WINTER in FLORIDA
Before heading to Florida, we visited Yvonne, Jeff, and family in Santa Fe. This way we could maximize Amtrak Guest Rewards points: all the way from Albuquerque to Clearwater/St. Petersburg is only two zones.
The morning we left Quincy it was warm enough to take care of chores by bike. But by the time we reached Ft. Madison, IA to board the SW Chief, it had begun snowing, starting a relentless pattern of snow and cold weather for the next ? month in the Midwest and East. Even Florida turned out to be colder and wetter than normal.
No-man's land between La Junta and Trinidad, Co.
Viewing Raton Pass from the sightseer lounge.
Climbing Raton Pass from Trinidad
Descending Raton Pass to Raton, NM
Smoke break at Raton, NM
Lamy, NM, a classic small town station. Not long before we reached Lamy, we passed the eastbound SW Chief, both trains on time. The eastbound, along with 2 other trains, later became stranded overnight near Galesburg because of heavy snow.
Waiting for the eastbound.
An historical exhibit. The old Santa Fe schedule board showed the westbound to be on-time. I knew this was phony because it had departed Chicago 5 hours late. Our eastbound train was on-time and maintained that all the way to Chicago.
Raton,NM smoke stop at dusk. Bus for Denver in background.
The Capitol Limited departed Chicago on-time, the first time since the snow storm that it wasn't multiple hours late departing.
What looks like a ridge in the background is actually the Salisbury Viaduct which carries the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail over the rail line, highway, and river.
Lounge Lizards on the Capitol Limited
The Capitol Limited arrived in DC on-time, giving us just enough time before the departure of the Silver Star to walk to the capital.
Deland, Fl, our old stomping grounds
The old Winter Park, FL station
New Winter Park station still under construction
Arriving in Tampa. The connecting bus to St. Petersburg/Clearwater (actually Pinnellas Park) is to the left.
Our first destination in Florida was St. Petersburg; and it turned out to be a good choice. In my opinion it is the most bike friendly city in the country. Not because of the number of cyclists, but the flat terrain, mile after mile of quiet residential streets in a grid pattern, bike lanes on major streets, courteous motorists, and of course the Pinellas Trail which goes 41 miles from downtown St. Petersburg to a little northeast of Tarpon Springs.
Park Terrace Suites. We had a very nice efficiency.
The first full day we headed north on the bike trail along the bay, turned right across the bridge on Snell Isle Blvd over Coffeepot Bayou, and continued north to 66th Street N. At this point we saw a sign indicating we were following a circular bike route. We continued to follow it west on 66th street and south on 1st Av N along a very wide sidewalk. We turned left into Coffee Pot Park along Coffeepot Bayou and back to the Snell Isle bridge, from which we returned via the very nice Old Northeast neighborhood.
Along the bay north of downtown.
Lunch stop in Coffee Pot Park along Coffeepot Bayou
Bridge over Coffeepot Bayou
Historic B&B near our lodgings in St. Petersburg
The second full day we headed west on the Pinellas Trail and south on the Skyway Trail to the center of the the first bridge on the Sunshine Skyway that crosses Tampa Bay to Bradenton.
Bike trail along Central Avenue downtown St. Petersburg
Trail along Central Avenue is actually two lanes well separated from the roadway.
The trail turns away from the street and becomes the Pinnellas Trail at Tropicana Field
The first trail-side amenity, and one of the few between St Petersburg and Dunedin is the old Seaboard Airline RR freight stations. It has been turned into a pottery workshop and gallery, and had a nice cafe inside. It was our favorite rest stop along the whole trail.
Mural in cafe in old freight station.
The junction with the Skyway Trail is between 40th Street S and 43rd Street S. At first the Skyway Trail winds along a bayou in a residential neighborhood, then on this bridge between a park and a mangrove swamp.
Further into the mangrove swamp
Back into the park between two lakes.
Eventually the trail ended at 37th street S, where another one along side of 37th went as far as Pinellas Parkway. After a false start, we found the bike route that takes you to the bike trail along side the Sunshine Skyway.
We took the bike path alongside the highway to the top of the first bridge of the Suncoast Skyway. This was the first of 5 causeways (highway on a very thin strip of land). The tall second bridge can be seen in the background.
The wind on the high bridge and climb back up discouraged us from continuing to the island ahead.
Heading back to St. Petersburg. The eastern shore of Tampa Bay can be seen on the right.
The next day we went to St. Pete Beach by way of the the Pinellas Trail, Pasadena Blvd, and the causeway to the beach. From the trail to the causeway, Pasadena Blvd was the typical 7 lane road the asphalt jungle of strip malls and other businesses. A better way would have been Central Avenue to Treasure Island.
Just west of Tropicana Field, the Pinellas Trail enters a quasi-industrial area. Here the trail goes inside a large building with loading docks on each side of the trail. The building looked too new to have been used to unload freight from trains.
More industry. Many of the road crossings in St. P had buttons to push to stop traffic. But 9 times out of 10, it wasn't necessary. Motorists stopped if they saw cyclists approaching.
Typical sight along the trail in St. P. Much like its entire length, it faces the back of residential and every once in a while commercial areas. Other than a lot of parks, there are very few amenities along the trail.
Crossing the bridge to St. Pete Beach.
On the beach
Back to our favorite rest stop.
We headed south along Tampa Bay and then 4th Street S as far as Bay Vista Park at the tip of the peninsula. We returned via 7th Street S and MLK street past Lake Maggiore.
Harbor near the pier in downtown St. P.
Banyon tree in park near harbor
Banyon tree up close. Jeanine spotted someone in a hammock in the tree.
Beautiful plaza at the University of South Florida - Saint Petersburg Campus just south of downtown.
Another view of the beautiful plaza
Lansing Park south of downtown.
Bay Vista Park
View from the pier at Bay Vista Park. The Suncoast Skyway we visited two days ago is in the distance.
After a week at Terrace Park Suites it was time to move on. The owner graciously allowed us to store our large suitcases until we returned a week later. So we packed our Winter clothes in the suitcases and carried the rest in panniers.
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