Until now, I thought Florida was the worst place to ride a bike. No trails that I could find and the only roads around these parts were 4 lane highways with almost no shoulder. I almost gave up on riding in Daytona all together. This year however turned out to be much different. After asking around local bike shops and some big-time internet surfing I found two places to ride, both about an hour and a half away. Today's ride was in Santos Park, just south of Ocala. Being that it was Florida my expectations for this place was relatively low, i was picturing deep sand pits and palm leaves slapping me in the face. I couldnt be more wrong. My partner for today's adventure was West Virginian Chris Phillips. We headed out towards Ocala in the morning hoping to get in a full day's worth of riding. The first suprise was at the number of trails this place had. The trailhead map was full of twisty, windy trails that covered the park. We headed down the first trail and within 100 yards we hit a rock garden. Yeah, a rock garden in Florida. I almost didnt know what to do. We kept turning onto different trails and kept on being suprised as to how sweet these trails were. They were super technical, rocky, tight, twisty, and lots of quick, punchy climbs. It was awesome. Chris and I both agreed that the only place comparable to this was the 2004 NORBA National in Waco, TX. The rocks were limestone and looked like crumbled concrete, the dirt was soily and kinda sandy. Epic. We rode for about 4 hours barely touching the same trail twice.
These trails were definately NORBA National worthy, minus the major climbing. Which makes we wonder, who picks the locations for Nationals. The majority of the events on the National series are at ski resorts, which usually arent that cool. Take Sugar Mountain, NC. Totally worthless. Santos puts Sugar to shame no questions asked. As for the climbing; I think it would be sweet to have a National that didn't focus just on climbing and instead was more about technical skills, which is pretty much what mountain biking is about. Without technical stuff we'd be racing road bikes. I just think that NORBA completely overlooks world class trails in order to keep events and high class resorts that take racers money.
Once back to the car we changed and started home, despretely needing food. Once back in Daytona we stopped at the first available restaurant, Hooters. (it wasnt really a coincedence) We sat down and ordered our food. While we were waiting these three crackers came in and sat at the table next to us. Two of them were obviously motorcycles racers and the other appeared to be their mechanic. Turns out one of the guys was a pro motorcycle stunt rider. It also turned out that this tool bag carries around pictures of himself that he signs and hands out to people like he's some sort of superstar. All I could think about was Matt's talk on how Pro's are just normal people who work just as hard as everyone else and that this guy was a total poser.
Anyway, tomorrows agenda features another hour and a half drive. This time to Reddick where next week's race is. The goal is to put in a couple laps on the course and get a feel for it. Everyone says this place is just as sweet as Santos. I have a feeling the world class trails at Santos could be hard to beat...