We knew Day One would likely be the toughest; four out of shape riders riding over 50 miles in the midsummer Florida heat. Adding in the intermodal SunRail factor, and the celebratory send-off at DeBary Station required a 5:AM alarm setting and a 6:AM role out.
The short trip to downtown Orlando was a snap, and getting on the train, even with two tandems (one with a trailer), went off without a hitch. We watched the sun rise as we rode SunRail north to DeBary. There we met up with all those who’ve made this trip a reality, Volusia County Commissioner Pat Northey, Ed Noseworthy of Florida Hospital, representatives of VisitFlorida, Cobb Cole, the East Central Florida Regional Planning
Council, the City of DeBary, West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, SunRail, and of course, the brainchild of the expedition, Herb Hiller.
It was bit like being chased by paparazzi much of the day. Mary Ann Horne from MetroPlan Orlando shooting us as we rolled out of the
garage in the early morning dark and as we boarded the train; half a dozen more cameras as we disembarked from the train in DeBary, and a reporter from Florida Today interviewing us, then stalking us down US 1 to shoot us repeatedly as we rode from blazing sun into … but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
From DeBary Station it was a short ride up Shell Road and across US 17/92 onto a leg of Volusia’s Spring-to-Spring Trail. We were accompanied by Commissioner Northey, Ed Noseworthy, and a number of other trail enthusiasts. The first leg winds through beautiful Florida hammock, then it runs as a sidepath for a while along Dirksen Road, before veering off into its own right of way. At Green Spring Park a few folks peeled off to return to the Station.
At some point it becomes the East Central Florida Rail Trail, and a few more followed us to the current end of that trail, where we got our first little “surprise.” Ahead was an active construction zone. To the south an unpromising looking double-track dirt path along a powerline corridor. Our friend and route guide Ted Wendler insisted it was a short and doable bike-push. While it looked quite sandy at first, it soon became a grassed-over path. Everyone else headed back on the pavement as we pushed through the dirt. But it was no big deal. In a few minutes we were at the homey and friendly Osteen Diner for a second breakfast.
After breakfast we headed east on Maytown Road, a little-used 2-laner through hammocks, flatwoods and swamps. The road even offered a few nice stretches of canopy. Around noon we hit Oak Hill, where we were interviewed by Scott, that Florida Today reporter. The radar was showing some showers bubbling up, so we covered important things with plastic and headed south down US 1 to meet the mayor of Titusville in Mims. US 1 is not the most pleasant road to travel by bike; virtually no shade and little see. When the East Central Florida Rail Trail is completed it will not only obviate using Maytown Road and US 1, but also cut about 10 miles from the trip from DeBary to Titusville, and provide more shaded riding as well.
But then it just kept on coming. (“Okay, really, that’s enough, you can stop now…”) It kept dumping on us all the way to Titusville.
There we were treated to the hospitality of Laurilee Thompson, co-owner of Dixie Crossroads Restaurant. She got us a ride to our lodging for the night, Casa Coquina Bed & Breakfast, a fun, quirky and historic place with a view of the Indian River and the space center.
And we’re not done. Time to sign off, as we head out for dinner at Dixie Crossroads, followed by a night-time kayak trip on Mosquito Lagoon, which is supposed to have excellent bioluminescence this summer. And to top it off, a rocket launch is scheduled for 11:30 p.m. while we’re out on the Lagoon. A once in a life-time opportunity!
It’s gonna be one very long day. But we can sleep … some time.
You can also follow our exploits on Facebook at First Florida Rail to Trail Tour.