Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS Event Report from our guest contributor Kathy Foster.
Villagers were doing double takes last weekend as dozens upon dozens of tandem bikes pedaled through the mega retirement community during the seventh annual Florida Tandem Rally Oct. 21-23.
New this year were two organized rides Friday morning for participants arriving early. Dick and Patty Young had plotted out a route of 42 miles emphasizing country roads with Bill and I serving as sweepers. At 8:30 a.m. Friday, we were amazed to see 15 tandems assembled and even more amazed to be able to keep everyone one together on the open road. Bill had suggested a rest stop at the Russell Stover outlet store and ice cream shop. By then, it was time for most of us to enjoy a cup of ice cream and for all of us to enjoy a chance to get acquainted with newcomers.
“This is the nicest route we’ve ever been on,” said Marilyn Perdue of North Canton, Ohio, who has attended several FTRs.
Meanwhile an hour after we started, Bruce and Susan Hansen led a smaller group on a 22-mile ride with Hank Williams as sweeper.
We had announced that anyone who wished could join us for lunch at RJ Gators a block from the rally’s headquarters at the Waterfront Inn. Gators’ owner is a tandem rider as well. The timing dovetailed nicely, with the 22-milers seated and served when our contingent arrived.
“Bruce did a great job of leading us,” said Tim Stepps of Belle Chase, LA., who rides a recumbent with his wife Jane.
The rally continued with afternoon registration and an ice cream social Friday evening. I skipped the ice cream but enjoyed seeing folks I’ve met at earlier rallies and getting a sense of who was riding which ride Saturday morning.
Those rides were HILLY. The 36-mile route had 1,399 feet of climbing and the 46-mile route had 1,761 feet. Anyone who undertook the 58-miler, which roamed though Ocala National Forest, would be rewarded with a slightly less hilly 1,624 feet.
Those of us doing the two shorter rides shared the rest stop in Weirsdale, and someone told us the hills were behind us then. That appeared to be somewhat true as we headed north around Lake Weir — at least there were no more 5- to 8-percent grades. New to me was a spin through the tiny town of Summerfield after we crossed US 27.
After the rides, all of us crowded into RJ Gators for a rally-included hot lunch. Early arrivals filled a long table and semi-circular bar on the lake-front patio. The last riders sat inside, a plus for those caught off-guard by a slight cold front.
New at the Saturday night banquet was a continuous slide show featuring various PANTHERS pedaling throughout year. The locales ranged from a Oregon interstate– Laura and Hugh Aaron of Vero Beach– to the towering Col du Tourmalet in France–conquered by Larry and Elaine Dunning of New Port Richey, FL.
The couple driving the farthest distance to the rally were Donald and Carolyn Lane of Salem, NH, who beat out Nancy and Bruce Grant of St. Clements, Ontario.
The rally concluded Sunday morning with a mass start for the 31- and 41-mile routes. President Bob Thompson had arranged for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department to stop traffic at round-abouts and intersections for the first four miles. Pedaling in a pack at a reasonable speed with police protection from other traffic is as close to carefree as a tandem rider can be on busy roads.
The next rally sponsored by the PANTHERS will be March 10-12 in Sebring, FL. The 2017 FTR will be Oct. 20-22 in The Villages, FL.
For more about the PANTHERS and the rally, Go to www.floridatandemclub.org.