Letter from America 27th November

Hi Guys and Gals,

Last Sunday was the 31st edition of the Florida Freewheelers “Horrible Hundred”. It is some five years I think since I last rode this event when about 1,500 took part. The numbers this year exceeded 2,500. There are now three distances; 35 miles, 70 miles and 100 miles. The longest distance includes over 4,500ft of climbing over the 100 miles. To quote the sponsor’s introduction; “Enjoy the quiet roads and true southern hospitality while tackling Central Florida ’s mountains. Dance on the tips of your pedals up Sugarloaf Mountain, swoop through the descent on Buckhill, suffer the dead-start of Grassy Lake. But first you’ve gotta hit the steep climb The Wall. Century riders confront all seven of Central Florida ’s mountains”. Most of my riding companions took part including ex Festival RC member Bob Lees who lives up near The Villages. Lisa Lecompte actually volunteered to assist with the parking prior to doing the shorter event. To do this she had to rise by 5am, despite staying on site in their camper van, while her husband Ken who was riding in the 100 miler had an extra two hours in bed before the start at 8am! The extra sleep must have served him well as he finished in 4hrs 38mins, not too bad for a sixty year old who has never raced.

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving which over here is a bigger occasion than Christmas Day. It is followed by Black Friday the equivalent of our Boxing Day when the Sales all take place. With companies like Walmart opening at one minute past midnight it is a madhouse to be avoided at all costs. Boxing Day Sales are not in the same league. Last year one person was killed in the scramble at a Walmart store. We spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday with my son’s family over the other side of the state. Our daughter-in-law served the traditional southern fare of roast turkey with sweet potato casserole, mashed potato, green bean casserole, creamy macaroni cheese followed by pumpkin pie. Not exactly to English tastes but the wines that complemented it, a Pinot Gris to start followed by a Cabernet Franc with the meal, were excellent, with apologies to David Duffield! On the Friday with afternoon temperatures in the 80’s we visited Dunedin a small old town by American standards somewhat similar to Eustis. There they had a farmer’s market which was quite interesting. We had a very enjoyable lunch at a Mexican Restaurant before going on to what they call the “Fresh Market” at Clearwater where we purchased some very nice but very expensive rack of lamb for the evening meal.

The headline reads “Border boondoggle”, and yes, yet another example of the American way of how to waste tax payer’s money. Would you spend big money on a project without first making sure it would work? Of course you wouldn’t. That is because you would be spending your own money. Not so with federal agencies as they have tax payer’s money to burn and they do. The Department of Homeland Security has paid the Boeing Co. almost $1 billion to install a high tech ‘invisible fence’ along the US Mexican border. This is the same agency that only allows us to renew a our driver’s licence for the maximum of the six months we are allowed to stay here and then charges us a delinquent fee of $15 for not renewing within 30 days after we have left and are not legally allowed to stay here! The system consists of cameras, radar, motion sensors and vibration detectors to thwart human trafficking and drug smuggling. If it weren’t for the fact that the cameras can’t monitor as wide an area as expected, the motion sensors can’t tell the difference between a person and a tumble weed it would be a great idea. According to the Government Accountability Office Boeing hasn’t provided accurate information about the work it has done so the Department of Homeland Security has declined to let Boeing continue with the project. Fences, invisible or otherwise, are not necessarily going to enhance US security and it would have been better to invest the $1 billion in improving intelligence gathering capacity that works against networks of bad guys. Without doubt there are serious issues of border security and illegal immigration that must be addressed but the Agency should ensure that money is well spent.

Sincerely hope that the weather has not been as bad in your neck of the woods as has been reported over here, that the Ghent Six went well and you all got back home safely. With best wishes to all.

Bryan Staples

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