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Le Tour de Shore 2014

25 Jun

Ever since I bought my road bike in August I have been addicted to cycling. There’s something about a road bike that makes you feel lighter and go faster (oh yeah – it’s the wheel size and overall design). I loved my fall 2013 Bubbafest tour of the Florida Keys and I wanted to continue my touring rides. I saw an ad for Le Tour de Shore in my copy of Adventure Cycling that I am trying out as a result of Bubbafest but I didn’t think anyone would want to do the two day, 100+ mile ride with me. Jamie and Kayla had plans for that weekend and I didn’t think I knew of anyone else with a road bike. Luckily, my friend Gracelyn who really introduced me to triathlons, had a group of cycling friends that had signed up for the ride independently and I was able to tag along with their group.

Friday morning I met the group of riders along the lake shore path around 6:40 am and we rode down to Millennium Park for the start of the event. It was chilly but perfect for riding. Gracelyn had told me she didn’t want to go “too slow” but wouldn’t be “holding 20 [mph]” which she translated to mean 17 mph. I saw that as a challenge but as it turns out she and two cycling friends really held 20 mph for a lot of the ride which left me cycling by myself, which was actually kind of nice.

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The ride was split into two days. We rode ~65 miles the first day and camped in the Indiana Dunes Friday night and conquered ~45 miles the second day finishing in New Buffalo, Michigan.

The SAG stops (I think SAG stands for stop-and-go, but no one I ask really knows) on this ride were amazing. The first one was about 20 miles into the ride and had Chris Cakes pancakes – this guy holds the world record for highest pancake flipped in a frying pan), fruit, granola bars, water and Gatorade. I love pancakes and loved this stop. The next stop, right around noonish, had PB&J sandwiches and chips – heaven! I didn’t feel guilty about eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos AND a bag of Fritos because – hey – we just rode for 40 miles. The final stop before arriving to the camp site was just fruit and granola bars but I’m still really appreciative of the stops. Saturday morning’s SAG stops had Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee (mile 76) and fruit and granola bars (mile 96) before ending at a big barbeque on the beach.

The scenery for the ride was incredible. We rode along Lake Michigan for 60% of the ride, through corn fields, past beach houses and even stopped at a winery/brewery/distillery. The thing I loved most about the ride was how short and sweet it was. I’m not saying 100+ miles on the bike is short, but it was nice to be done riding after two days. I also liked the idea of riding one way and not having to turn back and see the entire route again. After our BBQ in Michigan we hopped on coach buses and headed home. The funny thing, though, is that the route that took us more than six hours on the bike took about an hour and a half to reverse on bus.

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The weather couldn’t have been better. I did end up with a nasty sun burn, but I attribute that to the fact that the temperature was so crisp that I didn’t realize how strong the sun was. It actually got cold in the evening while camping. I slept in sweat pants, a hoodie, a bed sheet and a sleeping bag and was still cold. Saturday morning was chilly but I had a sweet jersey shrug that kept me comfortable until the first SAG stop. This is where I should have re-applied sunscreen (or applied for the first time to the previously covered areas). I have a sweet bike jersey burn on my back that hurts like heck.

I’m so grateful that I got to hang with Gracelyn and her friends. They were great. There were eight of us total and Gracelyn and I shared a tent Friday night. Other expert campers suggest we not keep our food in our tent because raccoons will actually rip through the tent to get it while we’re sleeping so we put everything we had in a bag of Gracelyn’s and inside the cabin at our camp ground. That actually turned out to be a pretty bad idea because the raccoons snuck into the cabin and had a smorgasbord of food throughout the night. We actually caught them sleeping on the bag in the morning!

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My butt hurt for the next day but the ride was totally worth it. It is actually a fundraiser for the Maywood area fine arts programs, which I think is great! This ride is definitely worth the money and the day off of work. I can’t wait til next year!

The Close of 2013 Part II: New Year’s at Disney World

3 Jan

We left Keli’s house at 7:30 and after a quick stop to Publix for some breakfast we pulled into Magic Kingdom about 8:15. It took about an hour and a half to get from the parking lot through the front gates but we consider ourselves lucky because rumor has it they closed the park to single-day tickets a few hours into the day due to hitting capacity. Disney added Fantasyland since I last visited (2007) and we wanted to take advantage of eating in Belle’s castle so it was our first stop. Even though it was lunch at 10:30 am it was magical to have our food delivered wherever we were sitting and to even see the rose lose its petals. The castle was beautiful and I highly recommend stopping by for lunch or even making reservations to have dinner there (they say you need to book six months in advance!).

By 1:00 pm we had only seen two attractions and we were starting to regret coming on the busiest day of all of Disney World. We met up with my friend Kristin and her family that were spending a week at Disney and it is actually our second time being at Disney at the same time (the first was a chance meeting at Epcot in 2002). We chatted while waiting in line for her daughter to meet Tiana, her final princess of the trip, and then hit up some of the smaller attractions with shorter lines (Swiss Family Robinson tree house, Tiki room, etc.). Kristin heard they were handing out hats and noise makers at 4:00 so we grabbed those and headed for our dinner (remember, we ate lunch at 10:30!). As it turns out, giving paper horns to maxed-out park full of kids eight hours before midnight is a pretty terrible idea. Kids and adults were honking and blaring those horns and driving everyone crazy. I truly feel bad for the ride attendants and other park workers.

