Biking to work brings health, environmental benefits

I left my iPod at home and waited until full daylight because getting killed is a possibility anytime you throw a leg over a bicycle around here and I, of course, wanted to avoid it.

Not only for my own sake, but for the cause's. This is Florida Bike Month, and, in Hernando County, bike-to-work week. I needed to make this seem reasonable, not crazy, which I don't think it is at all.

I head north toward Brooksville on Emerson Road, pedaling up a hill with a view of the marshy vastness of Griffin Prairie. That's how it's labeled on most maps, though I prefer the alternate name, Chocachatti Prairie, which pays homage to what historians say was a major Seminole settlement. Their cattle grazed right down there.

Left on Mitchell, past an old orange grove with a few buckets of navels and grapefruit for sale on the honor system and a few trees loaded with fruit nobody bothered to pick. What a waste, but what a display — flowers and oranges and that unbelievable perfume.

There's a stretch of Mitchell that might not be considered especially desirable. But I rolled by massive oaks and fresh banana stalks emerging from torn, crumpled dead leaves and wisteria hanging like bunches of grape. That's definitely one kind of luxury.

The usual model airplane glue smell, from the fiberglass pool plant, hung over south Brooksville, the only neighborhood in the county that would put up with it.

North of downtown, Irene and Olive streets — so southern even the phone lines are draped with Spanish moss. Margaret "Weenie" Ghiotto, founder of Rogers' Christmas House, lived here most of her life. She owned most of the houses at one time or another and planted most of the azaleas and dogwoods. You have failed as Brooksvillian if you don't take this two-block detour — blacktop out, brick on the way back — when these white and pink flowers are in full psychedelic bloom. You've got until the end of this week, tops.

I rode up Old Crystal River Road with the sun still low on the grassy lower slopes of Chinsegut Hill. Some of my Tampa cycling friends think of riding here, with a stop for a sandwich at the nearby Lake Lindsey Grocery — a.k.a. the "Mall" — as the ultimate real Florida experience. I can hit it on my way to work, if I take the long way, as I did on Tuesday.

Visit www.co.hernando.fl.us/mpo/bike/ to read about this week's main event, a ride with Brooksville Mayor Frankie Burnett on the Good Neighbor Trail and to City Hall that leaves at 8 a.m. Friday from the Russell Street Park. The site also lists the benefits of bicycle commuting — reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, improving the cardiovascular health of the populace.

All good reasons, but not the best one, which is that you get a ride in. You get your exercise doing something other than grinding away on an elliptical trainer. You don't need the distractions of playlists and podcasts.

Even the mines don't look bad, blocked by the towering berms on Citrus Way. There was one more climb, up to the old Lykes family place at the corner of Fort Dade Avenue, and the downhill coast past one last display of wisteria before the RaceTrac and State Road 50. I get to work alive — not just safe, I mean, but ready to rock-and-roll.

And how was your commute?

Biking to work brings health, environmental benefits 03/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:28pm]

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