Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Riding in Florida, Part III - Melbourne Cape Explorer 200k Permanent

Short Sleeves in February! Melbourne Beach, Florida on a pre-ride exploration
The next stop on the Florida tour was Melbourne Beach on the east coast.  I was scheduled to ride a 200k permanent on Thursday and a 300k brevet on Saturday.  Katie from the New Jersey Randonneurs flew in late Wednesday night to join me on the permanent.  She was also planning on staying on for the 300k.  We would meet at the hotel Thursday morning for a 7am start.

The day arrived with a strong threat of rain.  It was dry for the start with a temperature in the upper fifties.  The current wind direction would favor the first half of the ride.  The forecast was predicting a wind shift, which if the timing was right could give us a boost on the return as well. 
Posting to Twitter from the Panera Bread at the start 6:45am
We take out from the start which is a Panera Bread located just a few miles from the hotel.  After only one half mile I run through a hole causing a flat tire on the rear.  We lose about 15 minutes while I change out the tube and search carefully for any foriegn object in the tire.  It appeared to just be a pinch flat.  Resuming the route we can feel the benefit of the tailwind.  We make good time over the flat terrain clearing through the 1st control at 20 miles, Hess Express at Merritt Island, before 9am.

After a quick stop we head out towards the cape and Kennedy Space Center.  The wind is still favorable making the going relatively easy.  We turn onto Space Commerce Way just on the outskirts of the Space Center.  NASA Parkway comes up at mile 32.  Before we can make the turn a ferrocious wind blast almost knocks us off our bikes.  The wind shift has arrived, bringing with it a driving rain.  We make the left turn putting the wind on our right side.  It is all we can do to keep the bikes on our side of the road.  The gusts have to be about 50 miles per hour wanting to blow us into the opposite lane.  The terrain to our right is open water so there is absolutely no wind block.  The water is wind whipped into white caps and the rain is coming sideways.  The going is slow and miserable. I'm cold and wet.  I want to put on my rain jacket, but it's too windy.  After a couple of miles we come to a draw brigde.  There is three foot high cement on the sides of the bridge which I reason can be used to shield me while I don my jacket.  With some effort I manage to get it on.  Once at the top of the bridge on the metal gratings I think the wind will blow me right off the other side.  If I've ever ridden in worse conditions, I can't remember it.   After a bit we come upon a museum dedicated to law enforcement.  We opt to take temporary refuge there and get organized.  The friendly folks there allow us to use the rest rooms and warm up inside.  There is also a canopy on the building which is away from the wind.  I put on every piece of clothing I have in an attempt to keep warm.  We use up about a half-hour at this unsheduled stop, but it was well worth it.  When we finally depart the rain has abated, but the wind has not.

Katie smiling just before the rain and wind hit
Our turn onto US 1 North comes up within a mile.  We now are dead into the wind for the next twenty-five miles to the Oak Hill control.  The going is quite tough, we keep up a steady 12 to 13 miles per hour.  By no means a blistering pace, but, by my math, we will arrive at the next control with some time in hand. With the extra layers of clothes I'm managing to keep warm enough.  I numb over the brain and mechanicaly turn the pedals until the control appears.  We arrive at Kelly's Bait and Tackle at 1pm with over an hour to spare.  I can't say I've ever had lunch at a live bait shop before, but I am delighted to be here none the less.  Fortunately, they have a deli as well, so we are not relegated to eating crawlers or the other stuff swimming around in tanks.  We eat our food outside on a bench.  My mood brightens even more when Katie points out that the cue sheet directs us to leave in a southerly direction.  With the wind still prevailing strong from the north and no rain in sight things are definately looking up.

After peeling off a few layers of extra clothes we leave the control turning south on US 1.  Viva le differance!  The wind at our backs makes me feel like the space shuttle gliding in for a landing.   The miles magically tick off as we navigate our way on roads named after astronauts.  Gus Grissom would be proud of the pace we manage on his road, as would John Glenn and Wally Shirra.  It's a great day to be an American.  It also doesn't hurt to be a fan of the space program.  Our final control before the finish comes up quickly.  Our mood being light we waste no time. We are quickly back to enjoying the benefits of a tail wind. 

The final twenty-two miles are equally efficient.  I do the math in my head projecting our finish time.  I expect we will arrive before dark.  The wind shift, which I cursed when it happened, has been a boon for the second half of the ride.  With no hills in our way it was smooth and easy sailing for the last 100k.  As predicted, we arrive at the finish in 10 hours and 17 minutes.  More than ten minutes ahead of sunset.  The Panera Bread couldn't have been a more convenient location to end the ride.  A bowl of black bean soup was much enjoyed.


The most scenic parts of the ride were that of the cape and wildlife refuge within.  Unfortunately the horrendous conditions would hamper the enjoyment of it, at least for me.  This prompted a return trip by car and a bus tour of the Space Center and wildlife preserve the next day.  Another great day to be an American.

Next up the Central Florida 300k - Stay Tuned!


  1. I'm laughing at your description of the winds blowing up like they did. although your description is very well said, I'm going to add; you really had to be there to fully appreciate!

    thanks again for a great wheel to latch onto!

    we never did get a photo under an orange tree.

  2. New tires, tubes and cables were all that needed replacing as this bike saw very little use in its 27 years and was stored properly. Tires Florida