As a longtime recreational cyclist, I decided it was time to participate in the Sharky’s “Ride the Beaches. Held on April 28th, it was the 17th year for the annual bike ride hosted by the owner of Sharky’s On the Pier restaurant in Venice. There were three different distances to choose from – 15 mile, 35 miles and 70 miles. As a leisurely rider, you can guess which route I chose. (I wanted to make it back in time for lunch.) The 15-mile ride was promoted as “suitable for most anybody with a bike.” BINGO!
The day was sunny with not a cloud in the sky and warm but not humid. Arriving at Sharky’s, I was amazed at the number of vehicles and bikes. I would later find out that approximately 1250 people were riding. All ages were represented which was inspiring to see.
First on the agenda was breakfast to fuel us up for the ride. There were bagels, fruit bread, mixed fruit, juice and coffee. The ride start times were staggered with the 70 milers leading off, then the 35 milers and finally at 9am my group departed. I am glad that the faster, serious riders led off so we weren’t constantly passed on our route.
My friends and I started our leisurely adventure from Sharky’s, riding down to Casperson Beach and onto the Venetian Waterway. Although I have lived in Englewood for seven years, I had never visited Casperson Beach or ridden on the Venetian Waterway. It was beautiful riding along the Intracoastal Waterway that morning and our pace was such that we could wave and greet the many other bikers, pedestrians and dog walkers along the way while enjoying the view. At Venice Avenue, we left the Venetian Waterway to cycle around downtown Venice onto the residential streets along the water. For me this was the best part, seeing all the houses and landscaped yards as we wove our way towards the South Jetty. The Venice Yacht Club hosted our rest stop, providing snacks and beverages. Interacting with others stopped for a break showed us to be a congenial group of people who enjoy biking and supporting a good cause at the same time.
The ride to the Jetty and back was the only part of the adventure that I did not enjoy due to the absence of bike lanes and a great deal of traffic. After looping around the Jetty, we rode by Venice beach and then through more residential streets back to Sharky’s where our timing proved perfect as lunch was being served. There was pork tenderloin, BBQ chicken, pasta salads, Caesar salad, rolls, fruit salad, dessert and BEER! That line was long.
The 35-mile ride took the rider through South Venice and down and back Manasota Key while the 70 milers then went out east through countryside and then up the Legacy Trail. I will put that ride on my bucket list!
The event was extremely well organized, the route clearly marked with small colored shark stencils on the pavement, the food delicious and the comradery great. The Sharky’s staff along with Friends of the Legacy Trail and many others volunteer their time with the proceeds from the ride benefiting three different charities: Team Tony (a Sarasota based foundation to helping those going through cancer treatment and their families,) Friends of the Legacy Trail and the Livestrong Foundation. Although final figures aren’t in, it is estimated about $40,000 will go to these worthy charities. So next year, grab some cycling friends and join the fun!