Post Turkey ride: Van Fleet State Trail

Tres and Mariella Smith set out to burn some of his brother’s incredible Thanksgiving dinner off at the Van Fleet State Trail. It was their usual 60/40 mile negotiation. It was a beautiful day and to this writer it was the epitome of a Fall Florida day.

There was a red, green, yellow and brown flurry of color. 

The trail goes through the Green Swamp and the Withalacoochee State Forest.

The last nine miles of the trail up to SR 50 at the metropolitan city of Mabel, Florida to this rider is the prettiest. It was a beautiful day that dappled through the trees.

Van Fleet State Trail is a gem. Know when you go there are limited options for water and bring all sports nutrition with you. The trail has spots where people camp on the trail in the swamp.

I don’t really mean to gloat but this is why we live in Florida. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. All the best. Peace out Tres

Ride to recovery in Wauchula, Florida

Tres and Mariella Smith had decided to register for Freedom Ride in Wauchula on November 19. Freedom ride was a fundraiser for their faith based family restoration and drug recovery program. It was a beautiful morning and we set out at O dark thirty. Mariella quickly stated to this happy rider that everything you seem to like to do has us getting up at 5 a.m. I am anticipating to hear this phrase more in future. Downtown Wauchula was in ready for a valiant group of 100. Mas o menos. It was learned that horrible hundred was going on Clermont sparking a smaller crowd.

Mariella was to do 30 miles and T dog 62. We were ushered out of town with the best police escort that this rider had experienced at a local ride in some time. Once the first couple of turns and miles were accomplished we did not require any help. The route was well marked and very rural. The roads were in great shape and only small rises and falls and were mostly flat.

A pass through the town of Ona.

There was some good headwind after the turn at mile 20 that was ongoing until after the second SAG stop at mile 44.5. I must again comment on the SAG. I had stopped on the side of the road at mile 23 to remove some clothes and a SAG truck stopped to check on me. They were very nice.

The second SAG was at a historic school at College Hill. It began in 1912.

I was not sure how long my wife would have to wait for me SO I thought if I had a chance to shave some time out of the wind I would. I headed out and there was a turn on Old Polk Road that we get me out of the headwind and head me back to town. The ride in was gorgeous.

I got in with 53.5 miles. This will be ride that I will do again. Happy Thanksgiving. Peace out. Tres dog

Epilogue: the ride home

After a quick week with my coast to coast and Bubbafest familia, it was time for smoked fish, conch chowder, broiled snapper, stone crab, lobster and the obligatory key lime pie at The Fish House with my fellow coasties Chrysa, Amy, Tom and his wife Audrey. What lovely people I have in my life to share it with. It was time for one last bittersweet breakfast and roll on back to the littlest freewheeler in Ruskin.

Many anticipated plans for upcoming bicycle events discussed.  Chrysa and Amy are my cycling sisters for life. Everyone missed Chrysa’s husband Rich, especially me. They could not have made this week any better.  A long goodbye to the coast to coast staff. They are the best in the biz.



It seems this blogging thing is growing on me. Expect some more.

Day 7: Fiesta Key to Key Largo the end of the ride

Another great dinner with live music on the beach. A quick walk of camp brought me to my home for two months on coast to coast, tent 59. 

This was a great reunion with my coast to coast to coast friends. Last day will sweeps us up to Lower Matecumbe Key and Robbie’s. Amy got a great picture of the tarpon that Chrysa fed with its mouth wide open.

Islamorada was pretty. 

Lunch at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo and done. A quick kayak paddle at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and dinner at the fish house. 

Day 6: Camp Sawyer to Fiesta Key

Another glimpse of the Milky Way at 4:45 a.m. 14 independent tenters at the corner of Scout Key hanging out and drinking in the water, sunset, stars and sunrise. Life’s symmetry just in those moments. Great breakfast.

Out toward Bahia Honda State Park.

The park was free today due to Veteran’s Day.

Amy and Chrysa went out on the old Bahia Honda bridge trail. It is another great day and the daily bicycle mileage is very conducive to being a tourist. On to Seven Mile Bridge with a 10-15 mph headwind.

