29th Annual Mt Dora Bike Fest 2003

The Mt Dora Bike Fest is held on the second weekend in October each year. I have attended the MDBF six times previously but had not been for a couple of years. Now that I had my recumbent I thought this might be a good opportunity to ride in some hillier country than we have around here in South Florida. Also the chance for a couple of days of camping was appealing too. But the clincher was the advertisement in Model Railroader magazine for a new hobby shop in Mt Dora.

The MDBF has always been a well organized event and this year was no exception. While there are many restaurants in Mt Dora, I always get the meals package; with 1400 cyclists in town every place is packed. The included meals are prepared and served at the Mt Dora high school where the camping is also. The MDBF is truly a community sponsored event with volunteers from various civic groups and students from the high school.

Registration on site began Thursday afternoon with rides starting on Friday. I left for Mt Dora on Friday afternoon after work. Arriving in Mt Dora around 7:30 pm I first went down town to the old train station to sign in and pick up my registration packet. Then I headed to the camping area at the high school. Arriving at the camping area shortly after 8:00 pm I began setting up my tent in the dark. There were approximately fifty tents, three travel trailers, one RV and three pop-up campers. After setting up camp I went over to the school gym to shower. Mt Dora has hot showers. I have learned from other bicycle event flyers that there is a difference between “showers” and “hot showers”. Bike Florida 2003 had some of the coldest “showers” in the world.

I always sleep well when I am camping. I rose early, had unlimited coffee and breakfast in the cafeteria and then planned my rides for Saturday and Sunday.

On previous occasions I have always done the 25 to 30 mile rides. This year I felt confident to roam a little farther. Rides start leaving from the train station as early as 7:00 am for the century rides and every half hour after that until 9:30/10:00 am. There are several afternoon rides starting after lunch and a poker run at 5:00 pm. The poker run winner took home over two hundred dollars. Rides as short as the five mile ride for ice cream allow for everyone to find the ride that fits them the best. Mt Dora has a lot of families riding together.

I chose the 55 miles round trip to the Yalaha German Bakery. I got into hills larger than I had ridden in before. Not having hill climbing legs, yet, I was slow to the top. Some times crawling along at six miles per hour. The largest hill on this ride presented an opportunity to; ”cross-train-for-a-walk-a-thon”. The descents made up for the climbs to the top. Thirty plus mile an hour down hill runs were frequent and quite the treat. Traffic was light and courteous. The food at Yalaha made it well worth the ride. In addition to fabulous baked goods, they also served lunch and had a live band outside on the lawn.

Back in town after the ride I faced a dilemma. Choosing between discount bike clothing from the event vendors or model railroad goodies from the hobby shop. The hobby shop won out and I hauled my goodies back to camp on the bike.

The high school students started serving dinner in the school cafeteria at 5:00 pm and I was there early. The food is always very good and plentiful. The rest stops are well stocked also. Typically I put on a couple of pounds during this type of event. Generally three pounds for every one hundred miles ridden.

The weather had been overcast all day which made for great riding. But no sooner had we sat down for dinner than the clouds opened up and the rain came. It poured. I had a model railroad magazine with me to read during dinner so I hung out in the cafeteria until the rain ended in about an hour. You can tell who the recumbent riders are. We walk upright after a day on the road and ride back in to town in the evening for ice cream and a little more shopping. That’s what I did. And then the rains came again. Around 8:00 pm I rode back to camp in the pouring rain.

It poured all night, along with lightning and thunder. I am amazed at how dry and comfortable my tent is. I did not cut any corners when I bought all of my camping gear and it has paid off. It has rained every time I have camped out. I slept well.

We woke Sunday to a light drizzle and it cleared quickly by breakfast. The sky remained overcast and there was a light breeze. It looked like a great day to be on the road.

Not being up to another day of serious hill climbing I chose two shorter rides of 25 miles each that meshed well together allowing me to go right in to the second ride after the first.

That first ride was to Mt Plymouth and back. At the ride start the directions were announced to follow the white circles heading out of town until you picked up the blue circles. Yesterday had the same directions. Start out of town on the white marks and then switch to the color marks for your particular ride.

There were approximately 200 riders in our group ride and the mass start moved forward down the road. I had my map on my handlebars but had only given it a quick look. I was following the crowd. About a mile and a half in to the ride, as we came up to another turn, there were a bunch of women stopped in the middle of the road looking at maps and shouting: “you’re going the wrong way”. Meanwhile the men were threading their way thru this congestion shouting: "follow the white circles out of town". And out of town they went. I too threaded my way thru the crowd, but I took the first side road, went up a couple of blocks and stopped. It was time to look at the map. In private.

Well the ladies were right. In its haste to get out of town the group had missed the first turn, passing over the first blue circle, even though the roads are very well marked. I could look back down the side street and see the majority of the group still heading in the wrong direction. The best they could hope for, depending on when they figured it out, was to do the ride in reverse. Being familiar with Mt Dora I was able to pick up the correct route without having to ride back and face the ladies.

I did catch up to a couple of other riders that were going in the right direction and after an hour or so a few others were catching up to us. I had expected to see riders coming the other way on the backwards route but only saw two. I was passed by just a few riders compared to the number in the group. Where the rest of them are is anybody's guess.

Guys, when the ladies say you are going the wrong way its worth checking the map. But do it in private so they can’t say “I told you so”. Over and over and over …

At the twenty mile mark the sky was getting real dark and the wind was picking up so I did not continue on to the second ride. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but, expecting today’s rain to be as severe as yesterdays was good enough reason to go back to camp, pack up and return home. That was a good move as it began to rain shortly after I left town.