Number Forty Six: Florida I, Biking and Swimming

We spent three weeks in Florida, more than any other state, so this will either be very long or leave most of it out. We came across the Panhandle, down the west coast, through the Everglades, and up the east coast. Last February, we weren’t hurrying to get back to Minnesota.

Tallahassee because it was there, we were just passing through.

Crystal River is a little north of Tampa, near the Withlacoochee Trail but those aren’t it’s main attractions. Withlacoochee was an excellent trail, a total length of 46 miles; we did about half. As has become our pattern, we did two parts on January 14 and 15. Part I was 32 miles, out and back; Part II was 18 miles out and back. When we bought our first tandem bike, 23 years ago, our standard ride was from bike shop to bike shop. We buy a different saddle for the back end and return it on the way back. Apparently, the back end of tandem has a very rough ride; so I’ve been told.

When that issue was resolved with a ‘Spongy Wonder’ saddle and ‘Thudbuster’ seatpost, our standard ride became from park to park, where we parked, read, slept, played cards or dominoes. Now our standard ride is restroom to restroom. I have finally learned that if I want photos, I take them on the way out because there is there is no unnecessary stopping or slowing down on the way home. The Official Stoker Trail Rating Scale is based on the quantity and quality of these facilities. Almost no trail system keeps theirs open out of what they consider the season. Out of season, the best you can do is fast food, urgent care (hospitals may have airport-esque security screening), government buildings, and gas stations, more or less in that order.

When we started the Great American Tandem Adventure about Memorial Day, 2018, riding 50 miles a day was not a big issue. After a dozen or so states, it became an issue, for the captain, not the stoker. Since we didn’t have to be anywhere at a specific time, the captain decreed it was much more pleasant to do 30 miles and 20 miles. That left two half days to see something besides a converted rail line.

The attraction at the Crystal River is the Crystal River, which is spring fed at our resort. The spring keeps the bay at a constant 72° and, because the Gulf was cold (so was Florida) and Manatees can’t stand cold, the river was full of them. So one morning when the low was up to 47°, I went swimming. With the manatees. They were mildly curious. They are also big, slow, and with bad eyesight; closer to elephants than anything that lives in the water. And apparently, sea grass, a staple of their diet, resembles a gray beard. It was up close and personal, although it tended to be smaller (younger?) ones that thought that. 

St Pete Beach

Everglades,

Key Largo,

Miami

St. Augustine

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