A great lunch at Herbie’s in Marathon.

Hot and headwind after lunch. A nice bike trail going through Grassy Key.

Wind and conch fritters at lunch wee hitting me a little hard. Also a pinch flat on the front tire. I was riding down here several years ago with my buddy Eric and it seemed I hit every rock I could in the middle Keys. I said to him if I hit one more bleeping rock.

Into Fiesta Key RV campground for last full night and big send off.

Day 5: Stock Island back to Camp Sawyer

The Yankee Clipper brought me back to Key West. My coasties peeps watched Sunset and took the picture. Yellowtail for dinner with a smoked swordfish fish spread and Key lime pie with signature Blue Heaven 4-inch meringue. 3 forks. Big sleep and up with the dawn.

Nice lazy rollout to Baby Coffee. Espresso and Orangina.

Up the trail we went on Summerland Key and beyond.

Big and Little Torch Key. Went for health food tuna sandwich on Big Pine Key.

Over the bridge to Camp Sawyer. A swim and a lazy afternoon. Losing cell service so posting early. Peace out T dog.

Day 4: Layover Day-DRY TORTUGAS and Key West

Key West dinner at sunset is always great. Last night was no exception. We rode the trolley through historic Key West. 

We landed at the dock. Great meal. 

A paseo “after dinner walk” on Duval and other downtown points. It was o dark thirty for the roll out from camp with the Bubba staff to catch the Yankee Clipper to the Dry Tortugas. Walked in and they opened the window. That’s right the first one to check in. 175 souls boarded the boat and away we went. Pretty basic breakfast. It was a great ride out. 

Seaplane route looked real awesome as well.

Fort Jefferson was huge. Home of Dr . Mudd and the Lincoln conspirators. 

This water hound went to the south beach area via the camping. A thing to do later is to come out for 3-4 nights and live out there.

Tres dog took in the structures after a few minutes swim to them and within a minute or so he was 6-8 feet from a Goliath grouper. This was one big sucker. A quick underwater point and shoot picture did not capture the whole fish. As a side note my underwater camera can wifi pictures to my phone with an app I have downloaded. The author will not have pictures ready for post time.

The structures had all types of healthy coral and tons of fish. Not to worry, this snorkeler of the world was able to see a second Goliath grouper. It was smaller than the other one but the underwater photographer got a few great shots of him and was able to swim near it for several minutes. 

A quick lunch and more snorkeling in a different spot. A quick look at the fort and away we went back to Key West. 

A personal note was that visibility and light was fair it was the first time this snorkeler had swam this close to the biggest fishes he had encountered in the water.

Blue Heaven for dinner with my coasties. BIG SLEEP. 

Day 3: Camp Sawyer to Stock Island

The night sky at 2:30 a.m. revealed the Milky Way on Scout Key. Great breakfast by Anne and group picture of all the Coasters on the ride. I am in the back. Ha!

A flat tire from a retread wire revealed a flat just prior to blastoff for the day. It slowed us a little bit. I had an issue slowing going down the road and the wheel rim was stuck on the brake as I pedaled. I thought I had gone to bike shutdown. Checked the issue and once the wheel was free to spin my affliction was lifted. I was born again to ride with my usual vigor. Must have been that shade tree mechanic.

Big Pine Key was all that and a bag of chips. Went to Blue Hole and saw him.

Went to the end of the road and saw this Key deer. It ended up 2-3 feet from us.

Went on to No Name Key saw the pub.

Left and got back out on US 1 and south the wind blew us down the keys. Some good bike trails.

The sky was high, clear and blue. The water green and rich.

It is not your eyes. It is the photographer. On to BABY’S COFFEE for lunch and COFFEE. Turkey wrap and Orangina. Pocket some bulk coffee on the way home.

On to Boyd’s campground for a swim and shuttle into Key West for Mahi.

My digs for two days. Miss all my peeps from home. Will update you on Key West evening mañana. Peace out. T dog