West Orange Trail Ride (Now with more West Orange Trail)
As promised, I made the trek back out to the Orange/Lake county line early this morning to try out (again) the West Orange Trail, only this time I turned the right way out of Killarney Station trail stop, avoiding a repeat of last weekend’s debacle.
All I can say after riding 24 miles of the trail is simply, “Wow, that was fun.” The WOT winds over a converted railway bridge, through conservation and nature areas, down historic main streets of quaint southern towns, and up and down a handful of gentle, rolling hills (not the straight climbs that await you in the other direction when you leave Killarney – and by the way, with a name like Killarney, there has to be a pub around there somewhere, serving pints of Guinness, right? Need to check that out sometime.) The trail has multiple, well equipped stations and stops and is without a doubt the best and most frequently marked trail I’ve seen. Well done, Orange County. Here are the vitals from today’s spin:
Since this was a pretty eventful morning, I thought I’d give you a retro diary recap. Times and events are to the best of my recollection. (Fair warning, this rambles a bit, as I am sometimes wont to do.)
Woke up before the sunrise to get ready and make the drive out to the Killarney trail head. This is actually misleading, since “woke up” implies that I was actually asleep or had slept an appreciable amount of time during the night. Thanks to my brilliant idea to have a “camp out” with my boys in one of their rooms in a make shift tent, I slept approximately 17 minutes last night, even though I talked my way out of actually sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag and scored the bed. This is a rather hallow victory when take into account the fact that I’m 6’4″ and approximately 9/10 of my body hangs off the end of this bed. The one advantage of not sleeping, however, is that it makes it easy to get up for an early alarm.
Dressed, Chamois Butt’red, watered and fed (if one can consider choking down a banana “fed”) without waking up the house. Let’s do this thing.
Pumping up my tires and getting the bike in the car, but I’m dragging bad. May need some coffee before I do this thing. Don’t like having caffeine before I ride because it makes me feel dehydrated, but these are desperate times.
Wow – just got a whiff of my riding gloves and now I’m wide away and my eyes are watering. Makes mental note to wash those later. They smell like ammonia and regret, just like a Hardees.
On the road, eyes still watering due to the fact that I’ve left the gloves on the on the seat next to me (throw them into the back of the van, quickly down window).
Passing by the Citrus Bowl on the 408. You know you are getting close to the Citrus Bowl when all of the billboards start advertising attorneys and bail bondsmen. And today something called “Guns for Kicks.” Strange, if you have a gun, why would you let somebody kick you? Kids these days….
Arrive at Killarney, stretch just a bit, hop on the bike, and, with a glance over my shoulder at the route that takes you to the demonic hills of the South Lake Trail, I’m off on my maiden voyage on the WOT.
Almost immediately I come to an extremely charming converted railway bridge that the trail follows over the Florida Turnpike. It really is quaint and charming, in a very un-Florida kind of way (i.e., there’s no advert for Disney World or a larger than life mural of Dwight Howard dunking on Harry Potter). Here are a couple of photos from my ancient iPhone that do it no justice whatsoever.
After a 2 or 3 mile stretch through a very nice nature conservation area and a couple of neighborhoods (and one neighborhood that never was – thanks housing crash), I come to another enclave of quaint and charm, downtown Oakland, FL, all stately oaks and oozing antebellum. Very nice.
At the 5/6 mile mark I come upon my favorite stretch of the trail, downtown Winter Garden. Whereas you’d miss downtown Oakland if you closed your eyes with one good sneeze, the trail funnels you down the middle of the main street of Winter Garden. It’s everything a small southern downtown should be: tree-lined streets, wide pedestrian walkways, heritage museums, local shops (and what looked like a Farmer’s Market setting up a street or two over) and not a Starbucks to be seen for miles. And just enough quirky to make it interesting. Roll the subpar photos:
The only downside to this stretch is that you are forced to slow to a crawl for about a mile and a half, which doesn’t do much for your average time and pace, but as I care more about miles and time in the seat then pace on these rides, this doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to do some of others, especially the groups. Slow down a bit and enjoy the scenery, I say.
I hit the 12 mile outpost marker and decide to take a quick hydration break. Here are some of the things I saw on the somewhat rural section between Winter Garden and here: two roosters, one BIG snake (I hate snakes), and 4 horses with riders (this stretch of the trail is open to horseback riders.) I can report that horseback riders are more courteous about sharing the trail then a few of the running pace groups out there. <Begin rant> Why do some groups insist on running 5 across along a fairly busy dual use trail and then react like you tried to assault them when you give them a courteous “on your left” and attempt to pass. I get it, there’s plenty of riders on these trails going too fast and passing without the courtesy of a verbal warning, but that doesn’t give you the right to stake your claim to the entire trail and then to ignore those of us who are trying to do things the right way. Can’t we all just get along? <End rant>
On the way back, retracing my route, I’m thankful that the stretch that runs along the golf course is protected by a very sturdy fence. Not one but two wayward balls “ping” against the protective barrier.
Rolling back through both towns, still as quaint as I remember them from an hour ago. Lovely.
Back at the car and loading the bike into the back. Really enjoyed this ride, even if it got off to a slow start. Can’t wait to come back out here and explore longer stretches of the WOT and bring a proper camera.
On the way home, lo and behold what do I see? A Hardees! Haven’t see one of them in forever, and I decide to pull in and grab a biscuit for old times sake. Used to love that place. They are now advertising “Fried bologna biscuits.” Wow, give them credit for not trying to fool people into thinking that anything they serve here is remotely healthy. (Side note, I used to LOVE fried bologna sandwiches as a kid, and of course I was skinny as a rail and in great shape. Now I don’t eat fired bologna and I look like Grimmace’s taller, slightly thinner brother. Soooo, applying some Sarah Palin logic here, I should eat fried bologna again and I’d be in awesome shape. You betcha!) They also have clever signs like this:
I get my nostalgia chicken biscuit in the drive through. (Takes a wiff) Seems like they are adding extra regret these days, with maybe just a hint of despair. My biscuit was good, though.
So ends the retro ride journal. It’s been a while since I’ve threatened the 1500 word mark. I needed that. I will now go take a handful of Tums (thanks Hardees).
OH! I almost forgot. As I write this, I am currently the leading fundraiser for the 2012 Citrus Tour by a fairly wide margin with over $800 raised! Now the cynic might point out that nobody else is really raising money yet, but I’m proud nonetheless and extremely thankful for those of you who have contributed already. If you haven’t yet and wish to help me push on to my goal of $2500, here’s my reminder to you that you can donate online by following the link in the DONATE section at the top right of this page.