Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS Post-Ride Report from our guest contributor Kathy Foster.
The Florida PANTHERS did something a bit different this week. We took a 35-mile ride through the fabled horse country of Ocala. Bruce Hansen, who with his wife Susan had done a lot of tandem biking in Ocala, said he “started thinking about it in the fall.” Bob and Jan Thompson mapped out the route, Bruce and Susan rode the route and then Bruce floated the idea at coffee hour after a club ride in The Villages a few month ago. Pinning down a date that suited everyone’s schedule pushed it to Monday, May 2.
Meanwhile, Gabe and Diana Mirkin sent out e-mails announcing it, Ray Murtaugh put it on the PANTHERS’ Facebook page and Norm Shurak posted the route on Ride With GPS. In one of the emails, Bruce asked us “to think positive thoughts for good weather for the ride.”
It worked. Monday was a beautiful day — no rain and not too much wind. We arose the same time we normally do for a club ride, had breakfast, picked up some friends in The Villages and then drove up I-75 to an exit just north of Ocala. We drove west a few miles to Gilbert’s Hardware, ideally situated at the intersection of two country roads.
The grassy parking area behind the store looked like a tandem convention. Bob Jordan had even bought his bike stand to make last-minute adjustments to his Seven bike. John and Barbara Heineken took the day off work and drove up I-75 from Tampa, “We left the house by 7:30 and arrived in plenty of time,” Barbara said.
By 9:30 a,m,, everyone was ready– 14 tandems and two single bikes. First to greet us was a hill but then we were rewarded with more level terrain for a while. We pedaled past farms and well-manicured estates where the primary residents are racehorses. Large trees in many spots provided welcome stretches of shade.
Unlike rides at many tandem rallies, the pace for this one was more leisurely, with the idea of enjoying the countryside rather than racing to the finish. Besides, the hills gave some of us pause. Ray and Maureen Calvesio particularly remember the one at Mile 20. They climbed it, then thought they were going the wrong way so turned around and rode back down it when they encountered Ed and Cindy Brandt, who told them they were right the first time. So it was up the hill one more time.
Many of us stopped for water, bars and a break at a picturesque country store, a vanishing species in Florida. The ride ended at Gilbert’s Hardware, where we stowed our tandems in vans, hatchbacks or trucks then drove a few miles to U.S 27 and the Horse and Hounds restaurant. We had the whole back room, with tables set up for eight let us share our adventures of the morning while enjoying generous portions of fish and chips, or sandwiches, soups and salads.
The PANTHERS’ next adventure is a weekend June 10-12 in Vero Beach. For more information, go to http://www.floridatandemclub.org.