Trek Across Florida!

December 19 - 21, 2004

Florida Map

This was a good first "long" bike ride - from Merritt Island, through Kissimmee, and Zephyrhills to New Port Richey

This was something I've long wanted to do - ride my bike from the East coast of Florida to the West!  So I loaded up four panniers with rain gear, jackets, some emergency food, and my laptop - and off I went!

Day 1:

I started on Merritt Island on the Florida Space Coast (I have a friend who lives there) and went through Cocoa to St. Cloud, and finally Kissimmee, near Walt Disney World.  The big problem on day 1 was headwinds - gusting over 30 mph.  Often my speed was under five miles per hour - and it was exhausting.  The roads were excellent for biking - nice wide roads, ample shoulders, and very light traffic.

Due to the heavy winds that slowed my progress, and a dumb mistake (only filled one of my water bottles!) I ran out of water on County Road 532 - a long stretch of asphalt devoid of services.  I also had to dig into my emergency rations (a can of turkey).  It was getting kind of dicey there for a while!

At one point I just parked the bike by the side of the road and laid down like a corpse while vultures circled overhead.   One good Samaritan stopped to ask if I was okay.  I was - but that level of fatigue on the first day haunted me for the rest of trip.  The one picture I took on this trip was taken not far from where I stopped for that rest.

There was a great bike trail between St. Cloud and Kissimmee - so that was a nice treat after a hard and exhausting day.  I got to my hotel in Kissimme before dark - but not before dusk!

Day 2

After biking through the back streets of Kissimmee (getting just a bit lost in the process) I went onto the Old Tampa Highway, which runs next to some railroad tracks near some quarries.  Then it was on  to County Road 54, part of the Florida National Scenic Trail - lots of wetlands and orange orchards, and not much traffic.  Passing under Interstate 4 was an important "psychological" milestone, as Interstate 4 is Florida's "central artery," and it signaled that I was nearing halfway to the end!  

County Road 54 turns into Dean Still road - which is an ideal bicycling road - perfectly straight, miles of visibility, absolutely flat, and very little traffic - mostly trucks from those quarries around Kissimmee.  Headwinds were much lighter on Day 2 - thank goodness!

Dean Still terminates onto Rock Ridge - another good biking road.  My plan had been to take some back roads running roughly parallel to US Road 98 - but my Delorme mapping software doesn't tell me which are the dirt roads - and those back roads were just that!  Although I use tires that are 1 1/2 inches wide, with aggressive tread on the edges - riding in that loose Florida sand was just impractical - so I took US 98 instead. Heavier traffic, but the shoulders were generous, and I felt safe except for the red-neck ya-hoo who crossed over three lanes of traffic to give me the impression that he was aiming to hit me head-on on the shoulder of the wrong side of the road.  I'm sure he had fun with that - but I was really too tired to be concerned about it.

From there it was on to State Road 54, which in that part of Florida is not nearly so heavily traveled as it is further West.  That took me into my destination for the day - Zephyrhills

The Crystal Springs Motor Inn was a real experience - the kitchenette was crawling with roaches, and the front door had experienced far too many encounters with people bashing their way in.  But still - a bed is a bed, and it was more than welcome!

Day 3

The Crystal Springs Motor Inn was the kind of place where you felt dirty just being there - so I was glad to pedal away!  It was back to State Road 54, which I decided to ride all the way in to New Port Richey.  Traffic out East isn't too bad, but it does pick up as one goes further West. I was really surprised to find a superb bicycle trail running for miles parallel to State Road 54 around Lutz - with some of the nicest wooden bridges I've ever encountered.

The headwinds were gone, and I was heading toward the sea from the "heights" of central Florida, so the third day was the easiest by far.  The only real hitch was a long stretch of construction, parallelled with beautiful, brand new sidewalks which were inexplicably closed, and littered with bike-killing safety signs.  After nearly being thrown by uneven pavement into traffic clogging the construction constricted road, I decided to just navigate around those senseless "sidewalk closed" signs.

A most welcome landmark was the very large American Flag at the Nissan dealership at the corner of State Road 54 and US-19.  That flag is within easy walking distance of my final destination (Mom's house) - and is visible from almost two miles away.

Summary

This trip was exhausting, but fun, and gave me a sense of accomplishment for having completed it.  I feel a much closer feeling of connection to my once-home state, having moved across its width under my own power.  I'd like to do more trips of this nature!

Tired Dave

You cannot imagine how tired I was in this picture! As you can see - no place to sit down except the ground!

Last Day on GPS

GPS map of the final day

 

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