Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Coffee - my not so humble opinion

Club rides are great. I love destinations like cemeteries and gas stations or sometimes a nice tree to pee behind and a bottle of Gatorade. Well maybe it's not that bad but compared to a decent cup of coffee and a comfortable chair it's first runner up.

So here is my non comprehensive list of places I enjoy stopping for coffee which does not include gas stations or franchises like Starbucks, Panera Bread or Dunkin.

The Garden at B D Beans
Best Coffee House - B D Beans in Belleview. Sandwiched between a gas station and KFC this would be on my list of places least likely to survive providing it hadn't been there for nearly 25 years. An independent coffee shop in an old house where the coffee is good, the service is excellent, and you can sit outside in the garden at a table which even has a table cloth. But not just coffee, plenty of pastries and breakfast too.

Nephew Jacques in a comfortable chair at Sawgrass Grove
Most Comfortable Coffee - Golden Hills Coffee Roasters at Sawgrass Grove on Meggison Road. A decent latte and a really comfortable chair outside that I wouldn't be allowed to sit on at home in my cycling gear!

Best club ride coffee - The Standard Coffee Lounge in Brownwood has good coffee and a huge patio area with tables and chairs ideal for larger groups where not everyone is buying. Great for an end of ride social.
On a Sunnyside ride try Leesburg Library Coffee shop. It's Starbucks based and serves decent coffee. The best part is the Durand Garden across Main Street where there are tables and chairs and fountains to deaden traffic noise for a zen moment. Simply a pleasant relaxing spot.

Lunch at Coffee n' Cream - had a beer this time!
Micanopy - If you tour out of town from time to time then I'd recommend Coffee n' Cream in Micanopy for coffee and a light lunch. Pretty basic until you chat to the owner who was born and raised there and told me her parents never let her go "downtown" on the weekends because of the fights in the local saloon! An interesting town to visit, it's where they made the movie Doc Hollywood.

Latte art at Axum in Winter Garden
Winter Garden - convenient for riding in the Clermont Hills - has the second best coffee in Florida at the Axum Coffee Shop and the best latte art I've seen. Ask for a ceramic cup to see the latte art - they'll try to serve you coffee in a disposable cup when they're busy but tell them you rode 50 miles for their coffee and you'll get a real cup. Personally I try to avoid drinking good coffee out of a cardboard cup - yes I'm a coffee snob.

Mazzaro's Italian Market in St. Petersburg makes the best coffee I know of. I've bought their beans and made it at home but it's just not the same. Perhaps it's their coffee bar next to the pastry counter. The pâtissier told me they had 60 different pastries on the counter but he can make about 150, so you have to go back - a few times. Unfortunately it's not a good place to go on a bike as there is no secure place for it - and you'd need to leave it because what started as a small corner store has now expanded into an Italian theme park - perhaps I exaggerate.

Coffee at Home - I have a Breville Barista Espresso machine. I buy my roasted espresso beans wholesale from the Caracolillo Coffee Mill in Tampa. Fresh roasted delivered overnight and still much cheaper than anything decent you can buy locally. If you're in their area stop by and smell the beans roasting - aaaah! This family business founded by Anastasio Fernandez, a Spanish immigrant, has been roasting beans since 1936. Ask for a quick tour and you'll be shown their grandfathers original roasting machines still being used. And the aroma of freshly roasting coffee beans is to live for.

Please note, I have not received a board appointment or shares in any of these businesses nor even a free coffee as compensation for their mention in this article. It's just my not so humble opinion.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Eureka Lock

It's early April and Ken Nevers and I are riding up to Eureka to see if we can find the Eureka lock which had been constructed in the late 60s before Nixon shut down the Cross Florida Barge Canal construction in 1971. We started at the Silver Springs parking lot and made our way north to Anthony to see what we could of Jumbolair, the flying community where John Travolta lives and used to park his Boeing 707. Well, we saw an impressive gate and there being no bell to ring, not much else. I'll phone ahead next time.

We ride through, Anthony, then Ft McCoy then through Eureka to its 60 foot high, half mile long bridge over the Oklawaha river which was supposed to fill the non existent lake below. Just after the bridge we hang a right u-turn along the old road back to Eureka. Now we're on the bottom of the lake passing under the bridge where we see wooden barriers high on the support columns to protect them from the barges. We don't see a lock but a massive pier sructure indicates it is close by.

I look around and see a locked gate and Ken wheeling his bike through a gap to one side. Clearly the gate is there to prevent automobile access not bicycles. Soon after we see a sign that "trespassers may be reprimanded". Facing a reprimand we continue to ride up a winding gravel trail and see the lock gates and finally the lock. Wow - it's huge - not the Grand Canyon but nevertheless, here in the middle of nowhere - oops - I mean Florida, is the Eureka lock, complete except for water, a huge concrete structure with no purpose. Quite amazing!

It had crossed my mind if the canal had been completed it could have been used as a recreational waterway but it's clearly too expensive to operate and maintain such a huge structure for recreational purposes.

Over to the east of the lock is the dam and a spillway which would have controlled the level of the lake. The west end of the dam was never completed and it is where the Ocklawaha river continues to flow and is popular with anglers and canoers.

We determined this to be an outstanding ride then hopped on our bikes and rode back to Silver Springs.

Click here for Strava route information 

Allan Broadribb