When you combine a sense of adventure, exploring the unknown, and a little bit of history, you get the makings of a good bike ride. Watch out for tricky dropoffs, though.
We were on vacation at the beach on the Florida Panhandle recently, and I decided to explore nearby Topsail Preserve State Park. Topsail has a lot of varied ecosystems, including ocean beach, dunes, coastal lakes, and conifer forests. There are multiple good bike trails, including one 3-4 mile paved path and lots of other tracks through the woods mostly with sandy terrain underwheel. I just went exploring, though my goal was to find remnants of the old WW II training site where some of the first US missile program testing was performed.
Well, as it turns out I wasn’t in exactly the right spot, but I had fun riding through the woods anyway.
As you might expect, once off the paved path I didn’t encounter a single other person on foot or bike. The day was cool but there was some extra work trolling across the sandy surface since moving sand around with your bike tires doesn’t translate to much forward momentum.
Speaking of momentum, the other thing about sand is that it absorbs momentum pretty efficiently. Especially when your front wheel is airborne after a drop off, the bike is pointed down, your incompetent cyclist’s weight is forward over the front bar, and you’ve never ridden this kind of trail before. In about 0.5 seconds I was launched over the handlebar and landed on my head. I was wearing a helmet, but the real saving grace was the sand pit I landed in–it cushioned my impact and I emerged with just a sore neck. Fortunately.
A couple of days later Vikki and I went back for a hike on some of the other trails that were too sandy for bike travel. Once there we saw some lovely coastal lakes, tide pools and tall dunes up to about 25 feet tall.
The day was quiet and warm. No one else was around. I wanted to find an alligator but never spotted one.
We also encountered some very old twisted wire in an oddly arranged pattern that resembled a long rectangular grid. I thought this might be some relic of the old WW II program but I couldn’t be sure. In any case we were off the beaten path and enjoyed a great walk.