Messenger Archive: Summr/Fall 1999
Riding Carter Park
by Rob DeGraaf
Do you like woodsy, moonscape-like, technical singletrack?
If so, go ride the Carter Park trails in Lakeland.
I made my 1st trip there today after two "years"
of hearing about these trails, wanting to go ride, saying I would go ride, yet
never quite getting the proverbial "round tuit." We found a seven and
a half mile loop with much terrain diversity.
The first section, Sprinkler Hill, is better when it's
wetter, but was still a blast. All of the shaded ridge trails, including the
infamous "Beast" section were nice hardpack.
The Beast is a rock strewn technical section leading to a
fast hardpack downhill. The main "signed" loop consists of ridges
that, while technical in many places, are safe for smart and cautious riders.
Steep drops on each side of many sections make the margin for error minimal.
Sections of some ridges are off-camber, adding to the technical.
However, not all the sections are technical in nature:
sweet, long, sinuous, hardpack stretches of trail lead riders through flat
scrub and prairie sections.
Moreover, many of the ridges can be skirted or avoided
altogether. We hooked up with a local rider, Andy, who led us through the
trails, then met a few other regulars laying down mulch.
We chatted and learned of the ongoing efforts of the Ridge
Riders MTB Club, and of the occasional intrusion of ORV users and 4x4
enthusiasts: some getting all the way into the single track sections, mostly in
Sprinkler Hill section.
If you get a chance go check out the trails at Carter Park,
and while there, thank a local Ridge Rider club member for the awesome work
Thanks to Karen Britt & and other club members!
back to the top
New Driver's Handbook Aims to Minimize Misconceptions
by Dwight Kinsbury and Tina Russo
You may have encountered them. You may have talked to
them—drivers who sincerely believe that a cyclist traveling through a highway
intersection on a green light is legally obliged to yield to a left-turning
motorist. Or that a cyclist using a roadway may never ride
anywhere except along the right edge.
To minimize the muddle about these and other cyclist rights
(and responsibilities), FBA participated in a recent rewrite of the official
"Florida Driver's Handbook." This is the booklet the Department of
Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles distributes at Driver's License examination
Dr. Michael Shreeve, a member of the Hillsborough County
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee's mode shift subcommittee, began
pushing for a revision of the bicycle sections last year. The old text wasn't
incorrect, but Shreeve thought it could be more clear and complete.
Hillsborough BPAC Vice Chair and FBA Board member Tina Russo
wrote a rough draft.
A joint FBA-Florida Department of Transportation committee
(state bicycle coordinator Theo Petritsch, Linda Crider, Dwight Kingsbury)
prepared the final submission. Pedestrian passages were also revised.
With the support of state Sen. John Grant, Shreeve obtained
a commitment from DHSMV's Division of Driver Licenses to incorporate the
revisions in the Driver's Handbook 1999 edition.
The rewrite committee thought everything was taken care of.
Then, in early June, a committee member checking on the handbook's progress
learned that the changes had not been included; the paper copy had never
reached the editor.
An electronic file copy was quickly e-mailed, in time for
Officials expect to release the new handbook this summer.
The rewrite committee also prepared new questions for the
Florida driver's test.
It has an entirely separate revision process, we learned. We
plan to keep track.
back to the top
Reflections on "Florida's Bicycling Politics"
by Linda Crider, FBA President
My interest in bicycling began as a student commuter, but
was sparked by a bicycle tour I was invited to be a part of called
"workshop on wheels," organized by Herb Hiller in 1978. I had never
ridden more than a few miles in my neighborhood or to school and I thought the 80 mile ride the first day to Cedar Key would kill me.
To the contrary, it convinced me of a viable place for
bicycling in tourism, recreation, and its future role relative to energy
conscious transportation decisions. ISTEA was a long way off yet, but Governor
Graham accepted the proposal to put a bicycle coordinator and program in place
in the Florida Department of Transportation because cyclists had convinced him
of its great potential. It was an exciting day...we felt like we were on the beginning of something big and long lasting.
