Barrier Islands and a Belated Blog Milestone

Yesterday, a few of my friends from the Caloosa Riders decided to “go coastal” and do a nice barrier island tour of Sanibel. Our route was to take us due west down Summerlin Road down to Punta Rassa, cross San Carlos Bay on the always fun, and often challenging Sannibel Causeway bridge, and then loop completely around Sanibel Sanibel island.

Bridge A of the three bridge Sanibel Causeway. At 70 feet, it’s the highest point in SW Florida.

The weather forecast called for hot, humid weather with a chance of showers…you can pretty much copy and paste that forecast for the duration of the summer, as the only real deviations from this is when tropical storms or a hurricane head our way. The wind was due West at around 10 MPH and the sun, as always was relentless.

Five of us, Bill, Pete, Rick, Jeff (no more flats please) and myself met up at the Publix Supermarket on Daniels Blvd. We headed out leisurely down Ben C Pratt sticking to the wide paved paths flanking the parkway. Although pathways are not my favorite things to ride on, these are wide, smooth and pretty much uninterrupted, so you can open it up a bit…on a side note, I’ve had more near misses/incident with vehicles on these types of pathways than riding on the road. Motorists never seem to respect these paths when crossing them.

A menacing cloud ready to dump on us as we approach Punta Rassa.

Once past US 41, we took a quick nostalgic detour through Lakes Regional Park…well at least for me as this always used to be my cycling mid point a few years back…and then proceeded to head out the back exit onto Summerlin Road and even more paved paths. It’s curious that the city/county decided to go with paved cycling paths to Punta Rassa (the only crossing to the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva) vs bike lanes, especially since there is quite a bit of both bike and pedestrian traffic.

No flats for Jeff this time, as he cruises across bridge C of the causeway.

As we approached the Sanibel Causeway, we ran into a brief shower and some buffeting headwinds…right on cue to make the climb just a wee bit more challenging. Now for you true mountain goats out there, a steep 70 foot climb might not even be a blip on your climbing radar, but for us Floridian’s, this is our “Hors Category” climb, one of only two here in SW Florida, both being bridges. It’s not so much the climb itself that is hard, but when you add in the buffeting headwinds winds, the rain, the odd placement of the drainage grates and the close proximity of the cars, those 70 feet become much more technical than they should be. Even the descent is tricky as you end up weaving around the same grates at speeds well over 30 MPH. Regardless of the conditions, crossing San Carlos Bay on bike is a treat. The panoramic vista of the Gulf, the bay, and the islands are spectacular.

The Ghost Bike in memory of Tracey Kleinpell who was tragically killed while cycling across the causeway on 5/7/11

Once past the causeway, we went on a long looping path of Sanibel, taking a welcomed refreshment/shade break at the Hess station on Palm Ridge Road. Although the mercury was only in the eighties, the heat index (our obverse version of the windchill factor) was in the mid nineties making it one of the hotter riding days so far this year. It always takes the better part of a couple of weeks to acclimate to riding in the heat. Caution and patience are always advised during this period, as it is extremely easy to overheat and suffer heat related injuries.

After the break we wound our way off the island back onto the causeway. This time though, we had a favorable tailwind to help us bridge the span and get back onto the mainland. From there it was back onto the paved paths for a spirited return to our starting point at the Publix.

Rick was on my tail as we took advantage of a favorable tailwind on the causeway.

Cycling out to the barrier islands is always a treat. Sure, you really can’t turn it into a hammerfest with all the traffic and path riding, but you still get in plenty of mileage, fantastic views, and lets not forget the great company. Note to self….repeat often.

On another note, I wanted to mention that this little blog hit the double century mark a couple posts ago. Thank you all again for taking the time to read my miscellaneous ramblings. I continue to be sincerely honored and flattered that you allow me to bring a little of my world and cycling hijinks into your busy life.

Route: Barrier Islands
Ride Time: 3:52:49
Stopped Time: 1:45:41
Distance: 60.77 miles
Average: 15.66 mph
Fastest Speed: 31.65 mph
Ascent: 794 feet
Descent: 782 feet
Calories: 3165

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