Well, I started later than I was planning, not getting out of town until about 9:30. But I wanted as good a night’s sleep as possible, so’s to have enough energy to enjoy the day. Thank goodness I did.
The first nice bit was seeing that the new Sharpe’s Ferry Bridge is completed. No more driving at 10 mph over the rickety old one. The history buff in me is happy too, since they’ve preserved the old bridge next to the new one, making it part of a walking path. It was built in the 1920s, and I’m surprised it’s not on the NRHP yet. Perhaps someday.
Tooling through the Forest, I noticed several motorcycle caravans heading the other direction. With the weather warming up, the bikers are out and about, which is good for all sorts of businesses.
Going this way, I always have to contend with the extended slowdown going through Palatka. But maybe since I’ve visited a few times to get historic photos, I don’t resent that so much. It’s nice to drive by the old Larimer Library, and I can just see St. Mark’s from the highway. Then over the bridge and north on 207.
How nice it is that the speed limit for most of 207 is 65 mph. Yet it’s still maintained its rural character. Reminds me of US 441 between Ocala and Gainesville in that way.
After getting through Hastings, I headed east on 206 . It was after 11, and I was afeared I’d miss the 11:30 ferry to Fort Matanzas. I got to the visitor center at 11:35, but they have two ferries, and I was able to catch the second one.
Fort Matanzas is one of the better national park deals. In that it’s totally free. There’s no admission fee, and tickets for the ferry to get you to the fort are free too. But there are a limited number per ferry (there’s only room for so many people on each one), and they’re first come first serve. Last time I was there was late, and the last (4:30) ferry had already filled up. I thought there’d be more folks there since the weather was so great, but the ferries were only half-full. Made me a happy camper.
Once you cross the Matanzas and are dropped off, the ferry returns in about 40 minutes. The time went by amazingly fast. I wouldn’t have minded staying another half hour. Since it’s all free, revisiting is definitely an option. Maybe next time I’ll catch the ferry after next. I’ll have to check if that’s an option though.
Done with the fort, this trip, I headed north on A1A for the main excuse for the trip, The Taste of St. Augustine. It runs from noon to 8, and I got there after 12:30. I was happy to find a decent (and semi-shaded!) spot in the Amphitheatre parking lot. That doesn’t mean there was nobody there. Quite the opposite. But that’s why it’s good to get to Taste early. I’d say that after 2 or 3 pm, you’ll probably have to park a mile down the road.
The admission for Taste has risen from 3 to 5 dollars, but that doesn’t seem to have diminished attendance. I also noticed that more of the booths had 4 and 5 ticket prices.
Oh, to explain, for those who’ve never been. The “Taste of” events tend to fall into two pricing structures. One is having a large admission price, but once in, you can eat as much as you want. Usually it ranges from 25 to 30 bucks. Taste of Ocala was that way, until it changed this year to a 100-dollar black tie optional event. Which is why I didn’t feel so guilty doling out so much for St. Augustine’s, since I wasn’t going to be attending both.
The other way is to have a smaller admission price, then pay at each booth for the food. The Marion County Chili Cookoff is run that way, and so is St. Augustine. They also usually have you buy tickets (a dollar a piece), which you redeem at the booths. I think this is so each vendor needn’t worry about cash, reducing the risk of theft.
So, once in, I bought 20 dollars worth of tickets. I did the once around, checking out what all the booths had. I’ve learned this is the best strategy, from years of All-You-Can-Eat buffeting. That’s when I noticed the “price” for the food was higher at a number of booths. Wanting to get the largest number of samples (it’s all about the variety), I decided to skip anything costing more than 3 tickets. What I tried was:
- Cajun Chicken Egg Rolls w/Cilantro Baja Sauce
- Chicken Marsala over Pasta
- Giant Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
- New England Seafood Chowder w/ Cornbread
- Fish Tacos
- Jambalaya w/ Cornbread
- Eggplant Lasagna
I deviated on the lasagna (it was 4 tickets), but the tenderloin sandwich and the chowder were only 2 tickets, so it worked out. I didn’t get anything for dessert. I was tempted to buy more tickets, but chose not to. Glad I did that, with what I ran across later.
I voted the chowder as the best, though it was a toss-up, since almost all the food was great.
Something that puzzles me is why Woody’s BBQ and Papa John’s were there, though. They’ve been there since I started attending in 2008. Nothing against them, per se. I’m rather fond of Papa John’s in particular. I just don’t think a chain restaurant fits into a food festival that should be about local cuisine. I dunno how they decide who’ll be at Taste, but it seems to be the same folks year after year.
I hung out for about an hour, than headed west for St. Augustine proper. As I get about a mile from the Bridge of Lions, I noticed the traffic backing up. I pulled over and parked on the street, then walked the three blocks to the bridge. It wasn’t up, so it was just busy. Ironically, just after I got there, the bridge was raised.
I got shots of the bridge and the Bounty (which I’d quite forgotten was the other reason I was looking forward to this trip). Then I walked back to the car. Along the way, I noticed there was a Whetstone Chocolates outlet! I hadn’t had anything from them in ages, so I couldn’t resist. The cashier said they’d been at this location since 2008, which shows how much I’d been paying attention. I got some bon-bon type chocolates, which were all yummy. I didn’t notice any fudge there, which is what I miss most of their stuff. I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future.
I loitered and nibbled until the traffic cleared. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the car (only a block away), it backed up again. Fortunately, I was able to go through a parking lot and take the long way around, over SR 312 and up US 1.
