Biking Acadia

The Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park draw cyclists from all over the world to these protected paths to ride crisscrossing


the park. These crushed rock roads built in the early 1900s wind their way through the interior of the park and are used by horses and pedestrians as well as bicyclists.

imageOf course, cyclists can also fight the traffic on the perimeter road, but we happened to be in Acadia on a day the road is closed to vehicles. Each year, two days are set aside to let cyclists enjoy the 27 miles of traffic free biking.

Since I “don’t do hills”, we didn’t take advantage of riding the loop road and instead walked portions while others much older put my bike riding skills to shame.

image

I forgot to take the advice on a park website to ask a ranger to suggest an appropriate carriage road to ride and ended up on a very difficult 12 mile ride which I’m certain was 100% uphill. The next day’s ride around Eagle Lake was not as difficult but still proved to be challenging enough to give me a good workout in the midst of a beautiful setting.

image

I’m finally beginning to learn that a trail described as “flat” means something completely different when outside the state of Florida. I’m also learning I have a lot of work to do if I plan to ride out of state.

Really…it’s 17 miles…all downhill

Right, a trail that’s ALL DOWNHILL. 

When John suggested we ride the Virginia Creeper, he said I’d love this trail since it was a 17 mile ride, all downhill. I thought he must think I’m not very bright since I’m sure that any trail that’s all downhill must be ALL UPHILL on the way back. When I mentioned my skepticism that a ride could be 100% downhill, he explained that for $11 a shuttle takes cyclists to the trailhead so yes, it was indeed possible to ride 17 miles…all downhill.

image

We met at Sundog Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia and loaded our bikes on the trailer behind the brightly painted van and then rode to the trailhead at Mount Rogers Recreation Area with six other cyclists ready for the downhill adventure.

image

For the first time ever, I shifted my bike into its highest gear and pedaled occasionally, but mostly rode the brake all the way back to Damascus on a beautiful, cool, early fall morning.

image

We stopped at the old train station which has been converted into a museum.

image

Walked on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

image

And then had to check out The Creeper Trail Cafe since the most common question asked of cyclists after riding the trail is, “Did you eat a piece of cake?” According to locals, the cafe serves the World’s Best Chocolate Cake so yes, we ate cake…good cake, but not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.

image

I didn’t think I’d ever be called a Creeper, but having ridden the Virginia Creeper, I guess it’s a term that describes me.

 

 

The Art of Cycling

For me, the only art to cycling is making sure I pedal fast enough to keep from falling over, but the Stowe Recreation Path in Stowe, VT proved to be not only an enjoyable ride through the Vermont countryside but an art exhibit as well.

image

Over the course of the six mile path, a variety of sculptures including a guide to each piece by phone provided an interesting art show.

image

The sculptures as well as historic buildings are a bonus to trail users.

image

The easy, relatively flat trail crosses ten bridges so there are many opportunities to view the river crisscrossing through the town.

image

Even on a wet day, a twelve mile ride in Stowe was a great place to ride and enjoy art, both made by man and nature.

image

 

Riding in Spider Kingdom

What makes anyone think naming a trail Spider Kingdom is a good idea? And yes, a banana spider hung from its web next to the sign. But since we were determined to ride, we continued from the Landbridge Trailhead through Spider Kingdom, and fortunately, didn’t see another spider on our eleven mile ride.

image

Butterflies and flowers outnumbered spiders on the shady, single track trail, part of the Cross Florida Greenway. Am I the only one who thinks Butterfly Kingdom would be a more appealing name for the path?

image

We rode over trails with pine needles hiding roots, stumps, limbs, rocks and pinecones. This was a test of my ability to maneuver tight turns and obstacles.

image

We even had to lift our bikes over downed trees in more than one location.

image

All in all Spider Kingdom proved to be an enjoyable trail and one that provided some new challenges…without getting lost…unlike another couple we met in the parking lot.

We’re planning a repeat trip, but next time adding a little more distance riding from the Landbridge to Santos, hopefully without spiders.

A Triathlon on Miami Time

The first time I attended church in Miami the service started about ten minutes late. The pastor walked around the sanctuary letting those of us who were visitors know that things would be started soon, but they operated on Miami time.

image

Well, last week we completed our own version of a triathlon, and we were certainly competing on Miami time. First, this was not a competition. No registration fee or course to follow. We simply chose a water event, biking event and an event on foot in which to participate making it a nearly perfect day.

image

The very hot morning started on Biscayne Bay where we rented a Hobie Getaway and sailed for two hours in the waters where John first introduced me to sailing. We raced from the causeway past Vizcaya entertained by the brightly colored parachute pulling parasailing tourists across the bay and the fire department helicopter practicing rescues in the waters near the Seaquarium.

We left the water ready for the bike leg, but instead of jumping in the saddle in dripping wet bathing suits, we changed clothes and drove down Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne and mounted the bikes at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

image

We rode through the park along the bay toward the Cape Florida lighthouse photographing iguanas scurrying across the trail or posing on the rocks.

image

Instead of eating a meal designed for athletes, we stuffed ourselves with barbecue sandwiches, fries, slaw and tea…the diet of the laid back triathlete.

image

The third leg of the day took place in Coconut Grove after sunset. A relaxing stroll from our hotel to Cocowalk and vicinity eyeing lights, fountains, painted peacocks and walls entangled in banyan roots. Even though the pace was leisurely, we did cover a little more than two miles making it a worthwhile final triathlon leg.

