Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Biking and Waking Up in Miami

By Mahlia Lindquist

My vision of living in Miami again did not include bicycling.  Biking was for the Boulder phase of my life. With miles of stunning vistas, designated bike lanes, and mostly civilized drivers, Boulder is a biker’s paradise.  Miami, land of traffic gridlock and roadrage, not so much.  While I like biking, I like living more. So, when I moved to Miami I put my bike in storage and planned to take up paddle boarding. Several months into life here, I have yet to paddle board or even go to the beach. Having declared that only someone with a death wish would bike in  Miami I have been, of course, riding several times per week. 

I started to question leaving my bike in Boulder when I noticed large groups of bikers cruising by my house. I had been skeptical about biking in a place where riders reveled in stories about the  “big climb” over the  75 foot high bridge to Key Biscayne. Now that I've been back in South Florida where the only relief from flat is the dump affectionately known as Mt. Trashmore, the Key Bridge started to seem positively majestic. It occurred to me that while I had dismissed riding in Miami in part because of its flat terrain, I had  never actually liked riding up hill. In fact, I sort of hated it. I was prone to whimper on steep rides, and went to great lengths to find the least hilly routes in Boulder. I decided I might actually enjoy riding in a city where a 75 feet climb is as tough as it gets.

So when I had the chance to do a charity bike ride for Best Buddies, I agreed.  While still tentative about starting to ride, the clincher was the perks:  handsome professional tour de france bikers as escorts, super cute designer biking outfits, a fancy gala, and a great cause.  I love perks. Unfortunately,  I was so blinded by visions of getting close up and personal with hot pro riders,  I failed to consider a few important details...

Like that the Best Buddy Ride is 60 miles and participants are expected to ride as part of a 50 person pelaton, at an  average speed of 19 miles MPH.  I had not been on a bike for  a year and back when I was riding I rarely cycled for more than 30 miles. In fact, I could only recall twice that I ever, in my entire life, went as far as 60 miles in one day. Then there was the peloton. Riding close to other bikers freaks me out, and so I have never actually ridden in a group. I also don’t ride in groups, or shall I say groups don't ride with me, because I am slow.  My average pace is far short of the 19 MPH required for the Best Buddies Ride. Oh yes, and I had no bike, no gear and 2 weeks to train. 

Details, details. There was no going back. As scared as I am of facing Miami traffic,  it’s the fear of  losing face that keeps me up at night. When it comes to carrots and sticks, I’m all about the stick, and in this case, visions of humiliation is a giant club. I got a loaner and determined to brave the Miami crazies every day to get into some semblance of shape.

It's now just a couple of days before the Best Buddies Miami Challenge, and I’m not ready. There’s only so much that one can do to shape up in two weeks.  However, I have ridden almost every day, not in a group and not for 60 miles, but with faster times than I ever rode in Boulder.  It may seem obvious, but I never knew that it is much easier to go 19 MPH at sea level than  at over 5k feet. Duh.

I have also learned that not all Miami drivers are aggressive. Many a Porche, Mercedes, Hummer, and Escalade, which dominate the roads here and have long been  objects of derision from my holier than thou self, have given me wide berth. For the purpose of this looking at the bright side musing, I won't dwell on my many brushes with death at the hands of rude and reckless drivers, but I will note that drivers of mini vans and hybrids were just as likely to run me off the road as the ones in more expensive gas guzzling cars. This surprised me.

I was also surprised to find the natural wonders of South Florida so close at hand. In a single ride from urban Miami to the Everglades, I went from mind-blowing traffic to mind-blowing beauty. Biking here over the past two weeks, I have seen schools of porpoise, huge iguanas, alligators, fish, countless exotic birds and lush tropical vegetation. Not far from the traffic and concrete jungle of Miami I enjoyed long rural roads, farms, and fruit stands.

None of it was new. After all, Miami is my home town. I grew up sailing in the bay, air boating among alligators,  eating fresh picked mangos, and wearing shorts in December. I just forgot.  I was so busy lamenting the loss of where I was, I forgot about where I am. It's kind of cool.

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