Reston, VA to Clearwater, FL


March 27-29, 2008

It's Spring, time for a long drive south to ride in Bike Florida. This will be our fourth Bike Florida, a good opportunity to use our Barcroft Columbia recumbent tandem. The bike is heavy and the flat roads and trails of Florida are ideal for a bike tour. Plus we have the opportunity to visit Mom, who lives near Jacksonville.

It was a long day of driving from Reston to Atlantic Beach that didn't start well, mainly because we didn't have a car to drive. Earlier we had taken the car in for a pre-vacation check and were told that the timing belt needed to be changed. It's a major repair job but better to have it done here than have a problem on the road. When the car was returned to us we noticed a loud tapping sound. The repair job was botched and the engine needed to be sent out for major work and would not be ready until the day before we planned to leave.

The timing belt repair job was complete but the shop wanted one of their people to take the car home for a long test ride to make sure it was OK. Their ride went OK, but as we drove home from the repair shop at 7am, the engine light went on. After some head scratching and a computer diagnosis the spark plugs were changed and the manager wished us well.

Despite a rough idle, we've had no other major problems with the car, although the first couple of hundred miles were a bit tense. My mother Ruth was glad to see us even though it was 11pm by the time we made it to her place in Atlantic Beach, FL. Even though our visit there was short, it was good to see that she is doing well and in good spirits. We left by 10am Friday morning for the drive down to Clearwater. We wanted to get there in time to change and drive to Mike and Susan's for dinner at their place and dancing at the Round Up later that evening.

The dance instructor, Maurice, was one of the best dancers I've seen and an excellent teacher. He also choreographed several of the dances that he taught that night. We enjoyed the lessons, although chances are we'll never do the dances again. We left the bar before it was too smoky.

On Saturday we needed to put our bike together and take it for a test ride. First we scraped off the bugs that had accummulated from the drive down. A short test ride on the Pinellas Trail was enough to assure us that all was well with the bike and other equipment. The trail is a major West Florida trail, located on an abandoned CSX railroad line.

On the ride we stopped at Bicycle Outfitters, a trailside shop near mile marker 11 that sells recumbents, including a Rans Screamer that was on sale. The owner suggested a couple of places to eat down the road. We chose to be adventuresome and opted instead for Papi J's, a Cuban deli across the street, and found out why it wasn't recommended. Although the subs were good, it probably took half an hour for the couple who own the place to make them. A steady stream of Florida residents passed through the shop, Cowboy and his girlfriend, scooter man, a young family, and the woman who wants a tandem, in part because she is afraid to ride the trail alone.

The Round UpDinner near Clearwater BeachThe Waterin' Trough

After a good seafood dinner at Guppy's later that night near Clearwater Beach, we danced with Mike and Susan again at the Waterin' Trough, a country place on the edge of town with a huge dance floor and several long bars. There was a bigger crowd than the night before, although the instructor couldn't match Maurice's panache. We learned more line dances to forget, and had fun two-stepping around the floor while most people line-danced.

It was great to see our former dancing buddies again and we look forward to catching up with them in the future.