Oldest City in USA
Trip Start Nov 19, 2007
217Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Anastasia Island State Park
The land now called Florida was discovered by Christopher Columbus with Ponce De Leon as one of his first mates. Ponce was a 19 year old of exceptional quality and abilities. After a short stint as Governor of Cuba he decided to find the Fountain of Youth that was supposed to be on that outcrop of tropical land he had found with Christopher Columbus.
Ponce De Leon got a commission from Spain to find the great waters and set up a town. St Augustine began in the 1500's. The next many years St. Augustine became the target of invader after invader including the French, the English and pirates. The town was destroyed and burnt to the ground 4 times before the Queen of Spain agreed to send funds to build a proper fort out of local rock called, "Coquina". It is mined as a rather soft product created by thousands of small shells stuck together by their own calcium chloride content and then hardened or cured for a year before using as a building material
The Fort was a success as the 17 foot thick walls of Coquina took the blasts without cracking or breaking apart. Remnants of the wars are seen everywhere in the St. Augustine area. Cemeteries dot the landscape and city squares as well as old rusted cannons and cannon balls are used as fencing or car bumpers in parking lots or used decoratively around fountains at restaurants and hotels. This is the oldest city in the United States. There is the first Hotel, the first hotel with electricity and running water, the first school house, the first of too many things to mention here but you get the idea. An interesting tidbit on Flagler's first hotel (yes the same man Mr. Flagler, who our favorite East Coast town is named after), is what he charged for a stay. Apparently he charged a straight fee that allowed a guest to stay one night or up to 3 months for the same charge!!! Interesting idea....how would that go over today?
Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the FIRST of course, is here in St. Augustine and Andy and I took the time to go through this amazing three story building full to over flowing with oddities of every type and description
Much of our enthusiasm for St. Ausgustine came from the infectious delight our new friends from Flagler Beach, Jerry and Linda. They live in Flagler on the intracoastal waterway and love their life there yet whenever they can and definitely every Friday after work they drive the 40 minutes to St Augustine for their traditional Friday night drink while rocking on the porch of the "Scarlet O'Hara's" bar and restaurant. They picked us up and introduced us to the glories of food and drink and christmas lights and Flagler college; all their favorite places to go. The temperature had dropped so they took us to one of their favorite fish restaraunts that was out of the city proper and way back under the trees along the water. A huge fire pit blazed on the outside deck with a great dancing band keeping everbody bopping as they roasted marshmallows and made 'smores. We ate ribs and plank cooked fish with sauces and salads that were signature to the place. I have no idea where we were or what the name of the place is but when we go back that way, we will for sure hook up again with Linda and Jerry and get the name and address
An exciting glimps into the mind and actions of Linda came up when Jerry told her to "tell the frog story". Linda, a lover of wildlife, had befriended a frog that lived around the landscaping of their home. She grew very attached to the frog and was charmed by its voice and decision to live at their house. One day, she was walking around their property and she found a rat snake in the area that her frog buddy would hang out around. The snake had a big frog sized lump making its way down its length when Linda, not thinking, but acting on instinct, picked up the snake and squeezed the frog out like toothpaste from a tube. Remarkably, the frog dropped out, shook itself off and jumped away!!! Unreal.
We spent most of our time on Anastasia Island where the State Park has its campground. The sites are old and big and jungle like with live oaks that are at least one hundred years old. There are bike and hiking trails but the real draw for us was the beach. Miles of white sand, few people and great fishing. Too chilly already to swim comfortably but the hard packed beach makes for fantastic walking and biking !!
A fishing tale with a Thrasher Shark: Andy's special fishing spot is a couple miles down the beach. When he arrived he saw a dead shark having been washed up onto the shore. Perhaps this poor fish found her demise by one of the nets put out by the shrimp fishermen as there was no sign of a reason for her dying. I say "her" with confidence as Andy witnessed a most amazing event. The gulls began trying their luck at breaking through the shark skin to get the flesh when Andy noticed they were actually pulling something rather large from out of the underside of the shark. A closer look revealed the gulls had successfully invaded her and were pulling out her fully formed babies!!! Andy shooed the gulls off and took the babies for himself. I figured he was insulted by the idea of the gulls maiming the babies...but instead....he immediately cut up the baby shark fashioning the meat into long pieces of especially tasty bait!!! With in the next hour the "FISH ON" call was sounded and we were going to be having Red Fish for dinner!
The cycle of life. "Eat or be eaten" exists in my life on the road as it did for folks back when Ponce De Leon was founding St. Augustine, fighting off mosquitoes and snakes just as we do today. What has really changed is the price of a hotel stay!!!