O'Leno to Ichetucknee Trail

Just another awful day in paradise as there seems to be no stopping the record-matching warm weather we are having for the holidays. After the fog burned off, Mark and Sandra joined me in Fort White and we plied our way up breeze to O'Leno State Park.

No rushing involved, it was a completely perfect, light weight ride to help maintain that balance of calories that seems to lean somewhat at this time of year. The park was quiet and beautiful, as usual, and as we turned around, the gentle breeze had kicked up a little to help push us back into Fort White. A very pleasant 19 miles were logged over several smiles and tales.

Click the photo for more pictures.


Hawthorne Trail

A wonderful wildlife wake-up call was in store for us today. Starting with a bunny dashing across the trail in front of us and ending with a rafter of young turkeys milling about on the trail as their mother and aunts watched carefully, we managed to make the circuit without actual rainfall, though the humidity was very near 100%.

Sandra spotted a pair of Sand Hill cranes. We also saw several snakes and Deanne spied three young armadillos out and about.

Lots of cyclists were out to enjoy the day and the trail was in its usual excellent condition. One in particular, Richard Tuller, met up with us in Hawthorne and escorted us back to Gainesville on his fared Gold Rush. It had been nearly ten years since we last rode together.

There is always something unexpected to enjoy on this beautiful trail!


O'Leno to Ichetucknee Trail

Starting at eight o'clock turned out to be wise as it was not yet hot and we were able to ride longer before giving up for the day. Fort White was still peaceful as today's turnout of tubers was still on its way and the area was still freshly rinsed from yesterday evening's thunder shower.

In fact, if anything had gathered in throngs on the trail today it was grasshoppers and it rather quickly became apparent that yawning or singing should be undertaken only if one was seeking to acquire additional protein!

Lew Sussman joined Sandra and me today on an easy, relaxed covering of the entire O'Leno to Ichetucknee Trail and the eastern most five miles of the Suwannee River Greenway at Branford. Though we did stop a couple times to sweep some "redneck shrapnel" off the trail, it was largely in good shape with no major debris deposits.

"Good to see you back out on the trail, Lew!"


Nature Coast Trail

The Office of Greenways & Trails representatives on hand in Trenton today said we had the best turnout so far as 95 people participated in the National Trails Day Bike Ride on the Nature Coast Trail. Folks drove from as far away as Miami and West Palm Beach to attend the event.

Our group chose Chiefland as our destination as soon as we learned that today was coincidentally their annual Watermelon Festival. If there is one thing that is particularly difficult to turn down on a hot, sunny day, it would be free, cold watermelon and the bustling little town served it up right.

Mark and his son Jason drove up from Citrus Springs, Phil from Okahumpka, Sandra, Don and Mei from our local area and we ran into George & Lea Edwards, Chandler Otis, Dian Demetri from the Gainesville Cycling Club. It was great seeing so many folks enjoying being outdoors on such a fine day.

As usual, we owe a very large "Thank You" to the folks of the Office of Greenways & Trails for their tireless efforts at keeping this beautiful trail in such fine condition and for putting on the event. Oh, and "Thank You, Chiefland" for the delicious watermelon.


Fort White to Branford

The restoration of the little train station in Fort White appears to be coming right along. There are plans to have it finished as a trailhead for the O'Leno to Ichetucknee Trail by sometime in June. A cool start this morning warmed right up by the time we arrived in Branford to rest on the banks of the swollen Suwannee River. Wysteria, plums, dogwood and phlox were all in agreement that spring is really here.
Today's ride was a lazy, easy paced stroll out the west end of the O'Leno to Ichetucknee Trail over the Ichetucknee River, then along the Suwannee River Greenway at Branford into Branford itself. We enjoyed a snack at Ivey Memorial Park and pedaled back to Fort White in time for lunch. Both trails were found to be in fairly good condition.


Four Freedoms Trail

For a complete change of pace and pattern, I drove up to sleepy little Madison, FL Sunday morning to join Dennis, whom I had met at the Catrike Rally, in a visit to the recently opened Four Freedoms Trail. This trail runs north from Hanson, FL to the Withlacoochee River and Georgia border.

Except for a little exposure when passing through the veritable time warp of tiny Pinetta, FL, the trail is almost entirely canopied beneath the trees that lined the railroad line it replaced. From just above Pinetta to the river seemed to be a constant descent, though the return trip didn't really feel like a long climb. The grade must be rather subtle and the quiet beauty of the surroundings lure one's attention away from the details of propulsion. At the river's edge, the pavement ends just short of connecting to the remnants of the railroad bridge that once crossed the Withlacoochee and there is a newly constructed observation deck next to covered picnic tables. The walk down to the deck crosses the drive to a primitive boat launch.

Dennis and I spent most of the 11 miles chatting about other potential rides to be enjoyed in the area, including routes through Lee, Madison and around Cherry Lake. We also had the opportunity to meet up with another Madisonian, Steve Pike, out for a cruise on a Trek he had restored to service.

The view from the highway on the drive over was speckled with sightings of the white blossoms of dogwood and plum trees as they hinted Spring is just around the corner. With a steady breeze out of the north curling the Spanish moss, Sunday was one of those days that simply commands you open all windows and doors and let your house catch its breath. A day like this certainly calls for a return visit, soon.


4th Annual Catrike Rally

March began this year in Winter Garden with the prettiest day the Catrike Rally has seen since its inaugural in 2005 and what excitement! The event had grown from approximately 25 trikes then to nearly sixty this year. The Winter Garden Station trail head on Plant Street was full and overflowing by 8:30.

