cycling · holiday fitness · holidays · motivation · traveling · winter

Finishing my #31DaysOfWinterBiking (in Florida)

It feels like it’s cheating. But I did count Zwifting inside as winter biking. Anyway, for me, the main point of these social media challenges is to just increase the number of days I ride. I’m a pretty decent tough weather cyclist–I’ve got the gear and it still makes me smile–but even I can find January with its ice and cold and very dark days just a bit much. Enter the #31DaysOfWinterBiking. But also, for me, enter a week long vacation at the end of January riding my bike in Florida.

The plan: We loaded up the Prius and Jeff, Sarah, and I drove Saturday and Sunday from Guelph to Central Florida. It was about 20 hours, door to door. We stopped for the night on Saturday in a roadside motel in West Virginia. Sunday night we checked into our very cute cottage. Five days of Florida bike riding and then Saturday, tomorrow, we check out and do the same drive in reverse.

It’s a repeat of last year in some ways. Last year we went riding in Clermont though then Jeff was already on his boat in Florida and Sarah and I flew down. I liked where we stayed in Clermont but it wasn’t free for these dates this year. Instead, we’re in nearby Mount Dora, home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival.

The bike festival is in its 45th year and it brings hundreds of riders to this old cute Florida town. Their route maps are here. Our plan was to hang out and ride bikes in a leisurely, vacation style way, making use of the Mount Dora route maps and also driving back to Clermont to ride some of our favorites again.

Our tropical Mount Dora cabin

Day 1: Tangerine Ride

When we arrived in Florida Sarah was sick–cough, cold, sneezing, sore throat. On holidays! So not fair. So for our first day we noodled down to downtown Mount Dora, an old central Florida town full of coffee shops and gift stores, sat outside and drank lattes. Properly fortified we did the Mount Dora Bike Festival’s family friendly Tangerine Ride. I recommend it!

“With 10.8 miles and + 394 feet of climbing this is a nice, mostly flat, casual and un-guided ride out to one of our beautiful lakefront parks, Trimble Park.  Enjoy the park and then ride back through the historic town of Tangerine.”

Trimble Park

We’ve been amused, as Canadians, with all the bear warning signs. Do they come south for winter? Turns out, upon googling, that Florida black bears are a sub species of the North American black bear. You can read up here.

“The park is in a known bear habitat and you may also see alligators, squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, slider turtles, snakes, lizards and many bird species including eagles, osprey, pelicans and hawks.” From a guide to Trimble Park.

Total distance ridden: 28 km

Day 2: Shortened version of the Three Bob’s Ride, including thrill hill

“With 41.6 miles and +1112 feet of Climbing this route was named after three cycling friends all named Bob.  This route was created from their friendly challenge to see which Bob could create the ride where you could spot the most lakes in Lake County in 40 miles.  This was the winning ride and the route brags about having a water feature for every mile it is long! Rolling hills and great forested land are also highlights of this ride.”

Highlights: So many lakes! Also “thrill hill.” It wasn’t really that big of a hill but this is flat Florida. Still, it was a fun descent. Lowlight: lunch stop ended up being MacDonald’s since the local diners closed at 2 pm, after lunch.

Total distance ridden: 55 km

Day 3: Shortened version of the Metric Swamp Century

“Very scenic ride through northern Lake County, it is named for the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area that this ride will wind through.”

Highlights: Praline pecans with sweet Georgia heat spice for snacks, also an alpaca farm with alpaca boarding, you know in case you own an alpaca and need to take a vacation. Lowlight: Keep America Great signs. Sigh.

Total distance ridden: 70 km

Day 4: West Orange Trail

The West Orange Trail is 21 miles long and so out and back makes a pretty good ride. It’s a multiuse pathway, yes, but nicely paved and plenty wide. You can actually ride at speed through sections of it. We loved it last time and so we were determined to do it again.

From Wikipedia: “The West Orange Trail is a 22-mile (35 km) long multi-use rail trail owned by Orange County Parks and Recreation in Orange County, Florida, in the United States. The paved trail passes through downtown OaklandWinter Garden, and Apopka with most of its length built on old railroad alignments. To the west of the West Orange Trail is the South Lake-Lake Minneola Scenic Trail in Lake County which was connected to the trail in 2007.”

Highlights: Love the wide paved pathway and the town of Wintergarden. We stopped there for coffee and lunch and I bought an Orange Trail bike jersey. Lowlight: Trying to navigate four way stops when the path crosses roads with riders with different tolerances for looking and riding through. I’m the nervous nellie in this crowd. Also we encountered our first rain on the way back.

