Looking for a paved biking trail with ample shade and modern amenities (like real restrooms)? Look no further than the Withlacoochee State Trail – a 46 mile stretch of Florida beauty and shade provided by canopied trees. Park in Inverness and ride 30 miles south to end of the trail and upon your return you can lunch at one of the pubs on the main street.
If you ride the entire trail round trip for a total of 92 miles, I suggest doing an extra loop so you can make that odometer tick over to 100 miles for an official century. What can I say, I like round numbers.
The shade on the trail makes most days bearable, even the most recent early October day when we participated in the 22nd Annual Withlacoochee Rails to Trails ride. With a variety of distance options, including a century, the ride was well-supported, extremely organized, and a great way to spend the day. We opted for the 60 mile distance and finished it without too much trouble…quite a feat considering we haven’t ridden that distance in awhile. Like a year.
The rest stops were well-stocked and had real restrooms. I know I’ve mentioned that twice now, but I consider the facilities to be an important part of a ride and if they are nice, it is truly a bonus and makes for a far more pleasant ride. The food at the stops was a perfect selection of sweet and salty…and included one of my favorite treats – oreo cookies topped with a dollop of peanut butter and a banana slice. Yummy!
Along the way we spotted turtles, deer, and a snake, and the cypress swamps alongside the trail looked like you could walk across them they were so still and covered in vegetation. Still visible along the trail are the concrete mile markers showing the distance to Richmond, Virginia, the original Railroad’s hometown. Whistle markers, concrete posts with black stripes, are located near intersections and were an indication for the engineer to warn of the train’s approach.
We wondered about the bird houses so prevalent along the trail, a quick Google search answered our questions. Read about the retiree who built and maintains these bird houses in a successful effort to re-populate the once endangered bluebirds. Great story.
We abandoned art in a few places and Mike was very happy to receive an email later from a gal who found the angel photograph he had mounted to canvas and left tucked in the door at Wayne’s Citrus Cycles. The treasure caught her eye as she opened the motorcycle shop on Monday morning. Said it made her day. And who couldn’t use an angel looking out for them.
Although lunch was included at the end of the ride, we decided to pump a few dollars into the local economy by stopping 8 miles from the finish at the Shamrock Pub in Floral City for a burger and beer – and some air conditioning.
The Shamrock was a ride destination for another group of bikers that afternoon – the motorized two wheeler type. Dressed in black leather, they too were enjoying the food and I overheard one man say the Shamrock Pub has the best rueben he has ever tasted in his life. Almost made me want to order one, minus the sauerkraut of course, but we decided on burgers instead.
Bonus for the day was running into our friend Terry who was also participating in the ride. It’s not the first time we have found him cycling on a trail, once we just happened to cross paths on the High Trestle Bridge in Iowa. That chance meeting still amazes us!
Another great day biking in Florida! We’re ready to go back to this trail, who wants to come with us?