2 Down; 14 To Go

In January, we checked off the first item in our list 16 in 16 when we attended a Jackson Browne concert. On Monday, February 22nd, we finally found the perfect day for another of the planned events for 2016 when we spent the day in St. Petersburg for a Daycation.

We waited for a warm and sunny February day because our plan was to bike ride the city trails and visit several of the museums. We started the ride on the trail behind the Morean Center for Clay, one of the museums on our list and rode in to the city. I was somewhat reluctant to ride downtown because I “don’t do traffic”. Fortunately, a concrete barrier divided the trail in the city from the traffic. We even had stop lights to make for a smooth flow downtown.

Traveling past Tropicana Field, through downtown, to the bay and then before the end of the day toward Treasure Island until we reached an end of the trail due to construction, our 17 miles on the bike met our goal for the active part of the day.

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Parking at the Historic Seaboard Train Station, our first stop was a tour of the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

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Here we were surprised to find the center closed on Mondays, but when a staff member realized we’d driven two hours, she permitted us to walk through the facility where artists were working in the shared spaces. Actually, we enjoyed looking at the art outside as much as the displays inside the center.

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From the train station we rode our bike downtown to see the Chihuly Collection at another of the Morean Arts Centers located on the city’s waterfront. A 20 foot sculpture located outside the center ushers guests into the building that was specifically designed to display the glasswork. The price of admission includes a docent led tour, but we decided to enjoy on our own instead of traveling from room to room with a crowd.

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Next, we stopped for lunch at Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro with margaritas overlooking the water.

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We purchased a bundled ticket which included a visit to the Morean Galleries as well as to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop with our ticket to the Chihuly Collection. Unfortunately, the Morean Galleries were in the midst of changing out the exhibit so we saw more cardboard boxes than art. Next time we’ll know to call ahead since this information is not provided on their website.

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But while the galleries were a disappointment, the highlight of the trip was the time spent in the Glass Studio and Hot Shop where we sat in bleachers watching David Sturgeon create a piece of glass art with the assistance of the narrator, Jeremiah. For fifty minutes, the glass was shaped, colored, twirled, heated, cooled, heated, cooled, and heated and cooled some more until the piece was completed.

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A successful daycation of bicycling and art. Not the first of the year and certainly not the last.

Costs: $106

  • Gas $16 (about 8 gallons at $2/gallon
  • Tickets for Chihuly Collection, Glass Studio and Hot Shop $40 (tickets for two)
  • Lunch $50 (2 margaritas accounted for half this cost)

 

Lake Apopka Loop Trail: Orange County

A couple of weeks ago we rode the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, a new bicycle trail for us. Starting at Lovell’s Landing, the trail follows the road for a short distance before reaching the crushed stone trail which bordered the lake.

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While overcast, the weather was otherwise perfect, cool with light wind. Several reviews of the trail made mention of the need to bring bug spray because of the mosquitoes, but our February ride proved to be bug free.

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The bellows of gators could be heard throughout the ride and several of the large creatures laid in wait along the trail’s edge. Not only were signs posted with the traditional Florida alligator warnings, but yellow “In case of emergency” signs were posted at regular intervals as well.

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At the four mile mark, we stopped for lunch at the picnic pavilion located near the old pump house before continuing another five miles down the path.

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The trail provided great views of Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth largest lake which is rebounding after being poisoned by pesticides. Not only can alligators be found in abundance. The area is known as a birding destination.

In fact, the 4th Annual Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival Birdapalooza was held in early February, and while we saw a variety of birds, most were camera shy making it hard to photograph many. But there was no shortage of birders with binoculars, check lists and cameras with massive lenses…the tools of the Birdapalooza crowd.

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The most interesting find on the ride was the skeleton of a large gator just feet from the trail. Can’t help but wonder what happened to this big guy.

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The Lake Apopka Loop Trail was a nice, although rough, 15 mile out and back trail, but there’s talk of connecting it to the West Orange Trail which would make it possible to ride around the 50 square mile lake. That would be quite a ride.

Sawgrass Island Preserve

Unfortunately, due to illness, I was unable to accompany John on a first time ride at the Sawgrass Island Preserve last week. We’ve passed this trail numerous times on our trips to visit one of our daughters in Orlando, but only recently stopped to get a quick look in anticipation of a ride later in the week.

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In the parking area, a sign indicates the trail can be used by hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. The trail travels to Lake Yale, located south of SR 42 about ten miles from Weirsdale, and according to John is well used by those on horseback making in less than a desirable surface for bike riding.

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Nevertheless, he said he would return to Sawgrass Island Preserve on foot, especially near dawn or sunset as it appears to be a prime location for observing wildlife. And of course, since the area is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, birdwatchers may also enjoy hiking in the trail.

