Florida Bicycle Safari 2013

Guest blogger Steve Rodgers is back with another first hand perspective of the 33rd running of the The Florida Bicycle Safari featuring six days of supported rides over some of the best cycling roads in North Florida and South Georgia.

The 33rd Florida Bicycle Safari was held April 20 – 25, 2013 and 24 Caloosa Rider members and friends or family, mostly from the Ft. Myers area, participated. The Florida Freewheelers put this event together with the help of 60 volunteers, and have been making improvements over the 21 years that they have sponsored it.

some of us posing in front of the "Munchkins' Tent" (Sue O'Connor and her sister, Reenie Hamel, brought decorations and a flamingo on a bike to decorate their tent!)  back row:  Steve Rodgers, Bill Garrison, Pete Olsen, John Morrison.  Front row:  Sue O'Connor, Reenie Hamel, Ron Cox
Some of us posing in front of the “Munchkins’ Tent” (Sue O’Connor and her sister, Reenie Hamel, brought decorations and a flamingo on a bike to decorate their tent!) back row: Steve Rodgers, Bill Garrison, Pete Olsen, John Morrison. Front row: Sue O’Connor, Reenie Hamel, Ron Cox

This is a bicycling adventure that features six days of supported rides over some of the best cycling roads in North Florida and South Georgia, and is limited to 250 participants. There is also a 3 day option, and some of our members opted to stay for just those days and ride the routes that surround the Live Oak area. These first three days were based at the Suwannee County Fairgrounds, and had ride options of 35 to 60 miles each day, with a Century on Sunday.

Some of the Caloosa Riders on the transfer day to Cherry Lake during the 2012 Bike Safari
Some of the Caloosa Riders on the transfer day to Cherry Lake during the 2012 Bike Safari

On Monday, the 3-day cyclists loop back to Live Oak to finish their tour, but the 6 day riders continue on to the second campground venue at Cherry Lake. Again, different ride options each day, with another Century Route offered on Tuesday. Each day the routes are freshly marked in different colors; there are rest stops along the way; and there were SAG wagons and a roving mechanic on the roads all day long.

camp at the 4-H Club Facilities at Cherry Lake
Camp at the 4-H Club Facilities at Cherry Lake

The registration fee includes catered breakfasts and dinners each day by the Dixie Grill located in Live Oak. They also provide lunch in Cherry Lake, and there were two days where the riders were treated to an afternoon get together with boiled corn on the cob, draft beers, and live music! The dinner menus are changed up each day, and ends with a Barbeque Feast on the slopes of Cherry Lake that simply can’t be beat. Throw in the ice cream sundaes after that and you begin to wonder if you will be able to pedal the 50 miles back to Live Oak the next morning!

group picture, and "jersey day", as we prepare to ride from the Fairgrounds to Cherry Lake (Ron Cox, Chris Wells, John Morrison, Tracy Wells, Pete Olsen, Peter Ahlgren, Bill Garrison, Reenie Hamel, Sue O'Connor)
Group picture, and “jersey day”, as we prepare to ride from the Fairgrounds to Cherry Lake (Ron Cox, Chris Wells, John Morrison, Tracy Wells, Pete Olsen, Peter Ahlgren, Bill Garrison, Reenie Hamel, Sue O’Connor)

Most of our group arrived at the fairgrounds on Friday afternoon and had plenty of time to get their tents set up and gather around for snacks and conversation before heading out to dinner in Live Oak. We barely had time to get back to camp and crawl into our tents before the first rain of the event settled on us. That meant for cold and damp weather in the morning, so our first day of riding was delayed by a few hours.

Sunday’s weather was chilly, but a nice ride day as the sun came out towards the end of the ride. That allowed for a good party that afternoon with the corn-on-the-cob and draft beers. We also watched a young lady associated with www.victorybicycles.com perform acrobatic tricks on a custom built hi-wheel bike – riding no less on a muddy and rutted road with only flip flops on! Her last stunt was a forward dismount over the top of the handlebars – pretty talented!

riding on one of the beautiful roads outside of Cherry Lake on the way to Quitman, GA
Riding on one of the beautiful roads outside of Cherry Lake on the way to Quitman, GA

Well, the rains came again that night – hard and for what seemed like hours. Hard to tell with the water dripping on your tent from the trees above. Got a few things wet inside the tent which was not good, and meant that we had to pack things up in the morning that were pretty soggy. The day got better as we neared the 4-H Club at Cherry Lake, and by the time we got the tents up, things had pretty much dried out. Some of our group took kayaks out while others headed for the afternoon Yoga stretch class. It’s such a beautiful venue looking out over Cherry Lake and relaxing in the afternoon.

some of our group posing in the Madison, FL town square (Ron Cox, Sue O'Connor, John Morrison, Pete Olsen, Peter Ahlgren, Reenie Hamel, Linda Adams, Bill Garrison
Some of our group posing in the Madison, FL town square (Ron Cox, Sue O’Connor, John Morrison, Pete Olsen, Peter Ahlgren, Reenie Hamel, Linda Adams, Bill Garrison

The next two days of riding were absolutely picture perfect conditions – great country roads with very little traffic on them, and many of them recently resurfaced. Nice rollers to deal with, but not very tough at all for this flatlander! Our fourth day of riding took us into the town of Quitman in Georgia where we had hoped to grab some pizza at a restaurant that we had visited the year before. But, it was closed, so we chose Mexican food across the street – kept it kind of light as we still had 20 some miles to return to Cherry Lake.

Day 4 Route Options

Day 5 headed us to the town of Madison, Fl where the rest stop was set up in the town square. We found the coffee shop that we had stopped at last year, and also found a picture taped to the bulletin board inside of one of our own, sleeping in a chair they had outside. I guess that picture has been up the whole year! New ice cream shop had opened next door, so of course we had to try that out. . .

After one more breakfast from the Dixie Grill, we got things packed up for the truck to return them to the fairgrounds, and then we hit the road one last time for the 50 mile return route.

If you haven’t done Bike Safari before, it’s well worth it to schedule the week off, sign up early, and get in on the great riding venues that will be offered again next year. People attend from all over the Eastern U.S., with many returning year after year – we even recognized a few faces of folks that we had met before, and not just from Florida. Hardly anything to complain about, and truly a fantastic time!

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