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….