Unfortunately this year, Renaissance Man & Masher, the founders of RAM CYCLING, were not able to get together on summer vacation, but there’s still hope for a possible fall trip. This article will give a summary of Masher’s adventures in cycling on a trip to Florida with his family.
My wife’s parents own a retirement home in the town of Ellenton, FL which is in Manatee County just south of Tampa and just north of Sarasota. As we arrived early on a Saturday evening, I was excited to find rather large bike lanes along the main strip. I was not as excited to get out of the vehicle and feel the intensity of the heat. The area where we were staying was about fifteen to twenty miles in from the coast, therefor we were not benefactors from the gulf breeze, and it was in the mid to upper 90s, where it had only been mid to upper 80s for the most part at home in Kentucky.
I rested from the drive Saturday night, and after Sunday Mass and a trip to a nature reserve, it was hot enough that the pool was calling my name a little louder than my bike. I wouldn’t be denied first thing Monday morning though, as I got up and hit the bike lane. It was pleasing to see road signs that read “Right Turn Yield To Bikes.” It was also nice to see how wide and clean the road and lanes were compared to home. We don’t have many bike lanes to start with, and most of them share the turn lanes and are littered with gravel, glass, and other debris. I used the lane to get me to some back roads and managed to get a very scenic ride loop that offered me a drink stop at a bay beach park and pass by the Catholic Church we had attended one day prior. At conclusion, I had traveled almost thirty miles at an average pace around 19mph, which is a little fast for me, but I’m not used to riding on flat terrain.
DESTINATION: JACKSONVILLE BEACH
Tuesday was a trip across the state to complete our Florida stay at my wife’s aunt’s home, with a stop along the way at Disney World Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Upon arrival in Jacksonville that night, we were happy to have found a little cooler climate and since our family lives on the inter-coastal waterway, we were now able to feel the awesome ocean breeze. Wednesday brought me a mid morning ride once again in the nice Florida bike lanes along Beach Blvd. down to Jacksonville Beach and along Ponte Vedra, Neptune, and Atlantic beaches. Again, I journeyed near 30 miles, and enjoyed two small climbs as I crossed the inter-coastal bridge that is designed for ships to pass under.
My final bicycle ride on vacation in Florida was on Thursday because we had a fishing trip planned for Friday and Saturday was the dreaded ride home as vacation would come to an end. This trip was my guided tour from a local, Bryan Dewberry, who I contacted through his cycling blog “Biking To Live.” He ask me to meet him at 6:30am on A-1-A Blvd. at a local cycling shop, and my initial thought was no way am I getting up that early on vacation, but then I remembered that he’s not on vacation and has to be at work, so I just needed to get up and go, after all, I was the one wanting to ride with him. So I met Bryan and we headed out a little before sun up and rode a nice 20 mile out and back along Ponte Vedra beach. We both agreed that the homes along the route were amazing! The following is a brief list of some other things I learned while riding in Jacksonville, FL with Bryan Dewberry:
* Bryan probably slept in the morning that he rode with me because he said he usually finishes around the time we started. I understand why, as it gets pretty hot by the time he would get off work.
* Bryan served in the U.S. Navy for 16 years total, initially as an enlisted member, and was commissioned an officer while serving.
* Bryan is very passionate about cycling just like Renaissance Man and me, and like us, he sometimes gets too busy to update his blog site every week. Both of our sites are very informative, and it’s tough to find spare time to publish new material all the time.
* I would not need a small chain ring if I lived in Florida. A hilly ride there means you crossed some modern bridges near the coast.
* Florida is more bike friendly than what I’m used to from an infrastructure and right of way standpoint. Motorists gave me more space on the road and yielded to me more so than when I ride at home.
* Bryan works at a local utility company (J.E.A.), which is where my wife’s uncle also works, although they don’t know each other.
* While Bryan’s town may be a little more bike friendly, and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular, I would still prefer to be a cyclist in north central Kentucky, with our unmatched breathtaking views including ridges, rivers, horse farms, and tons more, our rollers and hills, and of coarse, the occasional dog chases.
* Bryan said their “A” riders at club rides average 23 mph and up, where ours are 19+. On my three rides there, I averaged 18-20, pleasure riding, not really pushing myself hard, so I would assume that down there I would be exactly what I am here: a “B+” when I want to be a leader and occasionally an “A-” when I want to hang on for dear life.
In closing, a huge thanks to Bryan for the personal tour, it was very enjoyable. Also, a huge shout out to Florida for the level of bicycling awareness they display. I had hoped to ride with another Jacksonville local cyclist Lloyd, whom I follow on Twitter @CyclingNirvana, but we got crunched for time with the split trip, so hopefully I can catch up with him next year when we visit. I know I didn’t break any records on overall mileage while cycling on vacation, but I’ve never ridden just to accumulate miles, and I am very happy for the time that I was able to ride while on break for a week!