Drivers in Port St. Joe last week noticed a long line of bicyclists along the picturesque strip.
These bikers were 18 members of the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club and most of them were enjoying their first visit to the Forgotten Coast.
The 340-member group is based out of The Villages, an active retirement community in Central Florida with over 85,000 residents.
“Port St. Joe was just gorgeous,” said Dave Taylor, the club’s president. “The people were very nice.”
Taylor said that the group rides together four times a week, usually bringing over 200 members wherever they go. A couple times a year the group organizes an “away ride” where they bike 60 miles a day, stopping at major tourist destinations along the way.
For this year’s ride, dubbed the “Forgotten Florida Tour,” the group started at a Best Western Hotel in Crawfordville and spent four days visiting sites in St. George Island, Apalachicola, Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach.
The bikers were followed by two vehicles carrying spouses, suitcases and emergency equipment and ended their first leg at the Wakulla State Park Lodge where they were joined by 20 more members of the club before continuing on to St. Marks and Tallahassee.
The trip was organized by ride leader Sandy Larson, who also mapped the course and made accommodations for the journey.
A fan of long rides, she once made the trek from San Diego to St. Augustine on two wheels along with biking trips from Maine to Florida and across New Zealand.
“Most residents of The Villages come from other places and they’re not familiar with the Florida coast,” said Larson, who has lived in the Sunshine State for 13 years. “It was a great experience and we had a fun time riding through.”
Larson and her husband had driven their RV through the area several times over the years and she was eager to share the Forgotten Coast with her bicycle buddies.
Five-year member of the club Larry Peart said that Port St. Joe was a “delight to visit” and praised local motorists for being considerate as they made their journey.
Why do they do it?
“Bicycling is good for you, physically,” said Taylor. “It’s fun to do and gives you a true feeling of independence.”