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Sorry I missed the ride, but I can see an early morning hike on the horizon.

Nature Coast Trail: Gilchrist County

Our first daycation of 2016 included a 22 mile bike ride on the Nature Coast State Trail. We started the ride at the trailhead just off US 19 in Fanning Springs, south of Fanning Springs State Park.

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From the trailhead we rode about three miles toward Old Town to the Suwannee River Bridge (just had to make a stop on the old bridge on the famous river) before turning back to pick up the trail to Trenton.

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This portion of the trail was clearly labeled with mileage markers, something I appreciate, and bordered rural neighborhoods, farmland and Trenton Elementary School. Of course we had to stop at the school to check out their recently renovated 1930s gym.

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The next leg of our ride took us to Trenton where we stopped at the Train Station for a quick snack before visiting the quilt museum and then heading back to Fanning Springs.

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Somehow we we managed to avoid riding in the rain and then concluded our Gilchrist County adventure with a picnic lunch overlooking Fanning Springs where we were surprised to find a half dozen manatee swimming in and around the roped off spring. A nice bonus!

 

12 Down; 3 To Go

Last year at Christmas I received a card from John in which he gave me a trip to Paris. However, since I wanted to go in the spring, something that wasn’t possible due to our work schedules, we postponed the trip until 2016.

Then the more we started planning, the more we decided we wanted to go to The Netherlands instead of Paris. So in September we booked a bicycle trip through The Netherlands during the peak of tulip season. Since biking is an important part of life in The Netherlands, it seemed like the only way to go.

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The confirmation for the trip came with a training schedule. That’s right, we have to train for our vacation. They recommend rides of various lengths to prepare for a week of 25 mile daily rides.

The schedule calls for serious preparation to begin two months out, but since I rarely ride more than twelve miles I wanted to make sure I can handle longer distances. We’ve taken rides ranging in length from 17 miles to more than 25 miles this fall so I know I’ll be able to make it.

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But I know for sure what we’ll be doing the rest of the winter.

Another Look at Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail

About a year and a half ago, we rode the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail, and it wasn’t one of my favorites – it was hot and the trail was too hilly. However, yesterday I was ready to tackle another section closer to Hawthorne.

This time we started our ride in the morning shortly after 9:30 at the Phifer Flatwoods Preserve. The temperature was cooler (only 87º?) and much of the trail was shaded early in the day. Best of all, this section was mostly flat. In fact, I rode most of the day in 4th, 5th, or even 6th gear unlike our previous ride when I pedaled primarily in 2nd gear.

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We hoped to take a couple of short detours riding on hiking trails that were open to cycling but found the first to be under construction with many trees blocking the path. We rode about 200 yards down a second but our bikes are not made for riding over the small trees on the trail.

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Surprisingly, I even enjoyed riding over two miles of the trail from our first ride. I’m not sure if it’s riding a different bike or a different time of day or a different section of the trail or if I’m in better shape, but yesterday’s 17.9 mile ride was great all around, especially compared to the shorter ten mile ride taken last year.

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We ended the ride with a picnic instead of eating out which was also a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, we didn’t encounter the wildlife riding mid-mornining instead of at sunset, but I don’t mind missing the deer, armadillo and rabbits for a near perfect ride.

We’ll be back soon to finish the final section starting at Hawthorne. I’m hoping it has more in common with the portion of the trail we rode yesterday than the Gainesville section, but in any case, we’ve found another place to add to our list of go to rides.

 

Happy Halloween from Dunedin

A bike ride to downtown Dunedin turned into a Halloween celebration. As we approached Main Street we could hear music and the voices of excited children and we soon saw ghosts, skeletons, pirates and trick-or-treaters filling their bags with treats from all of the businesses.

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No surprise that a city that caters to cyclists would include decorated bikes

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as well as Cinderella’s carriage. People of all ages were in costume, but my favorite was the girl dressed as a rainbow. I wish I could have gotten a picture of her little brother dressed as a pot of gold.

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Surprised by the event, we weren’t in costume, but a man let me borrow his parrot so I could get in touch with my inner pirate, and I posed with the skeleton at the photo booth painted on the side of a building housing a local realtor.

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Fortune telling and the showing of Hocus Pocus in the park attracted crowds.

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And the Dunedin Historical Society got in the spirit with displays representing Halloween through the years with everything from decorations

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to black and white scary movies to those wonderful costumes like the ones I wore as a child bought in a box with a plastic mask.

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Halloween sure has become a big event and “Funedin” knows how to do it right.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Walked on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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