And we were right. Dan Burden came to accept that position
and took the state bureaucratic cognizance for bicycling from zero to 120 in
just a few short years.
We witnessed policy decisions that supported such efforts as
paved shoulders on all state roads, the development of a network of
bicycle/pedestrian professionals well placed in engineering and planning
departments and the commitment to a state-funded bicycle safety education
In concert was the effort from the Department of Natural
Resources (now DEP) to develop rail-trails and greenway systems and now a focus
on urban trail networks.
Funding at the federal level, first from 402 safety funds
and later from ISTEA, and now TEA21 has furthered the cause and provided the
local bicycle advisory boards and citizens organizations with the dollar
support to get projects for their communities.
Why, then, do we remain consistently at the top of the list
for numbers of bicycle crashes and injuries?
Is is because we have more bicyclists than other states? Or
because we are a high tourism state with many people not familiar with the
roads and directions? Or the fact that we have many
transients and people of little means and education who find the climate and
ease of existence in Florida to their liking?
And a road system that has been developed during the age of
the automobile and primarily designed to function for moving traffic swiftly
and efficiently, not necessarily safely and pleasurably?
There is some validity for all these factors.
We have had citizen advocacy groups who rallied to address
the sad statistics and process their grief over cycling friends lost through
tragic_and avoidable_crashes. Often times these groups would end up burning out
or fighting amongst themselves over priorities and issues.
In my years trying to organize and lead groups of people, I
have marveled at the diversity and individualistic nature of cyclists.
They are strong-willed, forward thinking and acting
Individuals, with a capital "I." That is their nature and the reason
they are willing to put themselves out there on roadways competing for space
and demanding their right to be there.
I do not disagree with that. I see, however, another group
emerging that we must take into the fold, if we are to build the numbers of
support for bicycling in general.
These folks are taking to the trails, through the woods, or
along the greenways and railtrails, and want their children to have a safe
bicycle journey to school. They don't wear spandex or bike gloves, and they
love the freedom their "Huffy" gives them as much as the seasoned
experts love their "steeds" (as Bike Florida's Tom Lomax calls our
It is my hope through FBA that the many aspects of bicycling
can be addressed in the future and that all ages and types of cyclists will
feel it is a forum for their concerns and a place to contribute their time
toward an overall cause.
We will have campaigns like the "Share The Road"
tag, Bicycle Friendly Communities workshops, trail managers forums, and local
initiatives that receive funding and support with the hope that we will be able
to say, one day, Florida is truly a good place to bicycle.
I will continue working toward that end. Thanks for allowing
me to serve as the 1998-99 President of the Florida Bicycle Association.
back to the top
The Story Behind the Tag
By Henry Lawrence
In 1992 Michael Koenig, then vice president of the first
FBA, had a revelation. The thought of a bumper sticker to encourage drivers to
share the road turned into thoughts of producing a specialty license plate --
something more permanent and purposeful, something to help raise money to get
the word out to share the road with bicyclists. The tag initiative got off to
an enthusiastic start, but soon went into hibernation.
Then in December 1996 [current FBA president] Linda Crider's
friend and coworker, Margaret Raynal, was killed while riding near Gainesville.
Doug Hill also died that day and four other cyclists were critically injured.
The driver of a pick-up had run down their paceline; Margaret and Doug bringing
up the rear took the brunt of the hit.
Anger, frustration, loss, misery, sadness and, worst of all,
no conviction of the motorist were the "call to arms" to help bring
A group of bicycle advocates met in Mt. Dora in March of
1997 in conjunction with LAB's (League of American Bicyclists) Winter Gear.
With the help of League president June Thaden and moderator Dan Schaller,
participants set six goals for a new and improved FBA. One was to create a
specialty license plate to raise funding for bicycle
safety education and to empower bicycle advocates statewide to create more
bicycle friendly communities in Florida.
Henry Lawrence took the job as chairman of the Share The
There would be hurdles: 10,000 signatures, $30,000 up front,
a marketing plan, and state's blessing in the form of a new law. Artwork was
designed, petitions were drawn up and the campaign began.
