Each January, the Gainesville Cycling Club convenes at O’Leno State Park north of High Springs for our annual “Chilly Chili Picnic.” The weather was fabulously cooperative. My friend Chandler and I traditionally lead a mountain bike ride through the woods and along the Bellamy Road. The river level was low this year so we got to take a group photo standing in the dry riverbed. Some went on road bike rides from the park and others rode out from Gainesville, ate, and rode back.
We had about nine pots of chili. I brought Emeril’s Turkey and White Bean Chili and came home with an empty pot and a lot of praise.
O’Leno has been a special place to me ever since the Summer of 1976 when we happened upon it during the Florida back roads vacation we went on that year. Those have been my favorite woods ever since I first laid eyes on the suspension bridge and the first time this child of the suburbs ever petted a wild, though pretty tame, deer. It was definitely part of the attraction when I got the opportunity to move to Gainesville in 1988.