Rumor has it……Trip IX 2017 – The Coastal Social

Tuesday 18 April 2017

We are Still here and about to begin a new ride with a different attitude……so says us… this moment!

The plan is a shorter distance with lots of stopping at local haunts, cafes, bars, etc. etc. along the way; thinking Coastal Social.  And just in case any of you do not recognize this kinda talk coming from us (we certainly do not), it really is……

Hope you join us for our planned venture to begin on the west coast of Florida.  We have destinations in mind, but might become so enthralled with the Florida lifestyle, we may become real snowbirds and go house shopping.  So you will either see lots or pretty homes or lots of pictures of pavement, who knows where we will end up.  But hope to see you along the way……wherever that is!!

(Hope to start pedaling this weekend!)

Day 1. Friday, April 21 – Homossasa to Port Richey, Florida

Friday 21 April 2017

Though we have dubbed this ride the Coastal Social, our first day had neither ingredient; no coast or quaint cafes…..but we were on the road again!

Our ride began shortly after 7:00 on a perfectly cool morning.  Though our Floridian host, Bobby, was not at all happy with the 62° temps, we were delighted to be at least starting in the cool air.  We wound our way out of the quiet tree lined streets of this Homossasa neighborhood and then headed south.  Our carefully laid out route of mostly a bike trail was quickly adjusted to the straight-shot highway we were on.  The new shoulder was freshly painted as a bike lane and just too inviting to leave, plus, it would save us some miles (Morgan, take note)!  But there was absolutely nothing of any interest on this road;not even the challenge of getting lost.

As the morning rolled along the temperatures slowly crept up, as did the winds, but at least it was flat.

The road became busier as we traveled closer to towns and only once did we catch a glimpse of some waterside dinning and potential fun spot to be, but we were long past it before the idea of a refreshment occurred to us.  With the winds becoming a factor and the temps in the 90’s, we decided to not overdo it the first day and stopped at 47 miles.  We both felt good getting that “first ride” in after last year’s trip.

But the créme de la creme of every trip is dinner and tonight did not disappoint, both dishes were served with a side of pasta.  Needless to say, we waddled back to the hotel.

Day 2. Saturday, April 22 – Port Richey to Tampa, Florida

Saturday 22 April 2017

What a brilliantly gorgeous morning, cool temperatures (68°) with lightly painted wisps of clouds filling the sky. We had just a short ride down our busy highway from yesterday, before we turned onto the road that would take us closer to the coast.  Instantly the cars became few and the scenery improved dramatically, past marinas, parks and through the darling townof Tarpon Springs. After about an hour, we picked up the well used and quiet,scenicand colorful Pinellas Trail, that effortlessly dropped us into downtown Clearwater.  But we could not come this far without seeing Clearwater beach, so back out on the road.  The causeway had a wide shoulder (and very high bridge) that led us to the barrier island and tourist filled beach, complete with all the trappings.  But the “sugar sand” is something you only find on Clearwater Beach, truly gorgeous.   During our short ice cream and drink stop on the beach, the clouds had built and offered welcome cloud cover for our bike back over the bridge and the six mile slow trip through and out of Clearwater.  To cross Old Tampa Bay, we once again had our own pathway.  But we had missed grabbing lunch first, so the ten miles across was especially long and slow.

The first food stop on the other side, Whiskey Joe’s was colorful and delicious.Once refreshed, we made our way through downtown Tampa, past the Shriner International Headquarters and to our motel, directly across from The University of Tampa.

After a large and late lunch, we opted for a salad for dinner; reality is, we saw this on the menu and opted to save room.  Thankfully, they were out of the desert, so we opted for an after dinner drink.

Seriously…… did not really think that we drank a pitcher of Ketel One, did you!  Although, after 53 miles, we deserved it……but we didn’t!

Day 3. Sunday, April 23 – Tampa to North Sarasota, Florida

Sunday 23 April 2017

The morning was thick with humidity, so 72° seemed much warmer than our previous mornings.  We took a roundabout tour of the city,  past (the backside of) Ybor City and several industrial neighborhoods before making it out of Downtown Tampa.  But the city was (almost) void of traffic, so the pace was easy and unhurried.

We traveled south on a very well used and abused industrial road, slowly pedaling up bridges and past the Port of Tampa.  Aside from the waterways we climbed and a couple of very nice neighborhoods, there was little to see, but traffic was light and the morning quiet.

Two and a half hours in, we stopped for breakfast reinforcement from the meager offering we had earlier.  Refreshed again, we continued in the quickly warming day through Palmetto and over (another) bridge into Bradenton.But the road was now busy and our shoulder gone, so we were whisked along with the traffic.  Also, a waffling breeze would occasionally come from behind and take some strain off our constant pedaling.  When it happened, the swirling breeze and sometime cloudy sky was a the direct sun was brutal.