The December 1997 deadline for the 1998 legislative session
passed. The December 1, 1998, cutoff was drawing near for the 1999 session when
Bike Florida's president, Linda Crider, and Jimmy Carnes, executive director of
the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, stepped in to help the
campaign over the top.
In the final weeks Jimmy Carnes directed the push for the
final 3,000 signatures needed to reach 10,000, worked with the Florida Dept. of Transportation to secure $30,000 funding as part of a
larger statewide Share the Road campaign, and oversaw garnering the necessary
At last a breakthrough!
Orlando's 700+ Florida Freewheelers, were the first to send in petitions. Executive director George Cheney had
started the ball rolling. Kathy Holt, a former racer and bike shop owner and
one of FBA's founding board members, collected over 700 signatures with husband
Dave and friend Elizabeth. Henry Lawrence, Linda Crider, Dave Marshall and
Charlie Leibold gathered hundreds of signatures. Thousands of bicyclists
statewide sent in individual petitions.
Rep. Bob Casey (Gainesville) and Senator Donald Sullivan
(St. Petersburg) agreed to sponsor bills in the House and Senate. The
"Share The Road" specialty license plate was introduced in the 1999
legislative session and passed. In the House: 113 to 4. In the Senate: 38 to 1.
On June 8, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill into law.
The battle was won! Or is it? Actually it's only the beginning
of another chapter in the tag's history. The next challenge: marketing the tag
so it is widely purchased by motorists.
back to the top
Organizers Know What's Important to Bike Florida Riders
by Patricia M. Bond
If you have never done an organized ride, you don't know
what you are missing!
This year was the third straight Bike Florida for us and
it's our favorite of the state rides we have done. What sets it apart?
Probably the most important difference is the organization:
a platoon of patient, dedicated individuals/bicyclists with another platoon of
cheerful hardworking volunteers. They know what is important for a great ride
good routes, lots of food and hot showers.
There was all of that, fantastic Florida attractions and
wonderful weather again this year.
The 1999 ride started in Daytona. Day One took us 37 miles
to DeLand where we stayed at Stetson University. Things got a little rowdy that
night as we were entertained by late night revelers. I
take foam earplugs along for campground noises, so the activities woke me up,
but I was able to sleep through most of it. I heard from other riders that some
of the noise makers had been caught by the
Day Two we biked another 37 miles to Mt. Dora. Since we were
camping at a high school and classes were in session we were entertained in the
community until school was over for the day.
Wonderful arrangements had been made to keep everyone busy
until we could set up camp. We arrived early and went swimming at the local
outdoor pool, but kayaking or shopping in the quaint downtown kept everyone
busy until school was out.
Day Three we biked 75 miles to Inverness. At about mile 60,
those of us who were not doing the optional century emerged onto the
Withlacoochee Trail. It was a relief to be off the road.
We were pleasantly surprised to arrive at a park near
Inverness where the mayor was personally greeting Bike Florida riders. This
lovely lady stood for most of the day in the hot sun to let us know that she
was glad to have us in Inverness. She made a good impression on me and I plan
to go back and ride the trail.
The next day we biked 50 miles to Crystal River. The ride
took us through the town to a rest stop at the beach and we returned to town
for the night.
That evening was perhaps our most embarrassing dining
experience. We were bussed to a nearby church, but they weren't quite ready
when the first bus arrived and they asked us to wait in the back of the dining
The tables were beautifully decorated with Easter and
bicycle items. They had even special ordered a huge Bike Florida cake.
Everything was fine until the second bus arrived and the
first group bolted for the available seating.
Church workers had intended to serve us individually, but
the bikers were too hungry to wait and as soon as all the edible decorations
had been consumed, they started on the food as it was brought from the kitchen.
Day Five was one of the high points of the ride. We visited
Rainbow Springs State Park. We biked about 30 miles, some of it on busy
two-lane roads, but we emerged at one of Florida's wonders of nature. Crystal clear, cool spring water in one of Florida's newest state
parks. We spent two hours swimming and hiking before continuing the
day's 60-mile ride.
