We saved the best for last

In regard to our five-day Great Florida Coast To Coast Trail Ride, we saved the best for last. Thirty six miles on the Pinellas Trail.

Why the best?

Because the Pinellas Trail is the Grandaddy of all Florida trails. More than 3 decades old and improving with age. I haven’t ridden it in several years and it seemed like a totally new experience.

And it is our most urban trail.

It starts on the edge of Tampa Bay in downtown St. Pete. And then stretches like a recreational spine through the length of the most densely populated county in Florida.

It is a neighborhood connector and a people connector. It’s also a model for other communities. Every city should have some version of the Pinellas Trail.

The trail is a joy to ride. But be advised. If you like to look at, and take photos of, all of the murals and street art along the way, you’d better pack a lunch because it’s going to take some time.

The trail winds through warehouse and industrial districts, glittering business districts, historic downtowns, middle class neighborhoods, condo communities, RV parks…even the occasional yacht basin.

It is constantly changing in character and appearance precisely because it reflects the varied communities it serves.

If you have ever driven in Pinellas County you know getting around can be a deadly business. I counted at least a dozen bridges designed specifically to get trail users over the worst highways. W

hen you consider that each bridge likely costs millions, that’s a considerable public investment in urban micro-mobility.

Which is not to say you can completely let down your guard. There are still dozens of streets and roads to navigate along the trail.

But I was impressed with how many drivers routinely stop to allow trail users to pass, whether they have the right of way or not. St. Pete seems to have embraced a trail etiquette that serves everyone.

Listen, you know it’s a trail side convenience store when you see a sign like this on the front door.

Dunedin is one of Florida’s best trail towns.

It has seemingly built its entire downtown economy around the trail.

And trail users respond in kind. If you are not in a hurry, you may linger there quite a while.

You will be startled to learn that there are breweries strategically located all along the trail. It is almost as if people who like to cycle, walk and scooter also like to drink beer.

Who knew?

Not all trail neighbors are happy campers. I came across this primary sanctuary separated from the trail by a line of trees. I know operators are doing their best under tough circumstances, but it is heart-breaking to see these magnificent animals sitting listlessly in their cages.

Cell tower? I don’t see a cell tower. Somebody flunked Camouflage 101.

Not to be a nay sayer, but I would like to go on record as saying that not all trail rules are reasonable. Can I get a “Go Gators!”?

Tarpon Springs used to be the terminus of the Pinellas Trail. Now it continues on for several miles (50 altogether). The trail runs right down the middle of downtown, with the dual purpose of connecting trail users with lots of shops, restaurants and taverns while, at the same time, slowing down the cars on either side of it.

We choose the Tarpon Tavern for our end-of-ride-end-of-tour celebration.

And then loaded up for the drive back to GNV. It’s been a fantastic tour, and we are already planning our next expedition.

That is, if we can just remember where we left the Forgotten Coast.

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