My TrIP began on Pennsylvania Ave. in Winter Park, it was a sleepy overcast Wednesday morning and I was on my clunky blue road bike. Somewhere along Pennsylvania is a very understated side entrance to Mead Botanical Gardens. The heavy gate opens to a short wandering trail that takes you over a stream that connects Lake Sue to Lake Virginia on a rickety wooden bridge. I proceeded through Mead Garden, onto a paved trail, hoping to see the resident gopher tortoise in his borrow. The path leads onto Lake Shore Dr, then Loch Haven Park and eventually to the beginning of the Orlando Urban Trail (OUT).
I stopped in Loch Haven Park to take a break in front of the Mennello Museum of American Art. It was hard not to be drawn to the historic 325+ year old live oak tree named the “Mayor” that demands the front yard of the museum. The tree creates a dome with it’s branches arching up and out and back down onto the ground like a fortress around the massive trunk. I felt safe in the quiet dome, keeping me nestled away from the rest of Orlando’s morning hussle. It was like seeing the evidence of time, knowing that this tree has survived so long in the growing city it grew up in. I tried imagining what would it be like in 25 years, 100 years, another 325 years.
I got back onto the trail, officially on the OUT towards downtown Orlando. This first section is called the “Dinky Line” getting its name from the short rail line that connected Winter Park and Orlando. The trail was quiet, I saw a few pedestrians, some with dogs, I rode for a while without seeing anyone. It didn’t take long before the trail ended and I was left off on Magnolia Ave. I rode toward downtown’s main drag, Orange Ave, The bike lane starts and then disappears on and off.I can tell by the little space that cars allowed me in their lane that I am not wanted on the road.
LYNX Central Station was near and the day was warming up. I was happily anticipating the air conditioned Sunrail train.I decided to buy a southbound ticket to the end of the line, Sandlake station. My plan was to ride a continuous one way Northbound train from Sandlake to Sandford so that I could experience a new viewpoint on a familiar landscape. I also wanted to get some lunch.
The train arrived on time. I secured my bike on the train and then took a window seat. I watched out the window at a congested I4 overpass, industrial parks with piles of gravel, empty overgrown fields, warehouses with abandoned train cars. I had reached the end of the line, I got out to buy my ticket to Sanford Station, after a few minutes I reloaded my bike into the same spot on the train and hopped back into my seat, this time with my back to the direction that the train is going.
Two riders were boarding the train with their bikes when the train moved out of the station at 11:15. They don’t secure their bikes, and get off at the next station, Orlando Health/Amtrak. The train ride is quiet, except for woman talking on her cellphone about a friend’s relationship that has recently gone sour..Three women got on at the Church St. Station, one of them asking a lot of questions. They decided that sitting upstairs would give them a better view.
We got to back to Central Station in downtown Orlando. It was one of the quietest stops, considering this was the bus and train depot of Orlando. The train pulled out of downtown and we passed a southbound cargo train.The train carried what looked like circus or carnival equipment, trailers, carnirides encrusted in little lightbulbs and painted bright colors. A little boy with his father a few seats behind me made a well announced “That’s cool!”
Soon we arrived at Winter Park Station, I saw the most riders moving on and off the train here. We swiftly move through Maitland, Altamonte Springs and Longwood stations. We pass major intersections dense with cars, low income housing and apartments, industrial warehouses, graffiti tags and tree lined properties with for sale signs.
When we arrived at Sanford station, the sun was high in the sky. It was 12:10. I got my bike off the train with ease and headed to SR46 towards historic downtown Sanford. There was an emergency shoulder lane that I rode in on the overpass over the train tracks. I got to the peak of the overpass and stop to look back at the station. There wasn’t an established bike lane on SR46 until you near downtown. There are sections of the road that didn’t even have sidewalk. I watch as pedestrians on both sides of the road are forced to walk on the shoulder or sit on the curb to wait for a bus.
Once I got downtown, I locked my bike up at the Sanford Herald building across from the welcome center. I was hungry, so I walked around in search of lunch. I order a Sierra Nevada IPA and the big fish sandwich at the Breezeway Restaurant. The sandwich was good, I ordered another beer and read a info pamphlet about Sanford’s growing beer and brewery culture.
After lunch, I had over an hour before the next southbound train would arrive. I spent some time wandering the various antique and thrift stores on 1st Ave. I looked around at Jeanine Taylor Folk Gallery, Washburn Imports, a homebrew shop and a store specializing in specialty marshmallow treats.
I realized I needed to get back to the station, I rode what felt like a mile back to the station and waited for the 1st train of the evening schedule. I bought a ticket to Winter Park for $2.00.
The sky appeared to be filling up with clouds when the train arrived at 3:06. I secured my bike for the last time and sat down. A young man with an Orlando Magic jersey sat near by, he was headed to a home game later that night.
Soon after boarding the train it started to rain. We arrive in Altamonte Springs and it was pouring. A father and teenager son sat behind me, he told his son that 2016 is forecasted to be a wet “El Nino” year. We neared the Winter Park station, I got a quick glimpse of US 17-92 when crossing over the train bridge. I got off the train and the rain was steady. I walked my bike through some substantial rain puddles, a part of the sidewalk was completely submerged under rainwater. I rode a little over a half a mile home and got completely drenched.
When I got home, I took off my wet sneakers and reflected on my commute. I was impressed with all the ground I covered by using the combination of bike and train. I thought about how much different and mundane the same destinations would have been if i’d driven my car instead.
In my response to participating in TrIP, I plan on working on a mixed media series that reflects on specific scenery I encountered on November 18, that otherwise would be missed or overlooked by a commuter using a personal vehicle.
Visit Danielle’s website at Danddeguglimo.com and find her on Instagram via @Orlandoland407.