Clearwater to St Petersburg

Day 8: Florida Coast-to-Coast bike tour

Start: Summerside Inn [1477 S Ft Harrison Avenue, Clearwater Beach FL 33756]

Finish: Ponce de Leon Hotel [95 Central Ave N, St Petersburg FL 33701]

Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/6830038834

RideWithGPS route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38699248

By day 8, which wasn’t really in our original plans, I was quite ready to finish the route and not ride my bike for awhile. We looked forward to seeing Rimas in the afternoon, but in the meantime we had to get to Gulfport. The Pinellas Trail is an amazing piece of infrastructure, providing an interurban highway for cyclists and pedestrians. In most places the trail separates walkers from riders, and both from vehicles. We detoured to Walsingham Park and the Florida Botanical Gardens, where turtles and birds and gators coexisted, and where I learned about the various kinds of palm trees. After passing the Madeira KOA (where I’d originally thought we’d stay, but in hindsight was glad we didn’t), we crossed the long bridge over the bayou and found Cafe Croissant for coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

We’d arrived at the meeting spot too early, so we made our way to Gulfport Beach. Luckily the Tuesday market was happening, so we wandered through the tents and waited by the casino. Rimas arrived on a Brompton and found us, then whisked us off to a local brewpub where he treated us to congratulatory beers and snacks. From there he escorted us back to the Pinellas Trail, pointing out interesting sights all the way to the St Pete Pier. After snapping pictures and arranging transport for the next day, Rimas rode back home. Peter and I made our way upstairs to the tiki bar called Teak. We were too weak for any more alcohol, and dawdled at a table sipping on lemonades, reveling in our accomplishment.

That night we stayed at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is conveniently close to the end of the C2C route and very reasonably priced. It’s historic, and has been visited by many famous athletes, politicians, and personalities. Our corner room on the 5th floor had huge windows on two sides, and was super comfortable. While in St Petersburg we walked around the waterfront and through the historic Old Northeast neighborhood. We skipped the Dali museum (because they required advance ticket purchase and was sold out for the day) and thoroughly enjoyed the Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement. For dinner we feasted on sushi at Sushi Inc, and walked to the local Publix to stock up on snacks for the train trip.

Rimas picked us up the next day to drive us and our bikes across to Tampa (we found no suitable way to cross Tampa Bay on bikes) and drop us off at the Amtrak station. After a long but uneventful overnight train ride, and a short bike ride, I arrived back home. Once again, we’d organized an interesting bike tour while our cars stayed in the driveway.

I would recommend the Florida Coast-to-Coast route to experienced bike tourists, with specific hints (based on our own mistakes) how to make the bad days better and truly enjoy the area. We made our own choices this trip, but there are MANY more opportunities than the ones we took. Parting tips:

  • Stop at the freshwater springs whenever possible, even if it’s a bit out of your way. They’re magical, and unique to Florida.
  • Get off the route long enough to see the numerous lakes you’ll pass, which are otherwise out of sight.
  • The “coast-to-coast” name should come with a caveat. If you want to see and enjoy the beaches on both ends of the route, you’ll have to work for it. Both east and west coasts have barrier islands that prevent you from seeing the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, unless you detour beyond the official route to explore.
  • Whether camping or staying indoors, explore ALL of your options thoroughly. Camping and lodging are sparse in some places. It’s possible (though it does incur some risks) to keep your itinerary loose rather than planned out and locked in.
  • Study “the gap” thoroughly. Save yourself stress and take the wise recommendations of locals like David Rose, who’s done it a bunch and shared this route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38803570?fbclid=IwAR3YUup-eVRpDpZF0J5n6RDbAbIgoWBLKKzwtHgbF1cQCKMlHYo3SOHJVsU
  • Think ahead for water and food stops. Though C2C uses lovely well-developed trails, some of them are missing vital amenities. Even in areas with lots of houses and car traffic, it might be difficult to find food and water refills.
  • Be prepared for some headwinds and wacky weather.

~ by GinaCico on March 20, 2022.

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