DIRT mates Graham and Billy show the new ‘Rida transplant how it is done.
In the words of Casey, himself
Moving is never easy. Moving cross-country to a house sight unseen with a family is even more complicated. Still, it was the right thing to do for our family with aging parents and realizing that the stars somewhat align to leave the DC-metro life and return “home” to Florida in the midst of a pandemic.
Naturally, what’s the first thing a DIRT dad would do? Well, one, find and chat with every DIRT Member within a 100-mile radius of your new home!
Second? Go on, Strava, and start reading about routes, paths, trails, and places to ride! Heat adaptation, what’s that?
As summer rolled along, after having already met with Florida DIRT legends Graham Partain and Mark Ridings of Riding DIRTy TTT fame on a prior visit – we started chatting to get together after moving down.
It took a few weeks of settling in and stumbling on other local legends that we planned a short, low, and slow ride out of St. Augustine, FL, down the coastline for 50-60 miles to Flagler Beach and back.
We formed a chat, organized, invited a few others, and due to various conflicts, the group of 5 whittled down to 3. But, that’s fine, as just getting to ride with friends new and old is always worth the effort to drive and prepare.
The final tally was to meet up at the pier, 6:30 AM with me, Graham, and Billy Almaguer (of High Watt Coffee fame, more to come on that, later!) on Labor Day weekend as Graham was in town visiting family.
I’m not a typical DIRT, or at least what I perceive as one. A nocturnal person at heart, DIRT shifted my sleeping pattern and got me into a healthier habit of waking up early for rides and races, but not 5:00 AM early.
Nope, no way. I was worried a night of restless thoughts would keep me up, but even if so, I set my alarm for 5 (Apple Watch AutoWake app, highly recommend!), tucked my kids in, and went down for the count. I had told my daughter at bedtime as she tends to be up at 5 AM and wake us up, anyways, to come to get me – “QUIETLY! DO NOT WAKE, MOM. I SWEAR, IF YOU WAKE MOM…” but that wasn’t necessary.
Navigating in the dark to the kitchen to my already prepared mixes, coffee, snack, and backpack of bike gear, I meticulously made a checklist for, as without fail I forget something crucial anytime I drive & ride, I start to get ready to pack up and head out.
Meandering to the garage, I feel a tap to my lower back with enough force to know it’s not just my mind messing with me in a half delirium state of consciousness and jump up in fight or flight mode to see my daughter, sleepy, hair disheveled, smiling at me. “Hey, daddy-beetle, have a good ride with your friends!” she told me and gave me a big, hard hug. That is what DIRT is – Support, family, friends.
Hop in the car, put some tunes on, drive the hour, and text an ETA. I show up and see Brian and Graham already kitting up and ready to go. I forgot something. I just knew it. After chugging an energy drink, some coffee, water, I forgot to pee. I go to use the restrooms at the pier, locked. Grumble. Kit up, we ride across to the convenience store, and they watch my bike, and we are off.
Slow and easy opener. The group tempered my urge to do a “Zwift start” by mentioning a ride the prior week where a few guys just took off at 25mph. I had nothing to prove, in good company, so we started.
A1A from this point is just a typical beachside road: A small bike lane – hint: this is what most streets call a “shoulder” – and stores/shops, not much to see. We keep on trading some easy pulls, chatting, waking our legs up, and continue down.
The forecast was about a 5-10mph wind from the North (the route was an out and back, North to South, then back up). The tailwind kept things paced nicely. We held 22-24mph with what felt like no effort, and I prepared mentally for fighting the wind on the way back, especially noting that beachside, the wind picks up quite a bit as the sun rises and the day moves on.
We couldn’t ask for a better morning if we planned it. Cool – humidity dropped a little, which in Florida doesn’t mean much but is notably nicer. We cruised along as the roads slowly went from strip malls, gas stations, and small shops to homes and beach dunes.
Not taking A1A in the past, I wasn’t expecting it to open up as much as we navigated further down. Butler Beach transitions into a State Park (Matanzas State Park) with amazing beaches on both sides of our view as the island narrowed into what felt like just 200 yards of the picture-perfect river and ocean views.
Smiling ear to ear, we rode along, taking group shots and selfies at 20+ mph. The road opened up a bit, and traffic slowed down – though the holiday weekend probably brought more than usual for this time of day, and we cruised along, busting a few PRs for Graham and Billy, who did this route prior.
We didn’t have all the time in the world, family obligations and all, so I made a bit of an erratic decision to try to take a shortcut (blame Casey, here). We went through a gated neighborhood as the gates closed, which turned out to be a dead-end. We decided a 50-mile round trip would be enough vs. going to the pier and started back into the wind.
It was work; it felt like a TTT. We traded pulls, talked a little less, kept pace, and even passed a few other groups. A straggler hopped on for a solid 3-5 miles, and she was keeping up w/ our somewhat aggressive pace as we doubled back over the series of bridges and beaches that caused us to brake and take it all in a few times.
It was all-in-all a successful morning. Nearly 50 miles in 2 hours, 15 minutes with an epic elevation gain a total of (drumroll)… 10 feet. But don’t let that fool you. In coastal Florida, your climbs are against the wind, not hills.
We wiped the funk off ourselves the best we could, changed, snagged some coffee and snacks for a post-ride chat at Kookaburra Coffee (recommended, though the baristas there may suffer from chronic depression or something). We caught up a bit, as talking single file on a 3-man paceline leaves a bit to desire.
Amusingly, we all opened Strava (Billy had to manually upload, cave-man technology, get with the times manually! 😉) and checked out our leaderboards and PRs. We even took the top 10 on a 2500+ person segment – INTO A HEADWIND.
Thanking them for the invite and hoping for more to come – we went about our way to finish the day with our families and uploaded photos and memories that we won’t soon forget. Next time, we’ll really attack a few KOMs to put DIRT firmly at the top for years to come.
I took my bag of High Watt coffee as a well-earned ride reward and can’t wait to partake in more! Caffeine, friends, and getting out in nature are what we all need to do more in today’s world. OK, maybe a little less caffeine.
Ride on, Ride together, Ride Alone, just Ride
Have you met any of your DIRT friends in real life?
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit, and through its work and the pages of this site, Chris is committed to helping others with his bike. His gain cave is located on the North Fork of Long Island where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two college student children.