Round America 50-State Road Trip – St. Augustine to Jensen Beach, Florida

Accidental Tourists — Day 4

We were determined to make today a better one!  We got off to an early start as it was going to take us a good while just to get back to Saint Augustine after our hotel-hunting-odyssey.

We met another nice American from Ohio as we gassed up — Rich McIntosh from Cleveland.  We had met more people from Ohio than from anywhere else.

Saint Augustine is a very interesting place.  Tremendous history and equally tremendous (aka overdone) tourist development.  It’s a pretty place with a striking black-and-white striped lighthouse.  We drove straight to the Fountain of Youth for a water fix.  We enjoyed learning about the history of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of America, which he named “Florida.”

Old Ponce was an accidental tourist, too, as he was trying to find Bimini and the alleged Fountain of Youth.  Instead, he found what is now Saint Augustine and a spring.  Bozzie loved seeing the peacocks.

In the parking lot at the Fountain of Youth, we met an especially nice couple from Missouri, “Rocco” and his wife.  We also met Dolph, who works at the Fountain of Youth.  They saw the signs on the car and asked all about the trip, and we enjoyed sharing a few stories and learning a little about them.

We then saw the other historical highlights in Saint Augustine — the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA, and the lighthouse.

Down Highway A1A through a variety of little towns down to Daytona Beach.  In Daytona, we enjoyed watching the stereotypical diner waitresses at the Starlite Diner where we had a cheeseburger and “Freedom” Fries.

We lived in Orlando for six years and have been to Daytona many times, so we didn’t spend as much time as we would have otherwise.  I enjoyed seeing the Drive-In Christian Church — a real church built on the grounds of a drive-in movie theatre where you can listen to the sermon on the window speaker in your car.

We made a few other stops.  We met a nice lady, Pat, in a parking lot as she saw the sign on the car and told us how she wished she could go to all 50 states.

We passed through a lot of beach towns today, and we saw one little motel after another.  It was amazing that all of these little, old places can stay in business, but it was so great to see that they have.  Motels provide a real slice of Americana that it would be such a shame to lose.  We also saw a good number of roadside fruit stands today as well as a big souvenir store called Wings.

We arrived in Jensen Beach just as the sun was setting.  William, the desk clerk at the Marriott, DID have our reservation, so he became our newest hero.  In the elevator up to our room, we met a cute 10-year-old named Brianna.

William recommended Villa Parma for dinner, where we enjoyed very good Italian food and a delicious Chocolate Bomb Cake for dessert.  Our waitress, Nicole, was excellent, and we met Michael, a very friendly and talkative bus boy.

We also saw Brianna again and met her parents and her brother, Derrick.  Brianna and Derrick are both Olympic-caliber competitive swimmers.

We missed connecting with old friend, Craig Linton.  My Florida geography was bad as I thought he lived near Tampa, but he was apparently just down the road from our hotel.  Our apologies to Craig and his wife!  We enjoyed many wonderful times with Craig when we lived in Orlando; we think of Craig and Guy Lombardo every New Years.

The main lesson we learned today was this:  There are more nice people than not-nice people; all you have to do is say hello.  We met delightful people today at a gas pump, in a parking lot, in restaurants, and in an elevator.

We had found that some of the most enjoyable travel experiences were when we veered from the planned route on a whim or when someone suggested something to us that we didn’t know about…or when we got lost and found something unexpected.  Accidental tourists.

A number of things that we had done to make the trip go well were working as hoped, while others were not.  I couldn’t imagine how I would cope nearly as well during the stretches of the trip that Boz was back in Atlanta.

Thank Heavens for the sunscreen as I had an outstanding “golfer’s tan” with only the balding spot on the top of my head sporting a sunburn.  Our system of clothes worked really well; we had four bags – two bigger ones that held a week’s worth of clothes that stayed in the car, and then we each carried a day or two’s worth of clothes into our hotel each night in a smaller bag.

The next morning, our dirty clothes went into yet another bag ready for the weekly washing.  We took the right amount of stuff.  Our tape recorder malfunctioned the night before the trip, so we took notes the first three days until we bought a new recorder.  It worked great on Day 4 as we drove and flipped it on to record the towns we hit, mileage, thoughts, etc.

It was much harder than I thought to find the time at night to write as much as I would have liked and to process the day’s photos.  We took large-format photos, but I barely had the time to put a few small format photos on the website.  If I could figure out how to drive and type on the computer at the same time….

Round America 50-State Road Trip – Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida

Interstated and Ticketed – Day 3

From beautifully-preserved Savannah Georgia, we traveled down two-lane roads with skeletons of businesses put under by the Interstate highways.

We expected a let-down today after such a special day in Savannah yesterday.  We got it.

According to Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally, the distance from Savannah to Saint Augustine is only 180 miles.  It took us 12 hours to get there, so we averaged just 15 miles an hour (though we ended up driving over 350 miles, so we actually averaged about 30 mph).