Day Six was 66 miles to Gainesville for lunch at the
fairgrounds before heading home.
From Easter Sunday until we rolled into the fairgrounds we
didn't have a thing to do except enjoy ourselves. Every detail is
pre-arranged-routes, meals, showers, campsites,
luggage-all we have to do is follow the arrows.
There aren't too many people on Bike Florida, so lines for
meals and showers are not a problem. Emphasis is placed on safety and people
are required to "share the road" with vehicles.
After all, most of the roads were built with cars in mind,
so it's an educational process for bicyclists and motorists. Until we have
roads and trails that will accommodate bicycles, we have to learn to live
Bike Florida makes a significant contribution to making it
all come to pass.
back to the top
"Share The Road" Tag Bill Passed!
By Henry Lawrence
The "Share The Road" license tag is official!
Governor Jeb Bush signed the tag bill into law on June 8.
Hopes are that the tag will be available for purchase by year end, but possibly as late as spring 2000. To celebrate,
Bike Florida is planning the first annual Bike Florida Share the Road Rally,
October 1-3, 1999, in Kissimmee. The Florida Bicycle Association will
participate in the festivities.
Where will the tag money go?
Tag profits after administration and marketing expenses will
be shared equally between Bike Florida, Inc. and FBA. By law the tag proceeds will benefit
1. Education and awareness programs for bicycle safety and
motorist safety, with emphasis on sharing the roadway by all users.
2. Training, workshops, educational materials and media events.
3. The promotion of safe bicycling.
Bike Florida, Inc. is a nonprofit
corporation formed to help support the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety
Education Program (FTBSEP).
The FTBSEP is a statewide, comprehensive school-based
program that teaches elementary and middle school children traffic savvy
through classroom instruction and on-bike skills.
The program receives funding through the Florida Department
of Transportation. Bike Florida raises additional funds that are used for such
various purposes as providing mini grants to schools for the purchase of
bicycles and related equipment.
Florida Bicycle Association, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation formed to serve the interests of all Florida
bicyclists through education and advocacy. One of FBA's current programs is the
Bike Action workshop series, which teaches citizens how they can get involved
in making their communities more bicycle friendly.
Through the Bike Action workshops, FBA is inspiring the
creation of local bike advocacy groups. FBA is working on off-road issues, too,
through the Florida Off Road Bicycle Advocates, now an official arm of FBA.
FBA is also working on providing a variety of educational
literature and programs to law enforcement, motorists and adult cyclists.
FBA supports the work of the Florida Traffic and Bicycle
Safety Education program in teaching children bike safety skills and in
providing bike safety instruction in community programs.
By purchasing a Share The Road tag you will be supporting
the work of Bike Florida and FBA. In addition you will be displaying a very
important safety message whenever you drive. And as an extra bonus, when you
buy a tag you will also receive a companion mini tag suitable for hanging on a
bicycle. Press-on letters and numbers will allow you to customize your mini
tag. One suggestion: put the same number on the mini tag as the real one and
hang it on your child's bike.
back to the top
Linda Crider is League's Bicycle Safety Educator of the Year
At the League of American Bicyclists' Rally in Kentucky this
past June, Dr. Linda Crider was awarded LAB's National
Education Award honoring her as Bicycle Safety Educator of the Year.
Linda is a research associate for the University of Florida
and the director of Florida's Traffic & Bicycle Safety Education Program.
This program has trained over 1,500 teachers, policemen and others in over half
of Florida's 67 counties who in turn teach classes to children in schools and
at special events.
Linda was instrumental in establishing the Florida Bicycle
Program within the Department of Transportation. She organized and rode in the
first trans-Florida ride to promote bicycle awareness and safety, a 600-mile
ride that traversed the state with 100 riders for 13 days. This ride culminated
with the presentation of a series of recommendations to the governor, which
laid the groundwork for the FDOT Bicycle Program and the hiring of Dan Burden
as the state's first bicycle coordinator in 1980.
