Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Get Ready To Roll The Hills Of Florida

It's the highest point along the Lake Wales Ridge, a backbone of earth that runs along the north-south spine of central Florida.

Officially speaking, its peak is 312 feet and Sugarloaf Mountain Road outside Clermont northwest of Orlando will get you there.

Escape Adventures Florida is proud to include the rolling scenery of the "Alps of Florida" as part of its inventory of day bike tours around the Sunshine State.

For cyclists who are looking for a little more than Florida's pancake-flat terrain, Escape Adventures Florida will take you for 40 miles on the hilly central Florida land where roads slice through old orange groves and new subdivisions.

You ride roads with names such as Buckhill Road -- and these are real hills.

And of course, there's good ol' Sugarloaf Mountain Road.

Let Escape Adventures Florida show you beautiful and hilly terrain to ride.

Monday, December 19, 2016

What A Difference 10 Years Make

Just a little more than a decade ago, writer Sharon Wynne at the St Pete Time wrote this nugget about a Bicycle Bash bike festival that I worked to organize. It was the first bike event I helped put on.

That's why I got a kick last week -- 10 years later -- when I biked with the same Tampa Bay Times features writer (the paper has changed its names from St. Petersburg Times to Tampa Bay Times) along the Pinellas Trail and chatted with her about Escape Adventures' new Florida day tours, including the Pinellas Trail.

It's hard to believe a whole decade has passed since that first Bicycle Bash and the launch of Escape Adventure Florida (watch the video and you will see why bicycling in Florida is so beautiful.)

We biked from the Times' office, which is right on the Pinellas Trail, and headed out of downtown.

One of the cool features about the Pinellas Trail is that is also goes right by Tropicana Field, home of the Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays.

The Pinellas Trail is a wonderful bicycling experience and Escape Adventures, Florida is proud to make it one of our featured rides.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First Escape Adventures Florida Review Rolls In

It's nice to see a happy customer offer a nice write-up about the Escape Adventures Florida A1A Vero Beach ride tour:

Here's Scott Sofferman's review of the tour on Facebook:

I recently did the A1A ride with escape adventures in Vero beach Fla.The tour was fantastic, and Alan the tour guide was phenomenal. He is exceptionally knowledgeable, regarding the trails, and loves to answer questions. He is gracious and considerate, and always concerned about rider comfort.The bikes were great, and they are all new. Would definitely do it again. I didn't want it to end. Great job, Escape adventures bike tours.

Thank you Scott! Here's Scott and I.

*    *    *

The Jungle Trail tour is a beauty too.

And check out this trail off the Jungle Trail.

This trail will eventually take us to the A1A and then across the road to the Atlantic Ocean.

*    *    *

When you bike in Florida, sometimes you mean the Crane Family -- Sand and Hill.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pedaling Scientist Comes Through Fort Pierce Along 15,000-Mile World Journey

I love cycling north along A1A around the Vero Beach area because I enjoy seeing the long-distance bikers with their rigs covered with panniers and bags and gear coming the other way as they slowly churn their way south.

My mind flashes back to my own personal long-distance journeys.

It reminds me of my two cross-country bike rides when I was pedaling across our great country carrying similar gear such as a handlebar bag, rear panniers, sleeping bag and tent. You let the day take you. I remember that no matter what happened, by the end of the day I always had a story to tell.

Today's A1A ocean ride -- one of the Escape Adventures Florida featured bike rides -- allowed me to intersect with a bicycle rider named Scott Acton, a scientist from the Boulder, Colorado area biking 15,000 miles to call attention to a new next-generation, space-based telescope called the James Webb Space Telescope that NASA plans to launch in 2018.

Acton was a scientist on the space telescope project and proudly wore the bike jersey displaying a photo of the mighty gear that will eclipse the Hubble telescope.

Acton left Boulder on April 1. He said his local newspaper, the Boulder Daily Camera, published a front-page story on his epic world adventure. 

Indeed, I checked out the story and it was written by a former Rocky Mountain News co-worker, Charlie Brennan. (I had also worked for the Camera and the Denver Post and even freelanced for the Colorado Gazette back in my Colorado days).

What Scott didn't tell me is that he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery only seven months before he launched his bike journey -- that according to Charlie's story.

