Friday, February 12, 2010

Why it's so much fun to bike with Al

I admit I do a lot of solo biking.

I sometimes forget how much fun it is to bike with Al.

When you're with Al it is definitely NOT about the bike. With Al you need to stop at every cute little bakery and ice cream shop. You pause every 10 miles or so for a snack and to soak in the scenery.

Thursday on our first stop - for a doughnut and a peach - on a hill overlooking a lake here in Clermont Florida, we first heard the echoing call of sandhill cranes. After scanning the land around us we glanced overhead and saw 2 flocks of sandhills. One flock was larger, well organized in a sweeping V. The smaller flock was confused. They were all going every which way. My own theory is that those were the youngsters who hadn't gotten their act together yet.

Later when we paused to pick up litter we found ourselves in a wildlife area replete with robins, blue jays and scattered birds too shy to be recognized. A brief while later we spotted a bright bluebird fluttering among the orange groves.

We passed the biggest tree farm I have ever seen - miles and miles of potted trees ready for purchase. To my amazement after that mega-tree farm we saw three more tree farms in the area. It must be a popular occupation in mid-Florida. The last tree farm was definitely a little Mom and Pop operation complete with a little fenced in area with two burros, fluffy goats and some chickens.

We had to stop at a little fruit stand in the middle of nowhere. Pick your own fruit and leave your money in the jar. Al had to get a tomato!

And I had to stop at least once to try to get a picture of the sandhill cranes lounging in the front yards of these Floridians.

We had a striking moment when we stopped to check the map and found ourselves interrupting the meal of two very large turkey vultures in a nearby field. I normally find these birds to be so ugly, but today, given the setting it seemed peaceful to watch them cleaning up our landscape of a rabbit carcass. As we watched, one leapt from the ground and we could hear the deep swoosh of his wings as he took to a nearby tree. One moment later as we were about to take off, the other one finally joined her mate and we could hear the click of her talons as she lighted on the tree covered with Spanish moss.

With all of these side stops we didn't make our 50 mile goal Thursday. We only got in 40 miles. But it was a 40 miles we will remember.

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