Just a couple blocks away, downtown was abuzz with trikes, riders, and onlookers. The scene was a festive madhouse of colors and configurations as folks milled about greeting each other, catching up, and inspecting the gear. T-shirts, maps, and plans for the day were handed out and a few details were announced concerning the long and the short ride options. Then, we began forming up and starting out.

Bob Emmerich shot some very nice video of our start and parts of the ride. The long ride went west to Lake Minneola in Clermont where we rested long and visited further before returning to Winter Garden. On the way back, we paused again at Kilarney Station for a the last break before lunch.

Catrike Rally 2008 - The Start from Bob Emmerich on Vimeo.

Catrike Rally 2008 - Part II from Bob Emmerich on Vimeo.

Catrike Rally Part III from Bob Emmerich on Vimeo.

A beautiful day with one very large array of smiles!


Nature Coast State Trail

As nice as it is to see a friend after a long absence, it is even better when it happens by surprise. I was sure I'd likely be the only rider to turn out for Saturday's jaunt on the Nature Coast and I was wrong! Kate dropped my jaw by arriving unannounced and ready to roll with a new car and bike carrier to boot!

Just as we got started, we ran into Don and Mei finishing up their jog and talked for a moment, then onward to Fanning Springs. Since I learned Kate had not yet seen Fort Fanning Park, we took in the sidewalked, side track to the west along the back side of Fanning Springs' businesses and had a look at the river. Then, headed south toward Chiefland a couple miles before turning back. That south segment is still a lovely tunnel of shade and felt good, since it was already warming up nicely. There seemed to be a few more family riders out than usual, in fact, we even encountered a couple of horseback riders early on.

A little over twenty miles at an easy pace felt just right for a beautiful Saturday morning.


Withlacoochee State Trail

A cool morning that warmed up nicely by ride time was a perfect welcome for our return to the Withlacoochee State Trail. Mark and met at his home in Citrus Springs and boarded the trail just four miles below the northern end. We headed south to the group meeting point and found Bonnie and Lanny getting ready to ride. Just click on the railroad car to see photos from our outing.

We had a very pleasant trip through Holder, Hernando and Inverness then turned around at the entrance to Fort Cooper State Park and made our way back into Inverness for fuel. A very enthusiastic young lady attended to our needs at Coach's Pub where chicken salad seemed to be the favorite. Construction is underway alongside the trail in downtown Inverness where they appear to be building a new trailhead.

Though there seemed to be the slightest increase in noticeable elevation change on the return trip, our perfect weather day held on strong until the end. Another fine day on the trail was enjoyed by all!


River Road Ride

Our gracious host and ride captain, Bob Emmerich of the Central Florida Recumbent Riders, could scarcely have picked a better day for the River Road Ride. Traffic was practically non-existent, the water was like glass, the air was cool, the sky was clear. Simply put, "A perfect recipe!" Bob and Paul Jones arrived together with a pair of long wheelbase recumbent bikes and Phil Mix and Paul Giglio had two recumbent trikes stashed in their sedan. My solo appearance added the third trike and then we were five, alive, and ready to ride.

From our meeting place at Lee Wenner Park on the Indian River in downtown Cocoa we headed south on Riveredge Blvd which turns into Riverside Drive which then becomes called Rockledge Drive, toward Rockledge. Immaculately landscaped homes on the right, beautifully appointed river shore on the left, framing a stunning vista between the two were grand oaks, palm trees, and lush vegetation. The posted 25 mph speed limit on this narrow asphalt ribbon seemed automatically enforced by the surrounding beauty. You'd not want to travel faster for fear you might miss seeing something.

Even though I had spent many a day on this very road on my bicycle some 40 years before, I couldn't stop drinking in everything. It was even better than I had remembered it. We all were preoccupied with the panorama and almost missed our "you never know what might cross your path" event. Today's sighting was easily my most unusual to date, even though the swimmers were slightly off the path.

At the south end, Bob escorted us through a small, local neighborhood which served well as a cul de sac slinging us on our way northward, back to Cocoa. After a rest stop where we had begun, at Lee Wenner Park, we resumed our trek along the river's edge on what is called Indian River Drive toward Williams Point. Now the houses are on the left, boats, docks, and river on the right and for a great portion of this segment, there is even a sidewalk on the left side. There are a few more pronounced rises and falls to the northern part of the trip that give it a different feel. The VAB can be seen, looming in the distance at the Cape north of Merritt Island and this part of the trip extends well above Bennett Causeway.

My photos are posted in the gallery and I'll add links to this post later as the other riders post their take on things.

Total of 29 peaceful miles.

Man's Gotta Have a Dream from Bob Emmerich on Vimeo.


Nature Coast State Trail

It wasn't until the trees had been removed that we were able to see just how close they had been to the lower phase of the transmission line. Nonetheless it was sad to see them completely removed instead of somehow trimmed or thinned. The experience has been severely altered by the clearing and has a much less than subtle feeling of exposure accented by increased road noise from the now visible highway.

Today's ride was one where we enjoyed a brief visit and were glad to see each other, but we were quite simply chased off by a thunderstorm out of the Gulf which met us head on just as we passed through Wilcox. We had been lulled into a feeling that we might just be passed over by the front and thought we could at least ride back to the start as safely as we had come. Rather it was upon us and all at once was also where we had been.

Though we returned a bit drippy and loaded up in the rain after too short a ride, we agreed it was still better than not meeting or not riding. There are a few photos up in the gallery, if you would like a preview of the new "landscape," post trauma.