Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Monday Quick Hits: A painful ride in Croom and other pointless exercises

Usually, when I'm on a long slog in the woods ...

and think about what I'm missing in town, it's beer and food.

On Saturday, all I wanted from civilization was some form of motorized transportation to get me out of the middle of the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest and a large, steel trash bin in which to throw what I'd come to think of as a completely pointless form of non-motorized transportation, the mountain bike.

My off-road bike was a Christmas present, and I hadn't used it much until a couple of weeks ago, when my road bike needed long-term repairs and I started hitting the trails in Croom fairly regularly.

I thought that was enough preparation for Saturday's annual 35- and 50-mile ride sponsored by the Southwest Association of Mountainbike Pedalers —

It wasn't.

For the first 15 miles or so, my falls were at least infrequent enough that I could use them as milestones. Yeah, that's right — the big log with the ramp on it that everybody else hopped over but that dumped me into a palmetto thicket — that was about a half-hour into the ride.

But for some reason, the trail designers thought it would be fun to lead riders in and out of an old mining pit as many times as possible and to give this section a cutesy name, Drunken Monkey.

That's where I lost track of my falls, and that's because I fell almost every time I went down into the pit and every time I tried to ride out.

Nothing serious, but highly irritating, especially because I was being passed by hordes of riders who were obviously skilled, but even older than I am and not especially fit-looking. And not only did they pass me, but felt the need to offer sympathy and advice.

I didn't want to be told "you're doing great" or "just relax your arms." I wanted the ride's organizers to tell less-experienced mountain bike riders like me what they were in for and to give us a chance to opt out.

But if I don't and probably never will see the appeal of this kind of riding, I definitely did see the appeal of the last half of the 50--mile route:

Gentle sand hills covered with longleaf pines, twisty sections of trail through oak forests, views of the vast, recently abandoned pasture owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the blue sky above it.

It made you appreciate the variety and size of Croom. On the map, it's the perfect counterweight to Spring Hill, a green, unpopulated section in Hernando County's northeast corner almost exactly the size of the crowded section in the southwest.

And if there were crowds of riders there on Saturday — and several of them had driven in for the event from places such as the Villages and Palm Beach County — on most trips to Croom I don't see another soul.

I know I've made a similar point about similarly valuable natural assets before, but it seems as though hotel and restaurant owners, along with the county, could do more to promote the place. And we need to add mountain bikers to the list of potential renters of the cabins at Chinsegut Hill.

Croom has the longest uninterrupted network of mountain bike trails in the state and some of the best. You and I might not get it, but to a lot of people the chance to ride the Drunken Monkey is reason to drive across the state.

Another pursuit I have a hard time understanding ...

is social media.

I was struck by an essay in the Times Perspective section Sunday about how we'd all be more productive if we took more time to rest and fully disengage from our jobs.

It didn't mention Twitter and Facebook, but they seem like a prime example of this problem. And, of course, I didn't first see this story — originally published in the New York Times in our paper. I saw it because so many people took on the unnecessary burden of posting on their Twitter or Facebook pages a link to a piece about the importance of shedding unnecessary burdens.

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Diver drowns in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver drowns in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday was investigating a drowning at the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost their lives at the site.S...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Tampa Bay is finally clear of the bitter chill that covered the region this week as temperatures picked up on Saturday. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Updated: 8 hours ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Published: 01/20/18
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They aren’t just up for debate, they...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18