Thankfully, with a little wind assist, we made it to our hotel, shade and air conditioning a little after 1:00.  With the day being pretty boring for sites, our facilities flowers were a welcome smile to end the day’s ride.

We spent the next couple hours trying to secure rooms for the next several days.  Once done, all that is left is Dinner……Ah, what a glorious time of the day!  After checking out a couple of the choices that looked good on the web, we ended up at a very local joint.  Truth be told, thanks to our travel companion, Bobby, he’d seen it earlier and suggested it when we came up without a place to eat.  The seven layer Lasagna was amazing, as was the Stromboli and pizza.  Pretty sure dinner was more than our 54 miles burned off, but it was So worth it!!

Day 4. Monday, April 24 – North Sarasota to Punta Gorda, Florida

Monday 24 April 2017

An overcast, muggy morning greeted us as we pushed away from our hotel.  A light breeze on our shoulder and the steady roll of rush hour traffic whisked us past the beautiful campus of the University of South Florida and into downtown Sarasota.  Beautiful condos along the waterfront and shiny office buildings nestled among lush landscaping left no guess work to the amount of money in the area.  We did not linger, as we had visited this area years ago, but a picture stop was a Must!

 We realized we were on the southside of town, when the traffic congestion reversed it’s flow.  Landscaped berms, fancy gates and tall walls were all we could see of the homes nestled on both sides of the road.

Over the bridge from Nokomis, we decided to take a tour of Historic Venice,the Fishing Pier and beach.  We enjoyed a short rest at Sharky’s right on the beach and at the bottom of the pier.  It looked like a lively place for food, fun and drinks, but our morning arrival precluded a party.

Back out on our southern route, we had a short stretch of road, yet untouched by development.A light sprinkle followed us into lunch, but after our thirty minute break the sun was out and the wind had picked up.  With not much to see along the way and a brisk tail wind, our remaining 18 miles flew by.  We were thankful we were not facing this wind, today.

It was a good, albeit a bit long, ride today.  Thankfully, the weatherman delivered on the promise of a tale wind, so the extra miles were not as stressful.  That does not mean we did not use the 61+ mile day as an excuse for Cajun Jambalaya and Smoked Gouda Chicken Mac and Cheese.  Also, with the extra miles, we were able to find a place on the water and enjoy our first Florida sunset.

Short day tomorrow…..Nite!

Day 5. Tuesday, April 25 – Punta Gorda to Cape Coral, Florida

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Yesterday’s humidity was gone, so 73° felt cool and crisp.  The wind was still strong, but now from the west, so directly to our side.  We caught a glimpse of the darling town of Punta Gorda as we left.  “Savanah Style” homes (for lack of the correct architectural term) lined the streets and the shopping centers were lined with trees, very charming.

Today we had the option to take a different road south, so we jumped at the chance to get off the busy highway of yesterday. As we rode by the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, we enjoyed the trees, decent roads and a brief sighting of our first alligators.  As soon as we entered Lee County, though, the shoulder disappeared and we balanced our bikes on the narrow white line as cars, trailers and dump trucks navigated the two lane road past us.  We were happy when we reached the turnoff to Pine Island and could get off this road, even though the westerly trek had us facing directly into the wind.  We decided not to go all the way to Pine Island, but did stop on the causeway for lunch with a view.

After lunch, we found a fabulous bike lane just off the road and were once again able to enjoy the sights and hundreds of canals.  The trail led us through neighborhoods, affording us a chance to see the area homes.  Somewhere in our sightseeing we missed a turn, but we did meet Ziggy from West Virginia; now retired and living the dream in Florida.

Our neighborhood excursion actually got us closer to our hotel than we thought.  A short ride through the pretty town (with wide bike lanes) of Cape Coral and we were checked in by two o’clock and at their lively Tiki Bar by three!We found a local place around the corner, short on atmosphere, but big on food and flavor. With a weeks worth of pasta already consumed, a delicious choice of blackened Salmon with Asparagus sauce and a Seafood Platter was the perfect choice after a short 40 mile ride!  A slow stroll around town finished off the evening.  Tomorrow we drive (yes, in a car) to Key West; details later.

Day 6. Wednesday, April 26 – Cape Coral to Key West, Florida

Thursday 27 April 2017

So Bobby, our biking companion, talked his wife into joining us in Key West and then reasoned with her that as long as she was driving past Cape Coral, why not just pick us up.

It was tough to leave our comfortable room and the nice surroundings of our hotel, but we had a long drive ahead of us, so Mryt and the Three Amigos piled in the truck and  hunkered down for the very long ride.

We made it to Key West (and possibly the smallest room we’ve ever stayed in) just in time for happy hour.  A three block stroll to the water, at least one picture of the charming homes that create the unique character of this island and then necessary refreshment, with a view.  The drinks and atmosphere, we the perfect stress reliever for the long day in the truck.  For dinner, we found a good little pizza place with outdoor seating, a relaxing entry into our day off tomorrow.