Sunday, January 31, 2010
Although the rain is past, this has nevertheless been a drab day with heavy cloud cover and temperatures only in the low 50s. We didn’t stay home, however. Since we hadn’t yet driven around the Daytona area, today was the day.
Conveniently located on the coast, is Florida’s tallest lighthouse. Standing tall at 175 feet, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse was on our list of things to see. Apparently, it was on everybody else’s list, also. When we got there, the parking lot was almost full. I mostly wanted a picture of the lighthouse to go along with all my other pictures of lighthouses, so we didn’t buy the ticket to climb the 203 steps to the top. However, if we were in the mood to tour a lighthouse, this would have been one to tour. This lighthouse complex is somewhat unique in that it also has most of the original light keepers’ dwellings and other original buildings. One of the buildings houses a large collections of historic Fresnel lenses.
Daytona is famous, of course, for the beaches which are covered during spring break season with several square miles of burnt flesh. With a stout wind and chilly temperatures, the beach was nearly deserted today.
Another event which puts Daytona in the headlines is the NASCAR Daytona 500 (running in just a couple weeks). One of our readers suggested we take a tour of Daytona International Speedway. That sounded like a great idea until I found out the tour cost $50. I’m not that much of a fan. I’m not sure we could have gotten a tour today anyway since they seem to be all involved with something they call the Rolex 24. We did drive by, though.
Just so happened that Barnes and Noble Bookstore was across the street. We spent a very relaxing couple of hours sipping coffee and looking through a variety of books and magazines.
Tomorrow, we move to Silver Springs where we plan to stay for a month.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
This has been a day to enjoy doing almost nothing. There were a few raindrops early this morning--enough to dissuade us from any outside activity. That was fine by me. We have been so busy for the past week that I needed a day to stay at home with no obligations.
We got a weather report from Nashville--5 or so inches of snow. The rain in Florida suddenly looked pretty good. We read on-line the local Nashville paper and learned that most of the city was shut down. Later this afternoon, we made a SKYPE call to Ansley and Jack. Jack took the computer over to the window to show us the snow in their back yard. Pretty to look at, but we’re glad we’re not there. My parents were schedule to leave for Florida themselves tomorrow. They’ve put those plans on hold until they are able to get out of their driveway. With the temperatures below freezing during the day and in the low teens at night, it may be a few days before they get to leave.
While in the Daytona Beach area, we are staying at Daytona Beach Carefree RV Resort. This is the first time we have stayed at a Carefree facility. It appears to be similar to the Encore campground we stayed in while in the Rio Grande Valley last winter. It is a park which caters to long term winter visitors. There are a couple hundred sites, an activity room, and swimming pool. Scheduled activities occur regularly, but not nearly to the extent as the number of activities going on at Escapee’s parks. The interior roads are paved and most sites have concrete patios. We are parked to the side with other short term stayers. We have a picnic table and full hookups with 30 amp electrical service. We are parked on the grass and there is no concrete in sight. They say our site is a pull-thru, but to make it so we had to drive across the grass behind our row and then pull into our site. In our area, the sites are relatively spacious, but in the long-term area, sites are very small, much smaller than at the Encore park in Texas.
The campground has a few park models. Most appear to be owned, but there are a few which are rental units. There also appears to be a few “FEMA” trailers which are for rent.
We have cable TV and free WiFi for a week. After that, there is a charge for continued WiFi service. I wouldn’t pay for it because the signal isn’t great and it is often slow.
|This is not the only checkered flag in the campground|
That’s it for today.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Kennedy Space Center is located about 60 miles south of Daytona. We knew this would be an all day venture so we got a relatively early start. By the time we got parked and purchased our tickets it was a little after 10 when we started our tour.
