A report of the 2011 Tour de Springs curtesy of the Tours Des Vagabonds
By Chris Balding
Several members of the North Florida Bicycle Club (NFBC) participated in the 2011 Florida Springs Bicycle Tour (a.k.a. the Tour de Springs) which took place March 20th through March 26th. This years’ tour was organized by NFBC member Jerry Potts. New to the Tour de Springs for 2011 was the addition of a SAG (support and gear) vehicle, generously provided by NFBC member Paul Sheffey. Joining the NFBC members was Chris Balding, of Tallahassee, who became interested in making the trip after reading about previous years’ tours via the internet.
The Tour de Springs is a large loop ride which began and concluded at the Cecil Commerce Center. Each night was spent tent camping in a Florida state park where the participants enjoyed creature comforts such as restrooms with hot showers and campsites with electric outlets and drinking water. The parks also provide participants with natural amenities such as picturesque ravines, nature walks, historic artifacts, waterfront campsites and an occasional swim in one of north Florida’s many natural springs.
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The route takes riders through areas lined with beautiful horse farms, rich agricultural lands and natural treasures such as the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers as well as the many public and privately-operated springs of north Florida.
Points of interest along the route included the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, the Olustee Civil War battlefield and the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Campsites along the route included: Ocean Pond, Suwannee Valley Campground, O’Leno State Park, Manatee Springs State Park, Paynes Prairie State Preserve and Gold Head Branch State Park.
The weather for this year’s tour was ideal with temperatures ranging from the mid-fifties at night to the mid-to-upper-eighties during the day. Clear skies never threatened a drop of rain at any time.
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Evening campsite conversations were lively as everyone compared notes and swapped stories of the day’s ride. Jerry Potts brought along his Dutch ovens and prepared dinner for the entire group on two occasions. Jerry’s menu included chicken breast with vegetables and Biker’s Chili with andouille sausage. Jerry even included desserts of cherry crisp and a pineapple upside-down cake; all cooked in his Dutch ovens. When Jerry wasn’t cooking, the group enjoyed some great Mexican food in Chiefland and some smoky BBQ from Keystone Heights. Other nights found the riders eating meals brought from home and prepared in camp. Great food and camaraderie in the evenings helped to soothe road-weary parts and rejuvenate the spirit for the next day’s adventure.
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The Tour de Springs is about beautiful scenery, friendship and the creation of memories that will last a lifetime. Whether this is your first tour or one of many, the Tour de Springs offers an exciting way to see the natural beauty of north Florida.