Im new to the tampa area too but i,ve been coming to Alafia trail for quite some time, Also have ridden with a member of the club, this guys are the real deal when it comes to the sport,and hopefully i will be a member soon.
About the bike Hardrock was my first bike it will outlast you, strong, the only 2 modifications i made was a better rear derrailleur, and a pair of clipless pedals. it tooks beatings from hell and it came on top , it was my learning bike and i still miss it.
about info try sheldon brown site on technical (derr adjustment, and tech info) if you like to work on your own.
and there is a set of free videos from 3 pro guys that will give the basics climb,jump,decent ect.. i,ll get back to you with the name or loc. or contact me and i can burn them to a disk and give them to you