FL>North FL>March or April 2014>Bike Tour
I've been meaning to do a bicycle tour of northern Florida for a year or so now, and I think I'll throw it out there for folks to chip in if they want to join.
Right now, I'm planning on a week to a week and an half in March or April of 2014, covering at least a coast-to-coast tour (from one coast of FL to the other), starting in St. Augustine and ending in Cedar Key. I'm thinking of hitting some of the springs as overnight side trips along the way, but that might be a little ambitious for some folks. There's also a lot of beautiful horse country near that route; I may work some of that in as day trips as well.
I figure on covering about thirty to fifty miles a day (fairly flat terrain; none of FL is particularly mountainous) on average, for an easy-going pace, with various stops along the way in small towns and sites of interest. Most of the touring will be along roads, so safety is a must (smart people ride single file, to keep their numbers[/AlecGuinnessVoice]), but amenities will be plentiful and easily available most of the way.
The majority of the overnight stays will likely be at wilderness management areas (free, but includes few amenities; bring your own water treatment method and cat hole trowel), with a couple of stops at either state parks (if the pilot program going on now convinces the state that allowing LNT hammockers is a good idea; requires a fee, but has amenities), developed private campgrounds (near a few of the springs; again, requires a fee and has amenities), or hotels/B&Bs (if the group desires, probably at the beginning and/or end of the trip).
Everything is still pretty nebulous right now, and I'm open to ideas for the trip if anyone has some. More information will be forthcoming as the date approaches (I'm going to try and time this so that it falls during the same week as my wife's Spring Break, and the dates for next year's school calendar haven't been released yet); I just wanted to get this out there in case anyone else might be interested.
Preliminary Route Planning
Alright...got a preliminary route for the coast-to-coast. This one assumes a four-day trip (I'm keeping my options open for side trips) and that the state park system is going to allow hammocks next year. Link to map route is located here. Some of the distances (particularly day one and two) are a little off. Google maps doesn't like the routes I pick when I use their bike directions and won't let me put the driving directions on the rails-to-trails systems that I'll likely be following on those two days.
Day one starts in St. Augustine, at Anastasia State Park, for convenience. Assuming that the FL state park system allows hammocking next year, this is a good meet-up spot. On the beach, near A1A (which has a bike lane the whole way down to SR 206), it is also convenient to downtown St. Augustine and several beachfront hotels (should anyone want to stay there). Day one ends at Rice Creek Conservation Area, approximately forty miles into the trip. Rice Creek has a water pump and shelter, and is about a mile hike in from the parking lot (perfect for stretching those legs after a long day on the bike). The terrain during this day is fairly flat, with long stretches of beautiful wilderness (mostly coastal tidal swamps and cypress swamps). About twelve to thirteen miles is spent in metropolitan areas, with the rest being open highway.
Day two starts at Rice Creek and continues on to the Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve, just southeast of Gainesville. This day is approximately 44 miles, approximately 2/3rds of it on road beds, with the remaining third on rail-trails. The Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve has a water pump and is approximately an half-mile in from the road.
Day three starts at the Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve and heads south to Payne's Prairie State Park, which has showers and electricity available (though we could go to the primitive site, if everyone wanted). It'll be a short day, approximately 12 miles, most of it on back roads with very light traffic--however, these roads do not have much in the way of a shoulder, so extra caution is required on this day. There are showers at Payne's Prairie, and it's located in the very beautiful town of Micanopy, with several kitchy restaurants and stores within easy biking distance. This day is deliberately short to give our legs a chance to rest before pushing on to the last day.
Day four starts at Payne's Prairie and heads out to Cedar Key. This is the longest day of the initial route planning and will require some water and food stop planning before we leave the Gainesville metropolitan area. It's about 65 miles and will consume the majority of the day for the ride.
So, that's the initial plan so far. I'm welcome to ideas for side trips...so far, I'm thinking about heading up to Ichetucknee Springs on the third or fourth day and possibly Fanning Springs on the fourth or fifth day, if we decide to extend the trip significantly. There's also the possibility of heading south from Payne's Prairie to Juniper Springs, but that would be a ~55 mile day (or ~110 miles round trip over two or three days) that wouldn't work too well at looping back to the initial route. Still, it's worth considering...