Cruising out of Aiken, I chose to take the slow road and drive the byways through rural Georgia, a region I’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of land in the middle of Georgia that’s farms, forests, and small towns with one gas station and a family restaurant. This pleases me, and it was really fun to drive into Florida on a byway, and into the town of Jasper that has a bike path down the center of Main Street.
While I was subjected to the route 10 commercialism for a blink, in just 56 miles I rolled into Bell for a week at a private, solo Airbnb campsite. Bell, Florida is the 2nd largest town in the county with just over 500 residents; it's just east of the Suwannee River and much to my surprise, about 30 miles from Gainesville. The campsite is what attracted me to the location, then I found the Nature Coast Bike Trail, just 10 miles south, with a distance of 32 paved miles. Score!
The little town of Bell was founded in the early 1890’s, and the name was selected by means of a beauty contest in which the winner's name would be given to the new rail station and post office. The one who received the most votes was Bell Fletcher, the daughter of a native Floridian, and she lived in the community until her death in 1919. While there is peripheral growth, Bell remains pretty rural to this day, yet through volunteer efforts opened its first library in 1996!
My campsite was a drive down a nearly mile-long sandy road on a family-owned, five-acre farm with goats, cattle, and one venomous snake (I only saw one.). At check-in, the response to every question from the very polite son was “yes, ma’am”. I loved that. While I spent a couple of days enjoying the beauty and solitude of my space with book in hand, I also walked to nearby Blue Springs, and biked to three others, as well as to the infamous Suwannee. I wouldn’t have eaten out since there wasn’t a mask in sight, but it was an easy decision as there was BBQ and BBQ.
There’s something to be said for rural tranquility.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover