The trip actually started out very calmly, on the Legacy Trail, which came highly recommended, and is part of Venice's award winning biking community. I did about eleven miles on the trail, which was nice enough, and ran to the southern portion of Sarasota. Not real scenic, and not what I like to do, but its the first trail I was on, on this entire trip. Is was a nice little distraction, but shame on the people of Venice and Sarasota for not cleaning up the piles of dog poop that polluted a nice trail. I also saw a crazy looking soap car derby type of a red bike, blowing down the trail. It sounded like a jet, but I think it was pedal driven. I could only see the drivers head, which was encased in aerodynamic clear plastic, barely above the shining red body of the missile like vehicle. Y'all watch out for that wildman!
|This is where I hopped onto the Legacy Trail by the old train depot.|
After the trail, it was back to the very busy Tamiami Trail, US41, with no shoulders and 100% development through Sarasota, Bradenton, and Palmetto. These towns, especially Bradenton, were older, and not as nice as the standard set by Naples and other, more southern Florida towns. I went on a little side trip in Bradenton, to McKechnie Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have spring training. I couldn't get in, but it looked like there was a ton of renovations going on, and it looked like they better hurry up to finish before spring training!
Once getting out of Palmetto, after the split that would have taken me to the Sunshine Skyway bridge, US41 cleaned up nicely, new pavement and biking shoulders. If only the nagging north wind would take a break. It wasn't that bad though, and I headed through some industrial areas, with a huge factory with high smoke stacks, and two huge 'hills'. One looked like a garbage dump, and the other, a quarry of some type of white rock (phosphorus?) There was surprising little truck traffic. But the craziest drivers, that came the closest to blowing me off the road, were school buses about five in a row that were really too close!. I got into Tampa with about an hour to go before rush hour, and I was amazed at how I blew right through the center of town, with very little traffic, just some construction, which wasn't bad, but it would have been if I had been an hour later. With the help of two traffic cops, I was guided off my intended path of travel to Bayshore Blvd, which was a beautiful path along the bay that I had just traveled around. Everything that I went by over there, the two big 'hills', the big smoke stacks, were clearly visible as I headed south, towards St Petersburg, eventually. Bayshore Blvd reminded me of the trail in Key West where we watched the sunrise, on the east side. Joggers, bikers, and festival tents that were being set up for something, were all along the 5 mile linear park.
Then the fun began. I turned onto Gandy Blvd and a trip directly into the blinding sunset, at the same time that rush hour just blew up. Buses, traffic to the max, not expecting a bicycle on such a busy road at rush. The Gandy bridge was fantastic, about 4 miles long with a huge shoulder and bike path on the west side, but as soon as the path ended, (which they all seem to do down here at the weirdest places), I really thought I was gonna have to perform death defying riding at a speed that would get me another 15 miles before it got dark. I played the breaks in traffic caused by the red lights and flew into the sunset bouncing between stints on the road and the sidewalk, depending on vehicular traffic, and pedestrian traffic, choosing the lesser of two evils as I went. All the while I was on and off the phone with Pam(while riding, to beat the dark), trying to figure out where the campground was. Just as it was getting pretty dark, I finally found Seminole Road and the bike path that crossed over it, and led to the St. Petersburg KOA. It's staying light until almost 6:30 here now, thank God.
Two good things happened once I found my wonderful wife and our Rv. She had cooked a great meal of Swiss steak, gravy and noodles. It woulda been a shame if I woulda got run over and missed that! The other good thing is that I realized that after 105 miles, my lips were finally healed of the plague that has had a grip on them since the Keys. I spoke in a earlier blog about quitting the Chapstick habit, and I have. I give all the credit to vitamin E oil for finally healing them.