Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Garden and warmer weather...

It had gotten cold enough while we were away to freeze and split the hose on the shower that I left hanging out of the back of the trailer - damn.

On Tuesday we went for a bike ride at Winter Garden, about an hour’s drive from Zephyrhills. We left at 11:30am, not having had lunch beforehand, assuming that there were plans in the works for something to eat along the way. That was not to be the case. I had had a bowl of cereal hours before while Janice had had a piece of Papaya.

Janice was riding in Jim and Rose’s vehicle while I was riding with Don, who was pictured on the Rat Bike in the last blog. Don is a Vietnam Vet who saw a lot of action and has, over the years, built himself a twenty-three store strip mall in Michigan - nice retirement fund. Mark and Heather followed.

Pictured is the town square at Winter Garden.

When it became clear that the lunch plans were slated for after the bike ride, I slipped into a little bakery at Winter Garden and grabbed a couple tiny pieces of Biscotti for Janice and myself. Biscotti was the least sweet thing on display but still, was far from what we would have chosen under normal circumstances.

The ride itself was fifteen miles and was one of the more interesting we had been on. It even had a few hills, or should I call them inclines? By the time we had ridden back to the vehicles, loaded the bikes and driven to the restaurant, it was 3:45 - we were getting pretty hungry.

The restaurant selected had been visited by some of the riders previously. It was nothing to look at, situated in the middle of a little strip mall, advertising Pizza and Greek Food, in a greasy window. I had a sinking feeling that Janice and I were in for a let-down. The others had already passed on the Thai Blossom Restaurant in Winter Garden that had won numerous awards, including The Best Thai Restaurant in the Orlando Area. To our surprise, none of the other riders had ever had Thai food and none seemed inclined to try it.

Inside, the Italian/Greek restaurant was dull looking and pretty well devoid of ambience. The brash, fifty-ish, waitress, chewing gum through her deep southern drawl, produced plastic covered menus offering lasagna, spaghetti, pizza and other pedestrian stuff that you’d expect to find in such a place. The other riders had mentioned several times that the portions were large, and that most everybody had taken home doggy bags the last time they ate there.

While we were hungry, for us, quantity is not the yardstick by which we measure value. One couple said that the last time they ate there they had ordered a large pizza and had to take a lot of it home, so Janice and I decided to split a medium pizza, which topped our tanks to the limit. The other people ended up with huge pasta dishes, which all came with their choice of dinner-size bowls of thick, homemade chicken/rice or bacon/potato soup, or Greek salad, which wasn't anything like what we know to be Greek salad, but was over the top generous, and topped with a thick layer of Jack cheese. All the pasta dishes also came with three pieces of garlic toast! Of course, Mark, the skinniest guy at the table, finished all of his,

I can tell you that the price for the pasta dishes was just $8.95 or $9.95, depending on the dish. I report on the meal prices without fear of reprisal from Bill Lyle, because right now he’s otherwise occupied hiking somewhere deep inside either The Grand or Zion Canyons.

On Thursday we went for a ‘hike’ at Hillsborough State Park, just a few miles from here, with three other couples. Because it was so flat, and we were on well maintained trails, it was really more like a stroll. Still nice though, with huge Cypress and Oak trees overhead and lots of different kinds of Palms underneath. We saw three Armadillos as well as the biggest alligator we’ve encountered so far.

Pictured below is the Armadillo that was busy rooting around and just wouldn't face us - it seemed oblivious to our presence; the 'smiling' Alligator and the suspension bridge where, if you look carefully, you can see some of the walkers.

Today, for the first time in a while, the weather felt like you’d expect it to be in Florida. After we got all set up for the tailgate party we had to move all the stuff to the shade because it turned too hot for sitting around in the sun. Janice had made lots of good stuff and a few guys showed up with their guitars so, all in all it made for a nice afternoon. The only trouble was, we forgot to take a single picture.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow so the timing for the party worked just right.


  1. I wish I could stop by for Happy Hour with you. I would welcome some of Janice's tasty treats. I await, with anticipation, the report on your Christmas Day. I hope you saw my greetings on your regular site.
    Never mind how many miles you are putting on the vehicle, how about your bikes !
    cheers, ljc

  2. If you return for another trip to Winter Garden and can finish your ride earlier, you may want to try Bistro 24 on plant street. Its a family business, charming with selections that you should all enjoy. Quite a number of cyclists frequent the restaurant that opened earlier in 2010. It closes at 3pm.

  3. What's with the age comments? You could have told them I was a sister. Remember there is only 9 years difference in us. Boy your lucky your mother doesn't post comments, I'm telling.

    Just kidding, glad to see you both.

    Mom /Rhelda