Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Meaning of "Na"

Almost exactly a year after originally planned, Kathy and I finally did our overnight tandem trip to Inverness. This year we had company, our regular tandem partners, Steve and Debi.

Normally our tandem tours have been "light" organized tours, where we sign up with a bike touring company that transports our luggage from place to place, and we carry just what we need for the day on the bike. One reason for the trip was to see how Kathy and Debi might like travelling on our own, carrying our luggage. An overnight like this is barely an introduction, though, because there is no need to wash out your stuff in the sink each night, or to make peace with the idea that you are basically wearing the same outfit or two every day. For some people that adjustment can be hard.

Trip Details: November weather in Central Florida is somewhat unpredictable, but we could not have asked for much better. Temperatures while riding were between 60 and 80 degrees, making for very pleasant pedaling. There was a bit of head-wind on our return, but no big deal. Our plan was an out-and-back route of about 53 miles, according to the map. It turned out to be just a shade more than that, divided relatively evenly among rural back roads, rural highway, and paved bike trail. Even the highway riding was not bad, as the traffic was pretty light. As you can see, the route was pretty flat -- generally speaking, a good thing when on tandem.

As is appropriate for a trip of this sort, we rode at a comfortable pace, so each day we were on the bikes for about 4 hours. We made a convenience store stop in Center Hill after 20 miles, and a second stop at the shop just off the Withlacoochee Trail in Istachotta roughly 20 miles later.

As we approached Inverness, Steve suggested that we visit the trail-side Suncoast Cycles bike shop where he and Debi had purchased their tandem years back, and where we bought our previous one. The shop has changed hands since then, and everyone was curious to see whether for the better or worse. While there he picked up a very bright Serfas tail light that can be used in daylight for additional visibility. While it doesn't match up to our Dinotte 300R in visibility or battery life, it does an impressive job and costs a great deal less.

The guys at the shop recommended we try Mcleod House Bistro, just a couple of blocks away, for lunch. We all enjoyed our meals and agreed to get another meal to serve as dinner later. Our B&B for the night was located a couple of miles from the commercial part of town, so we would not have to figure out what to do about a night-time meal. We managed to strap the containers on top of our luggage, swung by Walgreens for a bottle of wine, and headed onto Gospel Island Road toward our accommodations for the night.

Upon arrival at the Magnolia Glen Bed and Breakfast, we were greeted warmly by the proprietress, Bonnie Kuntz. Spry and energetic in spite of her 80 years, Bonnie was a great hostess. We felt welcome in the cozy, pleasantly cluttered home. There was room to relax, a great view, and comfortable bedrooms with baths. Meanwhile, our bikes were safely stored in the garage. Here are some photos:

We spent the evening talking with Bonnie, having our dinner, and enjoying a game of Scrabble. Debi kicked ass, especially mine, although at the very end of the game we both made some last points through the questionable ploy of using the (apparently legal) word "NA". Symbols are not allowed, so it does not derive legitimacy by being the abbreviation for sodium. I could not find any other definition, so I hereby proclaim it to be a word meaning "bicycle trip with one overnight." I downloaded a scrabble app on my phone and found a number of other surprising two letter words as well, including "ZA" which is apparently an accepted (since 1970) short form of "pizza." Who knew?

The house has three guest rooms. The third was reserved for a young couple who were married that day, making the most of their time together before the new husband ships out on the USS Nimitz in a few weeks. They arrived after we were already getting ready for bed, so we did not actually meet them until breakfast. Speaking of which, in the morning we had a tasty, ample meal, with left-overs to pack and enjoy on our ride back home. 

On our way to Inverness on Saturday, I believe all of us noted the sign in Nobleton for handmade ice cream. Around the time we were all starting to think about a place to rest a bit on our way back, Kathy suggested that we stop at the ice cream shop for our first break.

The friendly woman running the shop offered up some local history while scooping out ample portions of the delicious cold stuff, and suggested that we enjoy it near the river out back. She assured us that our bikes were perfectly safe parked out front, so we followed her advice. It was a beautiful spot, as you can see below.

The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, but at least three of us (all but Steve the Spartan) were squirming a bit on our saddles by the time we climbed the last little hills and coasted back to our drive way. All agreed the trip was an exceedingly good way to have spent the weekend.

Conclusions: Touring on my single, a normal day is roughly 70 miles. On the tandems, however, we all agreed that about 40 to 45 miles would be a better riding day if we were doing several consecutive days. The shorter day in the saddle would leave more time and energy for exploring. Kathy is, by no means, ready to sign up for an extended bike trip, but it seems that a trip of maybe three or four nights would not be out of the question with this kind of mileage guideline.

The weight distribution on our Softride-equipped tandem resulted in some handling issues, especially at low speed and when standing on the pedals. I have some ideas, but the ultimate solution may require mounting a front rack so that the extra weight can be re-located to the front of the bike. On the positive side, however, the additional 30 pounds or so that we were carrying did not seem to hinder us on the few short hills that we had on this route.