It’s getting cold in Virginia and I’ve made no bones about my dislike of the cold. Some people simply bundle up against the cold and tough it out. Others even enjoy the cool temps. Me, I traveled 850 miles south to Kissimmee, Florida.
It was warm there. I was happy.
People with small children will recognize the above map and/or the name Kissimmee and will immediately discern the true nature of my visit. I was, in fact, in town to visit Walt Disney World, where my son would be performing in the park’s Electric Light Parade. While much of my time would be spent amongst the throng of people in that park, I did manage to squeeze in a short morning ride.
Rolling out of my hotel with temperatures in the low 60s was quite nice and I set off with a sense of adventure one gets when he is on the loose in an unfamiliar place. My immediate challenge was to get off West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway as quickly as possible and find a road that was less than six lanes wide with thousands of cars (Fun Fact: Irlo Bronson was a local politician and land owner who sold his land for the construction of Disney World for a mere $100/acre so it would create jobs for the city). I settled for Poinciana Boulevard, a mere four lanes wide with only hundreds of cars. Unfortunately, it would seem any road within several miles of Disney World is massively busy. I thanked my lucky stars that I was not here during the tourist season and settled into my ride.
I wish I could say I passed interesting things, but the highlites seemed to be the Kissimmee Gatorade Plant (which is appropriate as Gatorade was invented in Florida for the University of Florida football team) and a petting farm. What was most intriguing was the topography, or more specifically the complete lack of topography. I traveled 26 miles and climbed a mere 72 feet. I felt like I was back at Virginia Beach. I wondered what Aaron over at SteepClimbs.com would make of this. Not much, I suspect. It was like riding a trainer, except there was a breeze. And potholes. And lots of cars. You get my drift.
As I wandered past Intercession City (use of the term “city” is extremely optimistic here), I came across my sole adventure of the ride – the old Tampa Highway. This is a short deserted stretch of road which parallels Route 17. I was able to hoist my bike in the manner of cyclocross riders everywhere and bypass a simple fence designed to keep traffic off the road. I then enjoyed a short pedal on a completely deserted stretch of road, complete with weeds growing through cracks in the asphalt. It had an apocalyptic feel to it – very cool.
All too quickly, I needed to reverse course and get over to Disney World. Ordinarily, I try to avoid doubling back on myself as it’s not terribly exciting. But the last thing I needed was to get lost or encounter some unexpected challenge and miss the big events at the park. So I let prudence govern the day and headed back on the same route I traveled out on.
I’m usually not afraid to make broad, sweeping conclusions about cycling in a new area based on the tiniest bit of experience, but this ride strains even my limited sense of fairness. On the whole, it wasn’t a very pleasant place to cycle. The roads were busy and in poor condition. There was very little to see except for swamp and housing developments. It was stunningly flat. But it was very warm and it was new and that made it worth my while on this day.
Now it’s back to my coats, gloves, wool socks, and runny nose. Joy.