12 Mar Spooky!! A day tour in Florida
What do you call a 206km (ended up getting in 130miles) ride through hilly areas, with a headwind of 14 mph, while looking for 5 cemeteries that hold clues to questions you have to answer to officially get checked off for this ride? Oh–not to mention you have to end it within 13 hours from the time you started! –It is called “The Spooky 206”, also known as a Permanent for RUSA members. Some people might just call it insane or crazy.
Whatever you want to call it, the three of us, Ron, our friend Bill, and I, set out early Saturday morning to start this ride in Tampa, to head north toward Floral City. Shortly after the start I realized I would have to dig deep to actually finish this ride. The wind Gods were against us and I haven’t ridden any longer distances than my 10 mile round trip commute to work since January. So it didn’t take long for my legs, back, and butt to feel tired and the gremlins to start conspiring in my head against the whole idea. However, with Ron’s encouragement and once we made it to our first checkpoint, the “Sacred Heart Cemetery”, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere. I actually enjoyed looking for our first clue that was hidden on one of the many new or old grave stones. This was going to be a “treasure hunt” of some sorts–at least that is how I justified this crazy idea. (It also put the gremlins to sleep–for a little while)
Our route was nicely put together, consisting of mostly quiet country roads, a good amount of Florida hills, with a dash of sandy, gravel, limestone roads to get to the hidden cemeteries of the South. Ironically, some of the cemeteries actually brought Florida’s history back to life. Reading some of the memorial stones gave us a good insight of what live must have been like back in the day, when life was simple but hard.
After a quick bite at lunch and finding clues at the 3rd graveyard we started heading south toward our finish line. The wind gods were finally realizing they couldn’t stop our endeavor and started to be a little nicer to us; however, the hills were still tugging hard on my legs. Once sunset hit, we realized our route would lead us through Flatwoods park, which usually closes at sunset. After some discussion whether we should take a detour or not, we decided to just try and ride through the park. Luckily they were just about to lock the gate, so we were able to sneak through and get to our ending point.
Happy to have made it back under 13 hours we proudly presented our papers to be checked off at the last control point. This ride has shown me new and historical areas of Florida that I would have never seen riding along in a car. It also gave me another chance to learn a little more about myself and how to control those pesky gremlins in my head. Randonneuring is not about racing, but enjoying long distance endurance rides with people who love to encourage others to do well, while having a good time.
If you would like to know more about RUSA, or randonneuring go to http://www.rusa.org