Monday, February 27, 2017

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. (Anonymous)

Pelican on the docks in Apalachicola.
These days Al and I are bicycle tourists. We have always been travelers. We've been to all the states but Alaska (sorry: too cold). We've done a lot of countries. Now we are indulging our inner tourist. Florida is the pitch perfect state for this.

This week we visited Florida's "Forgotten Coast." It's a beautiful stretch of lightly developed coastline and islands along the Big Bend in the Florida peninsula. We came to bike the Big Bend Scenic Highway and the bridges and causeways that lead to some nearby islands.

We are staying in the tiny town of Apalachicola. Apalach (as the locals call it) is a historic fishing village that was cleverly reborn and rebranded as a boutique tourist town. Unlike so many tourist beach towns of the Florida Panhandle, Apalach doesn't cater to the younger spring break crowd. It is quiet with antique, jewelry, art, and boutique clothing stores. The local grocery store (a Piggly Wiggly) proudly boasts having the best wine and tea selection in the Big Bend.

The local bicycle shop in Apalachicola.
Our favorite bike ride is the ride from Apalachicola to St. George Island. You leave town on Highway 98, crossing Apalachicola Bay to the town of Eastpoint. There you take Highway 300 over to St. George Island. There is one main road on the island. On one end of the island is St. George Island State Park. Definitely pay the fee to ride into the park and to the very last beach access area. We usually do a loop or two of the park, then ride the rest of the island before heading back to the mainland. There is a photogenic lighthouse and a small grocery store with excellent cookies and muffins at the entrance to the island. Total miles: about 50.

On Big Bend Scenic Highway on the way to Carrabelle.
Another not to be missed ride is the ride from Apalachicola to Carrabelle. This entire ride is on the Big Bend Scenic Highway (Highway 98), and almost the entire ride is right on the ocean/bay. Once over the Carrabelle River you can go on residential roads, following the river and coast for a few miles more. Total miles: about 50. (Note: Highway 98 north of Carrabelle does not have a consistent paved shoulder along the highway. Ride with extreme care.)

If you crave a quieter ride, the ride to Sumatra is just the ticket. From Apalachicola, take Highway 98 past East Point to Highway 65. Head inland on Highway 65. You will ride through state and national forest land, protected wetlands, and wildlife sanctuaries. The only town you will bump into is Sumatra. There's a convenience store for water and snacks. This is a speck of a town. Take a break and pedal back the way you came. Total miles: about 70.

On the highway to Carrabelle at low tide.
Another ride is from Apalachicola to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (Cape San Blas). Take Highway 98 south to Highway 30A. The first part of the ride on 30A takes you through a wildlife refuge. Beach development begins in earnest as you enter Gulf County. Gulf County, however, is doing its best to support bicycles. The roads have been repaved with wide shoulders. Total miles: around 70. (Note: You can do a short loop to Indian Pass along this route. It is a pleasant addition. Additional miles: 5.)
The grocery store in Eastpoint.

This is a perfect area to be a bicycle tourist. We take particular pleasure in conversations with eccentric local people. This visit we met a older gentleman who surprised us by starting a conversation about cycling in the 1980s. He went into great detail about bikes and cycling teams of the era. It turned out he once raced and then owned a bike shop before retiring and moving to live on the beach in Florida. Another day a sweet, funny, and very dotty woman entertained us with her problems of having to go all the way to Tallahassee to see her doctor at the Veterans Administration Clinic there, all the while taking alternate sips from a cup of coffee and a glass of Coca-Cola.

Observing life in the small towns of rural coastal Florida is truly fun.




2 comments:

  1. Great post Marsha.....
    Sorry I have not visited recently but I have had a three month I-net detox....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Trevor. Glad you are back.

    ReplyDelete