We started with the bus tour. Buses start running at 10 AM and continue about every 10 minutes throughout the day. The bus tour includes three stops. At each stop you get off the bus and tour that area for as long as you like, watch the movie, and examine the exhibits. Of course, there is a gift shop and a snack bar at every stop.
|Crawler that takes the shuttle to the launch pad|
|Command center used in the Apollo Program|
|Business end of the Saturn V|
|Lunar module hanging over our lunch table|
|The ride home from a little trip to the moon|
Our tickets are good for 2 days, if used within a 7-day period. We may decide to go back on Sunday. Really, the only things we didn’t do were the I-Max movies. The tickets were not cheap--$38 each--but they were definitely worth the cost.
Tomorrow, I have to rest.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
We have arrived safely in Daytona. Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say Port Orange. It was an easy 60 mile drive and we didn’t get in too much of a hurry to leave this morning. I think we finally pulled out of our campsite about 10:30 after goodbyes to Darrell, Judy, Mike and Peggy.
We were set up in our new campground, Daytona Beach Carefree RV Resort, about noon. After a quick lunch, we drove the 25 miles or so to Canaveral National Seashore. What we found surprised us. We expected what we had seen at Padre Island National Seashore--a road to the Visitor Center located near the entrance station and little else unless you wanted to walk down the beach. At Canaveral we went through the entrance station and then stopped at the Visitor Center. Then the paved road continued for another 6 miles with several parking lots with access to the beach on the east and Mosquito Lagoon on the west. The park consists of a narrow strip of land which extends from the south side of New Smyrna Beach to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuse. Just south of Merritt Island Refuge is the Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center complex.
|Shells on Turtle Mound|
That’s it for today. Tomorrow will find us at Kennedy Space Center.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Except for walking back and forth to the laundry facility, I did not go outside at all today. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but a bit on the cool side. Gene and I did a few household chores, but spent most of the day relaxing.
The special treat for our last day in this old city was to have dinner again with Darrell, Judy, Mike and Peggy. It has been great visiting with and making new friends all week. Gene and I are going to be lonely at dinner time after today. It has been nice to gather for our evening meals.
|Darrell and Judy|
|Mike and Peggy|
Thanks, guys, for making this a week to remember in St Augustine. We’re going to miss y’all. Safe travels and we hope our paths cross again real soon.
Tomorrow, we’ll hitch up, but we won’t be going very far. We’re going to mosey on down to Daytona Beach for the rest of the month. From there we will explore the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This afternoon we drove over to the site of the first Spanish mission in the United States. Some two hundred years before the Spanish established the western missions, there was a string of missions from the Keys to the Chesapeake Bay. Mission of Nombre De Dios was the first.
|Statue of Father Lopez in front of the Great Cross|
In the early 1600s, the first shrine to Mary was built here. That original Shrine, as well as several others, have been destroyed by storms. The present chapel was constructed in 1915 and is dedicated to motherhood.
|Our Lady of La Leche Chapel|
Around the grounds of the cemetery are walkways which pass by the stations of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
Also on this historic site is the Great Cross which stands 208 feet in height and a statue of Father Lopez.
As our path crossed the outlet of a small pond, we found a Great Blue Heron just waiting for some unsuspecting fish to come along. While we were there, I got more pictures of him than he got fish to eat.
Otherwise, we have been pretty lazy today. Gene did rub on the Everest a little and I continued to work on organizing photos. Some of you read Darrell’s blog, Wandering America. He thought it would be great to have fresh homemade cookies today. Guess who liked that idea? I made cookies this afternoon.
Speaking of Darrell and Judy, last evening we were invited over to their 5th wheel for dinner. Also joining us was Darrell and Judy’s long time friends from Maine, Mike and Peggy. We had read about Mike and Peggy on Wandering America; it was great to get to meet these nice folks. Judy prepared a delicious meal of chili, rolls, ice cream, and cookies. Even though Darrell was not feeling too well, just starting to recover from a miserable cold, he and Judy were, as usual, wonderful hosts. We had a great time with lots of laughs.
That’s it for today. So far, we have nothing on the agenda for tomorrow.
Monday, January 25, 2010
We found ourselves another Spanish fort to visit. A few miles south of St Augustine on Anastasia Island is the entrance to Fort Matanzas National Monument.