We had a short wait for the MK classic “it’s a small world” and cashed in our fast pass for the new Little Mermaid ride and from then on it was pretty smooth sailing for the rest of the evening. We assume the responsible parents families with kids started to leave the park because we were able to squeeze in a lot more rides and attractions before finally grabbing ice cream and scouting out a place to watch the fireworks. One of the cast members suggested watching from the back of the castle in Fantasyland but we actually found a good bench/seat/ledge in the Storybook Circus (also new) right outside of the Dumbo ride and it ended up being a great spot. It was quiet and empty. Plus, I got to ride the famous flying elephants which I don’t think I have ridden since my first visit to Disney in 1990. In all, Keli and I rode almost every single ride in the park we were interested in except Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain (the lines never got shorter!).

During our day we saw three sets of fireworks; the 8:30 regular show, a quick show at 11:50, and then the countdown. The countdown was amazing. It was hard to hear in the back of the park, but the fireworks started to form numbers and soon it was obvious that it was midnight. The sky lit up and there was 360 degrees of fireworks around us. In that moment I made the annoying sound with my noise maker and didn’t regret being in the busiest happiest place on Earth.

360 degrees of Fireworks at Disney World

360 degrees of Fireworks at Disney World

After the fireworks we popped in Ariel’s Grotto (I always wanted to see what it was like!) and snapped a pic with Cinderella then redeemed our Buzz Lightyear fast passes before heading out. We left the park at 1:20 am and apparently so did the rest of the visitors. It took us over an hour to get to the car and even longer to get off of the Disney property. It was a late night!

Sadly, New Year’s Day was rainy and we stopped at Downtown Disney to see Frozen but apparently everyone had the same idea because it was sold out. We grabbed a drink, shared some appetizers and walked around before it was time for me to head to the airport.

Despite my traveling delays I feel so fortunate to have such a busy, weather-cooperating vacation!

The Close of 2013 Part I

2 Jan

I’m not going to write a 2013 recap post like all the other bloggers because 1) I’m not a real blogger and 2) I’m so bad of a non-real blogger that I haven’t written posts for all the fun stuff I’ve done.

But I have done some awesome stuff that I haven’t written about yet and I’m making it a priority to recap the most important adventures.

As I type this my eyes are trying to stay open because I got in from an epic trip to Orlando at 2:00 this morning. My flight, which was supposed to arrive at 9:00 pm, was delayed two hours in Orlando and an additional two hours once we landed in Chicago due to some crazy, snowy weather. So let’s back it up to the reason I was in Orlando: the Canes were in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday, December 28. I woke up at 3:45 to catch a 6:00 flight from Chicago to Orlando (thank Loredana for the ride!) and my friend Keli picked me up. Keli and I have had some random vacation adventures so when the trip started with a trip to Target stocking up on Cool Ranch Doritos and Chex puppy chow, I knew we were in for a treat.

We headed to the parking lot to take the shuttle to the Citrus Bowl at 2:00 and found some of my friends from college that I haven’t seen in a while. It was great catching up, drinking beer, and playing bags for a few hours before the torture that was about to become the football game. Long story short, the Canes started with a 2-point safety and didn’t score again until the fourth quarter (I’m convinced Louisville’s second stringers were in). It was the same feeling as watching Notre Dame stomp all over us in 2011 at Soldier Field. I wish I could demand my money back for that ticket, because I did not see a game.

On Sunday Keli was nice enough to drive me to some friends’ from Bubbafest (recap  to come) house. There my two other friends Mitch and Melissa were waiting for me for what was originally supposed to be a 50 mile bike ride. Mother Nature had other plans so we enjoyed a tasty breakfast instead. When we were done the weather looked calmer and we ventured out on a 30 mile bike ride around some of Orlando’s well-connected trails. We are so lucky because after we pulled in and started to shower and get ready for the rest of the day it started down pouring. After we thanked the rain gods for holding out we headed over to a local sports bar and watched football and drank a lot of beer.

On Monday morning Keli had a great idea to visit Wekiwa Springs State Park just a few miles away from Orlando. The weather was overcast and chilly but after about an hour the sun came out and it was the perfect day. We hiked the nature trail to Sand lake and then took the East-West trail back to the Nature trail and completed about a 10 mile loop (estimate). Then, we rented paddleboards and paddled up the river for an hour and a half and saw turtles, deer, birds, and a gator! Luckily neither of us fell off our paddle boards into the alligator-dense water but this gator was sunning itself on a log, too. After we hustled upstream to get our boards back on time, we rinsed our feet in the natural spring water that stays a cool 72 degrees year round. We were completely exhausted after our nature-filled day. Plus, we had to prepare for what we knew would be the craziest New Year’s Eve in Orlando… Disney World… stay tuned!