Tag Archives: Upper Tampa Bay Trail

The Power of Maps

Before I took my first ride to work I decided to map out the shortest route that would get me there safely. I used Google Maps for directions. There is a button specifically for bicycling which works pretty well but it is not perfect.

Google’s pick (view from Google Earth)

I used the results Google gave me and dragged the route to roads that I thought would be better. For instance, the route it gave me put me on Hillsborough Avenue, a very busy street that is one of the main roads from the northern part of Tampa to Pinellas County and the beaches.

The road does have bike lanes, which is good, but the drivers are crazy and I don’t trust them to stay out of the bike lane. On Monday, when I was caught in a heavy rain, I took a slight detour and took shelter at a Target store. When the rain died down I continued home on Hillsborough and was nearly hit in the head by the mirror of a passing pickup truck.

My pick (view from Google Earth)

By looking at the map, I realized I could cross Hillsborough and take the sidewalk a quarter-mile where I could get off on a back-road. (I’ll talk about sidewalks in another post.) The Google map bypassed that back-road and took me out-of-the-way so I needed to find out why.

This is where Google Earth comes in handy. I used the street level view in Google Earth and traveled that road as if I was riding on it. The same thing can be done using Google Maps but not as quickly.

The virtual trip showed me that the road was narrow with no shoulder, which was not good, but it also showed that there was very little traffic and several places I could pull off to the side if I needed to.

It has worked out pretty well for me. The only problem I have is the last mile or less of my trip, starting from where the Upper Tampa Bay Trail meets the street I work on. This is a very busy road with no bike lane so I ride on the sidewalk. The problem is the sidewalk is old and several sections have dropped or risen making it a potential flat tire hazard. The other option is to ride on the street where there is a potential flat head hazard. I choose the former.

Last week I took a chance and took a side street that cut off a block of bad sidewalk. Monday, Without looking at a map, I tried taking an earlier side street. This time it did not work and the road turned away from where I wanted to go. Worse, every time I tried to get back on track the street would take a turn opposite the direction I wanted to go. When I got home I looked at the map and discovered that Moe, Larry and Curly designed the streets in that neighborhood.

From now on, unless I am just casually exploring, I am mapping out my trip.

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Where are the Bikers?

On my ride to work on Thursday, just after I passed the entrance to the trail and before I noticed my mistake, I passed a man even older than me on a recumbent bike. We waved as we passed like we were two guys riding Harleys.

After I realized my mistake and found my way to the trail, I started thinking about the odds of running into another recumbent bicyclist. I wasn’t sure if seeing one on an eleven mile trip was good or bad. It occurred to me then that I saw very few people on bicycles, including on the bike trail. I estimated the number between five and ten.

Pinellas Trail
Pinellas Trail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That seemed strange because I recently lived in Dunedin, on the causeway that leads to Honeymoon Island. There, the Pinellas Trail crosses very close and even has an extension along the causeway. We had to be very careful every time we drove because there was a steady stream of pedestrians and cyclists. In contrast, I saw only one bicycle rider on the portion of the Upper Tampa Bay Trail that I was on.

On the way home I decided to count. I saw two cyclists on the trail and four more off the trail. That is just over one for every two miles traveled. Why is north-west Tampa so bike-free compared to west Pinellas County? I understand the appeal of the Pinellas Trail but does nobody own a bike in Tampa?

Finally a chance to ride!

At last, the weather was dry enough today to ride my bike to work. I wanted to record some health factors so I can compare it a few months from now. I am 6’2″ tall (hopefully that won’t change) 227 pounds and my resting heart rate is 60 bpm. I wanted to take my blood pressure but I can’t find my blood pressure machine, or whatever you call it. (Can you tell I don’t work in the medical field?)  When I do I will post it, although it has always been pretty low.

It took me 90 minutes to ride the ten miles to work but I think it was more like eleven miles this morning because I rode past the entrance to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and didn’t realize it for a half mile or so.The ride went better than I expected considering I used to ride only four miles to work and I haven’t done that since I moved in November.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Since than my bike has sat in the closet because I was sure my back couldn’t handle a longer ride.That is why I bought the recumbent and it worked because I had no trouble with my back when I got to work. I also did not feel tired or sore.

I did however feel a little pain in my butt as I got closer to work. I was surprised by that, given the big cushy seat, but I suppose that will get better when I get used to it. The only other problems I noticed is that the steering seems a little loose and there is a slight clicking noise that I can’t identify…yet.

The return trip was the killer. I don’t know why it was that much harder but I was pretty worn out with over two miles to go. As I got close to home my butt really started hurting and my fingers and toes were tingling. When I finally stopped and stood up the muscle in front, above the knee of my right leg (more evidence – see above) cramped up and I could barely push the bike inside. That only lasted 30 seconds or so and I felt fine afer that. I think I will rest tomorrow and ride to work again on Tuesday, weather permitting.

I noticed something unusual today but I think I will save it for next time.