This fort was built by the Spanish in 1742 to protect St Augustine from the British who might try to sneak into town by way of the Matanzas River. The fort served its purpose, but saw no significant action. The same treaties that passed Castillo de San Marcos back and forth between countries also passed Fort Matanzas. However, no one ever occupied the fort after the Spanish left.
The original fort was so badly deteriorated after years of neglect that it had just about fallen down. The National Park Service came along and put the fort back together again. The interpreter estimated that 95% of the stones are original.
Fort Matanzas is located across Matanzas River from the Park Visitor Center. We rode over and back on a passenger ferry. The interpreter, in period dress, was very knowledgeable. He was a real talker, too. After his little speech about the fort, he was more than happy to answer any and every question anyone had.
On our way home, we stopped by the St Augustine Lighthouse for a couple quick pictures. There was a museum and you could go up in the lighthouse for a fee. We decided to pass on that today.
We have been invited to Darrell and Judy’s for dinner tonight. Their friends were to arrive this afternoon, so it should be a lively party.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
This old city, settled by the Spaniards in 1565, makes it the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in America. We parked at the Visitors Center which is located near to old city gates. We spent most of the day walking up and down the streets of the old town. We stepped into a shop or two, a hotel, and a French bakery. Generally we like to look in the old churches, as well, but being as Sunday services were in progress, we just enjoyed from the outside. The farther we walked from the Visitor Center, the newer the town became. It was all still old, but we left behind the original Spanish area and explored the homes, shops, and hotels of the 1700s.
|Cordova Hotel, 4 stars|
|St Joseph Academy|
|The old public market is now Plaza Park|
|An old teacher in front of an old schoolhouse|
|The old Government building is now the Visitor Center|
Enjoy the photos.
I am behind in what I want to share so before I get started with today’s adventure, let me finish with yesterday.
We spent a fantastic evening with Darrell and Judy. They came over to our place bearing gifts of shrimp cocktail and wine. We poured the wine and started in on a conversation that lasted nearly until bedtime. We had lots of catching up to do; plus we were very interested in the past two weeks they have spent on a Habitat for Humanity build. They confirmed what we have heard several times--this is a very rewarding endeavor. They didn’t try to slough off the hard work part. They put in some long, hard hours, but the sense of accomplishment for a job well done plus the joy from giving of themselves to others, they say, is worth all the aches and pains from the hard work.
During our visit with Darrell and Judy, another couple stopped by. Robin and Lynn from California pulled their new Americana 5th wheel in near us. After they got unhitched they came over to say, “hi.” They are brand new full-timers, just getting settled in their rig 10 weeks ago. It was nice to meet these fine folks and, as is so often the case when two or more RVers are gathered, we spent a few minutes swapping RVing stories. Robin and Lynn invited us and the Pattersons for a tour of their new home. That was the first time Gene and I had been in an Americana. It is very nice. We were most impressed with the service they received when they took delivery of their rig. They spent five days in Elkhart, Indiana at a Thor manufacturer learning how all the systems worked and getting things repaired that didn’t work properly. They got instructions and practice hitching and unhitching; they were even given driving instructions and time for practice. We wish them wonderful adventures and safe travel.
Okay, I think I’m caught up now.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
First on our list of things to do in Saint Augustine was Castillo de San Marcos. This fort was built by the Spanish to protect their claim along the Florida coast. The fort we toured today was not the first one on this site. There were nine wooden structures before the one that still stands today.
The present fort was built during the 1670s and 80s and is the oldest masonry fort in North America. It is built in the shape of a square with triangles (bastions) at each corner. The result looks somewhat like a 4-pointed star. The lower level consists of storage rooms around an open courtyard. Cannon occupy the second level.
Although the flags of several countries, including Spain, England, and the US, have flown over the fort, it has never been taken in battle. It has passed from country to country by treaty in exchange for something else.
