We left Sarasota and headed to St. Augustine with a stop in Welaka, FL. This is
a tiny town with a restaurant named "Shrimps-R-Us". As I am a great admirer of shrimp
we made an overnight stop there to have dinner. The food was good, the atmosphere
was pure Florida with an open air bar and seating area. But they only had three,
yes three, shrimp items on the menu. A shrimp po'boy, 10 crab stuffed shrimp and
17 grilled shrimp. That's it. It was good but I would have thought that a place
with that name would have had lots of shrimp items on the menu.
We arrived at St. Augustine and set up camp in the state park. After a short rest
we got on the road to meet with the local chapter of the GoldWing Riders Association
for their monthly dinner meeting. This was near Jacksonville, about 30 miles away. We
left in order to get there early, and a good thing too. We got caught in freeway
rush hour traffic!
St Augustine is the oldest town in the USA. It was started 450 years ago, next year,
by the Spanish as a base to protect their ships returning from the Americas loaded
down with gold. It was attacked and sacked several times by English forces and by
pirates. In 1672 the Spanish built this Castillo out of local stone. A stone made
from accreted shells. A nice feature of this stone is that it is relatively soft
and cannon balls embed themselves in it without damaging the strength of the wall. The
Castillo was attacked several times but was never defeated. But it did change hands
several times as the area known as Florida changed ownership with the various treaties
of Spain, England and America. With each new government the populace of the nearby
town of St. Augustine would move out and be replaced by citizens of the new regime. Nobody
wanted to be ruled by "the enemy" so they left taking everything not nailed down
The Castillo has lots of volunteers who are dressed in period costume, of one period
or another and demonstrating various aspects of life in the Castillo. They also
have a cannon firing at noon.
One the nice things about parking at the Castillo is that in its parking lot the
parking spaces were on a diagonal and each had a sign saying it had to be paid for. But
in the triangular space at the ends were signs that it was reserved for motorcycles,
and there no signs requiring payment. We parked there all day, twice, for free.
After the firing we walked over to the "Main Street" of the old town, which is now
a pedestrian mall. And a good thing too, as it is not wide enough in places for
modern traffic. Today the street is a tidy walk of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants,
bars and historic buildings.
There are lots of historical buildings in this town dating from the 17-1800's. the
oldest of these is a house south of the main street that was built in 1702 under
a period of Spanish rule. It has changed hands several times and been remodeled and
added to each time. The original was a two-room, single-story structure that is
the area between the two arched entryways. Everything else has been added by successive
owners. It has been a house, a tavern, an inn, and a house and is now owned by the
Historical Society who has furnished the rooms in the style of the time when they
On Saturday the FL1-K chapter of GWRRA had a one-day rally for GoldWingers. We had
signed up when we had dinner at the chapter meeting in Daytona. There was music,
food, games and lots of prizes. It was a good rally and we met more interesting
people and had a good time. This is the fifth GWRRA event (4 chapter meetings and
this rally) that we have attended since leaving home and we are yet to win anything. No
door prize, no 50/50, no grand prize, no nothing! But that is our usual luck at
home too so there is no reason to complain.
One of the famous sites here is the lighthouse. It is open for tours and has a great
view from the top of its 219 steps. I didn't count them, that's what the brochure
said. We made it all the way and did it early before the crowds arrived and jammed
up the stairs.
On the third of April, 1513 Ponce de Leon looking for fresh water found what has
been called the Fountain of Youth. It is a very alkaline artesian spring that smells
of sulfur. It won't hurt you but is not that pleasant to us although to a very thirsty
sailor it might be considered good. The entire grounds of "the Fountain of Youth"
park include a native village and Spanish encampment of the time period with more
people in period dress.
We spent part of our time there in a tour of the Spanish Hospital. It is a recreation,
in the actual building, of the hospital that the Spanish had in the 1700's. Our
guide was Cindy and she gave an excellent presentation on the medical treatments
of the time with an emphasis on the quality of Spanish medical practices. The English,
when they took over the town and Castillo did not have nearly as high a survival
rate with their medical practices. The Moors, who had ruled Spain for 700 years,
had a knowledge of medicine that was the best in Europe and they passed a lot of
it on to the Spanish before they were finally forced out of Spain in 1492. The English
didn't have this background and were far behind in medical knowledge at this time.
It is our last day here and we have saved probably the best for last. The St. Augustine
Alligator Farm has been in business since 1883. It has some of all the different
types of alligators and crocodiles in the world and is a leader in propagation and
protection of endangered ones. It also has some amazing carvings. This one is from
Timor and is huge (Kathy is on the backside). They also have a huge saltwater croc
from Australia they have named Maximo who is about this size. He lives in his own
There is a very large bird rookery in the trees of a section of the park. Hundreds
of birds of about a dozen different species of birds are nesting in these trees. And
the young will have to be very careful as they learn how to fly because right below
them is this!
The nests are above a pool that is filled with alligators. One misstep when taking
off and you are lunch!
At noon there was a feeding demonstration at the main alligator pool. The red headed
lady talked about the feeding habits of alligators and demonstrated some with some
small dead chickens as well as the nutrition pellets that they get fed. The pool
probably had nearly a hundred alligators in it but only about a dozen come to be
fed. Some of the alligators sure knew what time it was and the rest just slept on.
That was St. Augustine. It was fun but we did no riding except to get from the park
to town and back. We will now head towards Georgiaand the Okefenokee Swamp.