I’m sure those who train for these events would be appalled, but looking for opportunities to spend time on the water, bike, and by foot to enjoy the outdoors is always a treat and challenge.

 

Van Fleet and Red Wing

We’ve started getting in a routine of going on a longer bike ride at least one day each week. Most of our rides have been on trails that can only be described as old favorites…ones we’ve ridden on several occasions and return to for the comfort of a familiar ride. However, we don’t want to get in a rut so we also look for opportunities to ride new trails and visit different places.

image

Last summer we rode the General James A. Van Fleet Trail from the Mabel trailhead to the trailhead at Bay Lake, a twenty mile round trip, on what can only be described as a near perfect trail since it was flat, straight and shady. Last week we rode a second section of the trail from the Green Pond trailhead to Bay Lake, another 20 mile round trip. Like the portion we rode last year, this trail is equally flat, straight and shady, but since it travels through the Green Swamp, it’s wilder and more isolated.

image

Through the early section of the trail we were serenaded by alligators as we crossed the three bridges over the protected wetlands. Many riders report seeing not only alligators but deer, armadillo, rabbits, tortoises, snakes and even otters. On the day we rode, we spotted one gator and numerous gopher tortoises, not bad for a hot summer day, but a trip in the fall may be needed for better wildlife viewing and so we can complete the final leg of the trail from Green Pond to Polk City.

image

The trail’s well maintained and marked every half mile so it’s easy to know how far you’ve ridden and determine when it’s time to turn around, and while water and restroom facilities are available every 10 miles, it’s important to take plenty of water, especially on a summer ride. You also want to be self sufficient since there are few other riders and cell phone service is not available on all portions of the trail. However, with a little planning, the Van Fleet trail is a perfect way to spend a day in “wild” Florida.

image

Speaking of “wild” Florida, on our way home, we found a restaurant in Groveland that fits that description. Upon entering Red Wing Restaurant, diners are met by an antler chandelier, and walls lines with mounted deer, turkey, a rooster and even a jackalope. The sign in the parking lot announced all you can eat quail, but that’s a Wednesday night special. In fact, many of the wild dishes like gator tail, frog legs, venison and game sausage are reserved for the dinner menu, but we enjoyed the milder hamburgers, steak sandwiches and peach cobbler.

Finding a new, good restaurant is always an ideal way to end a bike ride.

 

 

As Bare As You Dare

image

If you think you’re going to an orgy, you’re going to be very disappointed. Instead, expect good, goofy fun! 

That’s how Portland’s version of the World Naked Bike Ride is described on their website. The organizers’ mantra is “Good, Safe, Fun,” a major reason no alcohol is permitted and riders are warned of the dangers of drunk riding.

Guess who was in Portland for this year’s ride? So how could Lisa and I pass up the opportunity to witness this unique event? It would like being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and not watching the parades.

We saw some pretty unique bikes at the event:

 

image

As well as some unusual bike helmets:

image

And a variety of seat covers for the comfort of the riders:

image

But most of all, we saw people of all ages having fun:

image

 

image

And yes, thousands of them were naked:

image

But have no fear, the slogan “As Bare as You Dare” applied to all…and Lisa and I didn’t dare to bare.

image

 

 

Micanopy: Sorry We’re Closed

Looking for a different bike ride, we drove north to Micanopy thinking this would be a great place to ride and spend a little time in a sleepy town. Little did we know just how sleepy Micanopy would be.

After running a couple of errands, we pulled in to the parking lot of the playground next to the fire station and began unloading our bikes at 9:45. Not interested in riding on busy highways, our plan was to cruise through the neighborhoods and then spend some time in “downtown”.

You can’t help but feel like you’ve gone back in time forty or fifty years as you ride on unpaved roads and pass houses with window air conditioners and vegetable gardens in the side yards. Where else would you find a sign for a Critter Crossing?

IMG_8943Unfortunately, sleepy Micanopy is closed until 11:00am so we didn’t hang around.

Instead we drove a few miles north to Payne’s Prairie State Park where we rode from the Visitor’s Center to the boat ramp, through the campground and on the entrance road then back to the Visitor’s Center for a picnic lunch and trek to the top of the lookout tower before returning to the car.

It would have been nice to spend some more time on the bike, but it just felt good to be out doing something fun on a Monday morning.

May = Bicycling

The month of May was made for bicycling and is recognized as National Bike Month. In fact today is Ride Your Bike To School Day, something John’s done twice this week. If I can figure out how to carry my bag full of games, I’ll ride to MTI this afternoon when I meet my students.

And next week is Ride Your Bike To Work Week, an excuse to leave the car at home again.

This is the perfect time of the year to ride in Florida.

I sure appreciate communities with bike trails as well as those that encourage driver’s to watch out for cyclists.

lt’s never to early to get started on biking adventures.

And with a fancy three wheeler, we could be riding for another 30 years.

IMG_6981

TBT Lesson #42

Shortly after they could walk, Meghan, Emily, and Sarah learned ride a bike. If they could pedal themselves it made biking easier for us adults once we could leave the bike seats at home.

In the summer of 1995 we biked in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Pretty impressive for a 10, 7, and 5 year old. I guess that explains the look on Sarah’s face. Riding on hilly roads in New England is no easy task for an almost kindergartner.

IMG_7576TBT Lesson #42: When biking, remember, it’s all about the gear…shorts, gloves, glasses, helmets…you want to look your best.