Bike Around the State
From leisurely to strenuous, pedaling opportunities abound throughout Florida.
For any cyclist living in Florida, a dream is to bike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico on a beautiful, flat, safe trail that meanders across the Sunshine State through small towns and natural habitats teeming with wildlife. Unfortunately, the experience will remain in the realm of fantasy for the time being, until all the missing links of the “Coast to Coast Connector” are filled in. Cyclists won’t have to wait forever; the Florida Legislature funded 11 new projects for nine counties in 2014 to help advance the project through the Department of Transportation.
Serious spandex warriors can experience the next best thing in Race Across America’s Florida Cycling Challenge (raamchallenge.com), with 200 and 400-mile races in November starting at City Island Park in Daytona Beach. The 200-mile course covers the Lake District, skirts the southern edge of the Ocala National Forest, and includes the imposing Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest point in Central Florida. The 400-mile course continues through the Green Swamp, the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Pine Island, and the Weeki Wachee Preserve. Neither of these races is for the faint of heart; there are no aid stations or bike mechanics.
For bike riders who enjoy a more comfortable, supported experience, Bike Florida offers inn-to-inn boutique tours with time to explore both on and off the bike. Their St. John’s River to the Sea Loop takes six days and seven nights, starting in St. Augustine and follows the river and the Atlantic Coast by way of Flagler Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Canaveral National Seashore, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, De Leon Springs State Park, Crescent City, Welaka and Palatka. Don’t like sand in your shoes? The five-night Horse Country & Springs Tour might be more to your liking. Highlights include Paynes Prairie Preserve, the Alachua Sink, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, Micanopy, Gainesville, High Springs, O’Leno State Park, the Santa Fe River, and Ichetucknee Springs. Both tours average 40 to 50 miles per day, so cyclists need to be in good shape to participate, but a luggage van and support vehicle help to keep the load light. (bikeflorida.org)