Thanks to FPAN — the Florida Public Archaeology Network — we’ll be getting a new reason to pedal through West Bradenton.
Archaeology and bicycling?
Sure — any excuse to hit the trail.
You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy riding along Perico Bayou, Palma Sola Bay and the Manatee River. You don’t have to be a fossil hound to enjoy the view from the observation tower in the Robinson Preserve.
FPAN is considering a bike route that would begin and end at the Neal Preserve, just south of Manatee Avenue, which should open next year. In the meantime, there’s Robinson, DeSoto National Memorial and a few places in between.
A few weeks ago, I did a practice ride with Jeff Moates and Ryan Harke, a couple of state archaeologists. Both of them are field researchers with graduate degrees. Both of them rode wonderfully battered old bicycles.
When I asked Moates if he got his bike at a garage sale, he had to laugh. Nope — he found it abandoned in a ditch next to a dig down in Naples.
Harke didn’t have a cute story, but his bicycle was even worse. How that rusty chain stayed together for our ride is a mystery.
The FPAN guys were pretty friendly, so I felt free to tease them about their bikes. We talked about baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays as we pedaled along.
And I learned some things.
The first thing was that I’ve been mispronouncing Perico Bayou for more than a decade. It should be “per-EE-co,” with stress on the second syllable.
The bayou was named for Perico Pompon — great name, by the way — a Spanish fisherman who lived on the Gulf Coast back in the 1830s.
I also learned/remembered that the Manatee River was once known as Oyster River. For centuries, the shores of the river were lined with shell middens.
“Those things would have been gleaming white back then,” Moates said. “Completely free of vegetation.”
Parks and docks
That kind of bonus image is the whole idea behind an FPAN bike route. The archaeology network wants to give us a little more to see and think about.
Eventually, the state agency would like to use those QR scanner codes or other applications for cellphones.
On our Bradenton bike ride, we passed the Palma Sola Botanical Park on 17th Avenue. That’s a good place for cyclists to stretch their legs.
We stopped at the Boca Del Rio Marina on 88th Street. This hidden away spot on the river was the site of the Lee Hickok Boatworks back in the 1920s.
We also visited what’s called the Pillsbury Temple Mound, even though it’s not really open to the public. A better spot for that kind of thing would be the Portavant Temple Mound on Snead Island, but that’s a whole different bike ride.
With or without PFAN, we should stick to one trail at a time.