Friday, September 30, 2011

Inverness and the Withlacoochee State Trail

Our first ride of the year will be the annual fall ride on the Withlacoochee State Trail in Inverness, Florida. 

Inverness.  A quiet small town of 7000 or so in northeast central Florida.  It was settled in the 1860s.  A century later Elvis Presley visited to make the film "Follow That Dream."  That's about it for highlights of town history.  The historic downtown area centers on the county courthouse and an assortment of attractive historic buildings.  The Withlacoochee State Trail runs just behind the courthouse.  There are picturesque water views nearby (in pretty much any direction).  Think sleepy southern town with tons of oaks and pines dripping heavily with Spanish moss.

The Withlacoochee State Trail is a paved, 46-mile long former railroad corridor.  It has a popular annual bike ride, usually scheduled for the first Sunday in October. Riders can travel as little as one mile to as much as 100 miles along the Trail, which is mostly flat with gentle hills. Registration proceeds help provide enhancements to the Trail.

Sag stops along the way will provide water, sports drinks and food.  The fun of this ride is the food.  There are the usual things: bananas, orange wedges, peanut butter, and bagels.  But there are more fun stuff than at other rides.  Interesting sweets!  Neat special cookie treats.  Everything from the light continental breakfast, to the sag stops, to the light post ride lunch is provided by the Trail support group in a enthusiastic way.

Visit railstotrailsonline.com for the link "Bike Ride in October."  There is no mass start.  This is a fabulous beginning of season ride for riders of all types and interests.  It is very family friendly.  (We were also told about a good ride on this trail in March.  Check out  http://www.cleanairride.com/ .)

The Bike Season Starts

We focus on bicycle riding during Florida's cooler months, mid-September through mid-April.  We enjoy bike touring.  If we are touring independently, tours are planned to begin and end at our home.  Mostly this involves packing our gear on our bicycles and pedalling away with a route planned to bring us back to our home in a week to ten days.  We are lucky to live near (20 miles) from an Amtrak station where the train can take us places, then we can pedal home.  There are also the classic cross-state supported tours (like BRAG in Georgia) and a slew of multi-day tours which have the advantage of letting riders stay in a fixed place and ride loop routes in the area.

We have different bikes for different types of touring.  We have folding Bike Friday Llamas for touring that will include a train or a ferry.  We have folding urban bikes for casual trips (by car) to Florida cities.  We do most of our independent touring on hard tail mountain bikes.  (They are slow even with pavement tires, but they go anywhere on any surface.  We once had a memorable 10 miles on a backroad that was supposed to be hard-packed sand but in reality varied from hard-packed washboard to loose sand.  They are the trusty little pack ponies of our bike stable.)  For supported touring we use our regular road bikes.

This year we will be doing touring events.  Part of the decision to do touring events rather than independent touring is the our new road bikes.  They are fabulous road bikes, but not designed to carry luggage.  Since I really, really want to ride them alot, we'll do events this year and save the independent touring to next year when the excitement of the new road bikes has toned down.  We are planning doing one or two events per month.  This will give us plenty of time to ride in our local area.  This also is a good schedule for our cat, Lucy, who can stay at home in our absence rather than face the prospect of days in a cage with strangers while we are gone having fun. 

We initially prepare for touring with regular 30-mile rides locally.  We have a few restaurants 20-25 miles from home that make convenient destinations for longer rides.  The hardest thing to train for is hills.  We have several nice grades, one fairly steep if short, within 10 miles of home.  We used to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and these are little baby hills compared to those climbs.  But it is all we have.  Luckily since Florida "mountains" are often bridges and the like, they work for us.