Ventured down to Key West this past weekend to participate in their first alleycat race through the city's historical area, known as "Old Town". The race began on the White Street Pier shortly after 6pm, it was a very nice setting for the start of a race. A diverse group of riders were present.. a few road bikes, fixed-gear conversions, track bikes, conch cruisers, MTBs and even a small penny-farthing styled bike. Interesting enough most folks ride around town wearing sandals and most bicycles have baskets, even some track bikes.
There were 12 checkpoints in total and quite honestly I felt it was really difficult for an out of towner. I hadn't visited Key West in a decade and had no clue what was where even with the help of a few locals while we were glancing over the maps 10 minutes prior to the start-off. The race had a Le Mans start with a slight twist, we were instructed to remove our right sneaker & give them to the person to our right. Then we were told to throw the sneakers as far as possible. This made the start challenging, as soon as I located my shoe I laced it and ran to my bike. Once off the pier and on the road I decided to follow the burliest dude on a Trek carbon road bike. On our way to the first check point I asked him if I could follow and he said he didn't mind. This proved to be a good decision on my part because this dude (RJ) was quick & really knew his way around. This worked great for us as a team because he didn't have a marker/pen and we needed one at a few of the check points, luckily I had my sharpie.
Those on road and/or track bikes were assigned extra tasks at a few check points in order to give the conch cruisers a better chance. One very interesting task was at checkpoint #8. We received a coconut at Fixed Gears bike shop & we're instructed to take it to a residence a few blocks away, exchange it for a mango & then take the mango back to the bike shop in order to get our manifest signed. Only during an alley cat on an island will you be asked to exchange tropical fruits at check points, this was genius! Other check points of interests were finding out the soup of the day at a diner, going to the end of a pier, a school bus graveyard, finding a docked Navy ship, and making a stranger/passerby say "yee-haw".
The final stop was at Cowboy Bills Honky Tonk Saloon. RJ and I came in together. We finished about 15 minutes before anyone else, we actually left the bar since there was nobody there yet and assumed we were possibly in the wrong place. We ended up dashing to the other Cowboy Bill's a few blocks away only to realize we were initially at the correct spot from the get-go. We went back to the first bar and were greeted by the organizer who was just arriving. We walked to the back of the bar and had our manifest checked out. We were declared the winners and got some beers to celebrate when low and behold 'would be 3rd place' arrived. I noticed the local newspaper tucked under his arm, it was one of the requirements on the manifest, one we totally forgot about and were not told we were missing it until he walked in. WHOOPS!
RJ and I had to run out to grab the newspaper, we were then placed 3rd and 4th. I wish we would've been told about the missing requirement when our manifests were initially presented at the finish. We would've had more than enough time and still taken 1st & 2nd place had we been told upon the delivery of our manifest. Oh well, excellent race nonetheless. Congrats to Jonathan for taking first on his conch cruiser & Eddie coming in 2nd. I was 1st place" fixed-gear" and 1st place "out of towner". Props to ChillWill for putting on an interesting race, it was well thought out & fun.
We spent most of the night bar hopping and riding around town with alleycat participants & volunteers.
Hybrid taxi w/ bike rack in Key West. Going green with pink!
The following day was spent with ChillWill (race organizer) & Patrick (owner of Fixed Gears). We rode around the entire island and checked out the bike shop for a bit. The guys at the shop were really friendly, I really liked the old school charm the shop had and would recommend anyone visiting Key West to check it out. We also rode to the "southernmost hockey rink" to check out prospect location for future bike polo games. The rink is huge, maybe too large for bike polo unless there's 5 on 5 teams which can be exciting, open air with a covered roof and lighted with traditional hockey rink lights underneath, regulation size with regular boards and fencing with glass behind both nets. Holiday Park bike polo folk should definitely check it out.
Thanks to ChillWill for organizing the race and letting us stay at his place, Patrick & Ray @ Fixed Gears, RJ for allowing me to follow him, and Patti for making the drive & being the only other Miamian there. This event was well organized and the checkpoints were awesome. I had a great time & the people of Key West were really friendly and hospitable. I'll definitely be back for future races and encourage those in S. Florida to also make the drive down.
Here's some more photos: