Monday, December 23, 2013

St Augustine to Orlando



You can't resit ship watching at Mayport.




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 On Friday we drove about 35 miles south to America’s oldest European settlement.  The city was founded by in 1565 by Spanish Admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.  Interestingly, America’s second oldest city is Santa Fe New Mexico (founded in 1610).  The English settlement of Jamestown was founded in 1619.  The drive south from Mayport, along the Atlantic coast, was lined most of the way with beach front houses built on the sand dunes above the shore.  Many of the houses are very fancy and large with a gorgeous view of the ocean.  However, the presence of a surprising amount of wind driven dust in the air was kind of a negative factor.


 In Saint Augustine we took one of the trolley tours which can be boarded at many stops throughout the old town area.  In addition to the historic sights and Spanish architecture, there are several typical tourist trap attractions; an alligator farm, harbor boat tours, ghost tours, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!  We fell for the latter (no pictures).  Ripley’s is a three story museum-like building filled with a potpourri of unusual (and sometimes shockingly) weird items.  I was mildly interested while Ina was somewhat bored.

The architecture of the old town area clearly shows the city's history as a turn of the century resort city.  Several of the old hotels are still four star establishments.  Others have been converted to other uses or are now museums.
 
The Ponce De Leon resort was a first class vacation resort for the the rich in 1900.  It's now Flagler college, but still shows its opulence.


Ina is usually bored by old historic sites.  However, the old fort, Castillo de San Marcos, was definitely worth visiting for both of us.  The first wooden fort construction in 1565 marks St Augustine’s founding.  Many of the coastal forts we’ve previously visited had undergone major modifications.  Savannah's Fort Pulaski; Charleston’s Fort Sumter; and Pensacola’s Fort Pickens were all modernized during the Spanish-American war period.  In these forts a major portion is 20th century concrete with only half of their original construction remaining.    Castillo de San Marcos, however, has most all of its original 1695 Coquina masonry (seashell based sedimentary rock). 


 A portion of the original wood and sand city wall as it radiated from the fort has been  has been reproduced by the Park Service.


The wall connected to the city's main gate entrance to the old city.  The original gateway is preserved.
 
The National Park Service maintains the fort and hires volunteers to act as docents and dress as Spanish soldiers.

The rooms of the fort contain displays outlining the history of the fort which was occupied during its 300 years by Spanish, British, Americans, and Confederates.

The fort also offers an excellent view of the harbor and the city.


Numerous cannon are on display.  With several in working condition.

The park service fires one of the cannon twice a day.


The next day, Saturday was devoted to housekeeping.  We did a lot of laundry taking advantage of the free washers and dryers.  That’s right, free!  Most campgrounds charge at least $1.50 per load of wash with most parks charging $2.  The Mayport park has a very clean laundry building with six large capacity washers and a like number of dryers.

I spent some time putting things away and thoroughly vacuuming the motorhome carpets.  A lot of grit and dirt gets tracked in an RV.   We also picked up a few items at the commissary.

Sunday was a lazy day spent watching TV and enjoying some wine while visiting and sharing  war stories with several of our RVing neighbors.


On Monday we got on the road southward by 9AM.  The most direct route to The Thousand Trails park was via I-4 thru downtown Orlando.  Although traffic in the metro area was heavy at times, there were no real traffic jams.  Northbound, however, was another story.  Likely holiday shoppers created bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic for more than ten miles.  This DC area resident felt right at home.  Not!

The sign-in at the Orlando park went smoothly.  The site we were assigned is a reasonably large back-in site with 30amp full hook-up.  The Verizon cellular signal was only one bar, but became a four bar signal with pretty good data throughput thanks to the Wilson Sleek amplifier.  Also the park is only sparsely wooded with low trees allowing easy satellite reception.  We were fully set up in short order. 


After some afternoon relaxing with an adult beverage, we got the Christmas lights out and did a little decorating.