Bike travel. It means different things to different people, and to non-cyclists it probably sounds crazy. I’ll admit I am a little intimidated by cyclists who have the time and money to ride their bikes across the US, I wonder what that would be like. But since I am not a big fan of camping, and staying even in inexpensive motels for months on end would cost quite a bit, shorter trips are what I plan. Adventure Cycling Association has a blog that promotes bike overnights – short 1 or 2 night trips to help people get their feet wet in the bike travel arena. It’s a great idea and one that Mike and I promote to our friends and anyone else who will listen. We could be Bike Overnight ambassadors…hint, hint…Adventure Cycling.
Anyway, Adventure Cycling promoted June 3-5, 2016 as National Bike Travel Weekend and boy, I jumped on the bandwagon immediately and put it on my calendar. Now…to figure out a destination. We had already done the trip from Sarasota to Tampa, and one from Sarasota to Boca Grande. Both of those are about 60 miles per day and we really wanted this one to be a little shorter. Hmmm…where could we go, we thought? After some thought and dart throwing at a map, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and head to Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida. Warm Mineral Springs is exactly as it is named and some consider it the original fountain of youth. I’ve always wanted to check it out, so riding our bikes there seemed like a great way to celebrate National Bike Travel Weekend.
About half of the 30 mile route was on The Legacy Trail, a wonderful paved trail running from Sarasota to Venice. Being free from vehicle traffic for a portion of the trip made us feel very relaxed and we thoroughly enjoyed the moments stopping to take pictures along the way. We ride the trail often, but never allow ourselves the luxury to stop and enjoy the sights, It was a welcome change.
Our lunch stop was the Myakka River Oyster Bar where we enjoyed chatting with the bar tender, Rita, who looked at us wide-eyed as we told her we rode our bikes from Sarasota; she commented that she doesn’t even like to drive that far. We washed down the oysters rockefeller, fish fillets, hushpuppies, french fries, and seafood chowder with cold beer and spent a little time reminiscing about the day we kayaked to the restaurant when they weren’t open and ate our picnic lunch on their outdoor tables. Trespassing, I’m sure, but that had been a great adventurous day too.
By the time we left the oyster bar we realized we had eaten too much food (or maybe it was the beer) and had a hard time getting our legs to work as we got back on our bikes. It’s always a dilemma…eat, drink, hang out in the air conditioning…but don’t let your legs get too rested to get on the bike. It was a bit of a struggle but we made it the 3 miles to our destination…Warm Mineral Springs Motel. Designed by architect Victor A. Lundy, one of the leaders of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement, and built in 1958, the concrete overhangs and tropical courtyard made us feel like we had stepped back into the 1950’s. It could not have been better.
A quick mile ride to the Springs (with noodles in tow), we eagerly made our way into the sulpher-scented water to both cool off and take advantage of the health benefits of the mineral water. Touted as the original Fountain of Youth sought by Ponce de Leon, the Springs attract thousands of visitors a year, who believe the mineral-rich water cures their ailments. We joked that we felt younger and more energetic after only a few minutes of floating on our pool noodles. At our age we figured a few minutes wasn’t going to be enough, so we soaked for a couple of hours until the skin on our finger tips was all shriveled up. Next stop…the clean inviting water of the motel pool to rinse off the murky sulpher spring water.
After our huge lunch, I didn’t think it was possible to be hungry again, but apparently soaking in water stirs up an appetite. Nothing was close enough to walk, so we hopped back on our bikes and rode 3 miles to the Olde World Restaurant. Reminding me of an old time supper club with low lighting and well-dressed staff, we found a place at the bar and ordered a couple of beers. Before our beers even arrived a nearby diner got our attention and we realized it was Rita, our bartender from our lunch stop. She was dining with friends and happened to be telling them about us. It wasn’t long before we felt like celebrities, everyone at the bar was asking about our trip, including the owner of the restaurant. Fun times. I think this is why I love to ride long distances so much…I like the attention. And it gives me the opportunity to share my cycling passion with others. I love telling people about the experiences we have had on the bike, and there have been so many over the years…meeting interesting people, visiting unusual museums (Bily Clock Museum, Hobo Museum, and Fonda Museum, all in Iowa), eating fabulous food. Let me tell you, when you have ridden alot of miles in a day, the food you eat tastes so much better, it’s hard to even describe. Tonight’s food was no different. We started with calamari, and then I had a taco salad, and Mike had baby back ribs (they said they were Polish ribs – never heard of that). Anyway, food was good and the owner sent us back to our motel with complimentary cheesecake for dessert (we must have looked hungry).
After a good night’s sleep in our retro motel, we packed up our bags and headed about a mile south to the Family Table restaurant. Yes, more good food and excellent service. Why didn’t we come to North Port sooner? With gas in the tank (but not too much this time) our legs felt good for the 30+ mile journey home. The morning was beautiful, sky was blue…until we got about 10 miles from home when the sky opened up and rained so hard we couldn’t see through our glasses. Luckily we were on the Legacy Trail where riding wasn’t too hazardous so we plugged away, taking advantage of the tailwind. A little bit of rain never hurt anyone. Thankfully the panniers are waterproof.
What a great weekend, thanks to Adventure Cycling promoting bike travel. I posted on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook while on the trip and at one point had a top post on Instagram for #bikeovernights. Super fun to feel like we were connecting with others bike touring at the same time.
Bike touring can be very simple, and very rewarding. I really appreciate the idea of being reliant on myself and my bike., it is empowering. If you want to try a bike overnight but don’t know what to do, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to offer some suggestions.