A bonus day of bicycling around Titusville, Florida

6082B308-4B96-4C4B-85F9-3DB419D57E15The East Coast Greenway’s 2018 edition of its Week-A-Year Tour is over after 369 or so miles across 6 days. But some of us weren’t quite ready to get off the bike, and so we joined Titusville residents for a 10-mile fun ride on its trail and its Chain of Lakes Park.

Props to the 7-year-old in the group. Not only did she ride the whole way, but when her handlebar grip went flying off, causing her to lose her balance and tumble onto the grass, she bounced up with “don’t worry, I’m fine” to her mother. That’s the attitude!

We northeners remained fascinated with alligators, stopping twice for photo ops. What a big one! It hung around for a while before tiring of our gawking, lifting itself up and waddling into the water.


Then it was time to head to the local brewery, Playalinda Brewey and a sponsor of this “bike and brew” event, to wrap up our week. I’m already looking forward to what we’ll find next year as we ride to Key West and the southernmost point on the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. No doubt a mixed bag of trail, quiet roads and not-so-great, but it’s clear that Titusville, Brevard County and all of Florida aspires to being better for people on two wheels.

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Day 6: 63 miles from Daytona Beach to Titusville, Florida

52236651-B8D4-49EF-857C-1C8A6946E21BWhat a day!

This is the last full day of the 2018 edition of the East Coast Greenway’s annual Week-A-Year fundraising ride, and we spent much of it pedaling on quiet roads or trails— including 34 straight miles on the East Central Rail Trail, part of the Coast to Coast Connector that will stretch from Titusville on the Atlantic side of Florida to Tampa-St. Pete on the Gulf of Mexico side. (It’s 80% complete.)

All in all, Florida made quite a positive impression on many of us.


Some trail firsts for me:

– Divided lanes. These showed up at road crossings and made me think divided highway more than pedestrian refuge island. Is this what happens when a state DOT more used to designing roads than trails?


– Roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts. And there never was another trail meeting this one. So why a circle? We heard it was for runners… let them turn back more easily. Hmm. I prefer to think it was a bored engineer .. or an engineer who thought we’d need a few curves on miles of straight trail, just like curves get worked into highways to keep motorists alert. Or really likes the visuals on the Tour de France when the peloton hits a traffic circle. A more far-fetched idea: it’s an homage to the rocket launch pad across the bay. But the most sensible explanation we came up with may be for maintenance vehicles to turn around.2C98F6F8-01A3-4A03-AAB0-4DB4FDFE38B6

– Any idea what these signs are for? Again, no trails merging here. We thought it might be for ATVs to switch between asphalt trail and the hardscrabble, partly grassy surface to the side, but they aren’t supposed to be on the trail. The right answer is equestrians.

Another highlight of the day was an alligator sighting. The group of five I was riding with saw it in the water with just its eyes and tip of its snout peeking out, thanks to a pair of eagle eyes, but a group passing by earlier saw it sunning itself.

Other sights:

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Day 5: 64 miles from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, Florida

99DDB2B3-C02E-4EE9-8F0B-84E05B0A7346The sound of day 5 of the East Coast Greenway’s Week-A-Year Tour: the boom from the SpaceX rocket launched this afternoon at Cape Canaveral that we heard (and felt the rumble) 60 miles away in Daytona.

Second sound of the day: the roar of the ocean, heard from the hotel room balcony.

Yes, we are in the spring break capital of America. And we are hearing that Daytona Beach wants to change its image, attract more people like .. us.  That would be adults on bikes.

The sights of the day? We missed seeing the rocket (or were those its smoke trails, rather than an airplane?) so I’ll have to say osprey with fish in their mouth, the salt water marshes and some unimpeded views of the Atlantic and crashing surf.

Much of our route today was on A1A, the main road down the barrier islands. It was busy out of St. Augustine, though with a nice shoulder, but it got quieter The further away we got. Plus we had some trails (though the use of concrete rather than asphalt throws me because it looks too much like a wider sidewalk). I’ll rate the beach town where we stopped for lunch — seafood, of course — as the nicest of the bunch and not ostentatious at all (followed by Ormond Beach close to Daytona). Stop at Flagler Fish Co.!

I’ve discovered a new fish: wahoo, described as the  pork chop of fish because it’s so dense and cut thickly.


A couple of other sights from our detour through the salt marshes. Though I learned that gators generally stay away from salt water, so make of the sign what you will.