When I met Scott this afternoon, he had stopped on North Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce just shy of the historic Little Jim Bait & Tackle shop to check out his cell phone for a map. I actually pedaled past him. Then, I slowed down, looked over my left shoulder and told myself, "Yup, go back and see what's up with this fella."

The pedaling scientist told me he was heading to Key West, with today's destination landing him in Jupiter in north Palm Beach County. He planned to stay the night at the home of a host who is part of the Warm Showers Community, which allows long-distance cyclists worldwide to grab a shower and a bed at an active host's place. To date, there are 47,848 Warm Showers hosts and 101,495 members.

I suggested to Scott that after he goes around the Fort Pierce Inlet that he take Indian River Drive, a gorgeous mainland scenic road that hugs the Indian River Lagoon between Fort Pierce and Jensen Beach instead of going over to oceanfront A1A. It was in the middle of the day, so I didn't expect Scott would face much traffic along Indian River Drive, which is a narrow road. And it would save four or five miles or so, too.

I wished Scott well and confess that I was jealous of his worldwide bike journey. He had already been to Europe and his next international leg was slated for New Zealand.

Keep on pedaling Scott and enjoy the stars at night.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cycling The West Orange Trail

Escape Adventures is happy to provide hill-hungry bicyclists in Florida with gorgeous rolling terrain to pedal in central Florida's Clermont area.

And for those bicyclists who would rather pedal a paved trail instead of the roads in the Alps of Florida, Escape Adventures also can offer the neighboring West Orange Trail, a 22-mile strip of pavement with several nice trailheads.

It passes through a lovely community of Oakland, where bicyclists are treated to artwork.

The West Orange Trail also leads into the fun downtown of Winter Garden, about 20 minutes west of Orlando. The trail runs right down the center of the main business district.

The trail also runs through some serene wooded areas and even has a western extension -- the South Lake-Lake Minneola Scenic Trail, which runs into adjacent Lake County.

Keep the West Orange Trail in mind when you're deciding what rides you would like to take.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bicycles Roll at Walking Tree Brewery in Vero

Bicycles and beer.

They're a proud combo.

New Belgium beer out of Fort Collins uses the bicycle (Fat Tire) as a marketing tool and Sierra Nevada is a big bicycle advocacy player.

Which is why it's great to see the bicycle have a great presence at the local microbrewery in Vero Beach at Walking Tree Brewery.

Owner Alan Dritenbas is a bicyclist who gave up his fixie after becoming a dad for a second time ("It doesn't have brakes.") But the bike hangs proudly inside the cavernous former Navy storage building.

I stopped off to say hi to Alan Thursday later afternoon and saw the many different in-house wheeled vehicles  To show us, Alan hopped on a skateboard to get around the massive building. And he showed us this simply beauty.

Alan also uses an old Trek road bike. Looks at least 30 years old.

Alan might not be pedaling a fixie, but a worker at Walking Tree does. He rides this one.

And Alan also keeps his mountain bike around.

I'm honored to be working for Escape Adventures to launch new bike tours in Florida with rides all around the state.  And if the Vero Beach clients like delicious craft beer, I'll be happy to lead them to Walking Tree Brewery.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Escape Adventures Visits The Local Tourism Board

It was easy to chat about Escape Adventures' new Florida bike tours to the Indian River Council Tourist Development Council Wednesday afternoon because all the rides are winners and it's just a matter of getting the word out about our tours for seven bike rides around Florida, including two in beautiful Indian River County.

I recall visiting Indian River County on Florida's mid-East Coast many times when living in Tampa because I enjoyed cycling the long stretches of A1A from Vero to either the Sebastian Inlet to the north or the Fort Pierce Inlet to the south.

A cool part was that we were able to play our EA Florida bike tour video.

The county tourism board, made up of local hoteliers and tourist business owners, had some great questions and one member even asked about taking him and his buddies to the West Orange trail in Orange County and I said, heck yeah!

Afterwards, I had a great chat with Will Collins, owner of the iconic Capt Hirams Resort on the Indian River lagoon in Sebastian.

Will is a super bright guy who went to college in Boulder, Colo. and knows bicycling.

