1/29/14

Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana

Mobile Bay Alabama is a transition point from beach world to industrial world.  On the ferry to Dauphin Island from Fort Morgan oil platforms are visible in all directions, and from here until TX the petro-chemical industry everywhere, above ground and below (pipelines).  I  camped underneath a beach house on Dauphin Island with the 4 other cyclists.  The beach was surprisingly nice, but I suspect the site and sounds of the oil rigs dotting the horizon keep most of the tourists in FL.

Oil rig from the Dauphin Island ferry in the Mobile Bay.

1/15/14

FL Part 5: The Last FL Stop, Panama City to Pensacola

As Curtis from Canada warned the quiet roads and nice scenery came to an end riding into Panama City.  With about 30 mins to sunset I made it to Panama City Beach and stopped at a Publix not too far from the entrance of St. Andrews State Park.  Supposedly St. Andrews is one of the nicest parks in all of FL.  Unfortunately I never got to find out.

In the Publix parking lot a guy named Kevin started talking to me and I had a hard time getting him to stop.  Kevin is a salesman of sunglasses and $100 per bottle miracle anti-aging lotion.  By the time I finally got back on my bike I had a free pair of sunglasses with "the highest optical clarity available" and miracle lotion on the back of my hands.  I arrived at the St. Andrews park gate after sunset.  The ranger at the gate informed me the cheapest camping they had was thirty something bucks, and despite the brochure saying otherwise, they had no primitive camping.  She wasn't indicating any willingness to help me out so I rode away frustrated.

1/13/14

FL Part 4: Sarasota to Panama City (The Nice Part of FL)

North-central FL, the northwest coast, and the panhandle are a completely different world from the east and SW coasts. Somehow these areas have been spared relentless development, even along the beaches, and beautiful natural areas dominate the landscape. The ride north of Tampa and west along the gulf coast were a much welcomed change in scenery.

My cousins from NY recently moved to the boondocks in Dade City, so rather than continue up the coast from Sarasota I rode inland.  Once I got north of Tampa a wonderful thing happened: I looked up and saw countryside, and a hill that wasn't part of a bridge.  Horses, cows,  pasture, and orange groves were everywhere.   I saw share the road bike signs and even crossed paths with a group of cyclists.  After a 90+ mile day, I got a hearty meal of soup, a ping pong tournament and a comfy bed.  I am so glad they gave me a reason to ride to that part of FL.

Riding north the next morning two cyclists, Vinny and Jim, rode with me for a bit and took me out to breakfast.  One of them founded the San Antonio FL bike shop.  The area is apparently a cycling destination in FL.  There is even a nice country bike path, which I followed north through Floral City, home to a recumbent specialist bike shop.  I camped at Ft. Cooper State Park just off the path.  More nice country riding to Gainesville and along the way I stopped at Rainbow Springs State Park for a swim.  What a good decision!  The clearest water I have ever seen (120' of visibility I was told) and 72 degrees year round.  I would take this over the beach any day.

Rainbow Springs swimming area

1/2/14

Florida Part 3: SW FL

The Key West Express ferry arrived in Ft Myers Beach after 10PM.  My bike wasn't off the boat until around 11PM. I didn't feel like riding 20-30 miles to the homes of the the people I met on the boat, and I suspected they wouldn't want to stay up until after 1AM getting me settled.  So at 11PM, hungry, and with a seat soaked in saltwater I rode to a nature preserve a couple miles away that I had scoped out ahead of time. Along the way I saw an open hotel office so I stopped and asked how much a room would cost.  $60.  I decided I wasn't that desperate.  The weather was windy, but dry and not too cold.  The woman at desk said they were open all night if I wanted to come back.