Sunday, August 23, 2015

Exploring Suburbia

From the highway, all you see of Fleming Island is a series of beautifully landscaped entrances to its various developments. We put together a ride to explore it and the area around it. Just for fun, we decided to throw in a picnic lunch on the St. Johns River.

We started out after breakfast, heading north along the Black Creek Trail. A mile or so down the trail there was a low, marshy area. The trail builders' solution was to build a wide wooden raised trail. It was a unique experience to ride it. The noise of the boards as you rode across them was unnerving. Rattling and clattering. We found ourselves unconsciously slowing our wheels, quieting somewhat the rattling and clattering. Back on the regular trail, we moved from quiet stretches shielded from the highway by trees and shrubbery to stretches separated from the highway only by a wide strip of grass. We followed the trail over an eastern finger of Doctor's Lake to the town of Orange Park. In Orange Park the trail abruptly ended.

We headed west. We were going to ride around Doctor's Lake. The neighborhoods were older, their homes modest cottages, sprawling ranch-style homes from the 60s and 70s, 80s bungalows and colonials. The neighborhoods were mature and quiet. Many of the homes were shuttered for the summer.

After the circle of the lake, we headed south into Fleming Island. Everything was new. Mile after mile of new roads, new homes, new elementary and high schools, new golf courses, new facilities of every kind. Everything stylish and manicured, polished and photo-ready. The main road was a tree canopied parkway paralleled by a wide multi-path on which people strolled, pedaled, and jogged. We rode in the street rather than dodge the families on bicycles, walkers and joggers, and moms and dads pushing strollers. Being a planned community, everything was in its place. Community facilities in their area, restaurants clustered in another spot, and so on and so on. Off the main parkway were entrances to different "villages" and similar developments. All beautifully landscaped, all tidy, fashionable, and new.

After looking over the entire community, we pedaled out. Back into the real world with its refreshing messiness and oddities. We went south, eventually finding ourselves in Green Cove Springs. Yesterday we had pedaled past an old, derelict Art Deco movie theatre. We went back to it. It was just off the main highway through town, on a side street that led to a park and fishing pier. That was our destination for our picnic lunch. The park was on the western shore of the St. Johns River. We wandered out on the fishing pier to take in the views of the river. Then we went back to the park. Munching our sandwiches, we enjoyed the cool shade of a gazebo just yards from the river.

We pedaled off. We weren't ready to end the ride, so we did another loop up to Orange Park and then out to the main entrance to Fleming Island before heading back to the hotel. Which meant we had another go at the rattling and clattering of the wooden trail. (Our opinion of it did not improve.)

A nice slow Sunday ride, 51 miles.