Monday, June 30, 2014

Still There (Again)

I didn't do anything real exciting this weekend.  Luckily, I still have stories from The Sunshine State.

You know, another ride.

Loyce HarpePark in Lakeland, FL, where they get all wacky on Wednesdays.

Back when I first started mountain biking in Florida (I know, I know), everything we rode was near the water. After moving up here to NC I'd sorta forgotten how cool that can be.  Sure, we have mountains, rolling hills, beautiful views, etc., but being back in familiar terrain made things a lot more fun.

I mean, Florida trails have nice views too.

It's been a few years since we'd ridden there, but Lunchbox and I were happy to be back.  Although a lot of that particular trail goes through the swamp, one of the first sections went through a gopher tortoise habitat.  It was fun to hang out with the wildlife.

Speaking of swamps and critter habitats, we finally got to see the elusive wild T.V. in its natural environment. 

Like most of the good stuff in Florida, this is another place where the terrain is the result of phosphate mining.  That makes for an interesting ride through the swamp.

Lots of ups, downs, and riding high above the swamp is really fun.  However, riding in Florida always comes down to the critters.  On one section out in the open, I spotted what I thought at first was just a little lizard running down the trail.  After it ran off into the grass, I decided to stop and check it out.

That's no lizard...

Turns out that a baby alligator got lost and decided to run down the trail.  When Lunchbox rolled up on the scene, I told him what I'd found and warned him that momma gator is probably nearby.  He kept an eye out for her while I went in a little closer to help the little fella out.

He was tiny.  Like, fit in the palm of my hand tiny.  Too small to be out on his own, we got him headed towards the water and back to safety.  We did our good deed for the day and hit the trail again.

And then we found even more critters.

The armadillo.  There were tons of them too.  We hung out for a while but didn't stay too long.  There was more trail to ride.

The good stuff was still waiting for us still.  The most unique feature there is a section called “The Fingers.”  They are trails that jut out into the swamp with lots of elevation. 

Are they technical?  Yes.  Tight turns, short, punchy climbs, and of course, more critters.

And let's not forget Big Mamma's House:

The drop in was uh, steep.  Lunchbox was happy.

Just like everything else we rode out there, it was more up and down.

That place is pretty awesome.  It's still one of my favorite places to ride, even though it's about six hundred miles from here.  If you're ever in the area, I suggest you hit it up.  And after a day of riding with the critters, you can eat some too.

Save an alligator, eat an alligator.  It's how the world works I guess.

Tomorrow: more Florida

You betcha.


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Big Day

I wasn’t in Florida just for drinking and riding bikes, although it certainly might appear that way.  Mr. Shepherd was getting ready to tie the knot, and with only a few hours to go we had a lot of shit to do.  He showed up to the hotel early Saturday morning, and the Dirty Party Cycle and I were ready.  What do you do when you get up early after a night of fun?

You take a picture of the sun for some reason.

Or, you just take a picture of someone taking a picture of the sun.

We headed over to the reception hall to meet with the caterer and to help get everything ready.  The DPC got the most important job of all…

Stocking the fridge with alcohol.

I helped a little too, but as the best man it’s my job to do whatever the hell the groom tells me to do.  I ended up running back and forth to the bride’s hotel for various things, and I must say that being an errand boy was quite rewarding.  You know, anything to keep the happy couple from freaking out.  Plus, I got to see weird shit on one of my trips.

That’s a lot of hula hoops.  I don’t get it.

Once we were satisfied that the reception hall was ready to go, we gathered up and headed down to Sarasota to pick up our tuxedos.  Since I got fitted for it here in Charlotte (and the girl seemed to be in a big hurry), I was pretty worried that it wouldn’t fit.  We got to Men’s Wearhouse, where the crew there took good care of us.  They had us try them on and after telling us how sexy we looked they packed everything up and sent us on our way.

Next stop, shopping for booze.

More is always better, and the local liquor store was happy to accommodate us.  Satisfied that we finally had enough to drink, we headed back to the hotel for a little down time before shit got really busy.  The ride back was fun.   

The DPC knows how to party.

I thought we would have plenty of time, but Mr. Shepherd called to say that the photographer wanted to get some shots of us before the ceremony.  So after stuffing Lunchbox into a suit, I got cleaned up and dressed a little early.

We spent quite a while out there in the hot sun, posing with each other to make good memories.

And before we knew it, we were at the church.  The ceremony was really nice, and I was so happy to be a part of it.  It was good to see Mr. Shepherd happy.  I’ve known him for most of my life, and it really was an honor that he chose me to be a part of this.

After the wedding we hit the reception.  I gave my “best man speech”, dinner was had, and I finally got to relax a little bit.

Good Florida beer.  I deserved it.

We closed the place down (it was our job, actually), and after going back to the hotel a few of us went down to the pool to continue drinking.  We eventually got kicked out because it was well past closing time, but damn it was a good day.  We still had a few days left on our trip though, and it wouldn’t be like me to let that go to waste.

Or to not drag out a blog post.

We had more fun, including one more ride, more beer, and even a stroll down memory lane in my hometown.

See y’all Monday for the conclusion…

Thursday, June 26, 2014

“Mountain” Biking

In lieu of a bachelor party for Mr. Shepherd, we decided to head into the woods to ride our bikes.  Sure, we were all out drinking the night before (which in some cultures constitutes a bachelor party), but we really wanted to have fun together and not get into any trouble.  After growing up skateboarding with Mr. Shepherd, he’s the one that originally got me into the whole fat tire thing.  A ride with all of us together in Florida seemed like the best way to send him off into wedded bliss.

