Monday, April 25, 2022

When I'm 80

Never play the age card. Never say "I'm getting too old for this." If you do then I'll guarantee no matter what you had planned that somebody younger than you is going to say they've heard about some 80 year old guy who did it a couple of weeks ago. Of course they've never met this guy, not one of them has, and certainly no one knows his name but they all know about him and they're all more than willing to make sure you know about him too. 

Well, I'm tired of this guy who always seems to know where I'm going and what I'm going to do and goes there and does it two weeks before me. So I have a plan. In 2026 when I'm 80 I'm gonna be that guy. I'm going to go back to France and climb the Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez again. I might not be quick, each climb might take me all day but I'll get it done. 
And you know those decals that cyclists stick all over the summit signs, well I'm going to have my own sticker that says "Congratulations from the 80 year old guy that did it last week."

Having done that I might buy an electric bike  - but not before. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Fruitland Park

Monday April 4 and I'm on the Easy B club ride around Spring Lake which takes a break in Fruitland Park. Couldn't be better as I'm writing this article for the club newsletter and need a couple of pictures.

The original railroad depot sign in Fruitland Park Library

We stop at the covered picnic tables at the recreation complex on Gardenia Avenue which is interesting as it is where the railroad passed through. A little further south on Gardenia is the new swimming pool which sits at the end of Railroad Street and is the site of the old depot.

The tracks that became Gardenia Avenue circa 1890

The railroads had a huge influence on the location and development of towns in the area. The gentleman who named the town, Major O.P. Rooks, moved to the area in 1876 and took out Homestead Rights giving him 160 acres of land which would be his after 5 years. To convince the Florida Southern Railroad to run through Fruitland Park, Rooks and others granted the railroad 160 acres to change their planned route which was east of Dead River. Fruitland Park was surveyed and platted out by the railroad surveyor shortly before the first train arrived in 1883.

Confusion reigned for a while. Rooks had named the town Fruitland Park in 1876 but the postal authorities already had a Fruitland so renamed it Gardenia. The railroad in turn already had a town named Gardenia on their tracks. For a while mail was delivered to the Gardenia post office and freight to the Fruitland Park depot which were side by side! Eventually the railroad won out with Fruitland Park - seems they had more clout than the post office.

Dick Stack leads the B group on Gardenia Avenue

Something to consider the next time you're taking a break in Fruitland Park. If Rooks hadn't succeeded in convincing the railroad to move there'd be no Gardenia Avenue and we'd be taking a break in a town somewhere east of Dead River and who knows what it would be called?

For route information click here.

Saturday, April 9, 2022


Knock knock.
Who's there?
Isabelle who?
Isabelle necessary on a bicycle?

An old joke but I think the answer is yes. 

I have a bell on both my bikes. I like having a bell especially when I am riding where I am likely to meet other cyclists, runners or walkers. A bell distinguishes me as a cyclist. I am not aware of any other vehicle that uses a bell to warn others of my presence. Sure you can say "Cyclist passing on your left" or something like that and hope that a couple walking along and chatting understand you but a "ting ting" on your bell says it all and in a universal language. 

Beryl Burton
I started racing in time trials in the UK when I was 15 because I couldn't ride in road races until I was 16. But that's not the point, the point is that the RTTC (Road Time Trials Council) required me to have a bell on my bike. Looking back I'd have to say this was kind of quaint. But it is a "rule no more" as what we used to call "time testers" now wear wind suits and weird helmets and ride carbon bikes with odd looking bars and solid wheels - but no bell. What a shame, a tradition gone, a lost link to the great riders of the past. In 1963, when I was seventeen Beryl Burton, yes a woman, broke the 4 hour barrier for the 100 mile time trial on a 10 speed steel road bike with a bell. And time trials had to start and finish in the same place so this was not a one way wind assisted ride. 

So those are the reasons I like having bells on my bikes. But before you rush out and buy one, let me say there are several kinds you should consider. There's the old fashioned steel domed bell with a trigger and gears inside that makes a real ringing sound and there are the light weight aluminum domed ones with a pinger that go "ting ting". I personally favor the Knog Oi "ting ting" bell because it inconspicuously wraps around my bars near the stem. Fortunately I have yet to see a USB rechargeable electric bicycle bell.

Knog Oi bell
It should be noted I have not received a position on the board of Knog nor any compensation for my mention of their product here.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

La Madonna del Ghisallo

 August 2019

I knew plan A wasn't working when a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder were added to the rain I was already riding in. I'm in Italy halfway up a hill between Bellagio and somewhere else. Plan A was a 35 mile loop southeast from Bellagio then west across the peninsula to the other arm of Lake Como via the Muro di Serrano then back to Bellagio. 

We're in staying in Lecco in the Lombardy region of Italy for a week. It is a beautiful town on the South East arm of Lake Como with rail service to Milan. Yes we do have a rental car but for $6 you can be in Milan in 40 minutes by train and you don't have to park it or drive in an Italian city. Jocelyne is especially happy to be in Lecco as there is a rumor in town that George Clooney has recently moved there - he must have heard we were visiting!

The journey has an interesting start with a 5 minute ride to the station in Lecco then a 30 minute train ride to Varenna followed by the ferry to Bellagio where I fortified myself with a coffee from one of those really cool Italian mobile espresso carts. Back on my bike it's not twenty minutes before the rain starts so I took shelter until it had stopped. By this time I was damp and cold and decided to make the shrine of the Madonna del Ghisallo my goal for the day.

The shrine sits atop the steep hill I have been climbing. It has often featured in the Giro d'Italia and Giro di Lombardia bike races and is a natural break point for cyclists. Seeing this, it was a local priest, Father Ermelindo Vigano, who proposed the Madonna del Ghisallo be declared the patroness of cyclists which was duly confirmed by Pope Pius XII. The shrine is covered from floor to ceiling with bicycles, jerseys and photographs of the great tour riders. Quite extraordinary.

There is even a prayer for cyclists.

O Mother of the Lord Jesus, We pray that you kindly assist and protect us in our cycling activities. We ask that you keep us strong and healthy in body, pure and fervent in spirit and keep us away from dangers both in training and in races.

I have not achieved my goal of climbing the Muro di Sormano but as I descend I know it has been a good day and the Muro will await my return. To have seen the bicycle and yellow jersey (with a buttoned collar and front pockets) worn by my hero Fausto Coppi in the 1949 Tour de France has made it very special.

Downhill to Bellagio, ferry and train to Lecco. Later, I walk with Jocelyne to a small lakeside restaurant for a glass of wine and a small pizza we didn't order "but sir, it is free with the wine". Does it get any better - well I guess if George Clooney had stopped by  .  .  .  .

For route information click here.