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Palm Cay resident is bicycling for enjoyment

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By The Staff

With the warm summer season upon us, I’ve noticed more and more people enjoying bicycling just after the morning sunrise. I too enjoy riding five or six times a week at a relaxed 30- to 50-mile ride. On any given Saturday morning, it is just what my body needs to make up for the movie and pizza the evening before.

If you are a bicycling enthusiast as I am, and you are not taking time to visit one of the few ‘paved’ central Florida trails, you are missing a wonderful experience.

Let me introduce to you just a few of these trails.

First, I need mention again that these trails are paved and are designed for road bicycling, walking and an occasional in-line skater.

Many of the trails were once railways that the old smoking locomotives would travel on through the Florida wilderness and small towns. As the rails aged and were no longer in service, organizations got together and began a ‘Rails to Trails’ project. Thus, the old rail tracks were removed and the route was beautifully paved, mile after mile, so you and I could enjoy the beauty of Florida.

I mentioned that I was going to introduce you to some of the trails. First is the Withlacoochee State Trail. This is one of the longest (44 miles) and one of the most beautiful trails in the state. The Withlacoochee trail begins near Dunnellon and winds south through Inverness, Floral City and ends just north of Dade City, in Pasco County.

This tree-covered trail also passes next to the Inverness lakes, Fort Cooper State Park and great spots along the way for breakfast or refreshments.

Another trail that is very enjoyable and alive with Florida ‘creatures’ is the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. I begin this ride in Hawthorne (just off  Hwy. 301) and enjoy the 15 miles of winding and slightly hilly trail to near Gainesville. There are paved branches off this trail that take you to scenic overlooks. Bring a camera and photograph an occasional sighting of deer crossing the trail.

Yet another, is the Nature Coast State Trail. The group I rode with enjoyed beginning at Fanning Springs (a beautiful park) and riding the trail across the Suwannee river bridge (again – bring your camera) and going on for miles until you are rewarded at the end of the trail with an ice cream sundae. Go ahead… you earned it!

If I have wetted your appetite for a fun bicycling experience (and ice cream), I must also remind every bicyclist that safety is or should be your number one concern. Simply test yourself with these very important questions:

Do I have a riding ‘buddy’ to take along with me? Like swimming … be safe.

Is my bicycle tuned and in good repair? A flat tire can ruin the experience.

Is it legal to ride on the sidewalk? Florida says yes … but yield to pedestrians.

Must I stop at stop signs? Bicycles are vehicles (see 316.2065, F.S.).

As I ride the roads in Palm Cay (my home community), I’ll be looking forward to the next trail ride and hope to see you there. And remember … bicycle riders always smile!