Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ah, Yes. This is Why We Moved Here.

I've been whining a lot lately about bike lanes and cranky drivers ... so much that I may have given my loyal reader (hi, Mom!) the wrong impression about cycling in Naples. It's really very nice -- you just have to pick your routes carefully. Of course, ask any one who's ever tried to ride a bike down Old Hickory Boulevard in Brentwood, or Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, or Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa and they'll tell you the same thing.

For example, I finally figured out a decent route from Naples east into farm country. This is a good route to have when the wind is out of the north -- which it often is -- because it means that you can do a century that doesn't require 50 miles of pain.

Thursday, the wind was out of the north. A cold front had blown through, so it was almost chilly ... perfect riding weather. Since I didn't have any work commitments -- at least, none that I could work on until some other issues were resolved -- it was the perfect opportunity to try out my inland route.

Between the cold and trying to get some things lined up for later in the week, I wasn't able to leave the house until almost 11 am. This meant that I would only have six good hours of daylight to ride my century ... and I somehow needed to stop along the way for lunch. Since the wind was not my enemy for most of the route -- at least, not my mortal enemy -- this was not too tricky. Another plus to riding Florida's flat terrain.

My route started as most of my developing routes do: North through Pelican Bay to Vanderbilt Beach Road. On Vanderbilt Beach, you can go east for 10 miles to the end, with a bike lane the whole way. Then, you cut south towards Golden Gate Boulevard through the Estates. Golden Gate also has a bike lane, plus it's interesting to go through the Estates. If you've never been there, I think this is where all of the really rich folks in Naples live. They must be rich, since they don't waste a lot of their money on their houses or cars.

When the bike lane ran out, I turned back north on Wilson Boulevard to Immokalee Road, then almost immediately hung a right on Randall Boulevard. I was following the orange "T" markings of the local Thanksgiving route at this point, and they had picked good roads.

A left on Everglades Road took me up to Oil Well Road. Things finally quieted at this point, and I was able to get some pictures. There's still a lot of construction there, since this road is being widened to six lanes. Here's a picture of the piles of dirt that they were scooping out of a field nearby, and which they are then slowly grading into the new roadbed to build it up.

Just past this there was a huge steam shovel at work.

As with any digging in Florida, where the dirt had been there was now a lake. When they finish the wider road, it should have a multi-use trail on both sides. It will probably be very pretty since there will be a lot of new lakes.

It was nearing 1 pm when I finally got to Ave Maria.

They've put out their Christmas landscaping there, as you would expect. Publix was even using Christmas colors on their sign.

One thing about Ave Maria: There is no premise of political correctness about "the Holidays." It's Christmas. Period. Lots of Santa stuff, sure, but it's mostly about Jesus's birthday ... or, at least, the date to which they moved Jesus's birthday to draw in the folks that worshipped the winter solstice. And the Druids come in there somehow, too. I don't know. But, hey, who am I to knock anyone for moving somebody's birthday? RandoGirl's birthday is the day after Christmas, but I once had a surprise birthday party for her in June! We wanted to do a pool party. Boy, was she surprised!

Anyway, I stopped for lunch at a place off the town square, across from the big church. Here's a picture of the nave of that church.

Kind of looks like the Pope's hat, don't you think?

I had a really good toasted turkey wrap at the restaurant there. The owner came out and talked to me a bit, and said that she gets lots of cyclists coming up from Naples.

I took Camp Keals Road back down to Oil Well Road. The east side of this road is literally miles of orange groves. I am so looking forward to biking past this when these are in bloom and the air reeks of orange blossoms.

There are always birds at the spillway at the end of this road, and they always fly away when I stop there.

I continued east on Oil Well Road, crossing Florida 29. Past there, you move into cattle country.

A lot of folks don't know this, but cattle is a major industry in Florida. My grandfather's uncle -- I think that makes him my Great Uncle -- was a cattle baron in the 19th century in Florida. His name was Captain Francis A.Hendry, and Hendry County is named for him. My dad used to have some great stories about him, and if half of those were true he was a rapscallion in the grand southern tradition.

Later, I spooked a few more flocks of birds.

I was a little over 50 miles when I was given a sign.

At some point, I had left Collier County. It was time to turn my life around ... or, at least, my bike. Otherwise, I was not going to get home by dark.

As befits anyone leaving prison, I took the straight and narrow path. I could see the few vehicles that were out there long before they caught up with me, and they all gave me plenty of room when they passed. You could tell that this road was mostly used by nice Florida farmers, who tend to take the "live and let live" approach to driving.

I stopped to take off my arm and knee warmers just before I crossed Florida 29. The wind was now mostly behind me, making the 70-degree day very comfortable. The roads along here were all full of flowering purple clover, and the day had turned perfect.

Ordinarily, I don't like out-and-back routes, but I pretty much stuck to the same roads on the way back. The wind stayed slightly behind me, making it easy to cruise along at over 18 mph. Soon, I was back in Naples, stopping at Panera for a big recovery cookie, and back in my driveway before 5 pm. It had been an excellent day to be out on a bike, and I had ridden an excellent route.

I may have to go back to prison again.


  1. Just completed a week of riding (every other day) up in Sarasota, both road and mtn biking. Weather was just perfect, and I seemed to get more benefit from the tailwinds than the opposite when they were headwinds.
    Got a 200K event in Gainesville, in Jan. Feel pretty good so far.