Florida Coast To Coast

I’ve been eying bikepacking routes in Florida for a year now. Last year I had planned on doing this route but a HUGE cold front pushed us to the keys instead. This year I had the opportunity to do the mid Florida Coast To Coast route with simple logistics because Lisa had a work commitment in Tampa and was willing to drive down with me, drop me in Titusville, and meet me in Tampa at the end of her meeting.

The trip was 3 days, 73, 65 and 82 miles with two nights of camping. For flat-ish terrain, that seems to be a good fully loaded daily distance for me. It takes pretty much a full day of riding at an average of about 10-15 mph, but still gives enough time for a leisurely pack/unpack at the beginning and end of the day. As I found, that’s especially important when the daylight is still short at less than 12 hours. I camped at two nice campgrounds with, most importantly, nice showers and bathrooms. I don’t mind just wiping down after a day of riding, but digging a cat hole is still a step too far for me at the moment. Days one and two were pretty set, and while my nominal plan on day three was to end in Tampa at Lisa’s hotel, I decided the best course would be to stop at Clearwater Beach (82 miles) rather than circle back to Tampa (100 miles) or take my Starkey bailout to Tampa (65 miles and a shit ton of STROADy-ness). But it all worked out perfectly with Lisa meeting me for dinner at Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach when she sprung from her meeting. The weather was mostly cool with temps in the upper 60s to low 70s during the day and chilly at night. Fortunately, there was no rain during the day, but there was a deluge as a cold front passed on the first night (Big Agnes came through again!). Pretty ideal.

The coast to coast route is basically a collection of rail trails with an umbrella moniker of the “Coast to Coast Trail”. There are several notable gaps that you have to either route around or suffer on less than ideal, busy roads. Not for the faint of heart in Florida! Because I don’t mind unpaved routes, one major gap was easy to route around through Withlacoochee State Forest (Richloam Tract), but not knowing the route or the conditions on the ground added a little anxiety, even though I did a day ride last year in the general area (but it’s a huge swath of land). Once again, it all worked out on the positive side of expectations. Other than a flat on day two from glass (it sealed up in a minute or so, love tubeless tires!) and a navigational error that took me a very different (and a little horrifying in one spot) path for the last 20 miles,

I really enjoyed the ride and I’m really digging the paved (and unpaved) rail trail gig, even though it makes me feel a bit (a very little bit) like an old guy. I don’t mind riding on the road and I do it mostly on my road bike and in group rides – some people just won’t do it anymore – but the vibe on the rail trails is just so chill it’s hard not to like when your are in non-hammer mode. And with a 50 lb rig, the (mostly) easy grades of 2% or less are welcome. Like I observed last summer in New Jersey, I am amazed at how varied the landscape is in central Florida, really beautiful forests, ranch land, beach, great off road bike infrastructure and of course the ubiquitous STROAD, and all of those things make the trip interesting. Once again, like I wrote, three long days of zone 1/2 are GREAT base miles in the offseason. As always, there is a lot of “alone time” when you do these trips solo, but that’s the way it is at the moment and I can’t wait around for that to change.

Some details about this route/ride if you want to explore it:

Rather than take you through a long blow by blow as I did on the 6 day trip to Quassy last year, if you are interested in stuff along the ride, the best thing to do is view my Google Photos Album and make sure you click the “i” icon in the upper right to see the descriptive image captions and image locations, giving a series of vignettes of central Florida: https://photos.app.goo.gl/KYcdLHfto3hnEvsq5

One thought on “Florida Coast To Coast

  1. Thanks so much Alex. I am planning my trip out of SW FL starting in April. Mainly going to follow the proposed USBR 15 route up to USBR 90 and then head west…but a detour crosswise might be in the works. Will study your shared files.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s