Thursday March 6, 2008

Florida bicycle adventure

florida bike route

I’ve been considering a bike vacation, and I’m throwing this out in case anyone has any suggestions or advice. My current thinking is to take a train to Tallahassee, then spend two weeks biking back along route above or something similar. Pass through Gainesville, then swing over to the east coast for Cape Canaveral, then south along A1A, possibly with a detour toward Lake Okeechobee. 540 miles isn’t too much for 10 days or so, but the idea is that it be leisurely. I’d want to follow the quietest side-roads possible and see as much of what there is to see as possible. FerfeLaBat already had some suggestions — anyone else? Of course I’ve ridden through the state any number of times, but presumably this would be a fresh perspective photos would follow, along with updates as often as I could get to an internet window (probably not that often) and numerous twitter updates. I’m also wondering whether to try to bring camping gear along, or whether to stick strictly to motels (thinking the latter — nothing sucks more then a day of biking without a shower, and campgrounds with such facilities are few, and who wants to have such strict targets). Thoughts?

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  1. Mike aka MEFX1    Thu Mar 6, 10:27 AM #  

    I think “Adventure” is an understatement when you add “Bicycle” to the equation. I’m not sure about Northern Florida…the people there seem to be of another breed. I think you should replace the Bicycle with a) Motorcycle or b) Vehicle. WHY? well i think getting away from “unknown” danger seems a lot harder when you have to pedal your way out of there.You might of heard of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.You never know when you will run into a hairy bipedal hominoid (although we have a few in Miami)…so good luck with that.

  2. Lance Armstrong    Thu Mar 6, 11:01 AM #  

    “Leisurely” is for chumps and pansies. I could cover 500 miles before lunch. In any case, don’t forget yer meds.

  3. alesh    Thu Mar 6, 11:26 AM #  

    Mike~ People up there always seemed pretty nice to me… i dunno.

    Squathole~ Hey, I’m a recreational dude. I’ve done over 80 miles in one day, but I don’t know what happens when you do that for a few days in a row.

    BTW, my sodding image was broke. Something about the URL to the google map… it’s fixed now, but not clickable.

  4. Mike aka MEFX1    Thu Mar 6, 11:52 AM #  

    alesh~ maybe i’m thinking central North Floridians…the coast always has peppered in a few normal people. But yeah look out for those guys in the old ford trucks with a visible gun rack. All i’m saying is…it’s gets lonely out there, and with a few swigs of moonshine, all loving is good loving.

  5. Johnny R.    Thu Mar 6, 12:02 PM #  

    Good luck! Can’t wait to see your pics and read about the adventure!

  6. tito    Thu Mar 6, 01:34 PM #  

    Make sure you go through Mt Dora, And I would hug the coast from West Palm down… much more interesting, and safer too.

  7. DJ_Kremlin    Thu Mar 6, 02:35 PM #  

    Agreed with you on the motels idea. That said, there is a great full facility camp ground in Pahokee. The only camp ground right on the lake. If you have a chance, check it out. It’s also a great place to rent a small John boat and motor around the lake a bit.

    They also have cabins.

  8. Rick    Thu Mar 6, 06:28 PM #  

    Now knowing your current fitness level, how many times you’re working out during the week now, and whether or not you’re out there doing century rides every weekend, it’s hard for me to say whether putting in 1/2 centuries for 14 days in a row is going to be tough.

    But you’re right, doing 80 miles in one day and being able to give your body a few days to recover is ALOT different than doing it for 2 weeks, day after day.

    I can say you better factor in the weather and any breakdown time into the equation. You’re going to have to average 45-55 miles a day, it sounds like.

  9. Robert L.    Thu Mar 6, 09:32 PM #  

    Don’t overlook good quality sunblock. See if anybody is willing to support your bike ride to help a charity. I would definitely support you. You could start a Charity Blog Pocket. Just an idea, but then again, this is a vacation…

  10. alex    Thu Mar 6, 10:39 PM #  

    Time to get a carry permit and a gun. When in Rome…

  11. alesh    Thu Mar 6, 11:24 PM #  

    Tito~ Mount Dora — got it!

    Kremlin~ Got it. The cabin sounds good. I have to decide whether the schlep a tent/sleeping bag, and I’m leaning towards no.

    Rick~ I’ve been doing 3 or 4 commutes per week on the bike, 18 miles each way, plus the weekend rides (= around 150 miles or so per week) for going on half a year. With ~50 miles a day for a couple of weeks I’ll for sure be pushing myself (esp. considering the bike will be weighed down with luggage), but that’s part of the idea. Does it sound too ambitious?

