by Darlyn Finch
If you had told me a few months ago I’d be taking a bicycling vacation along the Gulf Coast of Florida, I’d have thought you were joking. If you had predicted I’d cycle with equal confidence along bike trails, beach-side boulevards, and downtown city streets, I’d have called you mad. But that was before I took the CyclingSavvy class offered by Mighk Wilson and Keri Caffrey.
Armed with state of the art on-bike skills, a clear understanding of cyclists’ rights and responsibilities, and a double dose of new-found self-confidence, my fiancée and I strapped our bikes on the back of his car and hit the road. Our goal: to see as much of the Gulf Coast as we could before oil from the BP spill washed ashore, and to check out the varied conditions for cyclists we’d encounter on the way.
Starting in Orlando, we made our way to Alligator Point in the Panhandle, then meandered down the west coast of Florida, stopping for a day or two or three in Tampa, St. Pete, Ft. Myers, Pine Island, Sanibel, Captiva, and Big Pine Key. Highlights as a tourist were the Carol King/James Taylor concert, touring the Thomas Edison/Henry Ford compound, and meeting a real, live Olympian whose paintings were on exhibit at the art museum on the waterfront in Ft. Myers.
Highlights as a cyclist included riding in and around Ft. DeSoto, and getting a thirty-mile grand tour of the highways and byways in and around Ft. Myers with cycling guru Dan Moser. We also toodled around Pine Island, finding not only a beautiful facility devoted to the archeological study of Calusa Indian middens, but the house of one of my fiancee’s favorite writers. During the last week of our vacation, Key Deer watched from the tree-line as we biked past a house shaped like a geodesic dome where solar panels provided energy and rain barrels supplied the water.
We didn’t encounter many obstacles to safe cycling, but when we did, we knew what to do, thanks to what we learned in the class. I can say without hesitation that I would never have considered putting in the miles I did without the knowledge, skills, and confidence I learned from CyclingSavvy.
Now that I’m back home, I don’t think twice about strapping my shopping bag to my back and commuting a few miles to Publix for groceries. I even enjoy riding my bike to work now and then. But that’s another story. Click here to read it.