Sunday, January 25

A Prime Backroad Day

Today's outing actually started yesterday when I noticed a sign just down the road from the campground - Fort Gates Ferry. I couldn't tell if it was a reference to something long ago, name of a town, or an actual ferry. I asked around and it was all three, which always has the potential for a prime Take The Long Way outing.

So today, I found myself driving down a unpaved sand road to see what I might find. The road (it could be loosely defined as such) ended (after 7 miles) at the rivers edge and I indeed found the Gates Ferry. Which, it turns out, is the oldest continuously operating ferry in Florida - 1853. Today it's a little barge, with a homemade tug (a sailboat hull with a motor) that you summon by flashing your headlights if it's on the other side. A 20 minute chug across the river and I find myself smack in the middle of nowhere!

After disembarking I find my way to a paved road and wait until someone comes by so I can ask where I'm at. Next stop, the big city of Palatka (after stopping for a couple of short hikes on the way) which is on the Saint Johns River and has a nice riverside park which, of course, I needed to explore. After the park walk I go over a couple of blocks to checkout downtown. Not much, BUT - it's home to Florida's oldest diner, the Angles Diner which started business in 1932. Still going strong and the food was pretty good. While sitting on my stool my ears perk up when someone at the booth behind me says - "only 4 still flying" - which sounds like it might be interesting. So, after inserting myself into the conversation, I find out that a Ford TriMotor (that's an airplane if you're not into flying) is out at the local airport.

Care to guess where my next stop was? Arrive at the airport and see a beautifully restored 1928 TriMotor on the ramp. Walk into the small rampside building and the pilot says - "last flight is leaving now" - I whip out my credit card and away we go. This plane is from the era when flying was an adventure - it was the first all metal, multiengine, commercial airplane, it even had a heated cabin (with wood trim) and flew at a blazing 90mph. With all these marvels, the intrepid air travelers of the day needed three days to travel from New York to LA. Ah yes, those were the good ole days - my 25 minute flight sure was nice.

After the airplane ride it was just a short drive back to the campground - I actually knew where I was by then - and my day of land, sea and air surprises ended with a nice sunset.

Hope you have your share of primetime days.