Escape Adventures looks forward to meeting up with Will again to talk about how we can work together to drive tourism.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Escape Adventures Has Officially Arrived In Florida

"Remember, don't go through drive-thrus."

And with those words, Escape Adventures owner Jared Fisher bid me and a loaded Honda Odyssey mini-van racked, wrapped and packed to the gills farewell for a 2,500-mile car ride from Jared's driveway to my house in Vero Beach, Fla.

Escape Adventures is pushing the frontier of its impressive inventory of bike tours not West but eastward and I'm working with Jared's can-do, bike-loving, adventure-living staff to launch seven gorgeous bike tours scattered around the state of Florida, Here's a list of the bike tours.

Five bicycles were attached to the roof via a bike roof, with another four sitting on a rack attached to the rear of the car. And another five were wedged inside the vehicle, with boxes of brochures, parts, press releases, tools and Escape Adventures shirts and caps squeezed in, too.

After a day working with staff members on Wednesday, Jared and I packed the Escape Adventures vehicle at his house at 6:30 p.m. I was wired and ready to roll.

No need to spend the night in Las Vegas.

At about 7:15 p.m., I carefully backed out of Jared's driveway and began the long trek to Florida.

*   *   *

Wide awake, I drove south into Arizona and began the long stretch on Interstate 40 across the Grand Canyon State and New Mexico.

As I drove through the night into Thursday morning, I was mesmerized by a clear sky filled with dazzling lights and the hours rolled along broken up by pit stops to gas up the vehicle and grab a snack.

Eastern New Mexico was fascinating because many people don't realize how high the elevation is there, I was hitting 7,700 feet and the temperatures before Thursday's sunrise had plummeted to 14 degrees. This was a fun stop along I-40 in NM.

Through Albuquerque and then into north Texas we drove, with a harrowing trek through the metro Dallas area -- a sea of highways and fast-moving cars.

By Thursday night, the EA-mobile with its 14 bikes was moving from Texas into Louisiana, with Friday sunrise celebrated with a dawn stop in central Mississippi.

By mid-Friday morning, I reached the eastern edge of the Florida panhandle. There were still so many miles to go to reach Vero Beach,

*   *   *

About 600 miles -- one-fourth of the cross-country journey -- was spent Friday across the top tier of Florida and then down south along its central spine through Lake City and Gainesville and Ocala and Orlando.

By 7:30 p.m. Friday -- two days after I left Jared's driveway -- I pulled into my driveway.

Escape Adventures is open for business in Florida.

We will feature bike rides all around the state, offering a premium product. Our comfortable vehicle will pick you up at your hotel and we'll put you on a new road bicycle that has slightly wider tires than the conventional road tire to provide you more stability.

If our ride options don't fit your location or interest, we will customize a bike ride adventure you will enjoy.

I have biked all around Florida and there are some great places to bike that didn't make our Top 7 offerings but are also wonderful bicycle experiences.

I can show you fun local eateries and the tour is your ride, so I look forward to sharing a great bike ride that you will remember for a long time.

Can't wait to ride with you and be your personal tour guide.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Escape Adventures FLORIDA Ready To Roll This Week

So, my new chapter with Escape Adventures begins Tuesday when I go to Las Vegas to get behind the wheel of this vehicle.

It's the Escape Adventures bike tour vehicle that I will use to pick people up for their bike tours. Here is a list of Escape Adventures FLORIDA bike tours.

I will be driving this vehicle back to Florida with about 10 bikes or so.

We're ready to roll!.

Check out our Escape Adventures FLORIDA bike video. Scenes from all our tours in Fla. are in the video.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Escaping The Newspaper World For Escape Adventures

When I worked at the daily newspaper in Las Vegas, I used to admire Escape Adventures bike tours and this Jared guy, the founder and owner and marathon bicyclist who seemed to be doing 50 things at once while also biking through the night somewhere through Death Valley or Henderson or Utah or across the center of Nevada.

I'm a crazy bicycle guy who thinks up crazy bike rides like biking across the state of Florida from the Atlantic Ocean in Vero Beach to the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater Beach in one day -- 175 miles all along State Road 60.

I soon realized that ride would be a nice warm-up for Jared.

