Monday, April 7, 2014

Fifth Annual Pedal and Play in Paradise

Pedal and Play in Paradise is the epitome of what life in Punta Gorda is all about.  The event celebrated its fifth anniversary this year, and it was my third time as a participant.  Each year I've enjoyed the event more.  I'm sure that's in part because I know more people.  But I think it's also because my appreciation of the commitment people have to making Punta Gorda such a special place also continues to grow.

Jennifer French
This year, the Yoga Sanctuary joined in the fun with two yoga sessions.  On Friday night, Jennifer French led a sunset class at Laishley Park.  Needless to say, I was all over that.  What could be better than yoga by the water with a cool breeze flowing over you?  (Sure, some people would say that sitting at the Tiki Hut having a cocktail--and watching people do yoga--is more fun, but I'll take my downward dog any day.)  We all laughed when Jen reflexively instructed us to bring our collective gaze to the ceiling.  It made me think of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" song and the room without a roof.

I also showed up for the 6:40 pre-ride yoga stretch on Saturday morning.  I wasn't thrilled when my alarm went off at 6 a.m., but it felt great, and it was a fun way to get the day started.

One benefit of arriving so early was that I had the chance to see a little bit of what's involved in putting on this event. Volunteers had been there since 5:30 setting up registration tables and the breakfast spread, and everybody had smiles on their faces. At 7:00 sharp, riders started showing up. Being in the midst of people who are excited and looking forward to the day can't help but make your energy level soar.  With over 500 riders, that was a lot of positive energy!

Me, Dorrit, Bruce and Emila
As in years past, I hemmed and hawed over which ride to do.  The 62 mile ride was out of the question, but I always consider the 30 mile route, with the 15 mile ride as my back-up plan.  And, as always, I ended up doing the shortest ride, an 11 mile poker run.  In the past, the event's shortest ride has been a "mystery tour."  Riders were given a list of questions to find the answers to along the way.  It was lots of fun to search out the number of stop signs at Fishermen's Village or what's unique about the way armadillos breed.  (In case you're wondering, most armadillos give birth to quadruplets of the same sex.)  Event organizers mixed it up a bit this year with the poker run, with stops along the route to pick up our sealed envelopes with cards.  It just seemed like too much fun to miss out on, and I figured I can always go for a long ride on my own, right?  (Sadly, similar to my intent to do early morning yoga on my own, can and will are two very different things.)

As you can imagine, I was pretty tight after the intense 11 mile ride (punctuated with four stops along the way where we chatted with other riders and picked up additional water, snacks and our cards).  And so I took advantage of the free massages being given by two therapists from the Therapeutic Wellness Center.  Kathleen Kelley was my therapist, and she was awesome.  Despite the fact that there was a lot of activity going on around me, I was transported to a calm and quiet place, and I staggered around a bit when I got off the table the way you do when you've had a really good massage.

Jim Morris
Before we knew it, Jim Morris began the entertainment portion of the event, playing his own brand of trop-rock.  And then it was time to eat again.  (Seriously, even if you do the 62 mile ride, you run the risk of gaining weight at this event!)   Both breakfast and lunch were delicious, and actually very healthy if you limited yourself to one cookie.  

My hand
It was finally time for the big reveal, and tension mounted as the 100 or so riders who participated in the poker run tore open their envelopes to find if Lady Luck was on their side.  It was a bit chaotic as participants -- many of whom were not experienced poker players -- tried to figure out if their hands had a chance of winning.  (As you can see, mine was pretty lame.)  After a lot of discussion, three winners were announced -- two people with flushes and Emila with three tens in her hand).  Prizes were given out and the crowd disbursed, with many riders continuing on with the City Manager Tour.  Unfortunately,  a prior commitment prevented me from going on that ride, but I understand it was great. City Manager Howard Kunik showed off where the new library will be built and where exercise equipment will be installed on the Linear Trail (compliments of the Rotary Club) along with a variety of other interesting things going on about town.

I almost forgot to mention that the purpose behind the event is to raise money for two great causes. Pedal and Play is co-sponsored by TEAM Punta Gorda and the Isles Yacht Club.  TEAM will use its share of the proceeds to promote bike initiatives in Punta Gorda.  (Last year's earnings are being used to print brochures with information about the bike loaner program and local bike routes.)  The Isles Yacht Club will donate its share of the proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  (The event is the portion of the IYC's annual Leukemia Cup supported by the Club's cyclists.)

As they say at the Academy Awards, too many people were involved in putting together this year's Pedal and Play to name each one individually.  Special kudos go out to Marilyn Thomas, Ray Starsman and Robin Adair, who headed up event planning on behalf of TEAM and IYC, respectively.  It was a wonderful day in our wonderful city, leading me to ask my rhetorical question once again, "Aren't I lucky to live here?"

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