Florida is a long state

Three more long days of riding and we're still in central Florida!

After a very refreshing day off in Englewood thanks to my Uncle John and Aunt Margaret's hospitality, we awoke on Sunday morning to very inhospitable and uncharacteristic freezing temps. We made our best effort to bundle up for an early start to Tampa but north winds gave us an extra challenge. Are we really still in Florida?! We seem to be attracting weird weather. I hope this trend doesn't follow us to California...

With a frustrating morning behind us we finally made it to a lovely and bikeable neighborhood north of Tampa - Temple Terrace - which has a very successful Safe Routes to School program.  Jason Jackman, the SRTS coordinator for Hillsborough County, and Sharon Monahan, a local bike safety educator, led us on a tour of the neighborhood with a few other local advocates.  Temple Terrace was great, but beyond that block of quiet neighborhood streets Tampa was an intimidating grid of multi-lane high-speed arterial avenues. 
Temple Terrace
Steph's friend Brigita and her man Rob put us up that night in Palm River, complete with a delicious dinner, backyard campfire, and s'mores!  We even took over their kitchen to make some fresh burrito fixins for this week's lunch.  Amazing hosts - thanks!
From Tampa we headed back east into central Florida - self-proclaimed redneck country.  The day was warmer and the roads a little quieter but I think we were all feeling the second week slump.  Poor Steph was starting to come down with a cold and we were all a little sore and road weary.  We took it easy that morning and gradually perked up as the afternoon got warmer.  Our destination that night was DeLand, an attractive historic college town north of Orlando and home of the Florida Bicycle Association Headquarters.  FBA President Tim Bustos hosted us and filled us in on statewide bike initiatives.  We enjoyed a delicious and entertaining dinner at DeLand's best cuban restaurant with Tim and Ted, also of the FBA. 

Middle of Nowhere Florida
RASR, Manatee, and Tim
Tim and Ted tipped us off to Blue Springs, a necessary stop on our way out of DeLand and winter home to a whole colony (pod?) of manatees.  The spring stays a constant 72 degrees year round so the manatees flock to the warm water - 218 were counted today!  We've become quite attached to the mammal, the namesake of our home on wheels, after Stephanie had a close encounter with one in Miami.  We've been dying for a chance to get a good look at them ever since so we were thrilled at our good fortune to catch them at Blue Springs.  The excitement of our visit with the marine giants psyched us up for another big day of riding.
Mama and calf

Look close - those blobs are all manatees
Mid morning we finally got back in the saddle and headed across the Ocala National Forest - two bald eagle sightings and a red-tailed hawk!  The skies were clear and sunny but the headwind was back at us.  Seems like every time we turned the wind turned too.  Three fabulous ladies, Melinda, Jane, and Gayle, from the Gainesville Cycling Club met us in the afternoon and led us for the last 15 miles into Gainesville. 
County Road 346 into Micanopy, FL
RASR and Jane, Gayle, and Melinda
We stopped at the County Commission meeting in town to remind the Commissioners to make bikes a top priority.  Thanks to Dekova Batey - City of Gainesville Bike/Ped Coordinator - for arranging and giving us an excellent introduction to the Commission.  We were definitely impressed by Gainesville's bikeability. 

Tonight Gayle and her husband Bruce are hosting us at their beautiful home in downtown Gainesville. Gayle and her bike friends prepared a gourmet dinner for us complete with appropriately-themed wine and excellent conversation.  Thank you to all of our new Gainesville friends for making us feel so welcome, and especially to the Wheelers for opening their home to us!

And we still have another day and a half in this state.  Tomorrow to Jacksonville and then we'll finally cross into Georgia.


  1. Great blog, Jeanie. Lots of good riding and good connections for safer bicycling in that long flat state (with a few bumps in the water called manatees). Hope Steph feels better soon! I'm betting you've already seen all the headwinds you will ever see between now and San Francisco. Safety first, RASR!

  2. "Three more long days of riding and we're still in central Florida!"

    Just wait til you get to Texas! We'll be waiting for you with open arms in Las Cruces as soon as you make it out of Texas. :-)