The final day of our bike trip was the real deal. Knowing that we had 50 miles to ride, we got an early start (okay, it was 9:00) after fortifying ourselves with a huge breakfast at the Santa Fe Cafe. The weather was amazingly cooperative--there had been a major thunderstorm during the middle of the night that had cooled things off even more and it was in the high 50s. Jackets were even required!
Our first stop was O'Leno State Park. The highlight of our visit to the Park for us was a trip across the swinging suspension bridge. It was much sturdier than the suspension bridge I visited in Myakka State Park (which could accommodate only three people at a time) but still would not have been much fun in a high breeze. We learned that the Park is named after a now-defunct town named Leno ("Old Leno" became "O'Leno"). Originally, the town was called Keno after the gambling game that is still played today. This seems like a strange namesake to me, and religious and commercial townspeople felt the same way, forcing the name change in 1876. The Park looked like it had some nice areas to explore but we had a long day ahead of us so we didn't waste any time in getting back on the road.
When we left the Park, we still had 20 miles to ride before getting back to our car. The first 30 miles hadn't been too difficult, but the last 20 were a bit tough going. It seemed like we were biking into the wind no matter which direction we were heading. (I know, I sound like the old timer who walked to school uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes on but that's how it felt.) Pam, who has been taking spinning classes, got up a good head of steam and took the lead. LaNae, who has been babysitting her grandchildren for the past five weeks, contemplated the sweep van but did not give in. I held my own but noticed that people had quit telling me how comfortable I looked on my bike and started telling me how whipped I looked. Less than two hours later, we were back at our cars, legs a bit wobbly but feeling quite accomplished.
Nobody would mistake the Bike Florida trip for a Backroads vacation but it was an easy and inexpensive way to participate in an organized ride and get an introduction to biking in Florida. More importantly, it was a great opportunity to spend some time with friends away from our every day lives and responsibilities. I came back to Punta Gorda physically tired but mentally rejuvenated--who could ask for anything more?