Monday, April 5, 2010

Biking the Barrier Islands! Gulf of Mexico, Florida

Finally doing something wow! And no, it wasn't paddling. When paddle plans temporarily fall through, it's time to hit the beach on a bike!

After three days of researching where to paddle in Tampa Bay Florida, chatting up locals, looking at maps, trying to find my way around a new place, I finally made peace with the noisy fridge in my Barrier Islands basecamp in Bellair. And I finally found the best spot on the patio to dodge the hot Florida morning sun to catch the Internet connection with my laptop poolside to blog. Trust me, putting up with the "pool rats" when they are out and about is an impossible feat I have not mastered . . . yet. Headphones! There's an idea.

Today I rented a bike I totally fell in love with at the Energy Conservatory Bike Shop in Dunedin, Florida. Only $20 for 24-hours and it came with a great helmet (optional around here) and a bike lock. What a deal! It's a Giant Farrago. When I first looked at it, I had my doubts - I didn't know the brand - how foolish!. At first glance, it didn't look like much to me but someone told me, "Hey! These are good bikes!"And he was right!

I don't know Giant bikes, but I will have to learn more about them as I'm researching a new bike, and thinking about Marin bikes.

Back to the fantastic cycle on the Barrier Islands beaches  I have to walk about a hundred feet from the basecamp with the Giant to ride the sand from Belleair beach heading south. There is no paved strand like you find in California's Redondo Beach, one of my old haunts.

I'm wondering if it is allowed to cycle on the sand?  No one else is doing it and the sheriffs patrolling the beach in big trucks pass right by me. So, I guess it's allowed. Other beach-goers ask, "Hey, can you ride on the beach?"

Me: "Guess so, the sheriffs didn't stop me."

Beach-goer: "I mean, CAN YOU RIDE ON THE BEACH? With all the sand?"

Me: "Guess so, looks like I'm doin' it!" And wow! It is FUN!

I've been on a lot of beaches in California, Mexico, Cuba, and St. Martin. But never on a bike. Why not? The sand is usually too soft. It would be impossible to cycle it. But while on my daily jogs on Florida's beautiful Barrier Islands strip of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico during the low tides, I noticed how hard the sand was closer to the water. It is perfect for jogging - as long as you dodge the jelly fish that may be scattered along the shore. But can it support a bike I wondered?

Yep! It rocks! Better than riding a horse on the beach (almost). The bike can't swim.

A few highlights along the way (and some highlight pics to follow this post.)

A flock of wild green parrots living in palm trees.

A monster jellyfish!

A crab scurrying sideways from the ocean to steal a little dead jellyfish (couldn't shoot him, he was too quick!)


Mating Laughing Gulls (No pics of that, it wouldn't be right!)

Lunch at Guppys in Indian Rocks (4-thumbs up from the BaffinPaddler!) I could eat there every day. Great food, service, and atmosphere. My kind of place!

After 3-hours of cycling the Giant Farrago from sand to road, every part of my body feels good. Nothing hurts and I just want to keep going - another Forrest Gump moment! You can feel the quality in every part of the bike. I can even ride no hands on bumpy sidewalks, it is so well put together. I'll keep the bike for the rest of the trip. It will help me escape the pool rats! They are gearing up as I write this so time to hit the beach!

A paddle trip to Cockroach Bay planned later this week. Let's see what that will bring.

Happy cycling beaches when you can't get out and paddle!
The BaffinPaddler

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