Saturday, May 1, 2010

Florida State Park Bicycle Tour

4/22/10 Grayton Beach to Falling Waters State Park.
68.14 miles
My brother, Matt and I left his house in Grayton Beach, Florida, after eating a big breakfast.  Our weather research from the previous evening predicted a favorable wind, but as is often the case with bicycle touring, we actually were pedaling into a head wind. As the day grew hot and humid, we stopped for a good lunch of fried catfish at Big Daddy's cafe in the little town of Vernon.  We pulled into Falling Waters State Park about 4:30 and found our cycling buddy, Phil, waiting for us in camp.
4/23/10 Falling Waters State Park to Florida Caverns State Park to Three Rivers State Park.
55.73 miles

We packed up our bikes and rode to Marianna where we spent a few hours touring the beautiful caverns with Frank as our personal tour guide. My brother, Matt, worked at this park several years ago and everyone was happy to see him and visit with us. We ate lunch (grouper fingers) at Blondie's in Grand Junction. We actually had lunch at this same joint on a previous bicycle tour. The food was still good and I had an ice cream sandwich for dessert. We camped at the little Three Rivers State Park near Sneads. The ranger, Wesley, brought us a generous load of firewood and visited with us for a while. We built a cozy campfire and enjoyed the evening.

4/24/10 Three Rivers State Park to Quincy
31.45 miles
I awoke to heavy thunderstorms this morning with some close boomers, which made me jump out of my sleeping bag. We were finally able to leave camp about 11:45 when the storms passed on. We rode into a blustery headwind with more thunderstorms threatening. We crossed the Appalachicola River and made the long climb into Chattahoochee for a fried shrimp lunch at Jerry's Restaurant. At Quincy, we decided to stop and get a room at the lovely (not) Royal Inn. Later that evening, we found a little fish house (I forget the name) where I found me some fried mullet and the best cheese grits of the trip.
4/25/10 Quincy to Wakulla Springs State Park
47.65 miles
Again we had heavy thunderstorms in the morning, I was glad to be sleeping indoors, but we were able to get rolling by 9:45. Stopped in Midway for a breakfast buffet at a truck stop and had great riding on US 90 with decent wind. From Tallahassee, we took the nice paved St. Marks bike trail for the last 10 miles to Wakulla Springs State Park. This park has no camping; however, since Matt works for the park service, they allowed us to camp in the volunteer area. Matt and I took a boat tour with the great guide, Don, and saw at least 30 alligators. After the boat ride, I joined Phil for a swim in the cool springs knowing that the gators were just hoping that we would journey outside of the roped swimming area. That evening I had an unbelievable all-you-can-eat fried shrimp dinner at the lodge. Delicious!

4/26/10 Wakulla Springs State Park to Ochlockonee River State Park.
46.62 miles
After a big breakfast in the Lodge, we mounted our bikes and pedalled to St Marks State Park and toured the museum and old fort situated at the confluence of the St Marks and Wakulla rivers. Arriving in Sopchoppy for lunch, we discovered that the two restaurants were closed on Monday, so we hit the little grocery store. Riding into town, I ran over something hard and metallic on the shoulder of the road and my rear tire went flat leaving town. Camped at a beautiful and shaded campsite at Ochlockonee River State Park.
                                     4/27/10 Ochlocknee River State Park to Indian Pass.
62.78 miles
Left camp early at 8 to try and beat the afternoon winds. I saw a big white tail deer jumping through the woods as we left the park. The ride was easy and enjoyable to Carabelle where we stopped at a little coffee shop for a breakfast bagel. The ride got difficult as we approached Appalachicola. We had a strong head wind crossing the 4 mile long bridge into town, but I did get to see an American Bald Eagle on Appalachicola Bay. We stopped for lunch at Boss Oysters on Water Street in Appalach. We shared a dozen delicious raw oysters, and then I ordered the "Journey's End" sandwich which consisted of fried shrimp, scallops, and oysters heaped open face on bread. It was ridiculously large, but Phil and I were both up to the challenge! After this big lunch, we had a 20 mile ride into an ever increasing headwind to Indian Pass where we camped at the commercial campground.
                                          4/28/10 Indian Pass to The Allen house in Panama City.
47.88 miles
It was cool in the morning, and I laughed at Matt, who crawled out of his tent bundled up like he was winter camping in Alaska. We had a good day of riding and the winds weren't too bad. Temps were nice--in the 70's. As we crossed the bridge in Port St Joe, I noticed an unusual petroleum smell. It was strange since both the paper mill and chemical plant in St Joe are not only shut down but are dismantled and gone. Later, I realized that I must have been smelling the oil from the huge off shore oil drilling disaster in the Gulf. We travelled through Tyndall Air Force Base (home for some of my childhood) and watched the F-22 Raptors shoot straight up into the sky. We arrived at my parent's house early in the afternoon and had a nice visit. My brother, Barry, and his family joined us for dinner topped off by my mom's wonderful apple pie and ice cream.
                                               4/29/10 Panama City to Grayton Beach.
46.44 miles
We took a leisurely tour of Panama City and St. Andrews before tackling the heavy traffic and anti-bicycle attitude of US Hwy 98 and Hathaway Bridge. One of the problems was that it was the week of "Thunder Beach" when thousands of motorcycles hit the beaches increasing the congestion. We did finally have good tailwinds and made great time with little pedaling effort. We stopped at the Winn Dixie on PC Beach and visited with my youngest brother, Jason. When we arrived at Grayton Beach, we stopped at the Red Bar for a grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich. Later that night we went to the Laredo Cantina in Destin for some killer fish tacos! It was a great finishing meal for this little tour of  Florida State Parks and seafood restaurants in the Florida Panhandle.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my brother, Matt, and my buddy, Phil. I have toured with both of them in the past and knew that we were compatible riders and good companions. Somehow, I managed not to get a picture of the three of us together. Bummer.

  • The pedaling miles of this tour were purposely kept short and unharried and the camping was totally relaxing.

  • I chose late April to miss some of the spring rains and beat the heat of May. It seemed to work as we were pretty luck weather-wise. 

  • The food was totally awesome; fresh gulf seafood fried the southern way! What's not to like?