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Newsletter / People On Bikes / Trails

Sneak Peak of the C2C from Maitland to St. Pete

From BWCF Friend, Nanci Adler –

My husband, Don, and I just couldn’t wait for the Coast-to-Coast Connector to be completed. Already contemplating a four-day bike trip in Florida, we decided to use as much of the Connector route as possible to cycle from our home in Maitland to Saint Petersburg. We knew it would entail some meandering and muddling through the unconnected sections, but, as experienced cycle tourists, we figured we were up to the task.

PB131971We cleared our schedules for four days and packed our panniers, leaving Maitland on a Thursday morning in mid November. From Maitland, we headed west through historical Eatonville and eventually caught up with the first Connector trail portion of the route: the well-established West Orange Trail. By the tour’s end we rode the lengths of the South Lake Trail, the Lake Minneola Scenic Trail, the Suncoast Trail and the Pinellas Trail.  Between trails, we devised our own route based on available roads and traffic conditions.

The 180 mile adventure took us through charming towns such as Winter Garden, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs. Saint Petersburg, our destination, provided an ideal spot to complete the adventure with a beautiful bayside park, cultural options such as the famed Dali museum, and restaurants close to the trail at which to celebrate the successful journey. Along the way, we pedaled by agricultural fields, up and down rolling hills, and past views of the Gulf of Mexico. But because the Connector is not yet complete, the ride also included twenty unpaved miles through the Green Swamp (hunting season had not yet begun), many miles on a bike lane on Highway 50, and a bit of a wander on busy streets heading into Tarpon Springs. Three overnight stops included a hotel in Clermont, another hotel west of Brooksville, and a unique bed and breakfast in Tarpon Springs.  Our chosen overnight locations also provided access to delicious dinners at nearby restaurants.

PB131977Having completed several multi-day bicycle trails in the United States as well as multi-week trips throughout Europe, we know that trail routes can vary considerably. Trail surface conditions, scenery, historical sights, the availability of food and lodgings along the way, and even route directional markings can make a big difference to the enjoyment of the trip. The best trails offer cyclists a wide variety along the route: picturesque scenery, town activity, artistic displays, historical exhibits, shade, sun, and good maps. Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Connector has the potential of being a great route, but there is still much work to be done.

Finding a quaint place to get lunch or a snack and explore a small museum, like the Winter Garden Heritage Museum, is a highlight of cycle touring. Tarpon Springs and Dunedin provided similar experiences.  On the Saturday of our ride, Dunedin was hosting a lively outdoor art festival.  But there were few other alluring town stops along the way.  Trail traffic will spur economic development along the route as businesses see the opportunity to serve a new market segment, thus providing better amenities to cyclists. Winter Garden’s enormous revitalization success is due, in large part, to the activity spurred by the bicycle trail through the historic part of town.  Brooksville is not yet on the C2C and our self-guided route kept us just south the old downtown, so we did not get an opportunity to explore the potential of this town as a trail activity hub.

PB162044Our hotel accommodations in Clermont and outside of Brooksville were standard highway chain hotels.  While we searched for locallyowned, distinctive options in both areas we were unable to find anything close enough to the Connector route.  And after cycling 50 miles, proximity to the route is a high priority for lodging!  But reputable, clean and reasonably priced hotels are certainly a decent option, and although the front desk clerks were surprised to see us on bikes without a car, they were certainly gracious.  As for refreshments along the route, we were glad we prepared ahead with three full water bottles each day and plenty of snacks, because there were several long stretches of trail where water and food were not available.

In Florida, shady stopping places – hopefully with a bench and picnic table at a minimum – are essential.  Fortunately there are many of these offering a pleasant respite and a chance to talk to other cyclists, one of the best parts of cycle touring.  In addition to these stops and the interesting towns we visited, highlights included riding through the peaceful J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park, the views around Clermont’s lakes and hills, and, of course, the feeling of accomplishment and joy from completing the journey, spending four days in November outdoors on bicycles in beautiful Florida.

Planning your own trip and have questions?  Email Nanci at [email protected].

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