Total distance ridden: 45 km

Wintergarden

Day 5: Sugarloaf

It was supposed to be the “Assault on Sugarloaf” but by Friday I’d caught Sarah’s cold. With a sore throat and cough I agreed to ride up the local big hill but I wasn’t about to be mounting an assault on anything.

Here’s a description of Sugarloaf by Climbbybike.com:

“The sugarloaf mountain is situated in Florida (US). This climb belongs to the Florida hills. The sugarloaf mountain via clermont, fl is ranked number 1 of the Florida hills. The climb is ranked number 427 in United States and number 11779 in the world. Starting from clermont, fl, the sugarloaf mountain ascent is 1 km long. Over this distance, you climb 67 heightmeters. The average percentage thus is 6.7 %. The maximum slope is 16%.”

In the end it started to rain and got dark and once we got off the lovely bike paths the cars were passing too close for my comfort. Sarah made it up Sugarloaf but I called for Jeff’s rescue wagon. Here’s the lovely bike trail.

Somehow when I imagined bike riding in Florida I never imagined such lovely paved bike trails.

Total distance ridden, for me: 15 km
For Sarah: 38 km
For Jeff: 0 km (he was also getting sick and was driving the support vehicle)

I made it through January! Yay! It’s been a long month. And a very gloomy one.

From here on in it’s a quick countdown to spring. Right?

cycling · fitness · traveling · winter · yoga

Goat Yoga in Florida?

A beginner’s guide to goat yoga

Look what I got for Christmas, a beginner’s guide to goat yoga. Hey, I’m not a beginner. I think I’ve been three times. I’m a fan. But still, it’s a fun book. Thanks Mallory!

We’re currently heading to Florida to ride our bikes for a week. But it won’t be all bike riding. We’re thinking of going here on our rest day, Dancing Moon Goat Yoga. We’ve packed our yoga mats for Yoga with Adriene. After 20 hours driving, with one overnight stop, we’ll definitely need it.

The last time I went to goat yoga I didn’t want to give the baby goat back!

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I'm keeping this goat! #goatyoga

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I went to a studio/farm just outside London with my son Gavin and they actually let us stick around after and bottle feed the baby goats and tuck them into bed.

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#goatyoga

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Here’s to bike riding in the sunshine and to goat yoga too.

rest · sleep · traveling · yoga

Sam has a bad flight and is fighting jet lag

I often claim that sleep is my superpower! 

I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.

But right now I’m in Munich, speaking at a conference on Neglected Relationships.

” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.

My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.

I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!

My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.

Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.

Glass bowls of salad and dressing. Yum!
hiking · holidays · nature · traveling

Trekking in the Pyrenees, and not trekking in the Pyrenees

Last week I finally got my summer holiday. I really had to wait for it this year, but September did finally come! My partner and I went to northern Spain, where he’s from. We spent some days with family and friends, but we also spent three days hiking in the Pyrenees. In total, it was a five-day adventure because we needed to factor in two extra days to get there and back by public transport. As the owner of a hostel we stayed at put it, “people think there’s a motorway out here connecting everything, but that’s not quite the case”. I would say it’s definitely not the case. There’s one bus a day from the nearest larger city in each direction, if you’re lucky, and it meanders along curvy mountain roads, stopping at every village along the way. It was exactly what we wanted: to have some “us time”, just the two of us, in nature.

a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
GR11 signage: a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying "GR11" and the names of different villages.
More GR 11 signage: a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying “GR11” and the names of different villages. There are three arrows, the middle one pointing towards the right and our destination on day one: Hiriberri.

For a bit of background, we decided to do a trek of three stages on the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. “GR” stands for Grande Randonée in French, or Gran Recorrido in Spanish (“long hike”), and is used to designate a network of long-distance hiking trails across Europe. The GR11, or “Transpirenáica“, runs from Cabo Higuer on the Basque coast all the way across to Catalunya and finishes at Cap de Creus. We chose three stages in Navarre (stages 5, 6, and 7), because the area is beautiful and was accessible by public transport from Bilbao (via Pamplona). The stages in this area are around 20 kilometres each and somewhat demanding mostly because there’s a lot of up and down, but no alpine mountaineering skills are needed.

Purple wild crocuses surrounding a silver thistle. This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.
Pretty local flora: purple wild crocuses surrounding a larger yellow flower (a silver thistle, Wikipedia tells me). This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.

