The Withlacoochee Trail 2004 is still one of the best bike trails in Florida
(This is a perfect chance to mention that John and Stan are not seasoned bike riders. On this day we rode 36 miles, something neither would have accomplished on a regular upright bike.)
Where to go riding. As I start writing about some of the trails I have been on, this is still one of my most favorite. By no means have I been to many trails outside of Florida, so this is not an exhaustive chronicle of bike trails. There are still many trails yet unridden in Florida, so this is just sort of a start.
This is just a page about riding with two friends, the perfect ride on a perfect day. It’s what riding should be about, when you can share the joy it brings with close friends. Of course, it’s also a great way to meet some new people who may become friends. It’s always interesting each time you go out, because you never know what new adventure may be waiting.
On this day, we started off on the Hampton’s Edge Bike Shop located right on the Trail. Regis is a friend of about 4 years standing, and is part of the recumbent evolution revolution. Of course, you can also find some real vintage two wheelers, like this old cruiser bike hanging around at the Edge. If you rummage around inside, Regis has some real antiques, and a few classics.
So follow along with the pictorial tour as we ride from Hampton’s Edge, to Floral City, then Inverness and back to the Edge.
As you can see the shop is well back under the trees which even at high noon is a refuge from the sweltering Florida sun. The chairs outside are well used as new friends and old come and go.
There is usually a good conversation going on about any number of subjects, with no effort at resolutions or anything other than just a reason to spend time relaxing under the shade trees.
Stan and John look on as Regis was putting the final adjustments on “Old Blue,” which is a Tour Easy that belongs to Gardner Martin, founder and owner of Easy Racers in California.
Regis got a call from Gardner asking him to rescue this bike from a barn where it had been stored for many years. It was in pitiful shape when Regis found it, but now its been fully restored and gets a good workout as a rental.
The Tour Easy is one of the best bikes there is for relaxed, comfortable riding, and it fits perfectly on the Withlacoochee Trail.
The first stop was approximately 6 miles down the Trail at Floral City. This is truly tucked away in the rural areas of Florida, where life is experienced on a different plain. Quiet, peaceful, almost to the point where bikes are the conversation piece of the day.
There are a few restaurants, produce stands and convenience stores, along with a fire station and a stop light. But when you turn the corner at the stop light and go about 3 blocks Floral City fades into the countryside.
One of the more enchanting parts of Floral City is the Gazebo. It’s such a great place to stop, take a breather, go to Shamrock’s and have a “cool” one, or endure the “what kind of bike/trike is that” questions that always follow a recumbent.
The questions are open invitations to get on the “recumbent soap box” and evangelize all who gather about the wonderful and maligned history of such an invention.
While not exactly the dashing picture of the “Three Musketeers” we are indeed three. And our steeds have wheels instead of horseshoes. The closest thing any of us had to a sword would have been my camera tripod. As good fortune would have it, none of us were on a crusade save that of having an enjoyable journey.
John would appear to be seriously thinking about something. I think it was how to get me off the trike, since I ended up riding the bent he’s on. Pretty slick that John. Who would believe he’s ?4 years old?! (Be sure and ask John how old he is. He loves to be told how young he looks!)
After Floral City it’s about another 6 miles to Inverness where we head into town for some breakfast at a fine restaurant called appropriately, Cockadoodles. Fitting for Inverness, as it’s just a real laid back, down home kind of eatery. With roosters everywhere you look, you wonder why they didn’t call it Roosters? Well, that question can likely be put to rest as soon as you see one of the “famous” Cockadoodles T-shirts. It clearly says,
Everywhere you look there are roosters of the feathered variety. In ceramic, paintings, on T-shirts, mugs, paintings, there may have even been a deck of “rooster” cards! Funny, I couldn’t begin to tell you if there was a “rooster special” on the menu. It was too much fun taking in all the sights.
We pulled our bikes up on the sidewalk and parked them right in front of a big window looking into the main seating area. We always tell ourselves its for security reasons. It probably has as much to do with that as getting people to ask questions about those “strange” looking bikes!
And of course, this time was no exception. It would almost seem that no other recumbents ever came to this restaurant for breakfast, or they just didn’t get here in time for the early morning crowd.
We were early to be sure, as most of the other riders usually started later and got in town about lunch time. So we got to puff out our chests just a little as we bragged about bents over breakfast. What’s really interesting is that neither Stan nor John own a recumbent, but you should hear them talk. You would think they had been riding for years!
So after a leisurely breakfast it was back on the Trail towards The Edge. On the way I noticed a park by a lake I didn’t remember from the last visit. We stopped for just a few minutes to take in another reason why the Trail is the best!
We head back with John on the Catrike, me on Old Blue and Stan on a red Tour Easy. John got a “catch in his git-along” but his “git” finally caught up so he changed to the red Tour Easy at Floral City.
We made a short stop for Stan who was overly concerned about what might happen if he had to “wander” off into the woods. John and I distinctly heard something about lions and tigers and bears, and what they do in the woods.
Our speed was around 14 mph which is a good tour speed, especially for two guys who only do this once every two years. The point is, they could never have done this on an upright without some serious discomfort.
We arrived back at the Edge just before noon or so, as the heat was really making its presence known. Since we rented rides from Regis there was no gear to pack up, so we stayed just a little to relax and chew the fat with Regis. Never one to pass up a good conversation, Regis is usually more than willing to accommodate.
The perfect ride on a perfect day, made better with friends. It was agreed that waiting two years to do this again would be crazy. That’s sort of like telling the people you meet on summer vacation you’ll stay in touch.
The sincerity is real, its just the busy lives we lead get in the path of those special moments in time. If it happens with too much regularity, then the event becomes routine and looses the uniqueness that gives it a special flavor like well made gourmet food.
These are the things memories are made of, forever engraved on the back roads of our mind. Time may treat us well, and not change the Forrest or the small towns that lie along the trail. It may all survive the onslaught of new residential developments spewing out the brainwashed notion of the American Dream, when in fact they destroy the real dream. And in the not too distant future we may take that ride again, and see if the “Hen still delivers the Goods” at Cockadoodles!
If you’re up around Istachatta, Florida, and you’re not going to be deliberately, check out Hampton’s Edge. Better yet, call Regis for directions at 352-799-4979. It’s worth the trip, and you might feel like you found Lake Wobegone.