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2012 Forgotten Coast (De)Tour

Here’s an article about an overly adventurous bike tour written by son, Ken, and published in the Florida Bicycle Association‘s newsletter.

Bike Florida’s Forgotten Coast Tour was an Adventure to Remember

2012 Bike De-Tour Article   |    Bike Florida’s 2012 Forgotten Coast Tour was a huge success. The rural route, small towns, gulf views, great weather, volunteers, and camaraderie were perfect ingredients for turning ordinary times, extraordinary.

Registration closed early at 625 riders. Half had not ridden a Bike Florida Spring Tour, the other half had ridden 5, 10, 15 or more.

The endless hours of planning, mapping,  communicating, and analyzing every possible detail that was required to successfully navigate and lead 625 cyclists 400 miles to 5 different cities in 7 days, required levels of planning and detail that is the stuff of nightmares.

If I didn’t love it—the excitement, the experience, the opportunity to create something special—I would still do it.

The northwest panhandle of Florida proved to be a beautiful riding venue. Hills and beaches go well together.

The transition from Tallahassee’s newly paved—and flat—St. Marks Trail, to the rolling hills of Gadsden County set up our next day’s challenge perfectly. Hills, and a minimum 70 mile—or century route—from Quincy to Wewahitchka, left most riders ready for a quiet night, ready for bed after a home-cooked meal. One rider described a hill on the century route as “scary steep—I wasn’t sure I was in Florida.”

The next day I woke to a 5 a.m. call— no 5 a.m. call is good, but I always answer. Our sign team was forced to the side of the road in zero-visibility smoke, then back to “tent city” by zero-patience law enforcement.

The route was closed.

A wild fire, visible on the horizon the night before, shut us down. Fortunately, the only real optional route was at our front door, all we had to do was to

  • keep 625 riders from leaving the wrong way (check),
  • find a new rest stop (check),
  • move our crew to it (check),
  • find a vendor (at 6 a.m.) for eight port-a-potties—the others were “smoked” in (check),
  • keep everyone informed (check!)

The “Forgotten Coast De-Tour” was born.

Did I mention a multi-car, deer induced, accident with injuries, delayed us just as we announced it was okay to ride? Everyone, including law enforcement, staff, riders, and volunteers, focused on the fun and enjoyed the day.

These moments set up several opportunities. Another of the “fire” relocated rest stops found its way to the perfect park setting as we entered our lunch stop in Port St. Joe, where I heard many stories of oyster and beer stops along 30A.

Two nights in Apalachicola, a day at the beach on St. George Island and a party at the Blue Parrot were welcome layover day activities.

Our next day’s ride was along the gulf coast, in many cases, mere feet from the water, to the Wildwood Resort in Wakulla County. Except for the occasional “fore,” a driving range is good camping.

A short 30-mile ride back to Tallahassee and a cool cup of “iCycle Works” organic, homemade Gelato, finished the event wonderfully.

Of the many things that make these events a success, the volunteers are paramount. We had nearly 100 working as site facilitators, rest stop helpers, sign crews, sag riders, trash monitors, errand runners and medical issue assistants.

Our volunteer program offers a discounted entry fee in exchange for one and half days work on the tour. Most of the volunteers enjoyed a day off riding, commented how the “behind the scenes” experience enhanced the ride, and offered to help next year.

So many variables go into the decision making process when designing large tours. There are as many opinions about daily miles, the routes to take, and the places to stop, as there are riders.

It is obvious things are going well when the seasoned rider says this was one of the best. But the person I consider most often when planning, is the one doing it for the first time.

When the ingredients are mixed just right: miles per day, rest stops, host cites, and the weather is good, we have the chance to really open the world of possibilities to them. Each of us—each experienced rider—knows that inspiration.

This year’s tour had its share of new riders who had not ridden day after day for so many miles.

They did, but did not need to, say thank you. You could see it in their eyes, in they way they walked and the way they talked.

The bicycle is their new muse. The perfect ingredients were available and we blended them well; seasoned riders loved it, new riders found the inspiration.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to create something special.
I appreciate your comments and expressions of gratitude. I hope to see you next year.