Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Fleming Island Rotary Ride

"Where's Fleming Island?" Al asked. "Their Rotary has a ride. Want to go?" I did.

It turns out Fleming Island is a pleasant unincorporated suburban community on the west shore of the St. Johns River. Just north is I-295 and quick access to Jacksonville. Just south is SR 16 and a quick ride over to St. Augustine.

We rode our bikes 2 1/2 miles from our hotel to the ride's start in Hibernia. We used the Black Creek Trail, a wide paved trail that runs along US 17. At the ride's start we checked in and surveyed the crowd. The Fleming Island Rotary Ride is a cozy ride. 100-150 riders. The local Rotary puts on the ride as one way of raising money for their local projects. Scholarships at the high school. A food pantry. That kind of thing.

The riders were a friendly group. The Rotary was well organized. A local motorcycle group monitors riders and assists with route guidance at critical turns along the route. A van from a local bike shop is on call on the route. The route is marked by the usual painted road markers, but also with signs at the side of the road. SAG stops are pleasant and well placed.

The route was the surprise. We headed south from the start to Green Cove Springs. We would see the signs for the city limits of Green Cove Springs several times because the route had two large loops, both starting and ending there. The first loop took us to ride in low rolling hills! Who knew a coastal ride would include hills? These were the type of hills that coastal riders can love. In about 20 miles there was 600 feet of climbing from a continuous series of rolling hills. Nothing serious, of course. But fun. The second loop was basically flat. It went through an area with small and large acreage homes with horse barns and a variety of horses, ponies, and even an occasional burro. Scenic and entertaining.

It was a really hot, humid, and sunny day. We were hot and very sweaty when we rolled into the finish for the post ride lunch. The Hibernia Baptist Church was the location, and a large covered outdoor seating area was set with tables and chairs, fans whirling pleasantly overhead. It was barbecue sandwiches, sides of cole slaw and baked beans, and cool banana pudding or watermelon for desert. Huge glasses of shaved ice and water. Laughter and easy company.

Then it was time to say goodbye and head back to our hotel. An excellent end-of-summer ride in an interesting area. 91 degrees at the end, 66 miles.

What's not to love?

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