I also got to know Jared's original, resourceful and unpretentious business techniques by writing about some of his Escape Adventures tours, such as three days in Utah with a tour guide named Merrick who enjoyed rolling out his sleeping bag and catching his Zs under the stars.

Jared also loved mountain biking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so I wrote about one of his mountain bike festivals there.

Life changed at my Las Vegas newspaper when casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson bought the Review-Journal nearly a year ago. I went newspaper job shopping and found a job in Vero Beach, Fla. about two hours or so north of my dad and my sister who both live in South Florida.

I was hired by a fascinating weekly newsmagazine in Vero Beach to cover business news and I said good-bye to Vegas, the desert and this fella named Jared.

But not for long.

*   *   *

So, I got to Vero in March with Pugsy -- the 17 year-old canine critter with the sweetest, most peaceful, zen-like personality you have ever seen this side of Mother Teresa.

The new newspaper job was OK.

The owner was a guy named Milt, another original. He's a deep-voiced former editor and writer at the Washington Post who carved out a lucrative news market on the Vero barrier island thanks to ultra-local hard-hitting local news coverage that had a certain literary bite to it.

But it wasn't bicycles.

And I wanted to get back to the two-wheeled world.

So, I made a pitch to Jared back in Vegas.

How about expanding East to offer day bike tours along the prettiest bike routes in Florida? I'll take guests out on these rides as an Escape Adventures employee and now you can say Escape Adventures offers tours everywhere from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

I asked Jared to come to Florida. Bike with me on my favorite bike rides.

And if the routes were awesome enough, fly your drone, capture amazing bike footage and spin your video magic with a Florida day tour promotion video.

And he did just that. The video rocks.

We biked seven different tours in 2 1/2 days covering 275 miles along routes in different parts of the state, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. And at the coolest spots, we'd stop and Jared would take out his drone.

Jared rode my 1993 Cannondale R-300 road bike with the downtube shifters (he didn't shift; he just kept the gear setting in one position to replicate his single-gear bike back home).

And all the while he kept the drone in his backpack and piled up the mileage with that gear on his back.

I had picked Florida's nicest bike rides -- the hills of Clermont and Mt. Dora in Lake County, the underrated Ormond Loop, and the Withlacoochee, Pinellas and Lake Okeechobee trails.

These bike rides are like great, old-time friends. I knew whenever I returned to them, they would lift me up.

And these rides didn't disappoint.

Jared and I batted emails back and forth to reach an agreement.

And now Escape Adventures will add some amazing bike tours to its stunning roster of great bike experiences out West.

*   *   *

So, Escape Adventures is in launch mode for its new Florida day tours.

Check out the terrific slate of Florida rides.

I've gone from working with senior writers at a weekly paper to now becoming co-workers and friends with a brand new group of can-do bicycle tour lovers who make Escape Adventures a leading bike tour company in this country. There's Heather, Brittany, Eric, Sally, Kevin, Merrick, Nikki and others who love to get people biking in special and inspiring places in our country.

I can't wait for this new trip of my life to start.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Escape Adventures Of Las Vegas Expands To Florida With New Statewide Bike Tours In The Sunshine State

I'm back in the bicycle business.

I am joining Las Vegas-based Escape Adventures and we are launching a new Florida bicycle tour operation that will feature -- at first -- seven beautiful day bike rides that are located in gorgeous settings from the Atlantic Ocean to the forests and hills of central Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.

Here's a nice video taste of our featured rides.

It's an honor to work with Jared and Heather Fisher -- two great bicycle people and community leaders from Las Vegas who own Escape Adventures and the Las Vegas Cyclery out of Vegas and the Moab Cyclery bike shop in Utah. Jared is the most original, unique, hard-working and hard-driving bicycle man in the business, and I found a kindred spirit who also believes in living a Bicycle Life.

Jared and Heather started Escape Adventures 25 years ago and they have grown the bike touring operation into the premier bike tour business of the western United States. Here's a nice summary of this dynamic couple.  It's an honor to work with Jared and Heather as they expand Escape Adventures into Florida.

