One week, 260 miles, human (and train) powered. That’s the goal of the four riders touring the East Coast Greenway and St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop on a ride that started with a trip from downtown Orlando to DeBary via SunRail, trying out a tour route to encourage others to follow.
After a 5 :30 AM start on Friday August 1 and a sendoff at the DeBary station of SunRail by sponsors and local officials, the two sets of couples on tandems – a Gary Fisher pulling a BOB, and a Trek – used the Spring-to-Spring Trail through Gemini Springs and the East Central Regional Rail Trail to Osteen, where a bridge to carry the trail over SR 415 is currently under construction.
Since the next segment of the trail is not yet in place, they followed Maytown Road through rural East Volusia County to reach US 1, where they picked up the East Coast Greenway, following a newly paved segment of the East Central Regional Rail Trail to downtown Titusville, where the mayor joined them for the stretch into town.
Up until 1:45 AM after watching a rocket launch during a bioluminescent kayaking trip on the Indian River Lagoon, the foursome was back on their bikes late the next morning to pedal through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and up towards New Smyrna Beach via Haulover Canal and a stop in Oak Hill for lunch. We met up with them as they were calling it a day.
“Why now?” we asked. It is, after all, the hottest month of the year in Florida. “We think they wanted to kill the lab rats,” said Robert Seidler, laughing. “If you can do it in August, you can do it anytime!”
Robert is an old friend and a filmmaker with a passion for biking, working on many projects featuring trails and bicycle safety. His partner, Laura Hallam, once served as Executive Director of the Florida Bicycle Association, as did another member of the quartet, Carol Wilson. Her husband Mighk is well-known in the cycling community for his educational work with CyclingSavvy. He’s a planner with MetroPlan Orlando and president of the American Bicycling Education Association.
Together, the two couples are a perfect fit to test out the route. “We’re not serious, crazy bicyclists,” Robert said. “I should have trained a lot more, but it doesn’t matter. Anybody can do fifty miles. You stop, you see things, you have lunch, and you experience Florida in a whole new and wonderful way.”
We asked Robert was his biggest surprise was so far after two days of riding. “That I can do it, in my sixties, in August, and have fun.”
How much fun? This is a better-than-your-typical touring trip, with nice hotels and seafood restaurants instead of gymnasium camping and cafeteria meals. “We figure if we can handle a trip like this in August, anyone can,” Robert said.
“The tour is put on by the East Coast Greenway Alliance, whose mission includes connecting transit with trails,” said Herb Hiller, who organized the car-free trip for the group. “It was a natural when I learned about the start of SunRail that I would make the St. Johns River-to-the-Sea Loop connection. It was that way when I first saw the rail-trail that linked Palatka with St. Augustine and the other that linked Enterprise with Edgewater. Throw in existing trail through Flagler County and, Voila! Loop!”
For several decades, Herb has actively advocated for bicycle connectivity through Florida, noting its tourism potential. He’s put more than six years into advocating for the completion of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop as a paved, off-road trail. That’s where the foursome is headed now, biking up the East Coast Greenway to St. Augustine to loop back down through the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, ending back at SunRail by the end of this week. We’ll catch up with them later this week for an update.
Mighk is blogging their daily experiences on the Commute Orlando blog and posting photos on the First Florida Rail to Trail Tour Facebook page, where you can follow along with the trip.