A short hard rain during the night turned my son’s condo into lakefront property, and more rain was in the forecast by noon. Just enough time, we decided, to try for a metric century bike ride. It would help us recall the rides we used to do together thirty-five years ago, and serve as a belated ride to celebrate my birthday a couple of weeks earlier.
Mike lives on the barrier island that is part of the old resort community of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, south of Daytona Beach and north of Cape Canaveral. The course we would be doing consists of two loops which can be done in various combinations depending in large part on the direction of the prevailing breeze. The week during my visit it has been a steady northerly draft at ten to fifteen miles per hour, enough to keep the palm trees swaying.
One loop goes south, along Atlantic Avenue—Florida A1A—into the Canaveral National Seashore. The first three and a half miles from his condo, there are high rise condos on either side, and then comes splendid quiet as the road threads its way between the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Mosquito Lagoon on the other.
The National Park Service reports that the barrier island and its waters “offer sanctuary” to 1,045 plant species and 310 bird species. There was a time when the saltmarsh waters could produce a million mosquitoes per square yard. Part of this loop course includes a slight detour through a wooded area near historic Eldora State House. The one time he stopped to tour the house, Mike tells me, mosquitoes drove him away. Most of the loop through the seashore is a quiet lane between protective sand dunes covered with palmetto and sea oats.
Round trip from the condo to the end of the Seashore is twenty miles, with the possibility of an extra loop or two around the Eldora House to add a few miles.
The second loop travels north from the condo, along Saxon Drive, to the Harris M. Saxon Causeway Bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway to the mainland, then south on River Road to the town center of the residential city of Edgewater, west on Park Avenue, and a jog onto Mission Road and west again on Taylor Road, north on Glencoe Road and northwesterly on Pioneer Trail to Turnbull Road, which takes a wide swing back towards the east and south to the New Smyrna Beach town center on Canal Street near the causeway.
The round trip for this loop is thirty-two miles, with several possibilities for expanding the distance by taking short detours. Except for the short distance through the New Smyrna Beach town center, this loop is essentially residential or rural.
Much of this loop displays Florida’s natural vegetation, which can change dramatically because of changes in elevation of only a few feet: pine forests, hardwood hammocks, and marshes.
The night’s rain prior to the day of our ride settled the atmosphere and quieted the wind, which meant that we started the ride by doing the Seashore loop. By repeating the southern part of the route, we added ten miles to this part of the trip so that by the time we took a break in New Smyrna on the mainland, we had done half of the metric century.
The northerly breeze was picking up, but the mainland loop travels all four directions and much of it is protected from the wind. They sky remained a brilliant blue, with a few billowy clouds in the distance. The temperature moved from the 68 degrees when we started to 72 degrees when we completed our metric century, with a time of 3:52:43 on the bikes, for a distance of 63 miles, at an average of 16.27 mph.
We spent an additional hour with photo breaks, a stop at the brand new visitors’ center at the National Seashore (paid for with funds from the National Recovery Act), and a stop for blue berry muffins and energy drink at Jason’s Corner in New Smyrna.
This was the first time that Mike and I had taken a long ride together since 1979 when we did our last Hilly Hundred in Bloomington, Indiana, where Mike had just earned his degree at Indiana University’s School of Music. Old habits, however, formed long ago during some 6,000 miles of distance cycling that we did together, have stayed with us.
Neither of us is in as good a shape for cycling as we were thirty years ago, and on the day after, I was more fatigued than I like to admit.
Even so, on this year’s New Smyrna Metric Century we conquered the miles as though life’s ride could go on forever.