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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.