We had a very nice day. Today’s ride was a bit over 56 miles, which we covered in about 3 hours 40 minutes, with an average speed of 15.1.
We actually got going at around 6:35 or so. It was extremely humid and semi-foggy, so within minutes our glasses were fogged up. We pedaled easily from the hotel (Days Inn on 13th Street – adequate and cheap, but certainly not “nice”) to the head of the Gainesville – Hawthorne Trail. At that point I removed my sunglasses. Even with my nearsightedness, I could see better without them. The sign in the photo below marks the start of the trail, which we followed all the way to the far end, some 15 or so miles.
The trail is almost completely canopied with old oaks and other vegetation. We saw a variety of wildlife and several other early morning riders, about half of whom were friendly enough to return our greetings.
Although we made a couple of brief photo stops like this one, we did not take a real rest stop until we got to Melrose, about 30 miles and two hours into the ride. By Florida standards, the weather was quite pleasant – warm, but not uncomfortably so.
Unfortunately, the situation at work that I had hoped was resolved, caught up with me again while we were stopped in Melrose. I had to spend some time on the phone with the customer and with Kathy during our little intermission, and again after we arrived in Palatka.
Back on the road after our break, the GPS showed that we had over 30 miles to go. It wasn’t until we were within a few miles of our destination that it finally started giving accurate “distance to destination” readings. The original calculated route was over the road, so we knew that taking the trail would result in different numbers, but I was surprised that the actual route was over five miles less than the distance on the road.
After showering and doing our daily bike-wear laundry, we walked a couple of blocks to a recommended diner (I think it was called the City Cafe), where we had a leisurely lunch. We then walked the rest of the downtown area, ending up on a dock, sharing a covered, shaded area with a fisher-couple. For once, I was the one who struck up a conversation with the locals! Like Kathy and me, they are refugees from farther south, from which they fled as it developed past the tipping point. She endorsed our choice of lodgings and told us that the buffet at our hotel “should not be missed.”
Our hotel here in Palatka, the Quality Inn Riverside, is definitely a step up from last night. As implied by the name, it is located right on the St. Johns River. The rooms are fine and we took the advice to dine at the on-site restaurant, which was really quite good.
I am pretty tired, especially after three beers tonight, so that’s it for now.
Fred’s Thoughts: I really liked the Hawthorne Trail. Cool, shaded, misty, and far away from traffic. We’d come upon open fields, and jungles of oaks, and lakes and swamps …. everything I liked about Old Gainesville. It almost seemed we arrived in Palatka too quickly. On the Tour de Fred, every time we got to the 55 mile mark, I felt like we were goofing off if we ever stopped there (we never did). But today, it was kind of perfect: a short day for our first day. Then three beers at dinner and soft-shelled crabs at the seafood buffet. I couldn’t go fishing because I’ve yet to buy a license. But I brought a small pocket-like fisherman rod and reel that Christa gave me, and after catching (and releasing) a baby bass on Seth’s lake, I am determined to catch saltwater fish with it.