November 2011

Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

11/17/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

South Bay, FL
Clewiston, FL
36 miles

Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST)
The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) is a 120-mile trail around " the Big Lake," as they call it (and it is big, about 730 square miles). The trail runs atop the Herbert Hoover Dike, which, along with a system of locks, is what keeps the Big Lake from spilling out across the vast flatlands of South Florida (which used to be flood plains or swamp  before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came and altered the landscape). Sections of the LOST are paved, and other are packed gavel. We gained this knowledge from their website. We wanted to start at the paved section in the town of Pahokee, then ride to Clewiston (and then return back to Pahokee) but there was major dike construction that closed the trail (going clockwise) until the Belle Glade Recreation Area.

The best thing about riding atop the 34-foot tall levee was the view. Lake Okeechobee lay below us, and in some areas there was water on the other side of the dike. Both bodies of water provide great habitat for birds and other animals. Sometimes the huge birds (various wading birds and vultures) swooped by, spreading their broad wings at eye level. The view opposite the lake was filled with lots of sugar cane fields and semi busy route 27. We had a number of truckers honking and waving at us today, which reminded us of our touring days! We saw no other hiker, cyclist, or walker on the trail today, which made us want to scratch our heads.

The worst thing about riding on the dike was that there was no place to hide, so all during today's ride we were at the mercy of the wind and the bright Florida sunshine, with nary a tree at our level to slow either down. Because the trail curved around the lake, there was no way to avoid headwinds at some point. When we turn back toward the car, the headwinds also turned with us.

Another goal today (besides enjoying SeeMore's company) was to find the Army Corps of Engineering campground in Clewiston, Fl. We did not find the campground (even though it appeared on our campground app), but we located the AC headquarters in Clewiston. Mary went in side and had a very nice talk with the lady inside. After the day's ride, we visited another Corps site in Stuart Fl.

The small part of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail that we rode was a very pleasant ride. The trail was wide, paved, and uncluttered with excellent visibility.We would highly recommend this ride to anyone visiting South Florida. With access to a number of motels, campgrounds and restaurants around the lake, a cyclist could  get LOST for days. We also recommend the South Bay county park for camping!

West Orange Trail

11/12/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

Oakland, FL
Apopka, FL
42 miles

West Orange Trail
Just the opposite of the flat and straight James A. Van Fleet State Trail, the West Orange Trail winds through 22 miles of fields, forest canopies, neighborhoods and towns The West Orange Trail is a VERY popular rail-trail located just a few miles west of Orlando in Orange County, Florida. The trail runs along the borders of Lake Apopka on the abandoned right-of-way of the Orange Belt Railway and connects the communities of Oakland, Winter Garden, Ocoee and Apopka.

SeeMore started at the west end of the trail in Oakland, at the Killarney Station. Besides the parking lot there are restrooms and a place to rent bicycles. There are also many other rest areas (Stations) along this trail. Since it was a Saturday, the parking lot was completely full except for one last spot which we were grateful. We have a feeling that this trail is popular any day of the week.

This nicely paved trail is never straight, and crosses many roads which the rider needs to be fully aware of. The paved trail allows you to travel down the very middle of downtown Winter Garden, the former center of citrus processing in the area, which is now a bedroom community for Orlando. From Chapin Station at mile seven until Ingram Outpost at around mile 12 the trail has a more rural feel, except for the bustling stretch that passes near the Forest Lake Golf Course in Ocoee. Cyclist are protected from missed hit golf balls by a 10 foot chain link fence with an 8 foot chain link fence extension. This fence is very well placed (there most be a lot of golfers who can hit the ball like me)! When the trail reaches Apopka, one of the less scenic parts of the trail, it becomes fully urban for the first time since it left downtown Winter Garden. You get to climb up and over "main street", then ride past the High School, into the busy section of Apopka. We decided not to do the last mile of the trail because the trail ran along a very busy and noisy street.

Lunch was at the Catfish Place in Apopka. We enjoyed the outside dinning area, and the chocolate volcano dessert (remember it's the eating, not the riding that is most important!). Afterwards, we rode back toward Oakland, and Killarney Station.

We don't believe you could ever get bored riding this trail. The only drawback(s) were the many road crossings, and the very end of the trail (eastern side).

James A. Van Fleet State Trail

11/10/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

Mabel, FL
Polk City, FL
60 miles

James A. Van Fleet State Trail
SeeMore rode the James A. Van Fleet State Trail. This former railroad runs 29 miles through some of Florida's Green Swamp and can be summed up using just two words - flat and straight.

No need to change gears, no need to use the brakes, no need to use your handle bars to steer. This is a straight, flat and nicely paved rails to trail.

