Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Gainesville to East Palatka, FL
Unfortunately I am still feeling sick today, coughing and generally feeling under the weather. I can still ride fine, but I don't feel quite as energetic as usual. After we left our hotel this morning, we stopped at a Walgreens to buy some cough drops. I depleted our whole supply from our first aid kit and I still needed some more. The weather looked gloomy as we rode away from Gainesville with generally overcast skies and cooler temperatures.
When we left Gainesville, our route took us on a nice rails-to-trails path called the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail for more than 15 miles. It was a very nice change from riding on the road. We forget how nice riding without cars can be. Everything is so much quieter, and we are free from the dangers that car present. We were able to leisurely ride side by side and chat. It was a nice break. By the time we reached Hawthorne at the end of the path, the sun had come out and the weather was looking nicer.
After Hawthorne, we debated taking a shorter, more direct route to Palatka via highway 20, but the highway was four lanes with busy truck traffic. The actual route follows smaller roads but meanders much further to the North and then back to the South. We decided to follow the actual route, because riding with heavy truck traffic just did not sound like much fun at this point. Between Hawthorne and Palatka, the route goes through four small communities; Melrose, Putnam Hall, Grandin, and Florahome. We figured one of these towns would have a nice little diner where we could stop for lunch, but as we rode through them, we never found one. We did stop at a Subway, but as we walked inside, we realized that we were so tired of eating stamped out food like this. We turned around and walked right back out. We munched on some trail mix instead and figured we could make due until we found something better.
The roads in this area were very nice to ride. The terrain is pretty flat, but not boring. The roads were narrow, but there was so little traffic that it didn't seem to matter. This region of Florida has many small lakes and quite a few swamps. The vegetation was made up of either very dense forest and understory, or farm land.
When we reached Palatka, we recognized a diner that some cyclists told us about a few days ago. They told us we had to stop, so we decided we would give it a try. The diner is called Angel's Diner, and it is actually housed in an old train car, and it is the oldest diner in Florida. The train car limits the space inside, but it makes the place have the atmosphere of a small diner you might find in a big city. There wasn't really anything on the menu but meat, so we went along with it and both order the cheese burger plates. They came with a small helping of fries and two huge onion rings. Overall the food was pretty good, especially for the price.
After eating, we stopped at a grocery store to get some breakfast and then crossed a big bridge over the St. Johns river to East Palatka. We rode a few easy miles off route to get to the St. Johns Campground. I was ready to be done for the day, so after we set up camp, it didn't take long for me to find my way into my sleeping bag and fall asleep.