Linda established Bike Florida in 1994, a non-profit
organization dedicated to promoting safe bicycling in Florida. She established
the annual Bike Florida Cross State Ride to raise additional funds to support
bicycle safety education.
On a local level, Linda served for several years on the City
of Gainesville's Bicycle Advisory Committee.
At the University of Florida she began a bicycle violator
school in conjunction with the university police where first time bicycle
traffic violators are offered an opportunity to attend a four hour bicycle
safety class in lieu of paying a fine.
This program has been so successful that it has been
expanded throughout Alachua County.
After the tragic death of her assistant and friend Margaret
Raynal, Linda was instrumental in revitalizing the Florida Bicycle Association
and Florida's Share the Road Campaign. Linda has served as the 1998-99
president of the Florida Bicycle Association.
Linda and her 13-year-old son Simon, rode halfway across the country last summer, beginning from the LAB Rally in
They are riding for six weeks this summer to complete their
journey across the country.
back to the top
Duval Schools Get a Healthy Dose of Bike Education
by Paul Streeter
As a physical education teacher, I work with elementary
school children, instilling a love for healthy living and the joy of life long
fitness. I hope my students will choose active lifestyles using some of the
concepts and philosophies that I teach.
Until recently I was assigned at an elementary school. When
I was asked to administer the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education
Program for Duval County Public Schools, I happily agreed.
The program is primarily funded with grant money from the
Injury Prevention Program Office of the Duval County Health Department.
We are fortunate to have nine trailers equipped with 30
bikes, 60 helmets and assorted props to create mock intersections and roadways.
Class work, including several informative videos, is
followed by on-bike instruction.
The first and most important lesson before getting on the
bikes is proper helmet fit. If students do not have their own helmet, they
borrow one from the program.
My primary area of assistance when I am working with the
physical education teachers is adjusting the children's helmets. This can be
very time consuming.
I think I can honestly say that I've adjusted more helmets
than anyone in Duval County! I find it especially gratifying when a school has
a large number of students bringing their own helmets.
At first, teachers thought they were taking up too much of
the 30 to 40 minute class time with helmet fit.
They all seem relieved and agree with me when I remind them
that if this is the only thing the student brings home from the class we are
providing precious knowledge.
It may be awhile before these 3rd
through 5th graders take to the highways to display their signaling skills.
However, whether they are riding off-road or on the
sidewalks, we want them to know the importance of protecting themselves from
Our efforts are paying off. This year we had 36 schools
schedule the trailers compared to 24 last year. The
teachers love using a curriculum that not only enriches the student's life, buy may save it as well. More than one teacher has told me
this is the best, most worthwhile instruction they have ever presented.
In 1996, helmet usage for ages 0 - 12 in Duval County was at
13.8%. By 1998 this same figure had increased to 72.9%. Reported injuries have
been reduced by 45%.
Plans are in the works to expand the bicycle education
program into the middle schools.
This is an age group with a very low percentage of helmet
use, and these students are more likely to use their bicycles for
transportation than recreation. For these reasons, we need to continue and
build upon the program already in place.
Every time I see a child on a bike I notice whether or not
he or she is wearing a properly fitted helmet. I also notice how much they are
Maybe, I'll just go out and buy myself a bike! (By the way,
I do own two helmets!)
Paul Streeter is administrator of the Florida Traffic and
Bicycle Safety Education Program for Duval County Public Schools
back to the top
The Principle of the Thing
By Bruce Mackey
"Tell a cyclist what to do in a specific situation and
he'll never learn to fish."
--Chairman Mao as might be quoted by Tim Allen.
People who ask about Effective Cyclingtm courses almost
invariably begin by saying, "How could a course on bicycling take so long,
after all, I already know how to ride a bicycle?"
After they take the course they realize that "balancing
ain't bicycling." Many students say the best part of the course is the
presentation and discussion of the Principles of Traffic Law.
