I’m back in Arkansas for a weekend with the family, so today was a chance to get the road bike out and ride a familiar route. My job moved me to Tampa almost four weeks ago, so all of my recent riding has been on my triathlon bike on waterlogged Florida roads. It was good to be back home for lots of reasons, and this morning’s ride was certainly one of them.
When I first started riding 16 months ago, the best I could do was a 10 mile effort. I stuck mostly to the park trails and bike paths, since there was little traffic and they were pretty low threat… flat and often shaded. I quickly discovered, though, that there’s a lot of joy to be missed on the short, flat, protected route.
To add more distance, I needed to hit the roads. My first real forays, and thus some of my best and earliest cycling memories, were riding through Pinnacle Mountain State Park west of Little Rock. Longer summer hours allowed me to get out earlier and still ride in daylight. More experienced cyclists like All Season Cyclist taught me that you can ride no matter what, with the right equipment, so I was able to venture out on longer rides in the cooler parts of the day. Riding through Pinnacle is one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had on a road bike, and I was reminded this morning just how nice it is.
Riding in Florida is good, and almost all major roads have bike lanes (not that most of the drivers are aware of their purpose, but that’s another story). But there’s something about riding down a lightly traveled two lane road, surrounded by deep woods, protected by natural shade, that just makes a ride NICE. Perhaps not exhilarating, or amazing, but just NICE. The color, fresh air, light breeze; all pieces to the puzzle of a really pleasant ride. I didn’t know how much I missed it until this morning.
I’m sure there are places in Florida much nicer to ride than those near my house, and I’ll definitely make a concerted effort to find them when I get back. It’s a good reminder of how easy it can be to lose the joy of riding, running, and swimming in the discipline of a training schedule. Maybe holding onto that enjoyment is a discipline itself.