Finally, a safety message for all:


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Day 4: 70 miles from St. Mary’s, Georgia, to St. Augustine, Florida

13FDD88B-70A6-4744-BEC3-19D2A7591CFEWe were blown down the coast of Florida today, propelled by a strong tailwind that had us hitting close to 25 mph on flat road while pedaling seemingly effortlessly. That’s a casual pace for the Tour de France, but a speed we mortals can’t hit and sustain. Wow! (And so glad we weren’t trying to go north.)

Florida is quite the contrast to Georgia. Lots more money. Lots. The East Coast Greenway route took us down the coast, so start with normal beach towns. Then ramp it up and up and up some more as you hit Ponte Vedra Beach. We took the residential road one block in from the beach that ran for miles, and the estimates for the value of these mansions kept rising — a million or two dollars at a time. All ginormous. As for beauty, well, it’s a matter of taste. One rider called it F-you money. I wondered how many of them take advantage of taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance. Not that they would see it as a handout.

But let me start at the beginning of a great day. We pedaled a few miles from our hotel to the historic part of town, where East Coast Greenway had chartered an hour-long ferry ride across the St. Mary’s River to Fernandina Beach, Florida. Folks in St. Mary’s want to turn this into regular service, and I hope they succeed. There’s certainly a well-connected and enthusiastic cheerleader for the area. Amelia Island in Florida was beautiful, and more trails are being developed; St. Mary’s needs to find a way to lure tourists — in this case, cyclists — across the river. What story can it tell?

Though honestly, our ferry captain should be reason enough. He told one story after another, filling us in on the history of Cumberland Island, from Revolutionary War hero Nathaneal Greeneto the Civil War to the Carnegies. We saw white pelicans, wild horses and dolphins, and piles of oyster shells that date back to Native Americans.

In Fernandina Beach, how can you ignore the pirate?


The biking in Florida was fabulous. We were on trails for most of Amelia Island that kept us well away from traffic. We’d catch glimpses of beach between the houses, or ride through woods or along marshes.

5AEFC822-AB5E-4BE8-8760-9562EA50CB79Eventually we made it to our second ferry of the day, getting us to Mayport and our choice of seafood restaurants. My group opted for the “shack” that had been featured on “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives” and where the default cooking technique appeared to be fried. No matter; we still had 45 miles to bike.

We had to get past the outskirts of Jacksonville, and I admit some of us took the sidewalk for a while. But once we got away from that busy road and into a residential neighborhood, we were able to reach the coast. And this is where the tailwind really kicked in. We sailed down Route A1A on a shoulder marked as a bicycle lane.

Once in St. Augustine, we were feted by the area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Having come to the city several years ago and unsuccessfully trying to find the St. John’s River to the Sea bike route (no one at the visitors center had heard of it or the East Coast Greenway), it was heartening to hear it is slowly being built (though the completed sections aren’t contiguous) and that the area wants to capitalize on bicycle tourism.



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Day 3: 72 miles from Jekyll Island to St. Mary’s, Georgia

Today’s highlights: the Georgia Coast Trail in Woodbine, the “submarine” outside a military base and tagging along with Brent for his talk to about three dozen people at a meeting of a military officers association.

Once again, worries about the weather were unfounded. No rain. We finally got the sun and heat we were expecting (while there’s snow in the forecast at home.)

The Georgia Coast Rail Trail in the tiny community of Woodbine starts at the banks of the Satilla River and follows part of an abandoned railroad line. (The hope is that one day it will follow even more of it.) Love the look from the water:


This is the look further down the trail:


And how can you not like a town when one of the sheriff deputies spots you turning onto the road just before the (steep) bridge and rides behind you to keep motorists from coming up to you too quickly?

Woodbine was our lunch stop, and given that Captain Stan’s, the barbecue spot, was closed, that left us with just one restaurant to overwhelm. And we did, so much so that some of us even bused a few tables to keep things moving along.

I spotted my sign of the day in the restaurant too:

AB31291E-98E6-4F7C-99DB-A79C1C8FD164We went even deeper into rural Georgia today, cycling on some roads that were so quiet we saw a vehicle only every 5 to 10 minutes. We’d been warned about logging trucks, but they left us in peace. There was plenty of logging, though:

As we reached St. Mary’s, we saw a section of the East Coast Greenway under construction— yay! We also passed Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and photo possibilities too irresistible to pass up. We think the tower might be real; the rest of the submarine was a form covered with asphalt.



