A Florida Bike Overnight: Fanning Springs to Cedar Key With Wild Boar Babies

This flat, easy loop in rural northwest Florida starts at Fanning Springs and follows the Suwannee River to the popular fishing and art village of Cedar Key.

Bicycle Adventurers: Seth and his friends Steve and Roger

When: June 2016

Accommodations: Rented condo at Natures Landing Condominium Rentals in Cedar Key

Distance: 80 miles in two days

Bonus tip for this adventure: The Suwannee River is fed by numerous springs, including one at the start of the ride, Fanning Springs, and Manatee Springs along the way. Both are beautiful Florida State Parks.

Day One

Saturday’s mid-morning ride from Fanning Springs to Cedar Key paralleled the famous Suwannee River. At one point, we found ourselves on a sandy, unpaved road for what seemed like a couple of miles. I was riding my touring bike with 35mm tires, so the road surface was a non-issue for me. Steve and Roger, however, were both on 23mm road tires and rode slowly and carefully in case of a deep patch of sand that could cause a fall. Eventually we made it back to pavement, and we returned to the comfortable 14 to 16 mph pace that we had been riding previously. 

We found the route exceedingly flat with little wind, so the pedaling was easy.

That is, it was easy for Roger and me, but not so much for Steve, who, in spite of being the strongest rider in the group, was working hard to keep up. Finally, Roger noticed Steve’s rear wheel was WAY out of true — a pretty sure sign of a broken spoke. It took a minute to confirm that it was a spoke nipple rather than the spoke itself, but the effect was the same. Every rotation of the wheel rubbed the rim against the brake pad on the bulging side of the rim, so Steve had been quite literally riding for about an hour with his rear brake on. The good news was that a broken spoke nipple is much easier to repair on the side of the road than a broken spoke, so Steve quickly fixed the wheel, and we were back on our way. 

It had become very hot under an intense noon sun with little shade. I drank the last of my water and started to feel light-headed, so we stopped at a little store and I drained a quart of Gator Aid. Steve poured a can of Pepsi caffeine and sugar down his throat and announced that he felt more like he’d just ridden a century rather than 30 flat miles. Our final 10 miles were hot but went by without further excitement. 

After arriving in Cedar Key at about 3:00, we headed out to find something to eat and ended up at a restaurant called Steamers with its extensive menu and a selection of beers.

At dinnertime, nobody was hungry, so we each bought a pint container of ice cream at a nearby grocery and consumed it before turning in for the night.

Day Two

We were back on the bikes by 8:00am for a near perfect, Sunday ride. Clouds kept the heat down and there was little wind, no traffic, and a canopy of oaks shaded the last ten miles on the Nature Coast Trail.

We encountered a wild boar crossing the road with a bunch of little piglets. Eight or nine little ones crossed the road ahead of the mama boar. When she reached the other side, she turned and stared right at us. We stopped our bikes and kept our distance, not quite knowing what to expect. A moment later another batch of little ones popped out of the bushes on the other side of the road! Once the second group of youngsters made it across, mama followed them into the brush and we felt safe to continue our ride. 

Our plans to take a cooling dip in Fanning Springs were discouraged by dark storm clouds that rolled in while we were packing our bikes and gear back into the van.

Your favorite local bike shop? Orange Cycle 2204 Edgewater Dr., Orlando, FL 32804, (407) 422-5552 

Bike overnight tips and tricks? 

  • For this kind of hot-weather trip, I suggest a loose technical t-shirt, rather than a tight bike jersey.
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • There are virtually no opportunities to replenish supplies on the route out, and only in the last 10 miles on the way back.
  • My friends did not need much convincing, though I think having an easy route planned makes it hard to say no. Overnight parking is permitted and free at Fort Fanning.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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