Sunday, September 23, 2018
Health

Get a workout and explore the scenic sides of Florida on a bike tour

Hopping on your bike can be an invigorating way to see parts of Florida, engaging your legs while being easy on your joints. But Florida is a state with a terrible reputation for keeping cyclists safe.

A good compromise can be finding a scenic bike ride away from traffic. Studies have shown that a bike ride, versus a tour in the car through the countryside, can decrease stress, increase muscle tone and may even improve the immune system.

Now a company that specializes in guided bicycle trips around the world, Escape Adventures, has made its first foray into Florida, expanding opportunities for local cyclists. (See tours, far right.) Escape Adventures has set up seven tours in some underappreciated gems around the state, like the Withlacoochee Trail, about an hour north of Tampa, and the hills of Clermont.

Taking a bicycle out while on vacation is a popular side trip out West or in the lovely countryside of New England. But Florida has consistently led the nation in bicycle deaths, so bicycle tours are rarely offered even with record tourism.

Two years ago, a National Complete Streets Coalition report named the Tampa Bay region one of the worst metropolitan areas for bicyclists and pedestrians. The same report dubbed Florida the most dangerous state for riding a bike.

The metropolitan areas are making baby steps, even earning kudos recently from Bicyling magazine for adding more bike lanes and trails in recent years.

Meanwhile, there are some jewels in Florida that Escape Adventures thinks are worth exploring on two wheels. Tours, designed to suit any speed, cater to both locals and tourists looking for a day trip.

Cyclists pedal new Specialized road bikes with extra wide tires that offer smooth and stable rides. They are delivered in a tricked-out minivan and guided by Alan Snel, a former Tampa Tribune reporter who has been an avid bicyclist for more than 20 years.

Snel was a longtime Tampa Bay bicycle advocate who co-founded the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club. He quit the Tribune in 2006 to create SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers), a bicycling advocacy group.

After a three-year return to journalism in Las Vegas, he met Jared Fisher, who owns an international bike tour business and bike shop. Snel persuaded him to expand east, and Escape Adventures Florida was launched in early December.

"These are my favorite bike rides that I've cherry-picked from years in Florida," Snel said.

The trips are:

• The "Alps of Florida," what Snell calls the rolling scenery outside Clermont northwest of Orlando. At its peak, Sugarloaf Mountain Road reaches 312 feet.

• The Withlacoochee Trail ride is a paved and shady trail, a 46-mile ribbon that is the longest rails-to-trails path in Florida. The mostly flat path begins in north Pasco County and ends near Dunnellon in Citrus County. "It has a beautiful tree canopy, and you have small towns like Inverness and Floral City every 10 miles or so to take a break," Snel said. "You have this beautiful canopied kind of wilderness scenery, and you don't have to worry about vehicular traffic."

• You can take a 20-, 40- or 60-mile trip on the Pinellas Trail. One of the most scenic stretches of this trail is the quarter-mile-long Cross Bayou Bridge that spans Boca Ciega Bay.

• The Vero Beach A1A ocean ride pedals along the Atlantic Ocean to the Sebastian Inlet bridge that offers a perch for spectacular views of the ocean and the Indian River Lagoon.

•The Ormond Loop offers 25 paved miles about 90 minutes northeast of Orlando pedaling through a tunnel of oak and swamp maple tree foliage.

• Lake Okeechobee puts riders on a paved trail atop a 30-foot earthen berm that encircles one of America's biggest freshwater lakes.

• The Jungle Trail is a hard-packed dirt road that runs along the Indian River Lagoon north of Vero Beach, about two hours north of Miami, and leads to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's first national wildlife refuge featuring stunning bird life.

When Scott Sofferman was visiting his sister in Boca Raton in December, the retired veterinary surgeon and cycling enthusiast booked Escape Adventures for its tour of A1A.

"I've ridden all over Europe and California, but I do know Florida has that dangerous reputation," Sofferman said. "I didn't have that much time and I wanted a relaxing ride."

Sofferman said he liked that Snel had a local's eye for knowing the less-traveled but scenic spots.

"I think people are surprised to find such beautiful rides here," Snel said. "The people who are in charge of promoting tourism in Florida really need to show off that bicycling element."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

     
 
Comments
Too late for many, Florida’s prescription database is finally mandatory

Too late for many, Florida’s prescription database is finally mandatory

This is a story of success. Or maybe it’s a cautionary tale.The difference, I suppose, is whether you are haunted by the lives ruined and lost, or you are focused on the path going forward. Either way, you need to understand the history and the playe...
Published: 09/22/18
Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

TAMPA — As John Reisinger waited with family at Tampa General Hospital, grief settled in like a fog. So some of the details are hazy.But he remembers the moment when three women in white lab coats approached him.The day before, his niece, Jessica Rau...
Published: 09/21/18
I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

It took me a year and a half to watch Netflix’s To the Bone. The movie, which debuted in January 2017, portrays Ellen, a 20-year-old woman battling anorexia nervosa, and her experience being in and out of various treatment programs. When it w...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/21/18
All Children’s unveils a $95 million research center. Next step: ‘Cure some diseases.’

All Children’s unveils a $95 million research center. Next step: ‘Cure some diseases.’

ST. PETERSBURG — "Vicky Hopkins" is 37 weeks pregnant and splayed on a bed at Johns Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital. Four obstetricians surround her as she groans."My back is killing me," she complains, but she keeps pushing. Soon the round shape of...
Published: 09/20/18
Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

WASHINGTON — Thousands of foster children may be getting powerful psychiatric drugs prescribed to them without basic safeguards, says a federal watchdog agency that found a failure to care for youngsters whose lives have already been disrupted...
Published: 09/17/18
Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

The prominent New York City gynecologist didn’t bother to conceal his disdain."Stop practicing Google medicine," Lina Kharnak remembers the doctor chiding her when she asked about a possible cause of her worsening leg and back pain. The disease about...
Published: 09/16/18
Updated: 09/17/18
Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Since Saturday morning, patients and staff in Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion and Rehabilitation Center have been advised against using running water.As of Sunday afternoon, it was not known when the recommended ban would be lifted.According t...
Published: 09/16/18
Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

What makes you mad? Dropping your new phone in the toilet — after deciding not to take the extra coverage that would have replaced it? Being cut off in traffic? Having a parking place "stolen" from you? Doing dishes after shopping for and cooki...
Published: 09/14/18
Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

The toxic algae bloom known as Red Tide has left a trail of dead fish in its wake up the western coast of Florida. The bloom that had been wreaking havoc on our southern neighbors has now made its way to the Tampa Bay area. High concentrations of the...
Published: 09/14/18
In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

The health care business in Florida and across the nation is the midst of monumental change as insurers, hospital chains and even retailers begin to venture outside their traditional roles. Hospitals are getting into the insurance end of the busines...
Published: 09/17/18