The quote above, in it's ungarbled
form is, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach
him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
The Principles of Traffic Law are the same. By recognizing
the simple concepts that form the basis for our large and complex traffic code,
a cyclist can quickly determine what to do in all but the most bizarre or rare
So what are these timeless principles, these keys to cycling
safety? Effective Cyclingtm presents several. This column will discuss three. Throughout "drivers" means drivers of motor vehicles and
1. First come, first served.
You or another vehicle are entitled to your space on the
road, to include a reasonable, safe buffer on all sides and a reasonable
stopping distance in front.
If I want to use the space you are occupying, or are moving
into, I must first yield to you. Pretty simple concept, but most accidents stem
from drivers violating it. The most common things you hear after an accident
are, "I didn't see you. I didn't think you were going that fast" and
"Where did you come from?" All can be attributed to a driver not
thoroughly checking an area before occupying it.
What about when two vehicles both turn to occupy a
previously vacant space? In many instances this can be remedied by following
the second principle:
2. Less important roads yield to more important roads.
How do you distinguish a less important road from a more
important road? In most cases it's been done for you. If you encounter a stop
or yield sign, you're on the less important road. If the cross street has a
stop or yield sign, you're on the more important road. Problems often occur
when drivers pull out of less important roads without looking or yielding.
3. Speed Positioning.
This is my own personal favorite. Vehicles are positioned on
the roadway according to speed, slower vehicles to the right. Parked (no
movement) cars are at the far right. If you find yourself in a crowd of
tricycles moving at 6 MPH, you should be to their left. In fact you should always
overtake on the left except when passing a vehicle waiting to make a turn in a
left turn lane.
One brief observation. When in
doubt, observe the Rule of Gross Tonnage. I would much rather commiserate with
you about those OX!@#!O drivers and agree that yes,
without a doubt you were right, than visit you in the hospital or worse.
All of this is pretty simple stuff, principles usually are.
The Golden Rule doesn't require much explanation, it's
the execution that gets screwed up.
back to the top
Letter from the Mt. Dora Bicycle Festival Committee
The Mount Dora Bicycle Festival committee prepares to
celebrate our 25th Anniversary with a great deal of pride. We also approach
this milestone with a great deal of sadness due to the unfortunate accident at
To the accident that took the life of Ray Howland it was
impossible to respond in a manner that satisfied every interested party.
So we proceeded in the manner we felt would be most
effective. We worked one-on-one with city officials, the police department,
newspapers and other cyclists. FBA noted that one of our co-chairs, Bill
Herrman, was very important and helpful in their efforts regarding the accident
investigation and sentencing.
We also hosted a writer from Bicycling magazine, in the hope
that through their efforts, some positive benefit for all cyclists could come
from this. Bill Herrman is quoted in the article, and a number of our committee
members met with, discussed the accident and investigation, rode with, and even
visited the accident site with the writer.
Are we satisfied with the outcome of the investigation? What
we are unsatisfied with is (1) a judicial system in which the lives of cyclists
and pedestrians are of secondary importance to drivers of automobiles and the
flow of traffic, and (2) a system which apparently
does not seriously address the responsibility one takes in getting behind the
wheel of an automobile.
Certainly we would have preferred charges that "send a
message," but as we have seen in the past, far too often, no charges are
leveled at all.
We have been asked about our commitment to cycling. Over the
past few years, we have been working to make the festival more responsive to
cyclists. To do this, we have more cyclists involved in organizing the event,
cyclists covering a wide range of experience and skill levels.
During the festival we strive to promote safe and
intelligent cycling. Our announcer at ride start gives instruction on safe
riding, proper hydration, riding in a pace line, obeying traffic laws, and
We offer seminars including the Effective Cycling Course. We
work with the Florida Freewheelers, who provide experienced ride leaders. We
have promoted, and provided a venue for, the re-organized Florida Bicycle
Association. Share The Road advocates indicate they have had their best success
toward a Share The Road license plate at our event.
This year, we are working with the Mt. Dora police to
provide the safest possible environment for cyclists, AND, to ensure
participants understand and obey traffic laws.
The Mount Dora Bicycle Festival is an opportunity for riders
to gather, share a group experience and enjoy beautiful scenery and challenging
rides. In the wake of last year's tragedy, it is also an opportunity to show
the rest of the community what a positive impact a sport like ours can have.
