Another installment in the saga of watching the C2C grow across Florida
After a six month hiatus from cycling I was finally able to get back out on the bike. My destination? To check out the new Garden Street Bridge and bike route through downtown Titusville.
I ended up sidelined last February. While we were along the Suwannee River, I was shuttling Sandy as she was hiking sections of the Florida Trail for updated photos. My knees had been complaining on longer hikes so I was taking it easy by riding my mountain bike on some of the nearby bike trails instead of hiking. We’d gone our separate ways at Camp Branch, me biking while she hiked. Going up the steepest hill back to the trailhead, the pain in both of my knees was unbearable. I had to walk the rest of the way to the car, pushing the bike.
My knees didn’t improve after that. I was trying to stay off them as much as I could. But it never really worked that way. Like many other men, I didn’t really want to go to the doctor. I was sure that I’d get better. I was wrong. Instead, the pains in my knees were joined by a pain in my lower back, numbness down my leg, and tingling in the toes of both feet. The pain and frustration of inactivity led me back to one of my old doctors, a fellow cyclist.
As he adjusted my back, I said something about my knee hurting, I didn’t want to admit it was both of them. When I described the pain, he had a closer look. “Does it hurt if I press here?” I almost let out a scream as he pressed. He moved to another place along my knee cap and repeated the ‘test.’
“You have tendonitis in your knee,” he said. Small tears where the tendon attaches to the bone. An injury that long distance runners, cyclists, and hikers can get from overuse of the joint. Not properly warming up and not stretching can bring it on. The good news is that it is a self healing condition, using heat, massage, anti-inflammatory/Ibuprofen, vitamin E and a magnesium supplement, gentle stretches, and time. And I would be back on the trails and bike paths.
I didn’t take it as easy as I should have. We were in the process of rearranging our lives to help care for my mom and spend more time with pop. I applied heat, massage, and took all the required medications and supplements while gently stretching. Slowly, very slowly, I began to heal.
Six months is a very long time for me to not be on a bike. And don’t believe the old saying, “it’s like riding a bike, you never forget.” Maybe once you’re on the bike seat.
While I couldn’t ride, I gave my bike a good cleaning, made a few adjustments, tightened up everything, and installed new tires. The bike was ready and waiting on me.
Finally, the day came I thought I could trust my knees. After adding air to the tires, I placed the bike on my roof rack. With the bike on the rack, air pump, helmet, gloves, camera, GPS and the bag with spare tubes and tools, I checked each item off mentally. I guessed I was ready, so I left home to drive to the bike path that had opened earlier this year through downtown Titusville, crossing a big bridge over Garden Street.
As I was part way there, I remembered. It’s mid-August. It’s 90 something degrees and the heat index is 105 degrees. How about a water bottle? I knew I’d forget something. An old trick I learned from bike touring, a 20oz pink lemonade bottle fits in the bottle cage once you let a little air out of it.
On the drive to the trailhead, when I turned a corner I heard a loud pop. Looking up through the sunroof, I could see that part of the bike has slipped out of the locking device on the roof rack. A quick stop and minor adjustment, and I’m back on the road. When I bought this car 12 years ago, I really didn’t want the sunroof. I was afraid that it would give me problems in later years. Instead, it has given me a view of the bikes for thousands of miles of travel. Had I not seen the bike come loose from the rack, it could have ruined my day and caused lots of damage to my bike and car.
My ride began just north of the new bike/pedestrian bridge over Garden Street in Titusville, parking near Draa Road. Months before the bridge was finished and the path was paved into downtown Titusville, I had walked down the overgrown and trash-covered old railroad bed. The finalized route does not follow the old railroad bed. On my walk of the path I ended at the active FEC railway with posted “No Trespassing” signs. I could not see how the trail would be routed to avoid crossing the tracks.
The bike path exits the old railroad route after crossing the bridge. The paved route makes a sharp turn and dumps you off at the end of a dead end road. Luckily, it’s a quiet street that sees very little traffic. This detour leads you to Main Street and a marked RR crossing on your way into downtown.
After the crossing the railroad tracks, the trail does some thing very odd, and unsafe in my opinion. Both lanes of the bike path are on the same side of the road. From this point through down town, bikes traveling in both directions are on the same side of the street!
When riding the C2C going west, you will be riding against traffic. The road has been marked to show this route, and there is a painted barrier between you and the cars that you are riding toward. But it is not an ideal situation for riders, as I quickly found out.
While I was following the path, a UPS truck ignored both the barrier and the bike lane markers and cut me off to make a right hand turn at a traffic light. A couple of blocks later, I would have to leave the bike lane to go around another UPS truck parked in and completely blocking the lane.
With only painted lines on the road along this section of the route and vehicles seemingly clueless to what they mean, it makes it a very dangerous place to ride.
Where the bike lane reaches Indian River Avenue, there is a “Bike Route” sign pointing north and south. I know the C2C will continue north toward the Max Brewer Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, so I turned left. This part of the C2C was still under construction as I approached, with lane shifts and orange cones all the way to Garden Street. Along this route, it appears that the bike lanes will continue to be routed on only one side of the road.
Reaching CR 402 within sight of the bridge, the route leads to a sidewalk, and there are no additional “Bike Route” signs to tell you where to go next. I know the C2C will go over the Max Brewer Bridge, so I turned right again. The bridge has wide bike lanes and protected pedestrian sideways in both directions of traffic. Locals have been walking, jogging, and riding across it since it opened.
I can’t tell if both directions of the bike path will be along just one side of the bridge, or if the bike path will be split. What I do know, is once you reach the east side of the bridge and continue into Merritt Island NWR, the are no bike lanes in either directions. Only a white line on the side of the road and a thin little band of asphalt between it and the grass.
Until this piece of the trail is in place, riding into or out of Merritt Island NWR can be very dangerous. Shift changes at Kennedy Space Center and beach goers at Playalinda Beach create very busy traffic at times.
I quickly rode across CR 406 to Sand Point Park on the north side of the highway to check out the facilities. There are no warning signs for motorists and no crosswalk for riders coming west from Merritt Island NWR to cross over to the bicycle route.
I rode back to the intersection of Indian River Avenue and Main, to the “Bike Route” sign facing eastbound riders. Riding west, there was nothing to give me directions, but I knew the route since I’d just ridden it. I had heard a new Welcome Center was under construction along US 1 behind the Pritchard House, so I rode up that way to see how construction was going. When completed it will offer local information, restrooms, and a small bike shop, as well as a place to park.
Returning to my car, I took the opportunity to ride up the completed portion of the bike path to North Titusville to see how progress was going. Sandy and I had ridden this section paralleling US 1 soon after it opened last summer.
Although we’ve seen heavy equipment working along the old railbed north of Dairy Road since the beginning of the year, and pavement laid down along most of it, this trail segment still ends in front of Brevard Lumber, just south of Dairy Road, with warning signs telling you not to enter the construction zone. We hope to see it open up through Mims as cool fall season comes around.