Last time the weather was dingy, this time anything but. After knocking those out, I drove to the Nombre de Dios site. Another reason for this visit was preemptive photography. For those who mayn’t know, one of my hobbies has been to visit and photograph everything on the National Register of Historic Places in the state of Florida. I’m over 90 percent done with that, so now I keep tabs on upcoming listings. I like keeping the fully illustrated lists on Wikipedia fully illustrated. Well, the most recent Florida submissions for the NRHP (in March) include two in St. Augustine.
Since I was going there, it was easy enough to add them to my itinerary.
So where was I? That’s right, Nombre de Dios. One of the submissions was for the Father Lopez statue near the giant cross. I didn’t think it was especially historic, but I got photos of it. A dedication at the bottom indicates it may have been put up in 1936, which would qualify it as far as age.
I thought about driving to a new spot, but traffic was still heavy, so I chose to leave the car where it was. It was just after 4 at this point, and sunset was in another 4 hours. Didn’t know how far I’d get, but St. Augustine is such a walkable city, and I love strolling and soaking up the history. So I went across from Nombre to the North City Historic District, another that I’d visited on a dingy day. Got some nice photos, then looped over to the Visitor/Civic Center. From there I walked down St. George Street, which if you’re in St. Augustine you have to walk down, it’s like a law or something. I reached the Constitution Plaza, where my other pending NRHP target was. It was the Constitution monument.
Apparently, when Spain went briefly democratic in 1812, monuments to the new constitution were built all over Spanish controlled areas. Spain became monarchic again in 1814, and the king rescinded the constitution and ordered all the monuments destroyed. For whatever reason, St. Augustine didn’t destroy theirs. So it’s the only one of it’s kind in the world. The things you learn being an NRHP nut. I have a feeling these St. Augustine submissions are partly connected to the whole Viva Florida 500th anniversary thing.
I was close to the Bounty, so I headed that way. I didn’t get on, since I wasn’t that into being on board. It’s only a reconstruction, built for the 1962 movie. Still, I was quite happy with the pictures I got of it, and the Bridge.
At this point I could’ve returned to the car, but traffic still was busy, and I’d much rather walk than be stuck in a car, so I continued south. I reached my next intended target (after going by other stuff and getting pictures), the National Cemetery. Last time, I didn’t know what the pyramids were for, so took no pictures of them. Now I know they’re markers for where the soldiers from the Dade Massacre were buried. Fortunately the Cemetery was still open, so I got some good shots.
Next I headed over to Lincolnville, a former black settlement and historic district. The main thing I wanted to photograph was the St. Benedict the Moor School. It was only after I got home that I realized I’d not gotten exactly what I wanted. There’s a sort of St. Benedict complex, with the church, rectory and school. I thought the rectory was the school, since I didn’t know about the rectory at all. The church and rectory are brick buildings next to each other, on ML King Avenue, and the School is supposedly on the same street.
Well, it is but it isn’t. There’s a fenced in area next to the brick buildings, and set back from the street is the old school. I took a picture of it because it looked interesting, not knowing what it was. But it was from behind, and I wanted some from the front. So next time. Plus I do want to get more photos around Lincolnville anyway, not the small slices I got.
I’d gotten photos of the main things I wanted this trip (or so I thought), so I headed back to the car. On the way I passed through the Model Land Company Historic District and got some more photos there. Yeah, St. Augustine is a whole cluster of historic districts. You’ll get that if you’re around for over 400 years. I reached the car with much relief and caught up on my journal I keep during all my trips. That’s when I found out it was about 6:30.
Remember when I left? About 4:00 PM. I didn’t sit, and hardly stopped since I left the car. So I walked nearly non-stop for 2 and a half hours. My feet hurt, but not nearly as much as I would’ve expected. Or the legs in general. I think I had it in the back of my mind that driving back to Ocala would be over 2 hours, so I’d have plenty of time to sit and relax.
After journal catch-up, I decided not to go over the Bridge of Lions again and caught US 1 south. I got to SR 206 and retraced the way I came. Partly.
I don’t like going the same way twice if I can avoid it, so rather than heading south from Palatka through the forest, I headed west on SR 20. Another road that brings back memories, as I can recall when it was only two lanes from Gainesville to Palatka. Now, most of it is four lanes except the middle bit. That being Interlachen. I wanted to catch 20A, but where it connects near Interlachen isn’t marked. However, thanks to my maps, I knew the name of the road. I saw it too late, but a block or two later I was able to U-turn and catch it.
A rather twisty road, it is, with some long stretches of 25 mph speed limit. So won’t be doing that again. Eventually got to CR 21, my intended target, and headed south. The main reason I went this way was to go by Camp Kateri.
Any old Floridian/Trimarian SCA folk will remember Camp Kateri. I loved that camp. Best kitchen of any campsite in the state, and the hall is gorgeous. I’m not sure why the Girl Scouts stopped letting us use it, which happened before I dropped out of the SCA. I think it was because they decided to only let the Girl Scouts use it. In any case, when I can, I like driving by. It was late, so I didn’t go down the dirt road, but I may try that some day.
Shortly thereafter is Orange Springs, which isn’t much. Oddly, I forgot that after that I’d have to go through Fort McCoy before getting to SR 40. By this time it was after sunset (8:30), but I know this road very well, so I could almost autopilot it. I chose to head west when I got to SR 40, ’cause I wanted to knosh on something. Yes, I’d eaten a lot, but I’d probably done about 4 hours of walking, so I’d been burning calories. My appetite led me to Arby’s, where I got a small shake and large curly fries. Then I headed back east and south. I arrived back home at about 9:30, so I was out and about for 12 hours. A good day, all told.
I noticed during this trip the occasional bug splat on the windshield. It’s early, but it could be the prelude to love bug season. Between that and things getting warmer and more humid, I’ll likely not be roadtripping for the next couple of months at least, or longer. Or maybe some shorter roadtrips. However it works out, I’ll let y’all know.