Most people are not cyclists. But, it will take input from
more than just cyclists to change the laws for safer cycling. Indifferent
people will respond more readily to the positive than to the negative.
Successful and positive events like the Mount Dora Bicycle
Festival are more likely to win the support of individuals in the community,
and the governments that they elect. If events like this fail, so does an
opportunity to influence the public. With it goes our chance to affect change.
And, we'll have one less place to ride.
Bob White, Chairman
Mt. Dora Festival Committee
back to the top
Off-Road Cycling in in Miami-Dade County
by Rob Degraaf
As I pedaled east toward Biscayne Bay on one long, seemingly
ceaseless, doubletrack road, a large bobcat bounded into the road in front of
I was checking out Model Lands Basin, a 42,000 acre tract
south of Homestead and East of US Hwy 1, that I had been wanting to reconnoiter
for quite a while for the latest edition of my book, Guide to South Florida
The massive property is sitting in limbo as it awaits full
acquisition by the South Florida Water Management District.
Because of this, there are multiple, un-gated access points
from Card Sound Road, and elsewhere. Almost solely in South Florida do you find
such dichotomous mixes of plant species: vast forests of exotics, Australian
pine and Brazilian pepper inhabiting the NW corner and melding southward into
fresh and saltwater wetlands and tree islands of red bay, dahoon holly,
buttonbush, cocoplum and all three colors of mangrove: red, white and black.
The exotics, although they provide most of the property's
shade, are intrusive and will likely be removed in the coming years.
Back to the bobcat. He knew I was
there before I saw him, hence quickly disappeared into the thick brush. I
looked for the reclusive cat from the trail but saw nothing but an entangled
wall of green.
Several miles down that same road I began to see ominous
silhouettes on the horizon that grew as I approached. They were the Turkey
Point nuclear power plant cooling towers. Ominous indeed...
My eastbound road ended near the plant at a cul-de-sac,
adjacent to the Biscayne greenway trail. I turned around and headed toward the next
adventure, noting that the seasonally patient, afternoon sun was now at a 45
Context Road was bone dry; I knew it would be. I have now
biked Context Road under the extremes of complete dryness and complete
The latter of which trip found my front wheel chasing
startled fish as I rode through water sections so long I had to squint to find
the next dry stretch. That ride consisted of 50
percent water, 30 percent muck and, at best, 20 percent dry land.
Don't ride Context during the wet summer months.
This trip was different, however. The trail was enjoyably
scenic with just enough ruggedness to keep things interesting.
Sloughs that before were like deep creek crossings had now
become shallow, dry, lime-rock depressions to ride through.
Warning: watch for pinch-flats here! The lime-rock, also
known as oolite coral, is an ancient ground cap remaining from when South
Florida was nothing more than the top of a huge tropical reef. In many
sections, the coral is fragmented, hollowed out and dissolved, forming pits,
called solution holes.
This is no Grand Canyon, but the thousands of holes in the
ground level rock are very interesting.
During dry weather, get off the bike and go for a short walk
away from the trail but be extra cautious where you step.
Oh, by the way (swat-swat): bring insect repellent! This
land belongs to Mother Nature, guarded by voracious mosquitoes and biting
Farther down the trail I dodged, just in time, a pygmy
rattlesnake basking in the dwindling sunlight. He remained motionless,
apparently caught up in serpent la-la land. He was gone by the time I returned.
Oh, did I mention bringing a first-aid kit and snake-bite kit, "just in case?"
Actually, dry weather increases your chance of seeing
rattlers along Context; however, visibility is excellent in all places so
you'll have ample time to stop for or ride around any unexpected critters.
The trail eventually changes direction 90 degrees and heads
south. It elevates somewhat and smooths out more, due to the old asphalt being
a little less old here.
Enjoy your speed increase while it lasts; you still have to
return down the same rugged route to get back to the trail
This rugged and beautiful terrain holds a quality hard to
put into words. The setting sun bathed it in brilliant purple-orange as my day
came to a close.
back to the top