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Day 2: 54 miles from Hinesville to Darien, Georgia, plus 14 miles around Jekyll Island

4467D632-D9F9-421E-8E22-20F22DD78B28The word of the day is lollygagging.

Lollygagging while writing the day’s blog entry, of course. But also lollygagging a bit during the 54 miles we rode during the morning.

Lollygagging, as the Brit learned this morning, is a southern way of saying dawdling. Can I explain that five ways to Sunday?

Today’s biking exceeded expectations. The rain we were expecting to wake up to never materialized. The stretch of Highway 17 turned out to be pretty harmless. And we had a vehicle keeping traffic off our backs while we backtracked a bit from our hotel in Hinesville to get back on the East Coast Greenway.

866B734F-D5A9-4A0A-B2FA-C87114D744A3Our route went deep into rural Georgia, and pretty poor parts of it at that. It took us across swamps and under the canopy of trees drenched in Spanish moss, generally on quiet roads, the kind I like when the East Coast Greenway isn’t on a trail or path away from the road. We passed ramshackle homes — with tin roofs or even tarp, in need of fresh paint for decades — then double-wides near modest homes and the occasional fancier one. We dodged several yards of rumble strips that extended the width of the road designed to jolt drivers into alertness ahead of intersections. And at the self-proclaimed smallest church in America, we asked for protection from Highway 17.

20484CA7-C489-416E-ABD6-C0346992F6A7This is the sign of the day. Do they know about the East Coast Greenway?

49B36DEF-5396-412F-8031-74B098E24D4B.jpegAs grateful as we were for no rain and gradually warming temperatures,  we still opted for the planned shuttle option at Darien (population less than 2,000 so more economic impact when we descended en masse on yet another seafood restaurant.) We leapfrogged more of Highway 17 to reach Jekyll Island, once the playground of the Gilded Age and now owned by the state of Georgia.

Jekyll Island isn’t actually on the East Coast Greenway. But Brunswick, the town on the mainland side of the bridge, didn’t have a hotel that could accommodate us.

We made up for some of the 32 miles we took by van by bicycling around much of the island, past the former playground of the robber barons and what is claimed to be the first condos (no children or mistresses allowed) and the early plantations. There is plenty of newer construction, including half a dozen hotel chains (and more coming) and big condo communities.

TIL that coastal Georgia is so far west that it’s essentially south of Cleveland, Ohio. We And that draft legislation creating the Federal Reserve was written on … Jekyll Island.

And thanks to Chris, our friend from the East Coast Greenway bike ride in Maine two years and riding buddy on this trip, we ate at a restaurant that is the antithesis of Gilded Age extravagance. The Driftwood Bistro prices its wine bottles around what you’d pay in the store, rather than double or even triple that. (And it must bring in business: The owner, Dan, stopped by our table and told us that while his competitors might go through 20-25 cases a month, he goes through 140.) The food is reasonably priced too, without being huge portions. Fits with Dan’s philosophy of don’t be greedy.

Rain is back in the forecast for sometime tomorrow. No lollygagging for real.

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Day 1: 46 miles from Savannah to Hinesville, Georgia

868732AE-71FF-4999-8DF7-D0E28B806485Take a look at how we’re all dressed in this year’s group photo, taken mid-morning in Savannah: long sleeves all around, and even some tights. So much for the warm southern weather we’d been expecting!

And given that it’s Veterans Day, the four vets in our group:


Today was one of those days where most of us stuck together, following our fearless leader Brent, the East regional coordinator responsible for South Carolina and Georgia and the man with his arm up high in the group shot, with few stops for photos. We were on several busy roads with narrow shoulders (or shoulders made narrow by rumble strips), so when we took a lane of traffic, one of our support cars would keep motorists from coming too close and then swerving into the left lane. Like last year, we are spending time on a section of the East Coast Greenway that isn’t well developed. (South Carolina and Georgia are big laggards.)

So now let’s talk alligators. Not live ones. But lunch. I ate some of their “fingers”. Jokes aside about whether we now have a bunch of crippled angry gators on the loose, I’d describe this as tasting like well-seasoned chicken.

ADEF811C-5123-4611-A9CF-C945D978EB8AOne more southern food off the bucket list.

Pretty cool to see table after table filled with jersey-wearing cyclists on what normally would have been a quiet lunch service. Perhaps we spent about $1,000 in that seafood restaurant? Economic impact!

Here’s the day’s route. We veered off the East Coast Greenway at Midway to find a hotel big enough for the group. That would be Hinesville.


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