Mountain biking, yes, mountain biking: Consistently ranked as the top place in the state and a surprisingly highly-ranked location in the nation, the Alafia River State Park in Brandon provides riders of all levels an opportunity to perfect their craft or just enjoy the thrill of biking on some of the most radical elevations in Florida. With about 20 miles of off-road access, the former phosphate mining site has been carved into an eclectic mix of steep drops, off-camber ledges, ridged-top passages and banked turns suited for high speed action. The trail sits within a 6,260-acre park that includes hardwood forests, pine flatwoods and rolling hills. Lakes are scattered throughout the park so if you want to make it a day of adventure, you can canoe and fish. Picnic pavilions, a large playground, horseshoe pits and volleyball courts round out the recreational offerings. If you haven't been to this location or nearby Balm Boyette Scrub Reserve, you need to put this on your bucket list. swampclub.org/alafia.php.
The St. Pete City Hall reporter is another relative newcomer, having been recruited from a gig in Cleveland a few years ago. In the past year the Times has been branding its reporters online by running their mugs next to their stories. Although Puente is a mellow guy, his photo screams that you better go easy with him, even if you disagree with his latest piece.
Matt Florell’s main business is leasing and managing hosted phone systems from centers in Tampa and Virginia. Two years ago he started getting interested in local government because of his interest — and anger — with red light cameras — a hot topic in St. Pete. The more involved he got, the more he realized that much of the electorate was not engaged in local politics. So he thought he would begin polling, because it wouldn’t cost much and he had the means to do so. The rest is history. Though critics like to question the robo-call system that he employs, his polls proved to be extremely accurate in both the 2012 Pinellas County elections and this year’s St. Pete primary.
Governor Scott shocked everyone by coming out for Medicaid expansion just as the Florida Legislative session was about to commence. And to show everyone how much he really cared about the issue, Scott failed to lobby a single lawmaker to support the legislation.
They’re still thumping around, but fewer hoopties are cranking the bass so loudly you can feel your abdominal wall vibrate. According to springtime news reports by Tampa Bay Times’ Richard Danielson, the Tampa City Council voted 6-0 — without Mary Mulhern, who was absent — to fine drivers whose stereos are plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet. Fines are $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $450 for a third offense. Even though most of the people complaining about noise were African-American, activist Life Malcolm claimed that the ordinance targets young black men.
Runners Up: Pass A Grille, St. Pete Beach
Most of us look older as we celebrate more birthdays, but former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco keeps getting younger-looking. What’s the secret of his smooth-cheeked, unfurrowed-brow success? Some point to the skill of his wife, botox doc Linda McClintock. Whatever the reason (maybe it’s his sunny disposition?), Dick Greco looks at least a decade younger than his years. It’s rumored that the artist who created a life-size sculpture of the mayor for a bench in the Greco Plaza streetcar station had to smooth out his work after Linda had worked her magic on her husband’s mug.
Runners Up: Mystery monkey, Bubba the Love Sponge trial
Florida has come in for its share of bad press lately, but people still flock here for the weather (HA!). Fucking Florida is here to remind them that the Sunshine State is not 100% sunshine. The three girls who run the Tumblr blog do a fantastic job spreading the weird news, warning people about the terrors of Florida driving and Florida tourists, and communicating with their large number of followers. Disclaimer: you may be frightened by the blog’s icon. You have been warned.
The paper not only sent its film critic to the Hollywood premiere of this James Franco/Harmony Korine/bikinis-and-bullets snoozer, it also provided a report on the Austin, Texas premiere as well.