You Haven’t Lived in Sarasota until You’ve Crossed this Bridge

There are probably a dozen experiences one must undergo in Sarasota before you can truly consider yourself a local. Some of the items on my all-important list include: – Attend a show at one of our award-winning community theatres. – Go to the Sarasota Farmers Market (but know in advance what you are purchasing). – Avoid the beach because, well, everyone else is there. Still, there is one spectacular (and free) rite of passage that rests at the very top of my SRQ initiations: – Go for a walk across the Ringling Causeway Bridge! RinglingBridge_14 RinglingBridge_15 If you haven’t taken a spectacular stroll along this landmark, which spans across Sarasota Bay and connects Downtown Sarasota to Bird Key, St. Armands Circle, and Lido Key, you surely have an excuse or two:

“I prefer to drive it.” or “As a matter of fact local lady, I am reading this here blog from Saskatchewan.”

But I am here to ensure that your excuse is not related to lack of knowledge like:

“I have no idea where to park.” or “I don’t walk any bridge unless I know for sure that it was originally built by circus elephants.”

I spoke with local-bridge-walking expert Michelle Mathews, a hair stylist and Sarasota socialite, who walks the bridge nearly every day and sometimes twice a day! She helped explain that walking the bridge is a daily reminder of how great it is to live here. It provides a mix of exercise and meditation. The connection to sea, sky, and the movement of the sun reminds us that sometimes, more than racing around trying to maintain our busy schedules, we have to take a step back and simply enjoy the view. Below, Mathews helped answer a list of commonly asked questions (that I just made up) to educate us all on why walking the bridge is important, how to do it in style, and how it may just become the best part of your day. What’s so significant about the Ringling Causeway Bridge? The first bridge was commissioned by circus magnate and Sarasota developer John Ringing. It opened in 1926 and was built to help with the sale of real estate on St. Armands and Longboat Key. Yes, circus elephants were involved in the construction and John Ringling personally christened it driving across in his Rolls-Royce. It cost him nearly $1 million to construct and he sold it to the city of Sarasota later that year for $1. Since then, it has been rebuilt twice with the last incarnation being completed in 2004. RinglingBridge_07Which side should I start walking on? Ultimately, this is up to you. But Mathews offered this wisdom, “When facing the bridge, my dog, Dallas, and I always walk along the right side which ends up being the side closest to the water. We start at the Unconditional Surrender statue, walk past Golden Gate Point, and then cross the street adjacent to the Ritz Carlton. From there we walk across. Once we reach Lido Key, we walk under the bridge so that we return to the statue side to for the walk back.” What is the distance? “It’s a three mile round trip starting from the statue…but it feels like nothing. It’s so beautiful – the views distract you from thinking you are ‘working out’.” RinglingBridge_16Where do I park? Mathews recommended parking along the Bay near Marina Jacks (i.e. where the Unconditional Surrender status is). It is easy to get in and out of and you are almost always sure to find a spot. If you prefer starting on the Lido Key side, there’s parking at Bird Key Park but with less spaces to choose from. What’s the best time of day? During the summer months, Mathews suggested walking before 8:30am or after sunset. During season, any time of day is great! She even walks it at night and enjoys looking back at the lights of the city skyline. RinglingBridge_12 What should I wear? Always looking pulled together, Mathews recommended, “Work out clothing is fine. I typically wear yoga pants or shorts. And always sneakers – never flip flops. You think it’s just a little walk but it’s not just a little walk.” Who typically walks the bridge? “It’s a very diverse crowd. I’ve seen kids and families, older people using canes, mothers pushing baby carriages. Anyone can do it from serious runners to people who are more interested in being social – walking and talking with friends.” How long does it take? Forty-five minutes to an hour depending on how many times you stop and admire the view.RinglingBridge18 What if I want to ride my bike? There are traditional bike lanes along the road or you can ride your bike to the bridge and then get off and walk it along the sidewalk. What should I do afterward? My favorite post-bridge tradition on Saturdays is stop by the Farmers Market (I buy local honey and avocados thank you very much). Mathews? “During season, we will walk the bridge later in the morning and then continue onto Station 400 or Word of Mouth for lunch. I’ve been wanting to try Toasted Mango but haven’t been there yet.”   Ultimately, if you really want to know what it’s like to walk the Ringling Bridge, then you should just do it! (You may even run into a number of Michael Saunders & Company agents like I often do.) From getting some exercise, to enjoying the views, to spending time with someone you love, it is truly one of Sarasota’s splendors. As Mathews explained, “I love it. I do. It’s my peace.”RinglingBridge_17 If you have any other questions (or maybe you want to let us know a great walking trail in Saskatchewan) write in the comments below!

  • User Gravatar Harvey Long
    October 2nd, 2013

    Great Pictures!

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