December 12 – St. Augustine, Florida

We avoided the interstate returning north to St. Augustine. Took the old highway 1 (probably the original road south to the Florida communities. A lot of old buildings and motels reminisce of the old days before interstates. Only 75 miles.

Arrived at Ocean Grove RV Park on Highway A1A which is the road along the ocean. We don’t have an ocean view but a canal on the backside. This is our highest cost campground to date at $70 a night. The roads are paved and so is the site. Sites are close but enough space for the awning and picnic table.

We are settled in before lunch. They do have an activity calendar and there is something to do every day.

Did our visit to the Visitor’s Center and gathered local information. VC was on the beach so we walked the dogs along the beach. Surfers abundant.

Tuesday woke up to a fog and 65 degrees. After the fog burned off I took off for a ride down A1A Scenic Route. Did 10 miles south and then returned. Nice bike lane along the road and a variety of scenery.

Cleaned up after the ride and we then headed south again to Fort Matanzas. Bad news; the ferry was out of service due to Hurricane Matthew that damaged the docks. We could see the fort across the waterway, but not touch it. We did the Visitor’s Center there and watched the movie and got our stamp.

The fort was built in 1740 as Spain’s last ditch effort to ward off the British encroachments on St. Augustine (a Spanish City). The Matanzas River was the back door into St. Augustine.dsc_0030

Outside the visitor’s center were some rangers explaining the stuff the soldiers of old carried with them and the guns and the cannon balls. Always interesting to learn new things.

Since we were out and about and the time to visit the fort didn’t take too long, we thought of visiting the San Sebastian Winery. Good news; the winery was celebrating its 20th Anniversary – therefore free plastic wine glasses and 8 tastings and hors d’ oeuvre at each wine sample.

At the end you could purchase for $5 a glass with logo and get two new samples and two new food samples. Sure why not? Out to the upper deck and sure enough Brenda volunteers to take a picture for a couple trying to do a selfie. That lady then volunteered to take our picture. After that we started talking and they were from Long island, NY (accent gave them away). Had a long discussion about New York and our travels. Enjoyed the conversation and music.img_2449

Wednesday we had a little rain and about 66 degrees. I took off and rode the bike for 19 miles. Rode north this time and saw the Anastasia State Park, the lighthouse and many buildings and beaches. They were having a Farmer’s Market (included art, crafts and food items) at the Visitor’s Center (which is on the beach) and I watched numerous surfers attempt to ride the wave.

Came back home and cleaned up and Brenda and I took the Old Town Trolley Tour of the City. It is always a favorite to get an overall view of the entire city. We saw 100 historic places (maybe not all historic but noteworthy) and it made 23 stops. Our ticket is good for 3 days so we can get on and off wherever we would like to.

Our only get off today was at the St. Augustine Distillery, which was in the old Ice Plant. We got a free tour of the plant and 5 drinks afterwards of their Bourbon, gin, rum and vodka. Worth the stop.

After completing the tour (all 23 stops) we had a free ticket (as part of the tour) to see the St. Augustine History Museum. Talk about hokey – reminded me so much of the ol’ time tourist traps.

I guess we would be called “Tin Can” Tourists!

Bingo was canceled tonight at the campground because they need to get a new caller.

Thursday was a little cool but still “shorts” weather. We headed out without the dogs to park our car in a free parking lot (they charge for parking wherever you go here) and then ride the trolley to our destination (you get 3 days for the price of one on the trolley).

We stopped by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine and toured the inside. Quite the place.

Then walked down St. George Street (pedestrian only), numerous shops and restaurants. The one thing I noticed about St. Augustine when they laid out the city streets, they were narrow – which is good for sustainability – you thought I forgot my engineering!

Walked over to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument for a visit. Saw the movie and didn’t get the stamp (forgot book in car way back in the free parking lot). The fort is the oldest remaining European one in the continental United States. It is star shaped and over 300 years old (started construction in 1672). The fort is constructed of coquina (sea shell rock that was mined on Anastasia island) masonry.dsc_0040

And the City of St. Augustine was established in 1565 and is the oldest permanent European settlement in the continental United States.

Saw the Lion’s Bridge.

Saw the Memorial Presbyterian Church built by Henry Flagler (important person in the area). His name is repeated many times in the events and buildings of this city.

Saw the Oldest Wooden School House from 1740.

Hit the trifecta this week: winery, distillery and now today brewery. We had lunch and a brew at A1A Works Ale House. Found out it is not an independent brewery but part of the Kraft companies. Beer was good.

Continued thru the historic district and visited some of the art galleries and other stores and the park.

Saw a couple of more churches. Amazing the amount of décor done years ago.

Walked back to our car and headed home.

Smoked two pork steaks for dinner.

Took the dogs and toured the Night of Lights in St. Augustine. Quite impressive! Eventually found a parking space (in a commercial loading zone – there I go again breaking the law). And we walked the dogs around town and viewed the lights. Great light display!

Friday Brenda needed to finish Christmas shopping. I took off on the bike and road to downtown St. Augustine. Able to ride around town and see the huge houses and all the stores. Rode 21 miles.

We got all our Christmas packages ready to be mailed out.

Took the afternoon and started reading again. Forgot to put in last blog that I had just finished reading Killing Kennedy – great book – now reading Killing Lincoln – have kind of a theme going here.

Went out for dinner at a local seafood place (Salt Life Seafood). Good food and drinks – had a Florida Mule – you know the drink in a copper mug but they used the St. Augustine Vodka made from sugar cane – good drink. We were even able to watch outside the restaurant guys playing sand volleyball. There were 3 games going on.

Had someone approach me for my autograph – she thought I was Sam Watterson. She wanted to check just in case I was. What do you think?

Saturday was my day to do errands including buying my Christmas gifts of a small tool holder, chamois and small foldable branch saw.

We then took the dogs and visited the statue park for a while, then with the weather so nice (80 degrees) we took a walk along the beach. Many people out this day. We felt really bad enjoying the weather when we knew our friends back in St. Louis were suffering through all the cold weather. I always wondered why northerners rushed to Florida in the winter – now I know.

Not ready to go home we found the Bog Brewery and enjoyed one for the afternoon.
Sunday was a warm and humid day of 70 degrees at 6 AM. They are predicting record highs of more than 81 degrees.

We did find a church (25 minutes away) and glad we did. It was enthusiastic in their singing and organ playing. After church we stopped at Hoptinger (bier garden and sausage house) for brunch. Did Bloody Mary’s and I had a Chicken Donut (chicken breast coated in maple syrup with a donut – similar to a chicken in waffle) – strange but I had to try it. Not bad but once is enough. Brenda had an egg dish. Great sitting outside when the weather is 80.img_2480

After our return home, we rested (Brenda needed a nap) and I read. Then we got on our bikes and road to the beach (Atlantic Ocean). We had to push the bikes across the loose sand but once we got on the hard pack (or low tide) we could ride the bikes easily down the beach. We did five miles on the beach. Lots of people out today – why not the temp is 87.

We did not see the Fountain of Youth or the Alligator Farm.

I will have to say there is a lot more to do in St. Augustine and the area, we missed a lot, but we will return someday – very nice city.

Pics of the two grandsons.  Getting big!

This is Christmas in Florida – Merry Christmas One and All!

Monday we are off to Mims (or Titusville), Florida for two weeks.

Categories: Uncategorized

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