Thursday, January 12, 2012

Florida Panhandle

December came, and it was starting to get cold in Tennessee and thus that meant, it was time to move on. And where do you go for good winter weather in that part of the country? Florida, of course! My first stop was the town of Gainesville where the University of Florida is located.

And what a beautiful campus it was!

This spot by Lake Alice was perfect for reflecting.

And it even boasted Alligators! Though the only one I saw was this tiny little guy.

Overall, I think Gainesville ended up being one of my favorite spots for triathlon training. Beautiful, soft, flat trails to run on could be found easily (and free) at the Morningside Nature Center. Bike lanes and wide shoulders were everywhere. Running and cycling groups were massive and even the old guys who didn't race would churn out 20mph rides on Florida's flat and smooth terrain. And most important was the weather. The night I left I was still in T-shirt and shorts and perfectly comfortable. Not to mention the excellent downtown nightlife fueled by the swarms of gorgeous girls attending the university. And being such a relatively small town, a perfect parking spot to spend the night was easily found with walking distance of the bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.

After Gainesville, it was off to visit the panhandle city of Navarre, located in between Pensacola and Destin, to visit a cousin I hadn't seen in forever ago. Once again, with great weather, bike lanes and wide shoulders to bike on, a beautiful state park located 30 miles north of the beach, and tons of fast runners and cyclists around, it was, like all of Florida it seems, an excellent location for winter training.

This part of Navarre beach was where I did a lot of my biking and running.

The white sand beaches here were beautiful all parts of the day, but especially at sunset.

And here the moon shines brightly over the coast as I close out my travels for 2011.

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