(Monday, Jan 12) 60.3 miles; 4 hrs, 9 mins.
Mitch was late again, and the weather was not getting any better, so Fred and I took off from the hotel in Ocala at around 9:45. As on the night before, the GPS seemed pretty much clueless about the roads in the area. It repeatedly directed us to non-existent roads. I guess it is possible that the roads were there before the area south of SR200 was converted to residential enclaves and shopping malls. We continued back west on 200 until the GPS routing matched up with a significant highway. We did all right for the next 20 miles or so, but it was chilly and rain was threatening, so after a rest stop at a convenience store we decided to take our chances on US-27 -- the shortest way home. We left the safety of the local roads just north of The Villages and Lady Lake. We carefully made our way through that very congested area and finally broke out onto decent shoulder with a decent tailwind, allowing us to make many miles at 16 to over 20 mph.
The only other problematic area was Leesburg. To get through while remaining on 27 we had to ride slowly on the sidewalk. Riding on the shoulder-less, crowded roadway was out of the question. Past that we were able to drop the hammer once again, making very good time until stopping for lunch at Beef O'Grady's, just south of Leesburg. As usual, Fred struck up a conversation with the people at the next table, a very nice older couple who have a daughter with very advanced MS.
After lunch we resumed our tempo for the final leg. We slowed down a bit as we got close to home. By that time I was pretty tired. Fred still had some pep, though, and attacked the last hill, but he faded about half-way up. The tortoise (me) caught up with him right at the top and we did the last mile together at an easy pace.
Wrap-up: This trip was meant as a shake-down cruise for the 600 miler to Key West that we have planned for the end of May. In that regard it was most worthwhile. I got to test out carrying my panniers on a front rack and write these blog entries using my Palm and bluetooth mini-keyboard. (Of course, I was still foiled by lack of internet access. The best solution would be to carry a little netbook computer.)
Fred had more significant benefits. Firstly, he did this trip on my wife Kathy's aluminum Giant OCR road bike. The geometry and fit is almost identical to Fred's own carbon Giant, so he was completely comfortable on the borrowed bike needing only to swap pedals and seat. He will therefore probably just do the same thing for the Key West trip. I like that idea because I can personally service the bike to be sure that it is in condition for the tour. Perhaps even more satisfying for him was the fact that he was more than physically capable of doing the long rides. He credits the past two months of daily workouts on his Kreitler rollers with his success in that department. There is no question that his riding is far ahead of where it was last summer.
The last thing we discovered is that Mitch is not a compatible touring partner for us. We may well decide to just do the trip without any additional people at all.