First Florida Rail-to-Trail Tour
Today we welcome guest blogger Herb Hiller:
SunRail trains that replace cars on the road while FDOT re-builds I-4 north of the St. Johns River will mark a watershed change in Florida touring.
After four riders bike off August 1 on the First Florida Rail-to-Trail Tour, SunRail will become the system of choice for delivering Orlando cyclists to Florida’s already most popular touring region.
Mighk and Carol Wilson, Laura Hallam and Robert Seidler – the Fab 4 – will arrive Friday, August 1, by early morning train at DeBary Station to start a week cycling the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop. Their reports and the media attention their ride generates will advance the popularity of car-free do-it-yourself touring as something no more unimaginable in central Florida than riding trains until lately was.
It won’t just be folks from Orlando riding the train to the trail.
Even though Florida tourism is still largely about beaches and theme parks, since the start of the current decade Visit Florida has increasingly relied on a corps of writers to tell the world about how we ourselves vacation at home. Riding trains to trails is likely to become a popular story for visitors from Florida’s major markets who routinely combine trains and trails for their own at-home getaways.
The Fab 4 will do more.
They’ll show how the Loop connects to the route of the Florida East Coast Greenway north to Fernandina Beach and south to the Keys with the option of avoiding roads altogether between West Palm Beach and Miami, where the Greenway is still more a plan than a trail. There, cyclists can ride with their bikes on TriRail and Metrorail before continuing south from Brickell Station on the south bank of the Miami River to Florida City on trails all the way.
A ceremonial arch will greet the Fab 4 when they arrive the first at DeBary Station just before 7:30. Dignitaries expected to greet them include Florida Hospital President & CEO Ed Noseworthy and Volusia County Council Member Pat Northey. Florida Hospital is a chief sponsor of the tour as are Visit Florida, the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Orange Cycle, the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce and the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. Ed chairs the DeLand Area Chamber; Pat is a Florida leader in getting trails built. They and others will join the start of the ride, likely biking the first 15 miles to Osteen while the Fab 4 continue to Titusville.
Apart from crossing Highway 17-92 just north of DeBary Station, those first 15 miles are all along paved, off-road showcase trail. It’s a section of trail that will suit first-time train-trail tourists well. A trail portion to Green Springs and back makes an easy day’s ride. Because SunRail so far doesn’t operate weekends, those planning overnight stays will have to ride mid-week or head out Friday and return Monday. Trail-side lodgings include the Travelodge Deltona and the Hampton Inn in DeBary/Deltona.
The Fab 4 will enter Titusville on a new 1.5-mile section of the Greenway. They ride the 2nd to New Smyrna Beach and start the 3rd crossing Ponce Inlet by water taxi. They’ll ride three miles of the Halifax River Trail in downtown Daytona Beach before continuing by trail from the Flagler County line to Flagler Beach. They’ll cycle the 4th by trail to the St. Johns County line, where they will stay two nights, catching a day off. The 6th they cycle the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail with a breakfast stop in trail-adjacent Armstrong before continuing to Crescent City. Their next to last day will bring them along Volusia County’s Spring to Spring Trail for overnight in DeLand. A week after the start of their ride, they’ll wrap the tour cycling DeLand’s Alabama Avenue Greenway on their way back to DeBary Station for re-boarding their train.
For daily updates, read Mighk’s blog at CommuteOrlando.
Herb Hiller of DeLand is a longtime figure in the Florida trail and cycling movements. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Want to be our next guest blogger? Send an email to: becky “at” floridabicycle.org