St. Marks Trail

Or the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, as the sign reads, was as beautiful as ever. Most Click here for Photo Galleryof the drive over, after daylight, was covered by a high-level, overcast look, but just a few miles before St. Marks, the sky opened up and had a real nice blue color. I could imagine being able to actually see the humidity drop as the air had a clearer look to it. Add to that a gentle breeze coming in off the confluence of the St. Marks and the Wakulla rivers and you can see it was a great morning for a ride up to Tallahassee.

Starting the ride alone was rather unusual, but that wasn't going to last. In just the first couple of miles, I had already seen a dozen other cyclists on the trail enjoying the morning. This trail is slightly more narrow than the ones we usually ride which also adds to the community of riding with others. In the interest of safety, just a little more consideration and general courtesy is appropriate and always in good supply here.

Not quite as common up this way, I was delighted to encounter a couple on a pair of Rans recumbents. Wildlife sightings were primarily limited to birds on this trip, though I did observe a couple of small snakes. The birds seemed unusually vocal this morning, both in the first mile above St. Marks and then the Canada Goose entourage I found around Kissimmee Street.

Unencumbered by any group of my own, I decided to proceed above the trail head at Capital Circle and found the northern end of the trail where it meets Gamble Street. This added a few extra miles as well as some interesting sights. In the last mile or so, on that northern end, there has been some very nice enhancement to the future beauty of the trail. Someone has planted quite a few magnolias and also some other broad leaf oaks in braced series right alongside the trail. It won't be long at all before they begin to add a very special personality to that area.

42.4 miles

Trail Condition: Beautiful, very clean
Facilities: Quite satisfactory
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General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

On a warm morning with the threat of thunderstorms in the forecast, we visited the Van Fleet trail for the second time. Our first trip was cold and very windy, but today was nearly the opposite. We were made to feel most welcomed here as folks more local to the area came out to join us, providing information as well as company. Today was exceptional in that with only three of our regular riders, we swelled to a herd of ten recumbents including our welcoming committee!

Feet First as a group is generally more comfortable with a ride distance of 25 - 40 miles, but today, we had our sites set on completing this entire 29 mile long trail. One of the easiest ways to have lots of miles slip by unnoticed is being involved in good conversation, so here again we were greatly assisted by the day's large turnout.

The Van Fleet trail is flat and straight and would seem to be boring until you ride it. With little or no signs of civilization to be seen, it is very remote and peaceful. Birds can be heard singing nearly all the time, the gopher tortoise is quite prevalent, snakes are not an unusual sighting and some even saw turkeys cross the trail.

Starting from the north trailhead, at Mabel, there is essentially a restroom every 20 miles. One at the trailhead and one at Greenpond Road. The trip to Polk City and back to Greenpond Road makes about 20 miles.

We were very lucky that it never did rain, but it was hot enough that it might have been okay if it had! Four of us made the 58 mile trip and were ready for water in almost any form!

Joining us today were: Mark, Rachel, Steve, Phil, Paul, Jerry, Mary, Will & Gail

Trail condition: Excellent
Facilities: Excellent, though far afield

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Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail

This was clearly one of our best choices for a ride in the summer heat and we were not disappointed. This trail is so shady as to resemble being air-conditioned by comparison to some others. Its delightfully well-maintained surface supported the largest turnout on a Saturday morning I've seen since I began visiting this trail seven years ago.

Our lumbering little entourage was "smoked" several times by brisk, tight pace lines of courteous, but serious cyclists. Beginning at the Baldwin trailhead affords us the distinction of not only copious parking and excellent facilities, but greatly reduced traffic on the final portion of the ride and only a few blocks drive to Everybody's Restaurant.

We swung low to the tragedy of having one of Larry's clipless shoes become completely separated from its sole, then high again to seeing an old friend we'd not seen for over a year. A large, white-ish, domestic turkey, who apparently still lives across the trail from the midway rest stop, was observed preening himself near the family lawn mower. Then, there was that "stand-up bike" with no pedals. What a sight.

Click on the photo above to see other shots from today.

Facilities: Excellent in the middle, acceptable at the ends
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Haile Plantation

For a real surprise it was actually cool and pleasant at 7:00 AM this morning as Sandra and I met Gary at Meadowbrook Golf Club in Gainesville. Gary led us on a street/sidewalk tour that safely got us across both NW 23rd Avenue and Newberry Road so we could glide downhill into Haile Plantation and cruise their heavily shaded, paved path around the golf course.

We managed to get down, around, and back up in just 2 hours, disturbing only a few walkers and a very large hawk who had decided to rest on the ground alongside the trail. With the elevation ranging from 75' to 165', there was little room for boredom to set in. We were climbing or gliding most of the time.

Photos are posted in the gallery.

Facilities: Publix! :o)
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Feet First Rider Scores iPhone

Not only was one of our riders lucky enough to come home to a gift from her thoughtful husband of a new Apple iPhone, but she was also kind enough to share with us what we look like when viewed on the extraordinarily popular, technological tidbit! Wow, if we look this good on there, additional orders simply must be placed.

Check the calendar for details of our Independence Day ride at 7:00 AM tomorrow. See you there!

Thanks, Carol!
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