About 350 cyclists brave the heat from Tampa to Weeki Wachee Springs to raise about $125,000 for multiple sclerosis
By DAN DeWITT
published April 22, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- Though he knew better, Bruce Bowes allowed his hopes to temporarily rise when he saw a sign just before the northern end of the Suncoast Parkway bicycle trail.
"There's a sign back there saying Weeki Wachee, a half-mile," said Bowes, 41, from Orlando.
A matter of 15 miles or more was significant to Bowes because he was on his bicycle and had, by about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, ridden close to 50 miles.
But because he was participating in the annual ride to raise money for the Mid-Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, he had plenty of company.
Nearly 350 riders joined the ride, which took them from Citrus Park in Tampa, up the parkway's bike trail, into northern Hernando County and eventually to Weeki Wachee Springs, where they rested in the shade of the trees at the southern end of the parking lot.
The event not only offered cyclists a challenging, well-organized ride, said Joe Robinson, a captain with the Orlando Police Department, it also gave them the satisfaction of working for a good cause.
Riders are required to raise $175 in donations to the society to participate, said Tami Caesar, president of the Mid-Florida Chapter. But the average rider actually raised closer to $400, she said, and the event was expected to raise a total of about $125,000.
"The MS Society does a great job," said Robinson, who rode with a nine-member team from his department.
"The general consensus is that these rides are very, very well organized. It's a good charitable cause, and it's a chance for us cyclists to get out and enjoy our bikeways."
The riders seemed unanimously to agree that the best stretch was on the parkway's trail.
"It's very smooth, and you don't have to worry about traffic," said Karen Parks, 26, of Orlando, who rode with friends Bowes and Joe Santos, also both of Orlando.
After leaving the trail, riders headed north on Grove Road and eventually headed west on Centralia Road, then south to Weeki Wachee on U.S. 19.
They were originally scheduled to ride 75 miles Saturday and return by the same route Sunday. That included a leg on County Road 550 to Bayport before stopping at Weeki Wachee. But Barbara Franks, who coordinated the tour, said the first riders back reported being crowded off the road by cars pulling boats and being harassed by some of the drivers.
For safety reasons, she said, she cut out the Bayport stretch for later riders, which trimmed about 14 miles from the 75-mile route.
Considering that the day began to warm rapidly in the afternoon, that was generally a popular decision, she said.
"I don't think anyone was complaining because they were so tired and
so hot," she said.
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