Withlacoochee State Trail file photo

Bicyclists ride through a tunnel of trees along the Withlacoochee State Trail between Inverness and Floral City in this 2018 file photo. The Withlacoochee State Trail is part of the Florida Coast to Coast Trail, a continuous paved multi-use trail that will extend from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The trail will span approximately 250 miles and is the first state trail of its kind in the United States. As part of a recent virtual challenge Max Schulman, Tom Craig, and several other cyclists road the would-be trail. Craig recommended the Withlacoochee Trail saying, it "has a lot of cover and even part of it is like you are in a little tunnel.”

What started off as a virtual race challenge between several cyclists, turned into discovering and mapping bike trails for locals to explore.

Max Schulman, Tom Craig, and a few others, decided to bike the Coast to Coast trail from Crystal River to Merritt Island.

Six days and 350 miles later, the challenge was complete.

The trip took six days because they went back home after every day of cycling due to COVID-19 and to save money.

“Over this month, I pedaled 350 miles,” Schulman said. “Over 220 of it was on the State Coast to Coast Trail. The rest was about finding the best Nature Coast and Citrus County Centric way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.”

The Florida Coast to Coast Trail is a continuous paved multi-use trail that will extend from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The trail will span approximately 250 miles and is the first state trail of its kind in the United States.

“They want to put Citrus County on the map by ecotourism, part of ecotourism is trying to make people proud,” Schulman said. "This is done through highlighting the culture and history and capitalizing on what Citrus County has to offer."

One part of history is the Cross Florida Barge Canal, which began in the 1930s with most of the work being done in the 1960s before being abandoned in the 1970s. Shulman intentionally started his biking trip from there.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Schulman said. “There is a 7-mile trail that ends right at a very beautiful spot and you are in Citrus County looking across the canal where the river is in Levy County right on the Gulf,” Schulman said.

The trail they decided to do next was the Fort Island Trail which they believe will be the main route, but both of the trails feed into a 47-mile long trail.

“It is one of the most beautiful trails in the country,” Schulman said.

The first goal Schulman and Craig have is to let the locals know of all these bike trails in Citrus County and then expand and let people in the state know.

One trail both would recommend for anyone who is looking for a nice trail to ride is the Withlacoochee Trail.

“The Withlacoochee trail is great, the trail has a lot of cover and even part of it is like you are in a little tunnel,” Craig said.

When this endeavor started, Schulman had goals he wanted to complete along the way. One of them was to determine the status of each coast-to-coast leg and the viability of each segment within the Florida Greenways and Trails System.

They wanted to validate the trails so when they advocate to locals about the trails they have the correct information. There were some places that were listed as trails but when they got to that point there was no trail to ride on.

“He (Schulman) calls me up and says there’s no trail, everywhere in all the books says there is a trail. They are actually building it. There are bulldozers out there but they just haven't completed a certain section in the middle,” Tom Craig said.

Ultimately, Schulman and Craig hope to attract tourists to stay in Citrus County longer, instead of coming here for a weekend then leaving. They believe these bike trails can be a tourism draw because anyone can ride them as long as the person has access to a bike.

“Compared to most tourism, or even most sports, it’s dirt cheap to free,” Schulman said.