Day Four

The following picture was taken of Jacques – an old friend and our host last night – just before we both set out on this morning’s ride. Jacques accompanied me on the bike for eight solid miles – pretty darn snappily for a guy who’s a competitive sailor, not a bike rider, before turning back toward his home. It had been great fun to spend time with him. How often do you get a chance to hang out with somebody who was your boss 35 years ago and lives far away? Not often.

At 77.6 miles, today’s ride from Stuart to just north of Melbourne, Florida, was both much shorter – 78 miles versus 117 – and much faster paced than yesterday’s. The riding was happy and unforced, the road – A1A again – straight, safe and flat. After Ken joined me at mile 25 (he had had to deal with gear trouble first thing, and found, remarkably, that the new owner of the high-end bike shop in Stuart was … the same guy who had built the bike and sold it to him while living in the northeast) we spun along, taking turns at the front and talking amiably.

Hutchinson and North Hutchinson Islands, where A1A took us, are continuations of the barrier island chain that gave us Palm Beach and Jupiter Island yesterday. For much of the distance north/south, these very narrow islands have only one road, A1A, heading straight up the middle, with fabulous ocean-side residences on the right (for us) and fewer homes on the left, Indian River side or, in places, long stretches of woods. With the exception of a few towns, of which Palm Beach is the largest, there are very few cross streets on these islands, which, along with the near-universal presence of a bike lane on A1A, makes riding there feel exceptionally safe.

The pavement on A1A is also very nearly perfect – smooth and pothole-free. Except when hitting a really bad pothole, one doesn’t tend to notice pavement quality much while riding in a car, but on a bicycle smooth pavement often makes all the difference between a comfortable ride and saddle sores and aching shoulders.

Add the final factors of weather that was not too hot, a wind that was neutral-to-helpful and that we knew the ride would be comparatively short, and you can appreciate why our moods were lighthearted and the riding great fun.

I have only one culturally observational comment to add to the effort I made above to describe the joy of riding in perfect conditions.

The America that we rode past for most of yesterday and today is representative of a slice of society that is as narrow as the barrier islands we were on. Until roughly ten miles from today’s finish, the residences we saw were overwhelmingly opulent and plainly built for those who have considerable means; in the last few miles, more seemed to be for the merely prosperous. These islands are beautiful (seasonal) playgrounds for the well to do.

At lunchtime today, Ken and I had a funny experience that Illustrates my point nicely. As we rolled into Vero Beach, looking for a place to stop for a sandwich or whatever, we came to a rare cross-street. On it there were five or six buildings with street-level retail, so we naturally assumed we would find some food offerings.

Nope. We saw a Chase Bank and a Merrill Lynch office in the same building, a Wells Fargo, a Marine Bank & Trust, a Becker Trading Company, a Northern Trust, one or two other financial firms I don’t remember and some real estate businesses. Convenient food? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Tomorrow’s ride will bring us back to a more representative slice of our wonderful country.

M.H Johnston

P.S. today’s stats: /activity/668352810

3 comments to Day Four

  • DOUG  says:

    IGreat piece. My friend and co-worker was in Vero looking for you today. I am heartened by a guy who is OK sharing 8 miles of this adventure…but particularly concerned about the distortion in the pictures. Do you really have toothpicks for legs?

    • M Johnston  says:

      The distortions are strange. They look right in the original text, and (I think) when viewed on a pc, but not when seen on an iPad or iPhone. Sorry.

  • DENNIS A PAINE  says:

    Skinny on this laptop, but please keep the pix coming.


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