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Bicyclists end long trip at Fanning Springs State Park

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By Claude Lewis

FANNING SPRINGS - Fanning Springs State Park belonged to bicyclists last Friday, April 4, as some 650 pedalers - a lot no doubt tired and sore - pulled into the 50-acre natural wonder on the Suwannee River to mark the end of a six-day, 300-mile trip from Clearwater.

The "Gulf Coast Trail Link Tour 2008" is part of Bike Florida's 15th anniversary.

Bikers from all over the Sunshine State as well as many northern states enjoyed lunch, a shower and just plain rest under balmy conditions.

Others shared experiences about the long ride north from Pinellas County up through Levy County.

The final leg of the ride was the 10 miles along the Nature Coast Trail spanning Chiefland with Fanning,

Cyclists rode at their own pace, taking in the beauty while getting a ton of exercise.

At night, riders would hunker down at either motels, camp grounds or even designated gtmnasiums.

Nine members of the club "The Posse" made it down from the Quad Cities area to make the ride.

They spoke of cabin fever and the lack of snow as major catalysts for making the trip.

"There really was no tough part," said one. "It was flat. There was no wind."

"The weather was good," added a member of the Rochester (N.Y.) Bicycle Club.

Samera Baird, a 60-year old from Alabama, rode a recumbent tricycle. She said it's more comfortable than a traditional bicycle.

"You meet friends and stay in shape," she said.

Baird talked about an 88-year-old who was grand marshall and also made the long trip.

"I saw him on the trail," she said. "I would pass him and he would pass me."

The bicyclists making the trip were followed by a repair man with his own truck and a medical crew.

"There were 650 bikes on the ride and I would say I probably worked on half of them," said Peter Koskinen of PRK Bikes. "Most of it is poor maintenance - dirty chains, dirty equipment, tires and tubes."

Wildlife noted during the ride on the Pinellas Trail, Withlocoochie Trail and Nature Coast included gators, snakes and tortoises.

A rider said he was "introduced to fire ants."

At the end of the ride, riders lined up for showers and food. Lunch was catered by the Homestead in the park's picnic area.

There were also vendors playing their wares.

Most were planning their trips home, although some were going to relax for a day or two.