Back to cycling after a 15 day absence that included a visit from an old friend, beach breaks, a Cubs game (a rare win), Star Wars invasion of Disney, and some rainy days. It’s amazing how easy it is to fall out of a routine. To get back in the swing of things, I decided a change in scenery was needed, so it was off to Sanibel and Captiva for some island biking.
I started my ride at the Tanger Outlet, which is only a couple miles from the start of the Sanibel Causeway, a three bridge link between mainland Florida and Sanibel Island. The last time I rode across the span was on my old hybrid bike, which made climbing the 70 foot tall bridge, the tallest in Lee county, quite a chore, even with the granny gears. No granny gears were needed this time, as powering up the incline was really easy on the new bike. I had to stay on the brakes on the way down as I would have easily exceeded the posted speed limit.
Traversing the 3 mile bridge by bike is a treat, with beautiful aquamarine water on either side, fantastic views of coastal SW Florida, boaters on the water and exotic wildlife, both the natural and bikini kind.
Once across the causeway I was immediately immersed in the “bike friendly” atmosphere of Sanibel. I use quotes for this as although the island has gone above and beyond to provide awareness and a great environment for cycling, it’s not quite the same as the open road cycling I have grown so accustomed to.
Instead of dedicated bike lanes on the road, Sanibel provides a separate bike road/path next to it’s main thoroughfares. They are well thought out and very bike friendly, but not really engineered for road bikes as they have far too many entry and exit points, are a bit on the rough side and ironically have far too much bike traffic on them. In short they are built for leisure cycling. So I shifted into leisure mode and enjoyed a hot yet beautiful afternoon riding across the islands.
Life on Sanibel and Captiva is at a much more leisure pace than the rest of SW Florida, which is pretty darn leisure too. The islands are full of restaurants for all tastes, as well as shopping, but don’t expect sprawling developments and wall to wall condos as found in most parts of Florida. The true beauty is that more than half of the two islands are preserved in their natural state as wildlife refuges. In fact ordinances on the islands restrict building height to “no taller than palm trees” and bar fast food restaurants from building there (with the lone exception of a Dairy Queen which was on the island before the laws were passed).
Pristine beaches abound including Light House beach, with its 127 year old lighthouse, the secluded Bowman Beach and Turner Beach with it’s spectacular sunsets. Sanibel is known world over for it’s amazing shelling. The large amount of shells that wash up on the island happen as a result of Sanibel being a barrier island with an unusual layout having an “east-west orientation when most islands are north-south. Hence, the island is gifted with great sandy beaches and an abundance of shells. It is also due to the fact that Sanibel is part of a large plateau that extends out into the Gulf for miles. It is this plateau that acts like a shelf for seashells to gather. Many people come to the beaches of Sanibel to gather up these beautiful shells to add to their collection. People are often seen bending down looking for sea shells, and this posture has been named the “Sanibel Stoop”.
When visiting SW Florida, be sure to add a Sanibel bike ride to your must do list. The challenges are few, but the rewards are great.
Route: Sanibel and Captiva
Started: May 28, 2011 10:56:49 AM
Ride Time: 2:55:59
Stopped Time: 32:28
Distance: 40.40 miles
Average Speed: 13.77 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 27.90 miles/h
Ascent: 451 feet
Descent: 385 feet