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By Bob Frederickson
From Lights Out in Largo to Ending E-Bike Embargo

Dumb and Dumber Climb a Tree

Shortly after erecting and decorating their city’s annual Christmas tree display in early December, workers at the Largo Parks and Recreation Department had a reclamation project on their hands. It seems two dim bulbs were so taken with the sheer magnificence of the shimmering spectacle before them that they decided there was just one thing left to do: climb the dang thing!

27-year-old Alex Lachey and 28-year-old Shay Tracy allegedly trashed the artificial tree, it’s ornaments and many of its electric bulbs when they tried – unsuccessfully – to reach the tree’s 25 foot ‘summit.’

No word as to whether any holiday beverages were involved here, but you would almost hope so. I mean who sees a 25-foot Christmas tree, turns to their buddy and says “Race you to the top!”

The Continuing Saga of the Imperious Martin Hyde

The last time political gadfly Martin Hyde set his sights on winning a seat on the Sarasota City Commission he came in third in a three-person race. That’s despite outspending the combined total of his opponents Jen Ahearn-Koch and Hagen Brody by a wide margin.

Hyde’s total spending:  $75,000, the majority of which came out of his own pocket.

When asked by a reporter after the 2017 loss how it felt to come in last after spending so much of his own money on a commission seat that only pays a $26,000 annual salary, Hyde brushed off the implied criticism by saying “I spent the price of a fancy kitchen or a modest boat, so what? I’ll make the money back.”

We commented in this space at the time that it was precisely this kind of haughtiness that likely doomed Hyde’s candidacy.

So fast forward two years and here he is, at it again.

Back in the hunt for a city commission seat, Hyde was forced to withdraw from the race after cell phone video recorded him allegedly telling several young Puerto Ricans to “go cut the grass” in the course of an argument over noise Hyde claimed the group was making on a tennis court at The Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club where Hyde is a member. The Puerto Ricans were reportedly practicing at the club in preparation for the upcoming Casely International Championship.

After initially dropping out of the race, Hyde later said he might jump back in, so stay tuned.

But if he is indeed finished for this election cycle, at least he hasn’t dropped seventy-five large on the effort, making him flush for another kitchen ‘touch-up’ or a small ‘runabout’ to putter about the bay in.

A Neighborly Thing to Do

A Webster City, Iowa man really admires Mr. Rogers; so much so that he approached the manager of the historic Webster Theatre in downtown Webster City and told her he wanted to pay for the tickets of anyone and everyone coming to see the recently released film starring Tom Hanks in the role of the iconic host of the long running children’s show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

The theatre has 236 seats and the film was slated for a six day December run is Webster City with multiple screenings each day, so if you do the math, the dollar value of this act of kindness is considerable, potentially measured in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.

But the thing that struck me most about the gift when I first read about it was that in this age of runaway vanity and unrepentant virtue signaling it was made anonymously.

And that would certainly make Mr. Rogers smile.

Legacy Trail Opening to E-Bikes

Electric bicycles have been prohibited from the Legacy Trail since it opened over a decade ago. But that will soon change according to a county announcement reported last month in The Herald Tribune, though no exact date for the change was given.

My wife and I have been avid cyclists most of our adult lives. We have enjoyed many road trips out west in our younger days, traveling to cycling Meccas like Moab, Crested Butte and Manitou Springs, thanks in large part to our both being employed by a Canadian publishing company which offered that nation’s typically liberal vacation policies to its US employees. For most of our time with the company in the 1990s and early 2000s we could throw our mountain bikes in the back of our Ford van and light out each summer for four or five weeks of exhilarating rides up and down some of the most inspiring wilderness trails this beautiful nation has to offer.

Back then there was a need for speed and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. But now, well…not so much.

 We still enjoy taking our bikes out a few times each week, but 63 year-old bones don’t heal as quickly as younger ones once did. So after a broken hip following a tumble precipitated by a vehicle turning in front of me off University Parkway a while back, we decided to nix any future rides along roadways with any appreciable auto and truck traffic. The speed, size and weight differential between cars and bicycles just doesn’t make for a fair fight.

So we now head for places like Myakka River State Park, the Legacy Trail or more frequently The Celery Fields or Rothenbach Park for our ‘thrills.’ The last two spots, Rothenbach and the Celery Fields even have several small climbs, which though they pale by comparison to those along the 401 trail in Colorado or the Poison Spider in Utah, are good enough for us now at this stage of life.

But back to the Legacy and the new policy regarding e-bikes: the difference in weight and top speed – while not as great as between cars and bikes is still wide enough to cause concern.

 Cruising speeds among trail riders on the Legacy already cut a wide swath: from perhaps 4-10 mph for kids, or older riders, 10-15 mph for casual riders on 26” balloon tire bikes like the mountain bikes my wife and I still ride, 15-20 mph for those pursuing a good aerobic workout; 20-25 mph for those on 27”-29” racing frame bikes; and topping out at 25-30 mph cruising speeds for ‘hammerheads’ in great shaping trying to push themselves to ever greater levels of performance.

But there are far fewer hammerheads than there are riders on the slower end of the spectrum. So for the most part every one is able to stay out of each other’s way on the Legacy. But I do remember a bad accident a few years back when a man on a racing bike collided with a woman from behind who was going much slower along the Legacy. Both riders were injured, the woman seriously. And the man who caused the accident felt terrible. It was an accident. Still, he was responsible.

The thing is, it’s a relative rarity to propel a bike along at 30 mph on a level surface. Few can do it mile-after-mile without the aerodynamic benefit provided by a peloton of riders around them. But it’s no problem cranking up an e-bike to maintain speeds of 25-30 mph. And with this area’s affluence, there will likely be many more e-bikers on the trail in coming years hitting those higher speeds than there will be hammerheads who do it the old fashioned way.  

 Yes, I know. There’s a speed limit on the trail, but then there’s one on I-4 too. And have you noted lately how effectively it’s being recognized?

I just hope chasing ROI in terms of generating more dollars for E-Bike rental places and by adding tourist dollars via trail riders doesn’t do to the Legacy trail what I-4 has done to the Tampa/Orlando corridor.

Kathryn Frederickson rides trail along the ‘O Be Joyful River’ near Crested Butte, CO, Summer 2007. Photo by R. Frederickson.