Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

An Early Retirement Gift to Myself

I recently completed thirty years of service with the Federal government and became eligible to retire.  And although I am not retiring quite yet, I decided to buy myself an anniversary gift to celebrate the milestone.  And when I saw this bike on eBay I knew what the gift to myself should be.

The newest addition to my collection of bikes is a Surly Disc Trucker.  Surly‘s Long Haul Trucker (LHT) enjoys a reputation as one of the best riding and most value-packed touring bikes out there.  It’s been around long enough to be tested in the real world, in all kinds of places, with all kinds of loads on all kinds of roads.  My 2012 Surly Disc Trucker is an LHT but upgraded with disc brakes to provide a bit more braking performance than the standard rim-brakes that the LHT provides.  Other features of this bike include:  thicker-walled and larger-diameter 4130 CroMoly steel frame tubing than standard sport-touring frames;  a longer wheelbase than you’ll find on a road or hybrid bike, making for maximum stability, comfort and responsive handling under load, and all the braze-ons you could want, from rack mounts to water bottle cage bosses to spare spoke holders.  And the componentry includes:  a Cane Creek 40, 1-1/8˝ threadless black headset;  a Shimano UN-55 square taper interface; a 68 x 118mm bottom bracket;  a Shimano Sora FD-3403 silver front derailleur and Shimano XT RD-M771 rear derailleur; an Andel RSC6, 26/36/48t. square taper interface crankset, and; a Shimano HG-50, 11/12/14/16/18/21/24/28 /32t cassette.  Finally, and with all due respect to Surly’s limited factory available colors of Super Dark Green or Blacktacular, the color of this bike has also been upgraded to custom powder-coated Hi-Vis Neon Yellow.  Combined with matching Deda bar tape and Hi-Vis yellow Ortlieb waterproof front and back panniers, the bike will be almost impossible not to see when I’m out touring.

And going on occasional long-distance bike tours is something I’m looking forward to doing after I retire.  I’ve already planned and mapped out a few different bike tours I will be doing.  One is a tour of the lighthouses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which would involve riding from north to south down the coast, and then looping back around on the mainland and ending up back at the northern-most lighthouse again.  I also will being doing a tour of the Great Alleghany Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, a 336-mile route without any cars or motor vehicles that connects Pittsburgh with D.C.  Along the way it also allows riders to take in a number of small historic towns, state parks and other attractions along the way.  A bike tour along the lower coast of Florida on down to Key West is also on my list.

While there are plenty of other bike tours I would also like to do here in the United States, I would also like to do a bike tour across Northern Spain.  The route there is called El Camino de Santiago.  Also referred to in English as The Way of Saint James, it is a network of spiritual pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

It’s been a long journey to get to the point of being eligible to retire.  And I look forward to more journeys in the future.

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Last night in preparation for the arrival of the first snow of the season, salt trucks were out treating local roads.  And today it felt like I got some of that salt in an open wound when I unexpectedly came across this street sign while out on today’s lunchtime bike ride in D.C.   Freezing temperatures and less than ideal weather conditions here in D.C. are difficult enough to endure without being reminded of the sunny skies and mild climate in Key West, where today it’s 71 degrees, with zero percent chance of precipitation and a mild breeze coming in off the ocean.

Even in ideal conditions riding a bike year-round in D.C. has its challenges.  But riding when it’s snowing, or there is still snow on the ground, can be particularly challenging.  Mounds of snow deposited by snowplows clearing the streets can accumulate and create unexpected barriers.  Snowdrifts can narrow streets and take away the extra room on the right where bikes routinely travel as they share the road with other vehicles.  And melting snow or patches of ice can create unusually slick conditions on roads and bike trails.  So here are a few tips to you help stay safe while riding in wintertime.

  • If you’re fortunate enough to have options, make sure and choose the right bike.  Don’t use that high-end road bike with the thin tires.  Instead, go with wider tires, like on a fat bike. The wide rubber will help with traction and stability. If you don’t have a fat bike, ride an older bike.  Sand, salt, and grit can clog up and destroy gears and other moving parts.  And outfit your bike with fenders and bright lights, and maybe winter tires with carbide-studded tires for increased grip on snow and ice.
  • Prepare your bike.  Make sure whatever bike you’re using is clean and properly maintained.  Keep your chain and gear cassette lubricated for best operation.  And if you have a place, like a garage or shed, store it in a cold place.  A room-temperature bike in new snow can cause ice to form more easily on brakes and gears.
  • Prepare yourself.  Protect your core by layering, which is the key to both staying warm and managing sweat in the cold.  And keep your hands and feet protected too.  Wear gloves or other handwear, and employ insulated footwear to keep your feet dry and warm.  Frozen fingers and toes are common issues for the unprepared.  Lastly, protect your head.  Try to avoid jacket hoods, which can funnel cold air to you as you ride.  Balaclavas or tight-fitting fleece or knitted skull caps work best.  And consider a larger size helmet to fit over the added insulation.
  • Stay aware of road conditions.  And follow the path of the plow. If the roads are plowed, this is the best path.  Sand, salt, sun, and snowplows eliminate ice and snow from pavement when it snows. Better yet, use marked bike lanes or paths when they’re available and clear.  In many major cities, including D.C., bike trails are regularly plowed as well.  But wherever you’re riding, stay away from the edges and look for the dry pavement.
  • Ride defensively.  Drivers are focusing more on their vehicle and the road than they are one you.
  • Ride steady.  Slow down and stay loose, especially in those slippery stretches.  Brake only on the rear wheel to avoid spinouts on slick surfaces.  And be more prepared than usual to take your feet off the pedals because it’s more likely for the bike to fishtail or tilt in wintery conditions.
  • And lastly, don’t be a hero.  Just because you chose to start a ride doesn’t mean you have to finish it.  Switch to public transportation should your snowy ride start proving to be too much for you.  Don’t be ashamed to abandon your bike ride and hop a ride to where you’re going.  Many subway trains and public buses, including here in D.C. depending on the time, allow riders to bring their bikes with them.  So ride near public transportation routes and be aware of your bail-out points along the way.

So if you are not fortunate enough to be 1,509 miles away from here in Key West, or in some other warm and ideal location, don’t let the winter weather stop you from riding.  Consider the above suggestions, and then enjoy the ride.

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The Florida Embassy

There are a total of 178 embassies and diplomatic missions in the national capital city, and 177 of them belong to foreign countries.  The remaining one belongs to the state of Florida, which is the only one of the 50 states to have an embassy in D.C.  Other states, specifically California and Texas, have tried but have not met with success.

So on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I visited The Florida Embassy, which is located at 1 2nd Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It is at the corner of East Capitol and Second Street, directly behind the Supreme Court building.  And it offers an excellent view of the dome and the Statue of Freedom on top of  the nearby United States Capitol Building.

Also known as “Florida House,” this unique embassy is located in a restored 1891 Victorian house, and since 1973 it has been a privately-owned and funded education and information center that provides meeting, classroom and reception space for visiting Floridians, students, dignitaries, elected officials and those doing business in the nation’s capital.

On today’s visit I was greeted by a very friendly summer intern, who gave me a tour of the embassy building, as well as the art and antique furnishings it contains.  The embassy also provides information about Florida’s congressional delegation, and other famous Floridians, as well as many other programs and partnerships that support and showcase the Sunshine State’s education, business, arts and culture, and of course, hospitality.  And I was able to learn about all of this while enjoying a complimentary glass of cold Florida orange juice.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]