The trail did not disappoint. On the first day, it rained in the morning, but cleared up by the afternoon. The next two days were beautiful weather: bright blue skies and sunshine! On day two, we had a lot of wind while hiking along an exposed ridge, but it was all safe and, have I mentioned, beautiful?

A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance.
A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance. The path wasn’t always this wide and flat though!

Also, cute villages! And nice country hostels and hotels!

a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain
Cute village, exhibit (a): a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain (that we hiked down and then back up on the other side!)

Unfortunately, we did what we usually do when we go on holiday and both got a cold. I don’t know how, but every time we’re on leave, at least one of us gets sick. I don’t know if it’s the germs on the plane, the change in weather, or the sudden lack of stress, or a combination of all three. This time, it hit my partner first, so by the time we were on the trail he was already recovering. But he kindly shared it with me, so on day three we actually had to call it quits. I was so congested I could hardly breathe, let alone hike 20 kilometres with a backpack.

I was so disappointed. But we did the sensible thing and took a taxi from the village we’d spent the night in to the next place, our final destination (Isaba). It was actually a fun taxi ride. The driver is also the local school bus driver and chauffeurs anyone who needs to go somewhere in the area, from school kids to drunk local youth during the village festival and hikers with head colds. We then spent the rest of the day wandering about and resting in the sun in Isaba, which also happened to be the nicest of the villages we stayed in. It’s surrounded by pine forests on steep slopes and consists of lovingly restored traditional houses. I would happily have spent another few days there.

A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.
Cute village, exhibit (b): Isaba. A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.

I’ll be honest, I’m still angry with that stupid cold that made us miss the last day of our trek. But what can you do? I suppose I should be happy I didn’t get really sick, so by the afternoon of that day I was well enough to take a short stroll around the area. But despite the dreaded lurgy throwing a spanner in the works of our trekking plans, it felt so good to be out there, largely on our own. In two days of hiking, we met exactly five people on the trail. It was a much needed respite from the current busyness of both our jobs and lives.

But still, I need to know: do any of you have any tips to avoid the dreaded holiday cold?

aging · cycling · fitness · traveling

Cycling into one’s retirement years

As you likely know three of the regular bloggers here–Cate, Susan, and me– plus occasional visitor Sarah and friend David, spent the last ten days on a Newfoundland cycling adventure. I’d done it before. See here.

But I loved it so much I wanted to do it again and share it with friends. This time I loved that it rained different days of the trip and so I got to endure and enjoy different sections of the journey. Labrador looks different when it’s not foggy and rainy!

There’s lots to write about: the lovely people we rode with and met along the way, the rugged beauty of Newfoundland, the hills, the wind, the rain. It was hard and challenging and rewarding.

Me, David, and Sarah holding our bikes above our heads in front of the Newfoundland and Labrador sign

One of the things that always hits home on these bike trips where the majority of the participants are in their retirement years is the scope of what’s possible in the second half of life.

There’s Pixy who at 63 isn’t just biking the Nfld trip. She’s riding all the way home to Connecticut, solo, carrying all of her own stuff. Keith and John were both 72 and looked like they belonged on their bikes. Now they might be older than me but they have one big advantage, time to train. They expressed admiration for those of us working full-time, getting out on our bikes in the evenings, early mornings, and weekends. But still, thinking of the trip’s retirees, there’s something lovely about having that fitness, that drive to train, later in life when there’s time to enjoy it.

One way to tell this story would be to focus on the bus that accompanied us every step of the way. Not our sag wagon and gear truck. The seniors’ bus tour that was visiting all the same places. Writing this post a few years ago I might have contrasted the seniors on the bus tour with the seniors on our bike trip.

I’m less sure what to make of that contrast these days.

What 70 looks like isn’t just a matter of choice. Things happen. My knee has made me painfully aware of that. I also started thinking about the 30 somethings on our bike trip. Most people their age couldn’t do this trip either. It’s a matter of choice, of luck, of training, and of interest. I’m not sure that that’s different for seniors than it is for 50 somethings and 30 somethings.

You’ve got to want to travel this way. You have to think the rewards outnumber the hardships. And you’ve got to train and get ready and make cycling fitness part of your life. That’s true for all of us.

The whole bike trip crew boarding the ferry to Labrador

fitness · traveling

Airport yoga– why isn’t this everywhere?

This week I traveled to the University of Texas at Dallas for their annual conference on Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. Thanks, Matt and Magda, for continuing to host such a great event!

