Bike Travel Weekend, promoted by Adventure Cycling Association is a movement encouraging folks to plan and carryout an overnight trip on a bicycle. Many of us don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to pull off a multi-day, or longer, bike trip. So why not go for a single night? I find it liberating to self-support for a weekend by carrying my necessities on my bike and relying on my personal power to get to my destination and back again. The first weekend in June is the official Bike Travel Weekend, and 2017 was it’s second year. Last year, Mike and I rode from home to North Port and Warm Mineral Springs, you can read about that adventure here.
This year, we coerced, er…encouraged…others to join us on our journey. Touting it as an Easy Peasy Bike Overnight covering 30 miles from Sarasota to Englewood, we had 5 other friends and family opt in. Apparently, Easy Peasy is a relative term. Our group of seven included 3 bike travel newbies – including my sister, a relatively new cyclist who took the trip on a department store hybrid. I thought the ride would be easy because the terrain is flat, the mileage was low (although not as low as I advertised, guess I need to sharpen my mapping skills), and we planned several stops along the way. eight extra miles and humid, Florida temperatures made the ride a little less easy than originally imagined. We managed though, everyone did great and enjoyed the trip.
It all started with breakfast…after all, we needed to fuel up for this easy peasy ride. What’s a better way to start than with egg casserole, lemon scones, bacon, fresh fruit, and mimosas.
Wanting to sprinkle culture stops into our trip that was already destined to have several “hydration” stops at local establishments, I enlisted the assistance of one of our group who is a native Floridian with a lifelong career in park management at both the state and county levels. Jon shared his knowledge of the parks we traversed, an important one being the Legacy Trail. Highlights of the info he shared:
1. I always wondered why McIntosh Road, a connecting road to the trail, has a bike lane only on the east side of the road. Jon enlightened us to the fact that only 2 of the intended 4 lanes have been built, they are waiting for motor vehicle traffic to prove the remaining two lanes to be necessary. Once completed, there will be a bike lane on the other side of the road and we will have a safer route to our beloved Legacy Trail.
2. Later in the ride we stopped at the Bay Street trailhead where Jon told us about plans to extend Bay across the trail to accommodate additional motor vehicle traffic coming from local housing developments under construction. This involves removing landscaping, and relocating a Trail kiosk and water fountain. The developers will be paying for the majority of the costs (yay!).
3. Another educational stop included airing up tires at one of the new bike repair stations recently installed in a variety of locations around the county. Equipped with basic bike repair tools and a tire pump, these stations are a welcome addition to the biking infrastructure in our area. Thank you, Sarasota County.
My husband Mike, always the entertainer and storyteller, also provided us with some cultural stops on our journey. After a stop at the Venice Train Depot where we all posed for a picture with the Gunther Gebel-Williams statue (famous lion tamer and member of the Ringling Brothers circus), Mike pointed out the Circus Bridge where Ringling Circus marched their animals to the winter circus home after arriving from the north by train. They paraded past locals and visitors alike who lined the streets to see this free show each year. A mural along the Venetian Waterway Park on the west side of the canal depicts our famous circus history.
Additional local culture included a brief stop at the Rookery in Venice where thousands of birds flock and create a mob scene of people with cameras. Sunday morning was quiet, no mobs.
Shamrock Park, at the end of the Venetian Waterway Trail is a great place to refill water bottles, use the restroom, and take a break in the shade. Have been there many times, but this was the first time meeting a local resident who was taking her pet bearded dragon out for a walk.
All of this culture and education made us hungry and thirsty so stopping for refreshments was a requirement.
Located just off the Legacy Trail is Captain Eddie’s, a fantastic seafood restaurant and tiki bar with local, freshly caught fare. We only took advantage of the tiki bar and drink menu this time, maybe some hogfish will be in order the next time we visit.
Thinking that 7 traveling cyclists might startle the folks in downtown Venice, on Saturday we opted for lunch at Bogey’s which was conveniently located on our route. Crazy conversation, good food and drinks ensued, even a photo op of a bicycle hanging from the ceiling (general goal: always keep your bike upright).
Just three short miles from our final destination is the Lock-n-Key Restaurant on Manasota Beach. A local favorite for their happy hour which includes a pull tab with each drink ordered and a chance to get the drink free or at a low price of 50 cents…or full price. We quickly noticed who in the group was lucky and who wasn’t, no more pull tabs for the unlucky ones.
Englewood’s on Dearborn is one of my favorite restaurants and a short walk from our overnight accommodations, so it was our dinner destination (whether the rest of the group likes it or not). Live music played while we dined on the best weiner schnitzel around under the twinkling lights in the courtyard. In retrospect we should have stayed there to enjoy the music as the next stop was less-than-exciting. Oh, well, everything can’t be super fun all the time, right? Bonus: vintage car show.
Because I am not a fan of camping, especially in Florida in June, and I was reasonably sure the rest of our group felt the same way, our accommodations included soft comfy beds, showers, and air conditioning. Located on Lemon Bay, Buchan’s Landing has a history of its own as the place where boats brought supplies from Tampa before roads were built into Englewood. Our waterfront view out the back of the house was beautiful, and the 3 bedroom/3 bath house was perfect for the 7 of us (well, I suppose my sister who slept on the couch would have preferred a 4 bedroom home, but she made it work without complaints).
Thanks to Bev who walked over to the convenient store to get some ground coffee, we awoke the next day to much needed caffeine. Note to self: always leave room in the panniers for coffee.
A slightly different route home was in store for Sunday so our newbies would see some different scenery. As if Saturday’s pedal down Manasota Key wasn’t beautiful enough, our trip past the spectacular homes on Casey Key was even better, particularly because I knew at the end of the key would be the Casey Key Tiki Bar. I believe there is an ordinance that if you ride your bike past the tiki bar and it is open, you must stop. Ok, maybe I made that up, but as a rule-follower, I abide, even if they are my own rules.
Other notable refreshment stops included Jim O’Hara’s for breakfast (thanks to our new Floridian, Leslie, for finding that on Yelp), and Nokomos for early cocktails (who doesn’t like a crawfish in their bloody mary?). Turns out, only a couple of us were enamored by the crustacean, and the vegetarian of the group was particularly un-enamored.
Lucky to have friends who live right on our route, they invited us to stop by on our final few miles home. For some, a dip in the pool was refreshing, and for all, the cocktails and conversation were a good time. Hunger started to set in, our breakfast at Jim O’Hare’s was delicious, but it had been hours, and many miles since eating. A stop a Shaner’s was perfect, their pizza is thin and delicious and totally guiltfree after cycling for 2 days.
Always in the mood for a craft project, before the trip I prepared little journals for everyone made out of the Bike Travel Weekend postcard, and nearly every craft technique I have in my repertoire. Souvenirs are always in order.
Who’s in for next year?