When’s the last time you heard someone say, I went on the most amazing bike ride this morning and I didn’t even mean to? Well-it’s kinda like how Alice in Wonderland fell down a rabbit hole… We fell down a bike roll…
Our bikes started rolling and they just didn’t stop! It was a really surreal experience.
So, let me switch back a few gears and explain how this all unfolded.
As if we don’t have enough things to ride already, from horses, to tractors, to rollerblades, I insisted on adding one more thing to the mix. Bikes. ’The Bike Shop’ recently relocated to downtown Winter Haven, and they had an awesome event called the Slow Roll and Ski Show planned. I wanted to be a part of the club. Selfishly, I had these cool fluorescent leggings that needed an excuse to make an appearance along with Nando’s fanny pack. I figured my angle was resurfacing memories of riding his bike in Miami in the 90’s and the fanny pack would do it! (Traditionally with Nando, I have to plant a seed and give him an excuse or reason for why he should do a leisurely event.) Now, growing up here, Nando has really fond memories as a kid riding his Huffy 10 speed to, from and all around downtown WH. He also biked back and forth to modeling castings when he lived in Miami. We actually have probably about 8 bikes at our other location in Upstate NY.
Now that I had him invested for nostalgic reasons and because he knew a few friends would be there... The only hurdle was getting him to purchase 2 new bikes from ‘The Bike Shop’ for the event and reintroducing the fanny pack. The fanny pack was easy.(He’s actually been wearing it religiously ever since.) As far as the brand new bike purchases go, it just wasn’t gonna happen because, “The king of not wasting anything,” knew that we have 8 bikes sitting in our shed up north. He said, “Find or borrow bikes or you will be slow rolling in your rollerblades and I will take a horse.”
So, with only several hours to spare, we went on a bike hunt; We hit up the Silver Moon drive-in Swap Shop, a couple of garage sales and then we got lucky and found 2 bikes to borrow in our friends garage. One was a 3-speed with the handlebars attached backwards along with a weird back-rest; the other totally didn’t match my style and had a flat tire but, we were closer to the goal, which was to roll…
Twenty bucks at the bike shop to replace the tube, a great N + 1 “Cup of Joe” with a shot of espresso accompanied by a quick waver release signing and we were in! I tossed on the leggings, a pair of poser Puma cycling shoes and some fingerless weight lifting gloves. I owned my look. Off we went to saddle up and join the rest of the “Bike Chain Gang” putting the pedals to the Winter Haven pavement.
Weather wise, there was a little sprinkle but it was no problem. All of us were like, “The cool kids are in town.” Chris Sexson has a phrase about Winter Haven “ It’s Kinda Chill” and this was totally chill… A chill, slow and cool way to spend Saturday afternoon. This was a different perspective than the norm; driving, walking or looking down at your phone, we were hands free, so to speak…We had to hold the handlebars of course…
Mid roll, we saw the Cypress Gardens Ski Show on Lake Silver and witnessed the famous 12 person pyramid among many other great feats that never fail to give me chills. We took a group photo in front of the whale mural and then made our way, all 65 of us, people of all ages, to the finish line at Grove Roots for a pizza and a craft beer prize. Nando found a wood pallet that we used as a makeshift bike rack. Perf… We just had to keep our eyes on them because don’t forget they were borrowed from friends and we had no bike lock.
After consuming a couple a Slanted Ladders we were like 2 slanted ladders, so we threw the bikes in the back of the truck, took off the front tires (to hopefully prevent overnight bike disappearances), put on our helmets and started to walk home…Then we called an Uber. The driver was like, “Um, I think you guys forgot to take your helmets off.” Backpedal... The helmet thing didn’t really happen, but it would have been funny…
So, we responsibly got home and said, as soon as we wake up we will pick up the truck and get those bikes back.
My dad always says, “When you wake up, get up, when you get up, do something.” And that Sunday morning we sure as heck did! At 7am Nando fed the horses and then we went to pick up the truck. On the way we were reviewing how much fun the Slow Roll had been. That night Bud Strang had been talking about how the bike trail goes all the way to Lake Alfred. I was thinking when will we ever have time to do that?
The next thing we knew, we had put the wheels back on the bikes and what started with a quick lap around quiet downtown WH, turned into just going a little bit down the bike trail to…What the heck... Let’s go all the way to Lake Alfred. It’s good exercise. (There is Nando’s justification thing again)
We saw beautiful flowers and greenery, smelled all kinds of smells and the amount of wildlife was exciting to see. There were birds, gators, kitty cats and every little insects and lizard in between. There is even a beautifully curated ‘butterfly garden’ with hundreds of butterflies.
We deviated off the path from time to time and went into some little developments to look at houses and saw Sunday morning church goers in great spirits wearing beautiful attire.
We on the other hand were once again like an over styled ad for Winner Haven apparel, still wearing our same gear and fluorescent leggings from the day before.
The whole time, Nando looked like the kid from ‘Titanic’ with his hair blowing saying, “This is so fun, I would have never thought to do this.”
We passed over the roads we drive and the lock and canal we boat on.
Going up the ramps was tough. We were pushing it, even in granny gear, and totally hearing in our heads ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from the original ‘Rocky.’ At the top of the ramp we caught our breath and took in the beauty of as far as our eyes could see. It’s crazy how many lakes we have here and how flat the land is in central Florida. You really got the birds eye view of the beauty that surrounds us. On the other side of the overpass we would coast down and pedal backwards zig-zagging as we went down. Nando said one time, “Lets see who can glide the farthest.” He leaned forward trying to win,which I let him.
The Lake Alfred diner appeared at the perfect time. It was half way mark and we were starving. Nando and I walked into the place like it had been our intended destination, parked the lockless bikes right where we could see them and enjoyed brunch on the patio.
At some point we did our usual ‘FaceTime’ with our BFF Sebastien in France to show him the ‘Tour de Winter Haven’ that he was missing out on.
On our tour we really counted on the mile markers, especially going back because we got tired. The only thing overall that I found tough was positioning myself so that I would clear the concrete posts between the road and the path at every cross street. Possibly residual effects from the Slanted Ladders…
Now, I’m told that the owner Stew, of ‘The Bike Shop’ will go for like 150 mile morning bike rides. So going 5 to Lake Alfred and 5 back looks like training wheels compared to that. For someone looking for a nice start to their day or a continuation of the night before (like ours), or something to do on their lunch break, this is a super chill safe experience. Truly a great way to roll.
Don’t forget to join in the 3rd Saturday of every month for the free Slow Roll & Ski Show! Also, be sure to stop along the trail and check out that butterfly garden.
P.S. We borrowed the bikes from Meghan and Lauren Young. Their mom, Marlene Young was instrumental in getting the bike trail created. Oh yeah, we kept their bikes. We’ve locked them safely in our small studio apartment downtown. We are riding them around town whenever we can. So… Shhh… Don’t tell Meghan bc I think she forgot we have them.
P.P.S. If we hadn’t gotten the bikes, I can only imagine how things would have gone between me rollerblading, wearing an outfit like Cher from ‘Clueless’ and Nando horseback amongst all the other Slow Rollers. I am so glad we managed to bike it both days!
Forget Tour de France…. There is a Bike Haven right in our back yard!
xo Sally & Nando DC