Since I live in Boston, attending the conference requires air travel.

Yuck
In short, yuck.

Sometimes planes are not so appalling uncomfortable, but mostly they are. They are stuffed to the ceiling with people and baggage, with ergonomically disastrous seating for (almost) everyone. I wrote about it awhile back– Fat Flying: the Holiday Air Edition

Then there are the inevitable flight delays. According to some information I found online (what I got without clicking on a site, just asking “how many planes are delayed”), 11.74% of flights were delayed in November of last year. My 8:50pm flight to Boston was delayed about an hour (the departure time kept changing, which did not inspire confidence about ever leaving the airport).

Given that I had a lot of time at the airport, facing 4 hours of sitting on the plane and having sat at the conference that day, I decided to keep exploring (or at least cruising around) the airport. I made it to the end of terminal D, and spied this intriguing sign:

A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.
A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.

So left I went. The area was not your usual terminal scene, with shops and gates and people milling around. There wasn’t anything– just several people-moving motorized carts parked and waiting quietly along the wall. One was still on duty.

A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.
A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.

I kept going, and soon spied this sign:

A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying "yoga studio".
A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying “yoga studio”.

Oh boy! Could this actually be a place to do yoga? Turns out it is!

The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.
The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.

This was perfect– it was set up in a practical and relatively low-cost way, while at the same time perfectly well-equipped for people who want to stretch or move a bit. Here’s what it looks like from the inside:

DFW's yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.
DFW’s yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.

A woman was there when I arrived. I set up my mat and got on my hands and knees for some cat and cow stretching, then on to other gentle movement. They have wet wipes there for cleaning the mats before and after, and also a guest book to keep track of visitors and solicit feedback.

The other woman left after a few minutes. We spoke briefly– her flight had been canceled and she was stuck at the airport for 5 hours. Ugh. She was thrilled to find this place. So was I. Before I left, another woman showed up and started moving into warrior poses. I smiled to her, and she said don’t forget to sign the guest book. So I did, praising the place lavishly.

WHY DOESN’T EVERY AIRPORT HAVE A SPACE LIKE THIS?

I found an article about 5 airports that have yoga rooms. There’s one, for instance, in San Francisco, that I visited once.

A friend told me about a lovely yoga room at Chicago’s Midway airport that she visited. However, the sweet little Dallas yoga alcove, in a quiet hallway near the cart parking, shows that authorities can make a little effort and create quiet and happy spaces for people to move, to stretch, to rest and relax and endure the difficulties of modern travel.

I’m going to write/contact the folks at my local airport (Logan in Boston) to ask them to get moving on this. I encourage all of you to do the same.

Have any of you encountered yoga or movement spaces in airports? I bet there are more than 5 of these places around. Any outside the US? What about Canadian airports? Let us know, and I’ll compile a list and post it.

cycling · fitness · planning · training · traveling

Sam goes spring riding with friends (finally!)

Sarah front and center takes a selfie. On the photo’s left are the blog’s Kim and Susan and on the right are David and Sam. We standing in front of the sign for Billie Bear Road.

It’s been a cold wet spring. As Tracy posted last week we’ve had a miserable few months of cold wet weather that hasn’t exactly been inspiring outdoor activity. I was envisioning months of outdoor riding leading up to our Newfoundland trip. (I think there’s still room, by the way.) Instead I’ve been riding inside even in May!

Well this weekend is the May holiday weekend in Canada and while the weather wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible for riding either. Susan invited Sarah, David, Kim and me to her family cottage for the weekend and we all brought our bikes so could ride and get ready for our big Newfoundland adventure. Susan got to introduce us to her favorite nearby hilly road. You could tell it was warm and the holiday weekend because on Sunday there were three other groups of cyclists on that same stretch of road.

I think we all felt a bit rusty. Well, I did. Susan got to ride her fancy new bike. We all got to practise our group riding skills. The hills were demanding on the way up and “whee!”on the way down. I loved the hills. I wasn’t a big fan of all the gravel that had washed into the road. But there was a big smile on my face doing one of the things I liked most in the world, riding bikes with friends.

This week it’s back to work and back to my resolution of riding 20 km and writing 30 minutes each day.

The weekend ended wth the other great Canadian spring tradition, bbqing in the rain. Quite the thunderstorm. Thanks Sarah. Image description: Sarah in a red raincoat tending the BBQ on the deck with the lake in the background.

After riding there was food, of course. Here’s a bagel with black bean spread, avocado, and melted cheddar cheese. Yum!