For most people around here, a rural bike ride starts with a car trip. If you're going to load up the bike and drive, you may as well drive far enough from the city to make it worthwhile. That's where the Loop Road comes in. Almost any time of year, under almost any conditions, it's a treat. Roughly four miles along the Tamiami Trail beyond Shark Valley (Everglades National Park 25 miles west of the turnpike), the Trail angles northeast. At the bend an unmarked road intersects and runs to the south. That's the Loop Road, so designated because roughly 22 miles later it hooks up again with the Trail. Drive till the pavement ends at a National Park Service educational facility. Now you can unload the bike and head out. If it's been raining, you'll take a mud bath. Otherwise it'll be a relatively smooth ride. Along the way (and you don't have to do all 22 miles) you'll encounter some glorious swamp scenes -- deep pools, gators, fish, thick vegetation, and of course lots of cypress trees. You'll also probably come across a fisherman or two, and catch a glimpse of a rugged hunting lodge here and there. Mainly, though, you'll have the road to yourself. Bring plenty of water, insect repellent, and a pump or patch kit or both.