April 21, 2010- First Day On the Road

Kate Murr

Right out of the gates, Jane lay down in some gum that we had to cut out of her hair.  However, after we packed up camp and sent home our daily shipment of stuff edits, we pedaled to the beach, dipped our wheels, and officially began the biking portion of our adventure! (Note: The excitement wasn’t even thwarted by lugging our bikes through the sand.)

We traveled south for a ways, down A1A (I had assumed from the Vanilla Ice reference was in California) to 206 west, which was a fine road with a good shoulder. I saw one huge dead snake, lots of discarded CDs, and we had to dodge wood chips from the logging trucks. We stopped for a brilliant lunch a little way down the trail at a conservation area: deli cut Italian salami, baguette, cheese, tart granny smith apple, leftover cheese pizza.

The kids conked out in the trailer after lunch, and Stuart and I got some good pedaling in. Our route left the main road and went through a town entirely canopied by live oak and Spanish moss. Locals sauntered along the street, occasionally, and at one house a young girl belted out something that sounded holy, even if it wasn’t. Cabbage and potato fields lined the road. The sun felt just right.

We made it to East Palatka just in time for a blood sugar crash. I said something unkind to Stuart after he stopped quickly and I fell over (still getting used to the clipless pedals!) so we decided calories were the first order of business. Ahead, a Dairy Queen billboard beacon pointed us into Palatka. Fortunately, we saw Angel’s Diner first; Angel’s is the oldest diner in Florida, and the waitress crew is shown here. Tall milkshakes hit the spot, and we met a family preparing for an adventure to teach for a few years in Saudi Arabia. Caroline (7) showed Jane how to write her name in “Saudi Arabian” and the girls exchanged pictures and peacock feathers. Brady showed John (5) the gear in the bike, and Baby.

None of the locals at the diner, or our maps, had suggestions for places to stay on this side of town, so we pedaled downtown to the local bike shop for more direction. Dana suggested the Rice Creek conservation area 6 miles out of town on Highway 20, which he assured us had a bike lane. We headed that way, but I wasn’t seeing a bike lane and had a nervous feeling. I saw kids playing on the (huge) lawn of a church, so I decided to ask if we could pitch our tent in the church’s back yard.

The folks at the College Heights Baptist church were incredibly warm and hospitable. They invited us in for fried chicken dinner, put us on the prayer list, and let us camp out in their lawn and use their facilities. Brady even got to rock out on their drum set! One of the church members put in a call to Richard, who had toured the same cross country route a few years ago, and as we were settling in for the evening, Richard drove over to talk with us.  His advice and enthusiasm really hit the spot at the end of our first day on the road.

Thank you, Richard and College Heights Baptist church.

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