By: Joe Barnett
Special for the Chronicle
Sixty cyclists from all directions gathered on the steps of city hall for the 10th annual “Urban Gorilla” Super Bowl Bicycle Ride. Some came to discover new trails. Some came for exercise. Some came for camaraderie. Neil Dimacali said he “concocted” this great ride to show that our network of parks and trails could serve to get people bicycle commuting safely around “Trailahassee”.
The city was beautifully “car free” quite at 9AM. Then someone yelled “It’s time” and our bicycle caravan rolled down oak-tree lined Park Street. We turned left onto Belmont Street and right onto Glenway Drive to beautiful Fern Trail hidden at the end of the street. A thick forest quickly hid the now 70 cyclists as we “single tracked” along a steep banked stream of clear water that passed the last pristine section of Cross Creek, with its cave like stream bed and remnant old growth forest.
First time “Urban Gorilla” riders are always surprised how Fern Trail seems to “pop up” into the Tom Brown Park forest without crossing any streets! One rider said “I’ve lived in Tallahassee a long time but I discovered places I didn’t know existed”. Capital City Cyclist President, Zach Finn, a former mountain bike racer said our trails are as good as anywhere in the USA. Deborah Desilets from Miami was in town to promote her architect book “The Architecture of Joy”. Her comment for the day was “But WOW, What a ride!”
I luckily found myself riding with Chuck Goodheart, the city’s “trail planner”. He answered question after question, until he somehow disappeared and I was lost from the now 85 other cyclists! It turned out they were turning off the trail to “Brent’s house” for a patio party at the 20 mile rest point.
After waiting for the others to catch up we continued our journey through peaceful neighborhoods and bike lanes to the Miccosukee Greenway. A short “street” ride across Capital Circle took us to paved Goose Pond Trail that ended near Thomasville Road. At Market Square we supported “local businesses” for lunch. I learned many cyclists were also eating at Cody’s Original Road House.
After lunch I followed a couple riders behind Higher Ground bike shop to the “power lines” double tract trail leading to Phipps Park. This is a very “casual” bike ride. Cyclists were now scattered all over Tallahassee on trails such as “Magnolia” and “Cadillac” at Tom Brown Park, “Silk” and “Cambodia” at Lake Overstreet, and recently improved “Red Bud” at Forest Meadows.
I miraculously found my car poolers, Randy Baker and Vincent Garcia. They led me through the “Live Oak Plantation Loop” trail, bike lanes, more trails and neighborhoods back to City Hall. Some riders had rested on Fred Dietrich’s front yard but now many were celebrating at downtown Backwoods Bistro. They had proved it was possible to ride 50-60 miles through Tallahassee with almost no street riding!
Tallahassee is quickly becoming a big time bicycling destination. A few years ago a Canadian racing team scouted us out as a possible winter training area. Unfortunately a couple dangerous drivers scared them away. But times are changing. Our commissioners have worked hard to earn the League of American Cyclists “bronze award” for bicycle friendly efforts.
Tallahassee officially has “America’s Best” parks. Bike lanes now extend all over Tallahassee. North of Tallahassee are America’s last best Long Leaf pine forests. Southwest we have over 500,000 acres of Apalachicola national forest. The St Mark’s National Wildlife refuge is Southeast of town. Wakulla Springs is one of the world’s largest! The Nature Conservancy says we are one of America’s five “biologic hot spots”. We live in an outdoor paradise.
The Capital City Cyclists website has nearly 50 bicycle maps and dozens of free group rides listed. We have mountain bike, cyclocross and college racers, the holiday “paraders”, bike commuters, touring cyclists, polo playing cyclists, slow and fast cyclists. For only $15/year you get discounts at bicycle shops and events like the April 20-21 “Tour of Scenic Rural Vistas” and the fall “Spaghetti 100”. These rides support “Kids on Bikes” and other fun efforts to make Tallahassee healthier, happier, and safer!