Castillo de San Marcos came under the direction of the National Park Service in 1933. Today, the lower level houses exhibits, a small theater, and a small gift shop. Cannon still occupy the second level. Volunteers in period costume wander around the fort answering questions and giving demonstrations. We were lucky today and got to witness the firing of the cannons.
There is very little free parking in Saint Augustine (unless you have purchased sightseeing train or trolley tickets) and that includes the parking lot in front of Castillo de San Marco. This parking lot was closed this morning when we arrived, so we parked a block away on the street. We fed the meter 2 hours worth of quarters. That turned out to be plenty of time to tour the fort.
We got home in time for lunch. Gene is currently outside rubbing on the Everest again. I have been busy with soup and salad preparations for dinner. Friends, Darrell and Judy Patterson, arrived about noon. They have spent the past two weeks on a Habitat for Humanity build a few miles south of here. We have invited them over for dinner and are eager to hear about that endeavor.
We’ll probably do the historic Saint Augustine walking tour tomorrow. What little bit we saw today was intriguing.
Friday, January 22, 2010
We had a glorious sunny day today with temperatures in the 70s. Quite a contrast to the severe weather we had yesterday. Besides the high winds, which never turned into a tornado, we had some serious rain. Of course, there was debris from the surrounding trees everywhere. I’m sure our roof is covered in pine needles. There may even be a few branches up there. As far as we know, we did not sustain any damage to the Everest or the truck. The water was deep enough on our site to wash the wheel chocks out from around the tires.
This has been primarily a chore day. We found the nearest Wal-mart for a major grocery run this morning. That’s always a big chore and, like usual, it took half the morning.
I started on the laundry after I got the food put away. The laundry facility here is woefully inadequate. There are 5 washers, but only 3 are operational. I managed to get 2 loads done, one at a time, and have 2 more to do. Laundry is one of my least favorite chores so I save it until it becomes a necessity. Sometimes, like today, I envy those RVers with their own machines. However, it would be very hard for me to give up that extra storage space where my washer/dryer hook ups are located. There are lots of trade offs in this lifestyle.
After lunch, we went into Saint Augustine to the Visitor Center. We wanted to pick up a city touring map and brochures for the area. We watched the 45 minute film about the city’s history. I perused the gift shop. They had several nice things and many were marked down to a reasonable price. But, alas, I live in an RV so left everything for someone else. We now have a rough itinerary for the week we will be here.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning our rig. Gene rubbed on the outside, getting several black streaks off. I vacuumed the floors and upholstery, cleaned the bath, and mopped the floors. All spic and span for a visit with friends, Darrell and Judy, tomorrow.
That’s all for now.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
We are now in Saint Augustine. Our drive was not totally event free, but all things considered, we are grateful to be settled in our campsite.
Our original plan, based on the local weather forecasts, was to leave early in hopes of being ahead of the rain. By this morning, the forecasts had changed and we felt leaving early would still serve us well. The rain started earlier than originally predicted, but at 8 AM there were only light sprinkles and the worst was still to the west of us. We didn’t make the 8 AM target time, but by 8:15 we were ready to roll. That 15 minutes, however, was all it took to be in a heavy downpour by the time we had driven the 2 miles to the interstate. Within 20 miles we were ahead of the heavy rain and had only light rain for the remainder of our 200 mile drive to Saint Augustine. We made good time thanks to good road conditions and very light traffic. Even the drive through Jacksonville was easy. We made two short break stops, but didn’t linger as we didn’t want the rain to catch up.
The only out-of-the-ordinary event, other than that heavy rain, happened about a mile after our second break stop. The “water in fuel” light came on. That hasn’t happened in a very long time. Gene routinely empties that little reservoir each month and we hardly ever have the indicator light come on when we’re driving down the road. We pulled off at the next exit and into a gas station. Gene has his goody box in the back seat and in there was a lawn and leaf bag which he used so he wouldn’t have to get down on the wet pavement. He also had the bottom half of a milk carton which he used to drain the reservoir. We were back on the road in about 10 minutes.
