Thanksgiving weekend found us on the interstate en route to Walt Disney World to meet our daughter Rebecca and her family. I’ll bet my favorite wishbone I wasn’t the only one traveling in pants stretched tight from too much turkey.
Healthy eating is a mindset I lost back in October. Now I’m paying for gluttony. I have to put on a swimsuit, don’t have much choice with three nights at Disney and seven nights at my parents’ condo on Hutchinson Island. That royal blue suit with the boy legs has a tummy-flattener that did the trick back in July. Now I don’t have a prayer.
The goal for this Florida getaway is to come back lighter than when I left. To achieve this, we’ve brought along our bikes. The last time we visited Hutchinson Island we rode everywhere, even pedaled to Fort Pierce, about 30 miles roundtrip.
It was my bright idea to ride north on A1A to the coastal town — the shimmering Atlantic on one side of the bike lane, the intercoastal waterway on the other. At certain points the island is so narrow that both bodies of water are clearly visible making for a gorgeous ride, a combination of shimmering gentle waves and crashing surf.
Spark thought Fort Pierce might be too far, but I twisted his arm, luring him with lunch at Archie’s, an outdoor bar popular with the Harley set, and a longtime favorite for locals where conch chowder is served up by the bucket.
In the 30-plus years we’ve visited my parents’ condo, we’ve driven to Fort Pierce countless times but never realized there are side roads to undeveloped state parklands along the way. Halfway to Archie’s, we pulled off on one, already sweaty and saddle sore.
The road led to water under a bridge overpass, a clear pool rife with strange looking fish and loads of manatees, endangered, gentle “sea cows” that are frequently hit by boat propellers. A manatee mom and her baby surfaced like dark submarines and hundreds of little crabs scuttled for cover as we approached.
The old Florida landscape with its tropical wildlife was mesmerizing, and it took willpower to get back on our bikes and continue north. But we did and were rewarded with an Archie burger, fries and a beer.
As we ate we talked about how the ride there really hadn’t been so bad, calculating what time we’d get back to the condo. Alas, the Sunshine State sucked us in. The wind had picked up. This happens every darn time. No matter what state we’re in we end up with the wind in our faces on the ride back from where we started.
That was the case as we left Fort Pierce, the burgers churning in our stomachs, the muscles in our legs burning. Halfway home, we stopped to see the manatees again, this time virtually crawling like the sand crabs we’d sent scuttling earlier. In the cool pool, the manatees peacefully floated, wiling the day away, not killing themselves on a bike ride that was supposed to be fun.
We made it back to the condo, but not without some bellyaching on my part. To Spark’s credit there wasn’t one, “I told you so” zinged my way.
Our Archie ride was the second most difficult bike venture we’ve taken, bested only by the afternoon we got lost in Boulder, Colo., in 100-plus heat, completely out of water and yelling at each other as we rode in circles looking for the house we’d rented.
Hopefully we’ve learned something by our experiences. In the coming week, I’ve already been warned we have to get bike ready and build up our mileage.
Of course we have to go back to Archie’s for a burger, but only one. I don’t want to go back to Missouri with a figure like a manatee—a senior sea cow in a blue suit with boy legs isn’t exactly what I want to look like with the holidays approaching.