North Florida Tour 2008


October 24-26
, 2008



Where?  Camp Cherry Lake, Madison FL (not Madison GA).  Where is that?  Just down yonder a few miles; go down that road there a little ways, and you’ll get there from here.   Just a few miles southwest of Valdosta, and you’ll get there!  Who can come?  YOU and bring a friend!


The idea is taking a few days off being FREE from our busy day-to-day life.  Once you get there, you’ll be spinning along on your bicycle with friends, and going “no where”!  Ole Florida is a wonderful place to do just that because it’s only a short drive from home.


This year is number 27 for the Annual North Florida Tour, and the Southern Bicycle League has been blessed to continue this weekend event without missing a year -- even when there was a hurricane in November, floods in Steinhatchee, Blue Springs getting washed away, no room at the Inn (Camp Weed), the attendance dropping after 9/11, or high prices at the gas pumps.


Three years ago, a new location had to be found darn fast, and Camp Cherry Lake, a 4-H Camp which is owned and operated by the University of Florida, was located.  As noted on the application, there are cabins, camping, plenty of room for RVs, Cherry Lake, dining hall for our meals, and covered dancing arena.  It has been a good move, and this area continues to be a unique, picturesque location for our cycling.


After our activities of the day, we’ll be soaking up the sun’s rays by the lake, swimming, boating, fishing, or just “relaxing” on the deck.  By the way, there is “bona fide water” in the lake!  Most probably, folks will be talking about the past North Florida Tours, telling tall tales, and friends that they have met.  Some of these new found friends have actually gotten married. 


For our cycling routes, the roads in and around Madison, Greenville (stop at Creative Things by Marshall to see the yard knick-knacks, dinosaur and the metal-motor-lady – wow, what headlights!), Pinetta (small, but I’m sure they are proud), and Quitman (just across the GA/FL line) have been flat to rolling and, of course, low traffic – “Don’t forget to waive at the locals!”


As we roll on down the road on our bicycles, we see many of the sights and sounds of North Central Florida, as many still call ole’ Florida, but certainly a “diamond in the rough”.   We take a quick glimpse of trees that are covered with moss, many historic homes with their white columns, horse and cattle farms, and clear natural springs (72 degrees year around – you might want to take a dip in Blue Springs).  As we trek on down the road or drift down the Suwannee River in our boats or kayaks, we may come across an old Southern gentleman that still refers to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression” or “War Between the States”!


Per Mia Shephard’s suggestion on Friday after breakfast, our “1st” day, we will be touring the town of Quitman with a 50 to 60 mile bicycle ride.  For those folks that love Mexican Restaurants and the cantinas, I’m sure they will be open for lunch.  Of course, small towns always have antique shops and one-of-a-kind variety stores -- Quitman is no exception and not far off from our path.  Cycle back to camp – when you want to come back!


Usually, Friday Night is sort of a relaxing evening, but there will be fun times and activities.  We are planning a contest of sorts with fantastic prizes to win!  So, don’t plan on being somewhere else on that Friday night, just be there around 8:00 PM.  Have lights on your bike, the “I’m here, don’t hit me kind” is fine. I’ll bring a few matches for a down home fire by the lake, and somebody please bring a guitar for fiddlin’.


After a Saturday morning breakfast at camp, the cycling route is 60 to 100 miles.  A century map is included for those folks that want to do a century.  Lunch will be taken to Blue Springs for you.  Maybe you don’t want to do 60 miles?  Margaret can give you alternate mileages and options to do.  For the “I’ve hit a wall people,” and pooping out, you’ll get rescued out in the wilderness!  My car is only a small car, not much of a SAG vehicle, but never fear!  You are never very far away from civilization and people are usually obliging when called upon.


As usual, Jim Hoey, our kayak guide, will be there to take any of you down the river.  We do have free canoes and kayaks at Camp, but if the camp director takes you to the drop off point and picks you up, there will be an extra nominal fee for her service.  Last year, we went on a search and rescue to save folks from the explosive “carpet” of greenery on the Withlacoochee River.


Saturday night is our feast night and dance.  As usual, Rick Cooley will do his praise-worthy task of cooking the shrimp to get a big “thank you, hand shake, or kiss from the Queen”.   Night fall will bring out a fine evening of dancing (provided by Ned Mountain) and our continuing trekker fish stories.  By the way, Ned drives down from the high country of Sautee, Georgia, and certainly a far piece down the road (I-75) to get to Madison, Florida.  Most probably, he would love a hand shake or a kiss from one of those dancing dames!


Sunday morning, we plan on having a shorter ride after breakfast.  So, don’t drive home too early.  You have all day to get there from here!


Last year, several of us paddled Cherry Lake early on Sunday morning and saw something that we usually don’t get to see, except in a zoo -- two adult eagles with their young.  This was fun to watch as they soared high in the sky catching the breeze and circling, making use of the gentle winds.


As day break approaches, the sun sneaks up just above the tree line.  If you are up early to see the sunrise, you see hues of yellow, orange, to red on the lake; while once in a while, a fish or turtle will jump and cause the water to thrash about.  The wind hits your face ever so slightly, and the rhythm of the lake streams past.  This could be a darting moment in time, but as you stand there on that dock reflecting, you come to this thought that you have been FREE for three days.


This brings me to the end of this short description of the Annual North Florida Tour, and all of you folks that have attended have many big stories to tell.  Ya’ll “Come on down you hear!” and bring a friend!  Remember -- “A bad day on the river beats a good day at work!”


By -- I’ll Rescue You -- Margaret Bokros



Keep Your Wheels Turning and Your Paddles Wet!!!!!!