Mt Dora 33rd Annual Bike Fest

This is my favorite out of town, multi-day event ride. I was not a stranger to Mt
Dora prior to attending the 22nd Bike Fest in 1996. Mt Dora Florida is a beautiful little town in central Florida, a 45 minute drive northwest of Orlando and a world apart from the artificial fantasy of Orlando.

With many cycling events, when the daily ride is over there is nothing to do until the following day. This is especially trying for the non-cycling spouse or partner.

Mt Dora, on the other hand, is a destination on its own. Not a restored or rejuvenated downtown, always conscience of its past, Mt Dora has sustained its history and grown its commerce throughout the years.

Mt Dora is a mecca of antique shops, boutiques and dining that is above the ordinary. Pizza ? Yes. Pizza hut? No. Steaks? Yes. Golden Coral? No.

When I said this was my favorite ride event, I have been here in ’96, ’97, ’98, ’00, ’01, ’03, ’07. Never a disappointment and this year was just as fine an event as ever.

The Mt Dora Bike Fest is truly a family event, offering a menu of day rides all beginning and ending at the Atlantic Coast Line railroad station downtown. This is ride central where every thing happens. Advertised as a two day, Saturday and Sunday, event, it really starts on Friday morning. Registration is open early and participants can pick up their ride packets and hit the road on many of the optional rides.

This year offered seven scheduled rides with distances from the requisite Century and Metric Century to the 17.2 mile Ray’s Round the Lake Ride. The scheduled rides are all well marked and have well provisioned rest stops. The five on-your-own optional rides varied in length from the 24.2 mile Lake Dora Loop to the 4 mile Renninger’s Antiques & Flea Market Ride. There are at least fifty mapped routes in the area making each year’s event different.

Saturday evening’s entertainment was especially enjoyable and featured a favorite of mine, Tom Snyder, the Bicycling Comedian. Tom is a stand-up comic who has ridden by bicycle 142,000 miles, to all fifty states, 23 countries, and 5 continents. He puts on a great show. Check out his web site to find out how he rode his bike to Hawaii.

The weather for the three days was simply perfect. I tent camped at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland about twenty miles away. Until a couple of years ago camping was permitted at the high school, but with construction of the new high school, camping there is no longer available. There is some tent camping available in Trimble Park about five miles from town, however you have to make reservations in person. No phone calls, e-mails, etc. There are several RV parks in the area but those I contacted would not allow tent campers. Lake Griffin was the closest guaranteed reservation I could get.

In town the Lakeside Inn and other smaller inns and B&B’s are booked well in advanced. At the Lakeside, as folks check out they make next years reservation.

I recommend Mt Dora not just for the annual Bike Fest, but as a great weekend destination.