The bike tour sold out in 2 minutes. I delegated the task of reserving us spots to the Pedal Across Wisconsin (PAW) inaugural Sunshine Tour, a fully supported 6-day group bike tour on paved bike paths on the gulf side of Florida in the winter to my husband, Ron and he called in at the exact day and time and got us in. Anyone who hesitated had to wait until next year since the ride was capped at 86 riders. We quickly learned that when meeting fellow tour participants at the hotel breakfasts, daily happy hours, or rest stops the appropriate ice breaker was “what other PAW tours have you done” since everyone there was a previous PAW participant. The organizers announced the tour to their list of alumni and there was no need to publicize it any further.
Jerry Goldman, known as Dr. J. Pedal, his son Ken, his family and crew have been offering bicycle trips in Wisconsin since 1985. Trip offerings have expanded outside of Wisconsin over the years to other locations such as San Juan Islands and now two trips to Florida so we can have a reason to bike outside the months that are most popular for cycling in Wisconsin. Their tours feature scenic, quiet backroads and trails, food stops, emergency SAG support, que sheets, rooms at mid-priced hotels, luggage transfer and one group dinner. From mostly word of mouth, they have developed a loyal following of a fit and active older demographic of cycling enthusiasts that hail from across the country. This was our third PAW ride.
The route started in Tarpon Springs, Florida and traveled south on the Pinellas Trail to Clearwater Beach and then returned. The next days we biked to Brooksville, Lecanto, and Inverness and then returned, biking on the Pinellas, Withlacoochee and Good Neighbor State Trails.
I highly recommend the PAW Sunshine Tour for the following reasons:
This was the first time this tour was offered so there might be some lessons learned incorporated in future tours. Here are some areas for improvement:
We drove down to Florida with our bikes in our minivan and planned an additional 3 days each way to travel but took advantage of our passing through southern states to include a little additional site seeing. We spent a night in Memphis and took a tour of Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, which inspired us to listen to Elvis music the rest of the trip. We were disappointed that many other attractions in Memphis such as the Blues Hall of Fame Museum and Beale Street were closed or limited due to Covid. On the way home we made a stop in Cave City, Kentucky to tour Mammoth Cave. We were lucky we elected to purchase our tour tickets a month before because tours are operating at reduced capacity due to Covid and they were sold out on the day we arrived.
If you are a fan of bicycle touring that includes staying in hotels and letting someone else do all the planning, check out the PAW tours. For a glorious exposure to warmth in winter, put the Sunshine Tour on you bucket list. When you see the tour announcement, be sure to call or email immediately. Pack plenty of sun screen because the tour name was spot on.
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