We started out in Mabel Florida at the northern terminal (121st street), and rode south to Polk City. Supposedly, among the wildlife, you will be able to see alligators in the water beside the trail and various snakes sunning themselves on the path. Fortnately we did not see this variety of wildlife as I did not mention this to the Rear Admiral! We did see many squirrels, gopher tortoises, and vultures but nothing else. The multitude of trees and plants kept our interest though. It is wonderful to see flowering trees and schrubs in November.

There are flush toilets and drinking water at the both ends of the trail and one ten miles north of Polk City.

We rode an extra 2 miles because the Rear Admiral had difficulty (first time) using the Urbanspoon app for our iPhone, locating our lunch. For lunch we had our first Hungry Howies. They are a franchise of pizza places, located from Michigan to Florida. We ordered the steak, mushroom and cheese "sub". When I went back to ask the gentlemen to not toast the bread, he looked at me like I had two heads. The "sub" was really a calzone (minus the pizza sauce). The jury is still out on Hungry Howies.

Would be do this trail again? It's a great trail, best served in smaller portions. I would not recommend the 60 mile round trip. If your looking for a quick 20 to 30 mie trip there is enough diversity on the trail but after 40 miles we started to think we were in the twilight zone.

The Virginia Creeper Trail

11/03/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

Damascus, VA
Whitetop, VA
35 miles

The Virginia Creeper Trail
Warning, if you are traveling route 58 in Virginia, from Damascus to Whitetop, we recommend unhooking your tow vehicle . . . if you are camping in a 5th wheel . . . good luck! For those of you are visiting the area in a RV your best bet for accessing this trail is to find camping or lodging in the Abington/Damascus area.

Hind sight is 20/20 so unfortunately, we stayed the night at a private campground near the summit of Whitetop mountain, Virginia (elevation at the summit of Whitetop is 5, 525 ft). The campground was located in the middle of a Christmas Tree Farm and we were the only campers in the place. The RV sites are located on top of a hill full of Christmas Trees. The views and the smells were fantastic, but it was way over priced for what you got in return (no wifi, no cell, no running water, luke warm showers, and the bathrooms were located at the bottom of the campground). This is a nice campground for tent campers, not so much for RVs.

After scoping out the area and a quick ride in the car down to Damascus, we decided to ride the trail up hill from Damascus to Whitetop. The elevation differences between Damascus and Whitetop is about 1600 feet over 17 miles. The steepest grade is 5%. Since SeeMore had not been out much all summer, we decided to challenge ourselves a bit. What a great decision.

So in the morning, we packed up Gulliver (our Lazy Daze and with the Subaru leading), then headed down the mountain to Damascus. At the parking lot in Damascus Mary made breakfast (her lumberjack special without bacon). I got SeeMore assembled and attached Sammie's tail wagon.

The Virginia Creeper Rails Trail travels for 34 miles total, from end to end. Starting in Abington, Va and ending at the North Carolina border. Damascus Virginia is the exact half way point in the trail. If you wish a less stepper climb, take the trail towards Abington. Damascus is also famous for those hiking the Appalachian Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail actually follows the Virginia Creeper Rail Trail . . . SeeMore has now done some of the Appalachian Trail! Riding this trail is like taking a hike in the mountains on your bike. It is BEAUTIFUL, following the Whitetop Laurel River almost all of the time. If you seek views of wildlife, mountain laurel, birds, christmas tree farms, beautiful waterfalls, ride this treasure. The trail's wide graveled stone path crosses many bridges as it curves through the mountains. Along the trail are a number of rest room facilities, and there seems like there are plenty places to eat (during the busy months). You will pass hikers (some going up Mount Rogers, some enjoying the Appalachian Trail) and horse riders. There was very little bike traffic on the day we rode, due to off season. Although this trail is promoted as a mountail bike trail any bike with hybrid or non "street/road" specific tires will do well on the trail surfaces.

There are (eye count) 5 bike rental companies in Damascus which allow you to not only rent bikes, but will take you to the Whitetop parking lot (or Abington), so you can have a very easy 17 mile ride back to Damascus. SeeMore would have none of that, being the thoroughbred that he is. The climb out of Damascus had grades from 2 percent to 5 percent . The steepest grades located towards the Whitetop end of the trail. It took our "out of shape bodies" about 3 hours to climb the 17 miles, and about an hour to go down. Of course, Sammie in the trailer didn't want to help pedal up hill!

We had lunch at the Whitetop staging / parking lot. On our return journey back to Gulliver, we did not pedal for about the first 5 miles. We had to pick up our pace a bit near the Green Cove Station, as we were chased by what we previously had thought was a big "dead white sheep" which actually turned out to be a very large newfoundland dog. . . who gave SeeMore and a barking Sammie a chase!

So if you in the area, make sure you get on your pedals and enjoy this Virginia Gem.