We got to our campground and all set up before the storm finally caught up with us. Boy, was it a storm. When they issued tornado warnings for our area, we gathered up the Peanut and our computers and headed to the bathhouse. We went in the men’s side because there was a couple with a couple cats already in the women’s side. We parked ourselves there for about 45 minutes until the worst had passed.
This was only the third time in our travels that we have had to take shelter in campground facilities. The first time was on our first long trip. We got caught in tornado warnings in Kansas while at the High Plains campground. We were in a tent that time.
|Our shelter as we waited for Hurricane Francis to pass|
Anyway, today’s storm has past and we are safe and sound, snug as bugs in a rug. We haven’t yet worked out our plan for our time in St. Augustine. We’ll figure something out for tomorrow. I highly suspect it will be laundry and grocery.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
During our visit yesterday to the Museum of Florida History, as our guide was explaining the skeleton of a mastodon found in Wakulla Springs, she mentioned that the manatees were there. The minute she said “manatee” I wanted to go.
The spring, of course, is the primary feature at Wakulla Springs State Park. The park brochure proclaims the spring to be “one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world.” The spring is some 300 feet below the surface, so not visible. Wakulla cave apparently holds the status of being the “longest and deepest known submerged freshwater cave system in the world.” The spring forms the Wakulla River which joins the St Mark’s River and eventually makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
|Ceiling in the Lodge|
Being the deepest and longest of anything would naturally warrant a lodge for all the visitors coming to see whatever was greatest. As early as the 1840s there has been a lodge and commercial ventures to one extent or another, including the glass bottom boats. The current Wakulla Springs lodge was opened in 1937. It could use a facelift and some new furniture in the lobby, but all in all, it is still pretty nice.
The Park and Lodge are on the National Historic Register and the park is designated a National Natural Landmark.
For a bit of trivia--several of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films were filmed here as well as Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Tomorrow, we’re going to leave early in hopes of beating most of the rain for our run to Saint Augustine.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
After leisurely sipping coffee this morning, getting showers and doing a couple chores, we headed downtown to visit the new capitol and the Museum of Florida History. It was an easy drive without much traffic compared to other capital cities. We parked in a parking garage next to the museum and with a token from the museum gift shop, parking was free. The museum was located just one block from the capitol which was very convenient for what we wanted to do.
The museum was relatively small for a state museum, but nicely done. The volunteers were eager to have someone to talk to, I guess, because our own private guide came rushing up to us the minute we stepped out from viewing the movie. We probably would have preferred to wander about on our own, but we kinda felt sorry for her. She was very knowledgeable and was able to answer all our questions. By having her along, we didn’t have to read all those little plaques.
The one thing we were very interested in was the exhibit on Florida tourism which we thought had some old camping trailers. There turned out to be only one “tin can camper” and it was a replica.
The museum is worth a couple hours time if you happen to be in Tallahassee anyway. I wouldn’t come to Tallahassee just for the museum.
I feel almost the same way about the new capitol. A modern high rise, it’s just doesn’t have that “state capitol” feel of the enormous, sprawling old state buildings. We took the express elevator to the 22nd floor observation deck. Plaques located on the four sides of the building pointed out major landmarks--Florida State University, city office buildings, the hospital. Supposedly, on a clear day, you can see the Gulf. We couldn’t see it. The thing that impressed me the most was how flat Florida is. There was not even a hill in sight.
We always like to visit the House and Senate Chambers at the capitols. The legislature was not in session so we couldn’t get in. We couldn’t have gotten onto the floor anyway, but even the observation gallery was locked. That was a first of the many state capitols we’ve visited.
|The Mission Church|
|Apalachee Council House|
The state acquired the property about 25 years ago and is in the process of replicating the mission and the fort. Interestingly, the Apalachee Council House and huts of the native people were inside the compound along side the Spanish Church and homes. As at the museum, the interpreters in period costume were eager for any visitor to come along. We were greeted and educated by one private guide after another as we made our way around the mission.