We expect to launch our seven bike tours in early December. We have focused on beautiful Florida natural settings where bicyclists can enjoy pedaling amid gorgeous scenery. The seven rides are:

-- Vero Beach A1A Ocean Ride from Vero Beach to either the Sebastian Inlet or the Fort Pierce Inlet. This is a gorgeous ride along the Atlantic with not too much car traffic and access to the ocean.

 -- Jungle Trail is a serene ride on a hard-packed dirt road that runs along the Indian River Lagoon and through tranquil tree canopy in north Indian River County.

-- The famed Pinellas Trail, a beautiful trail ride that runs from St. Petersburg's waterfront through several Pinellas County downtowns to Tarpon Springs, the Greek City.

-- The beautiful Withlacoochee Trail, known for its lovely tree canopy and rural setting about an hour north of Tampa.

-- The rolling hills of Clermont and Lake County, nicknamed the "Alps of Florida," about an hour northwest of Orlando.

-- The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, featuring inspiring views from cycling the berm that surrounds the "Big Lake."

-- The Ormond Loop, a spectacular bike ride that features the tree canopy of Tomoka State Park, and the watery vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal.

Stay tuned for more announcements as we prepare for our December launch.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Best Way To Understand Our Nation: Take A Bike Ride Around It

Ol' Rev. Hans here is roaming the Florida countryside on his bicycle after leaving Columbus, Georgia back on Sept. 16.

I met him Friday morning in Fort Pierce as he came off the North Hutchinson Island bridge back on the Fort Pierce mainland side.

He told me that he was at mile 1,998 of his trip and he has another 1,000 miles to go.

Much has been written about our leaders not understanding the common man in our country and I would suggest a bicycle trip around the country to get to know our fellow Americans.

I suggested to my newspaper owner/publisher/editor that I bike around the Midwest at the time of the two political conventions to get a handle on what is on people's minds.

Based on the fact that most TV and newspapers missed the ball on this year's election, it would have been a revealing assignment producing relevant stories.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keep An Eye On That Bike Lane

Bike lanes can be lovely amenities.

But they also can be marred by debris.

Because bike lanes are along the sides of the pavements, they often are filled with all types of debris, such as nails, glass, pieces of metal, and all kinds of garbage.

Consider the 30 or so construction screws that covered a stretch of a bike lane on the eastbound 17th Street Bridge in Vero Beach this morning.

I stopped and picked them up.

But I do have to warn you that the eastbound bike lane does have shards of glass sprinkled along various sections of the bike lane.

So, be careful and hope you don't get a flat.

Monday, November 7, 2016

That Thorny, Never-ending Florida Bicycle Topic -- How to Stay Alive in the Sunshine State

Re-cycling Those Human-Powered Cycling Machines

You're looking at five bicycles brought by folks in the McAnsh Park neighborhood to my little back yard bicycle party Sunday afternoon.

I'll be dropping them off at Malcolm Allen's bike shop in Vero Beach, Orchid Island Bikes & Kayaks, where volunteers with the Vero Cycling bike club will fix the bikes and breathe new life into these two-wheelers to be distributed to the local homeless.

Every bike has a story and this bike rehab programs keeps those stories alive.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Early Morning Ride Guarantees A Great Day

There's no substitute for an early ride before the sun comes up.

It assures the day will have wonderful meaning regardless of what you do for the rest of the day.

Keep on pedaling!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vero Pedalers Hold The Gifford Bike Tour This Morning

Figuring the best way to get to know a community is to bike it, about 30 bicyclists hit the road Saturday morning for a tour of Gifford.

The Vero Cycling bike club joined forces with several Gifford community leaders to hold the "Gifford Bike Tour," pedaling several miles with pit stops at places such as Florida's oldest black church and the Gifford Youth Achievement Center.

Gifford luminaries such as Freddie Woolfork, local NAACP leader Tony Brown and Sheriff's Deputy Theodore "Teddy" Floyd strapped on helmets and pedaled with the Vero Cycling members on a breeze Saturday morning.

One of the most fascinating stops along the way was a chat at the Historic Macedonia Church, the oldest black church in the state of Florida.

It was a reunion of sorts for Vero Cycling club president Sharon LaPoint, who used to teach at the schools in Gifford and enjoyed pedaling the tour.

Saturday's ride was a special event ride for the bike club, which has more than 330 paid members.