Features

Cycling Paradise

Mapping the North and Middle Caicos Cycle Trail

By Jody Rathgeb

Pedaling the causeway connecting North and Middle Caicos is an integral part of the new cycle trail.

Everyone views “paradise” through a different lens, and people in the Turks & Caicos Islands are no exception. Divers see the country as an underwater paradise; watersports enthusiasts see a windsurfing paradise, a paddleboard paradise, a sailing paradise; and vacationers find paradise in lazy beach days with a book and a cocktail.

Jim Brown, who calls himself a “dedicated, non-racing cyclist,” has found a cycling paradise, particularly on North and Middle Caicos. To help others enjoy that paradise, he has put together a collaboration between his own business and Caicos Cyclery on Providenciales to create a website and map providing information on a 67-mile out-and-back trail on North and Middle Caicos.

Brown, proprietor of the newly-reopened Bottle Creek Lodge on North Caicos, originally set out to make a contribution to another website-in-the-making, writing about cycling on the Islands. But “I wasn’t satisfied with it,” he says. “What people really need is a map and some guidance.” He knew that Caicos Cyclery was occasionally leading bike tours on the twin islands, so he reached out to the business and found that “they were enthusiastic about formalizing it.” He credits the business’ Kevin Yates with good suggestions and assistance.

He set to work, drawing on such resources as Google Earth maps and his own longtime associations with U.S. and international cycle associations to design a three-fold brochure with a map on one side and information on the other, including safety guidelines and a signage explanation. Yates has taken on the job of getting the map printed and distributed. Brown has also put together a website, CaicosCycleTrail.info, which gives fuller information, including what each level of cyclist should expect on the ride.

67 miles of beautiful

The trail, which runs from Sandy Point Marina on North Caicos to Lorimers Landing on Middle Caicos, follows public, paved roads. Turns are clearly marked on the map, as well as points of interest, places to stop to refill water bottles, and scenic spots. The full trail, out and back, is 67 miles, but Brown notes that more casual riders can use the map to create their own turn-around spots.

A stop at the spectacular natural wonder that is Mudjin Harbour in Middle Caicos is a chance to relax and refuel.

“Most of them will take a 45-mile route to Mudjin Harbour and back,” Brown says, noting that the shorter route is the one that Caicos Cyclery has led on its past tours. There are only a few uphill stretches, the longest on the return trip coming off the causeway onto North Caicos.

“North and Middle Caicos are perfect for cycling,” he says. “I’ve never lived in a more perfect place to go on a casual cycling trip.” One of the trail’s best features is that the prevailing winds come from the east, so “you have the wind at your back” on the return.

All information on the Caicos Cycle Trail is currently accessible online, with the printed map/information coming soon. Brown also plans to paint Dan Henry arrows on the trail’s roads in December. These arrows (named for their creator), a worldwide method to mark cycle touring routes that has been standardized by the League of American Bicyclists, consist of a circle with a line pointing in the direction the cyclist should take. They are placed at all turns and intersections.

Because they are painted on the roads, Brown says, “Car drivers never notice them, but cyclists can see them easily.” He is waiting until he is on North again and receives permission to get the work done.

Collaborators in cycling

Brown’s interest in creating the trail comes from a lifetime immersed in cycling. His father was a cyclist and created the Delaware Cycling Club (county name) in the state of Indiana, where Brown grew up. He often rode with the club and with his father in such events as a Century (100 miles in one day) and Bike Centennial in 1976, a 2 1/2-month coast-to-coast tour covering 4,250 miles. He went into racing after that, and worked his way through college as a mechanic in a bike shop. (“Back when it was possible to work your way through college,” he says ruefully, thinking of his now-college-age children.) Although he no longer races, he remains an avid cyclist and follows international racing closely.

He and his wife, Melanie, bought Bottle Creek Lodge in 2016 and have spent years renovating the compound. They reopened it as a guest house in February 2020, just in time to close in March for the COVID-19 lockdown. He says they will reopen, although actual planning is a guessing game, as it is for most TCI businesses today. The Browns divide their time between North Caicos and North Carolina, where he runs a small microbiology lab and is on the faculty at North Carolina State University.

Kevin Yates and Doug Camozzi of Caicos Cyclery enjoy a day on the Caicos Cycle Trail on North and Middle Caicos.

Caicos Cyclery, located in Saltmills Plaza on Providenciales, includes tours of North and Middle Caicos along with its other bike tours and rentals, all of which include locks, helmets and baskets for all participants. Owner Doug Camozzi often accompanies the groups that go to the sister islands. Rentals at the shop offer a full line of bike types, from road and mountain bikes and hybrids to children’s bikes and even tandems. On the Caicos Cycle Trail website, those planning self-guided tours will find lots of advance information on renting and getting bikes to North Caicos, plus step-by-step directions once they are on island.

Although only two businesses are the sponsors of the Caicos Cycle Trail map, island neighbours and businesses get plenty of exposure on it and the website. Cyclists are offered many options for picking up snacks and water at local groceries, or for stopping at bars and restaurants for breaks. M&M Taxi is noted as a sag wagon—a support vehicle for carrying spare parts and responding to minor emergencies—and a list of emergency numbers assures riders of help if they need it. The site also displays a bit of the personality of its developer: Brown couldn’t resist putting in a few “in” jokes from the cycling world, such as references to “hairy-legged” cyclists and “shaved leggers,” and an upside-down “Is my bike okay?” that refers to a dedicated cyclist’s priority in an accident.

Accidents, however, are unlikely with such a thorough and detailed guide. The Caicos Cycle Trail is less about what might go wrong than what will go right: a pleasant two-wheel tour that highlights the beauty and friendliness of the twin islands.

For more information, visit: www.CaicosCycleTrail.info; www.CaicosCyclery.com; www.BottleCreekLodge.com.



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