    Robert~ I have spray-on stuff and lotion-type stuff, both of which are sort of gross in their own particular ways, but yeah. I don’t get the chairty run/walk/bikeride thing . . . how would I go about doing that, and why not just donate some money to Oxfam or something?

    alex~ maybe some pepper spray?

  12. i'm GLAD i wasn't there..    Fri Mar 7, 12:13 AM #  

    wow,you really know how to be alone!

  13. alex    Fri Mar 7, 01:17 AM #  

    Pepper spray: not enough reach. Good for the dogs. For the bipeds who may take a fancy to your new bike, another disuassion method may be better.

    I’m semi-serious about the gun. I know it’s too predictable to take it out on the Central Florida residents and most of them are amiable sorts. But there are some scary nuts out there. Or maybe it was just my accent.

    I’d wouldn’t worry too much about the 50 miles per day. It’s flat, paved, you got a light bike and hours to kill. Minimize baggage and you’ll be all set. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  14. Rick    Fri Mar 7, 08:52 AM #  

    Does it sound too ambitious?

    To me it does. Especially if you want it to be leisurely.

    Easy way to find out is to do 3 or 4 back-to-back rides of 40 to 50 miles and see how you feel.

    I know it’s much different than what you’re contemplating, but check out how Vespa Vagabond documented her cross country trip on a Vespa.

  15. kingofrance    Fri Mar 7, 10:04 AM #  

    Once you get to Brevard (Cape Canaveral) you’ll be better off going south on Tropical Trail and then over to A1A. I ride in that area a lot so let me know if you need any route information. Also, check out Micanopy, south of Gainesville. And you don’t need pepper spray for dogs, a squirt from your water bottle will do the trick.

  16. Joe    Fri Mar 7, 10:45 AM #  

    Maybe advise one of the GPS tracking companies of your plans —they might be willing to provide you with a real-time tracking set-up for free to showcase their capabilities. That way people could monitor a “Where is Alesh” web page where you could combine some “writing from the road.”

  17. John    Sun Mar 9, 01:19 AM #  

    Yo I was just trying to figure out my schedule to do the five boros in NYC in May, but now that you are doing this, I’m tempted. Do you want company? I know a few others that may want to join?

  18. FerfeLaBat    Sun Mar 9, 12:40 PM #  

    OK. Here is my native Floridian assessment of your route:

    From Tallahassee to Gainsville they are used to the college kids and their weird parents from all over. Once you head south and west of there you are in Deliverance country. Proceed accordingly.

    Avoid Wildwood. Do not stop there under any circumstances.

    As long as you don’t stop at any “Handy Way” quick stops in the Ocala area you should be OK. Avoid Waffle Houses also. Local miltias tend to meet at the Handy Ways and their wives generally work at the Waffle House which is where tourists from South Florida end up getting into trouble. Horse country with lots of old mossy oaks. Very pretty area.

    Near Deltona is Cassadega. I would hang out there for awhile and take it all in for fun. Psychics and new agers hang out shingles for readings. It’s a cool little town and very nice people. Very Christian in a new age sort of way, though, so don’t make the mistake of trying to debate the merrits of atheism with the locals.

    From Port St. Lucie through Okeechobee also use caution. There are a lot of family owned hunting ranches there with wild game and some of the biggest damned gators I’ve ever seen. Florida record was caught there and it’s coming up on mating season. The people are nice and, unlike people in Miami, locals there actually know how to use their guns. Don’t show them yours unless you want to get shot.

    Avoid Belle Glade. Do not stop there under any circumstances.

    Are you factoring in weather delays? I have friends who do bike trips, but they always travel in groups of at least four for safety.

    Take business cards with your blog url with you and explain that you are blogging a bike adventure if anyone starts asking.

    I’ve driven this state so many times I’ve lost count. I think I have relatives everywhere from the panhandle to the keys and all parts in between. It’s a great state but the differences as you travel from south to north and east to west are enormous. There really are places you just shouldn’t go unless you have someone there to meet for a legitimate reason.

    Too bad you aren’t staying long on the west coast. Homosassa is fabulous.

    Can’t wait to see your photos and hear your impressions.

    (Apologies to Wildwood and Belle Glade but, damn. I remember your towns from way back when and it wasn’t always as it is now. What happened?)

  19. Gabriel Lopez-Bernal    Tue Mar 11, 10:53 AM #  

    I’ll join you for awhile around the Gainesville area.