The venue:  Alafia River State Park.

The sign says “Off-Road Mountain Bike Trails” which is pretty accurate.  No mountains in sight, but we ride “mountain” bikes on those trails.  Genius. 

Just like pretty much everything you ride in The Sunshine State, this trail is pretty much in the swamp.  With lots of phosphate mining done in years past, there’s actually quite a bit of elevation (for Florida, anyway.)  You wouldn’t know that when you started though.

Once we hit the woods, we entered the RollerCoaster loop.  It was a little hilly, as Lunchbox already knew.

Mr. Shepherd was digging it too.

When it wasn’t full of steep descents and short, punchy climbs, it was a vegetable tunnel.  Lunchbox was happy to be in the shade though.

Oh look, it’s the Dirty Party Cycle:

What they lack in elevation, they try to make up for it with features.  An elevated bridge between to palmetto trees high above the swamp?  Sounds like Florida Enduro™ to me.

We’ve all been there before, but a some things have changed in the last few years.  A new section that I’d never seen before seemed promising:

A little more elevation this time, and plenty more features.

We rode that whole section and I didn’t take anymore photos, but luckily I got to the end before Lunchbox did so I could get a few shots of him exiting the trail.

That section was so fun.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one that thought that either, since this was at the exit:

I kinda missed riding in the swamp.

Especially since you can always find these guys:

Spotting credit:  Lunchbox

We spent quite a while out there, but our time was up.  Since Mr. Shepherd was getting married the next day, we still had shit to do.  And since I was the best man, I had to keep us on schedule.  We had just enough time to enjoy a beer in the parking lot, drive back to Bradenton (about 45 minutes away), go to the church for the rehearsal, and then get to a restaurant for a dinner.

I even managed to say no to a free “Sex Cookie”, whatever the hell that is.

At least we got to relax by the water.

Since there is plenty more to talk about, I’ll probably skip the normal “Fun Friday” festivities to keep this shit going. 

Same time tomorrow, okay?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Too Much

Man, I’m tired.  So tired that I almost forgot that I had to write this blog and do other semi-important stuff today (like go to work.)  As usual, I crammed in too much on my days off, but I think this trip was more than usual.  I guess I can start from the beginning…

Lunchbox and I hit the road early Thursday morning for sunny Florida to attend Mr. Shepherd’s wedding.  We made really good time, only stopping for gas and a quick lunch.  I knew Mr. Shepherd was waiting for us, and we communicated quite a bit during the drive down.  I got to the hotel at my scheduled time and checked in, heading up to my room to settle in.

I haz nice view of river:

Lunchbox got his ride on right away, even though the lady at the front desk jokingly said he shouldn’t ride his bike inside.  He has no regard for your rules.

The hotel must have been expecting us, since they had bike parking conveniently located in the room (it was a fancy place I guess.)

Once we got unpacked and all that, I got word that the Dirty Party Cycle had arrived.  Mr. Shepherd rolled in a few minutes later.  The boys were back in town, and we hit the town right away.

Motorworks Brewing in Bradenton was our first stop.  They had this awesome beer garden (pictured above), and a pretty decent beer selection.  We drank it all.

We hung out for a while, throwing bean bags at plywood, bullshitting, and even ate food out of a food truck (which I would regret later.)  One of their flagship beers was an Enduro™ Session IPA, as noted on one of the many receipts from that night.

We had a rocking good time for sure.

We had to go, since that was only the first stop.  We piled in the car and rolled out to some island near the Gulf of Mexico.  After what seemed like hours, we arrived at some oyster joint.  I wasn’t really hungry (my stomach was upset from whatever the hell I ate from the food truck), but I can’t help but order alligator when I’m down that way.

That was the last of the photos that night.  We drank more beer, a few rounds of shots, told more stories, and watched as the DPC handed the keys over to Lunchbox.  He was our designated driver, which was probably the best idea we had all night.  He got us back to the hotel safely (in a city unfamiliar to him I might add), and we got some sleep to get ready for our adventure the next day.

The “bachelor party” would last for two days, and this story will probably last a lot longer than that.

Day one, drinking and hanging out.  Day two…


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'm Outta Here

Today is my Friday.  It's not your Friday, so that means it's not “Fun Friday.” I'll split the difference and make this post a little shorter like a Friday one.

I'm leaving for Florida bright and early in the Morning.  Lunchbox and I are heading down to the left coast of the Sunshine State to help/watch/heckle at Mr. Shepherd’s wedding.  The Dirty Party Cycle will be joining us too, just not in the same vehicle on the way down.  In lieu of a bachelor party, we're taking a mountain biking trip to Alafia State  Park.  I haven't been there in a few years and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm also hoping to get over to my home town for a bit to see some family and maybe even some old friends. 

I'm not the only one traveling though.  Little Miss Sunshine returns tonight from the United Kingdom, and we'll get to spend a few hours together before I leave for Florida.  She would tag along but she'll probably be too exhausted.  I'm looking forward to spending a little time with her, and also looking forward to seeing my little alligator again.

She took that little fella with her over there and he's had great time. 

He helps me out a lot so it will be nice to have him back in my possession.  I'm sure the little lady enjoyed the company, but he actually serves a purpose here at the B-43 Worldwide Headquarters.

He helps facilitate the quick drying of my DeFeet cycling cap after I wash it.  You wash your cycling caps, don't you?

Anyway, Since I'm leaving that means I'll be away from here for a while.  I may be back here Tuesday morning, but I could also wait until Wednesday.

Next Tuesday or Wednesday, got it?  Good.  See y'all then.