Downtown O-Town

Tuesday night was perfect weather for an urban assault ride when the temperature dropped below 70 degrees! I dressed warm for the wind chill, filled my camelback and joined the group at the courtyard on Church Street around 7:30 p.m. I was pleased when I saw that two other girls had shown up, and I could not wait to try out my new slick road tires. The turnout was impressive – I counted 18 riders – and we took off through the city streets a little after 8 o’clock. After a few miles, we were up to speed and breaking a sweat, and the pace factored out behind the line leader. Another group organizer picked up the caboose and kept the group going through the twisty turns of the course. With the slick tires and my latest leg training, I could survive in the draft of the fast group for most of the ride. One of the other girls had it dialed in, too, and we kept right on rolling with the leaders. We rode down brick roads, through grassy parks, across parking lots and all over the richy-rich neighborhoods of downtown Orlando.
While we were ripping down to Lake Underhill, playing chicken across eight lanes of 436 (in the dark) and back up Colonial Drive, I noticed something funny: I’ve lived here all of my life and I’m still learning about new areas of town, and if it weren’t for these bike rides, I don’t think I’d ever find them! For instance, there’s a part of town that’s being transformed that I had yet to hear about. It’s just south of downtown, and it’s called “SoDo“. I was rather inspired by the revitalization efforts in an area that used to be so dusty and full of trash and decrepit buildings. Then, while riding through this one neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice the hierarchy of houses unlike any of those in the area. I looked to my right and I saw this huge, brick building with white columns in typical Neoclassicism style that reminded me of the Capitol building straight out of Washington! “What is that?” I asked to no one in particular. I noticed a swimming pool along the way, and then a football field. It must be a school, I thought and I wondered, knowing I’d probably heard of it but had never seen it in person. As we rounded the corner, I came across the sign at the front entrance: Lake Highland Preparatory School, founded 1970. “No way!” I exclaimed. That’s Lake Highland?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was in the heart of Orlando and I had no idea. And that’s when I fell in love with this city all over again.

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