I recall passing just one vehicle all day.  I hadn’t had a ticket in 9 years, and I had decided to drive at or under the speed limit throughout this trip.  After all, we were driving on two-lane roads to see the sights…not racing to get somewhere.

So it was the lowlight of the day when Officer Vincent Passarelli of Kingsland, Georgia claimed I was driving 55 in a 35.  I was just driving along at the same speed as a bunch of other folks.  Officer Passarelli admitted he was coming from the opposite direction, so he decided to stop the little white convertible instead of any of a variety of pickup trucks and SUV’s.  I joked with him that we had driven only 500 miles of 25,000, and at this rate, I would lose my license before we hit Alabama.  He didn’t laugh.

I tried to get him to let me take his picture, but he refused.  We did manage to get a shot of a sign nearby that said: “Speed Checked by Radar.”  On our Trip Scorecard, I budgeted 0 (zero) traffic tickets, so we are way over budget, and it’s only day 3.

I’m afraid my focus will now have to be on speed signs to avoid seeing more flashing lights in the rearview mirror.  There are a never-ending number of speed limit changes on the two-lane roads that pass through so many towns.

The day began well enough five or six hours earlier, though we got away from the hotel much later than we should have.  Sunny and 75-degrees, so another lovely day.  We drove around the Historic District of Savannah for an hour or so looking at homes for sale, and we saw some nice ones.

We stopped for gas, and we were delighted when we found it was an old-fashioned full-service station.  Thomas pumped our gas, cleaned our windows, and helped me clean the bugs off the front of the car.

We drove off – Saint Augustine, Florida was our ultimate destination.  We got really lost trying to find our two-lane road, and we wasted an hour or more.  I lost count of how many times we got lost today, but I bet it was five or six times.

I joked with Barbara (who I call Boz or Bozzie) that I should place an ad on www.monster.com for a new navigator.  We again regretted that we didn’t have a GPS and joked that we were using a BPS (Bozzie Positioning System).  We finally got on the right road.

We saw the historic Midway Church, built in 1754, but one of the few highlights of the day was a little later when we saw the world’s smallest church — 10-feet by 15-feet, built in 1949 and deeded to Jesus Christ.

We drove through mile after mile of run-down houses and trailers.  Several of the houses looked like something out of “Deliverance.”  I hope the folks who live there are happy.

We reached Brunswick, Georgia for a late lunch at the highly-recommended Georgia Pig restaurant.  We were disappointed, and Boz assured me the ladies room would “win” the worst restroom award in our “Best and Worst” competition.

Jekyll Island was our next stop, and we felt it was a bust.  Boring and not particularly attractive.  The ladies at the Welcome Center were far better than the island.  I adjusted the color on the picture of the ocean at Jekyll Island, and it makes it look a lot prettier than it was.

There is no coastal road from Savannah down to Florida.  We passed through a lot of swampy terrain.  Not a pretty area compared to beautiful Savannah.  We finally saw the ocean at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Throughout the day, we saw one closed bombed-out-looking service station after another.  I love old service stations, and I did find these interesting to see, but it is sad to realize that the Interstate Highways caused so many businesses to fail.

We did find Woodbine to be interesting — mainly because the first thing we saw as we drove into town was an “antiques” shop with a sign out by the highway that says “Dead People’s Things For Sale.”

We met some nice people, including Kevin from Strongsville, Ohio, who we ran into at the Hofwyl-Broadfield rice plantation; another Kevin (the rock climber) in the parking lot at Staples; and Tim and Tiffany inside Staples.  Tiffany had an interesting story; she has two different legal identities!  Her name was misspelled on her birth certificate, so she is legally “Tiaffany.”

We also met some really nice folks on the boat.  Yes, the BOAT.  We had not planned to take a boat ride, but there are a few problems with maps, it seems.  We discovered that maps have far less detail than is ideal; small roads and towns are not shown, and they tend to show roads where they aren’t.

That’s why we ended up on a boat — the St. John’s River Ferry boat — to take us across a wide expanse of water between Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville.  The “Ferry Mistress,” Jennifer, was a delight as were the folks in the vehicle next to us, Melissa and Rodney from Powder Springs, Georgia.

We finally arrived in Saint Augustine after dark at about 8:30 pm.  We couldn’t find our hotel.  When we called, the hotel said they had no reservation for us.  We checked with hotel after hotel to find them all full.  I drove further than I will ever admit before we finally got a room for the night.  To me, there’s nothing much more aggravating after a long day than to hear that you don’t have a room.

We learned a number of lessons today.  I guess the main lesson was Location, Location, Location.  Interesting that Savannah can be so beautiful, but you don’t have to head very far south to see ugly.  And to see what the interstate highway did to businesses on the old two-lane highway delivered a very strong message of the first, last, and some say the only rule in real estate — location, location, location.

The reality hit “home” today that this trip is going to be very hard.  At one frustrating point, my sweet young wife of 34 years said this trip was going to be a cross between Fear Factor and Survivor.  She’s right about the Survivor part; this was to be an endurance test.