway.
Then we were in the country with virtually no cars. After a mile or two, the routes split. Those of us choosing the 47-mile ride to Lake Panasoffkee got about a 15-mile stretch of flying with the 20 mph wind at our backs. Of course when we turned north again, we had some rough patches of open road where the wind was fearsome. We were all happy when we arrived back at Sumter Landing for a hot lunch chosen from a menu printed just for the rally. While original plans were for us to be seated outside overlooking the lake, the cold, windy day canceled that. Instead we were cosy at tables inside. Saturday’s festivities continued with a banquet Saturday night at Lake Miona Recreation Center. Bob and Rose J., dressed in tuxedo bike outfits, greeted us at the door, where the price of admission was the rally name tag.
Sunday’s ride was 32 miles over hilly terrain. With the early morning temperature at 44, my husband and I decided we’d cut the ride short. We knew from taking a preparatory ride two weeks before that the route went within 2 miles of our house. Before that point, we had an exhilarating ride through a woodsy area with a thrilling downhill followed by an uphill that wasn’t quite as steep. We were enjoying the ride so much we almost decided to stay the course, but a warm house beckoned. We quickly pedaled the two miles back to our house, added some layers of clothing and took off in our Miata convertible to retrace the route and serve as an unofficial sag wagon.
Taking a slightly different return, we encountered two tandem couples who were lost. We were able to direct them back to the right road. Then we drove back to Sumter Landing, the village square, to get a late breakfast at Paneras and greet the others as they returned. Out-of-towners and newcomers raved about the scenery on the route, which from the hilltops, offered a panoramic view of Lake Weir. The two couples who had the energy and time for the 44- mile loop saw the northern rim of Lake Weir as well.
Everyone we encountered said they’d be back next year, when the FTR will he held Oct. 23-25, 2015 in The Villages. Watch www.floridatandemclub.org for details.