Crackers, Tin Canners & Boneshakers
~Tuesday, April 11, 2023~
On occasion, I seem to find a scouting ant that still wants to keep us company. But other than that, I think our ant problem is officially behind us. I’ve been meaning to update you guys on that, as it’s been over a week since the invasion. We’re just grateful that they never got into any food. I would hope not since we’re so careful about sealing everything tightly in our “pantry”. And our clouds/rain have now given way to sunny skies. The best part…..the smell. You know that fresh distinctive scent that only comes after a rainy day? Can someone just bottle that up and sell it as a room spray, please?
After a light lunch at the campsite, we hopped on our bikes and headed back into downtown St. Augustine. Along our exit out of the park, we saw several baby turtles curiously wandering away from their mama. Occasional signs on the main road into the park remind everyone to slow down for these little fellas. And they are the main reason dogs are not allowed on St. Augustine Beach since the surrounding dunes are the perfect nesting ground for turtles as well as birds. Of course we wouldn’t want to disturb any of those.
As we repeated our crossing of the Bridge of Lions, we saw what appeared to be a casualty of the stormy weather we had the other night…….a beached sailboat (sort of). It actually didn’t make it onto shore, but rather straight into a slightly raised concrete edge above the water. Those heavy winds we had must have broken its anchor loose and possibly hit other things along the way until it ended here. Someone was smart enough to tie it up to shore, but not smart enough to put its bumpers out. There was also about a foot of water inside the boat. Hopefully it's repairable and that they find its rightful owner soon.
Our first stop of the day was the St. Augustine History Museum. Little did we know it was in the same vicinity as other gimmicky sort of attractions such as the trolley ride, the Old Jail and the Ghosts & Gravestones tour. Believe me, we were told every which way we could save money by signing up for all 4. With neither really being our style we politely declined everything but the museum visit since it was all about the history of which brought us there in the first place; 400 years of history. Initially, it felt like we were at a Pier 39 attraction, but that soon became overshadowed by the abundance of information and the many authentic treasures there were to look at. There were toys, dolls, clothing, pottery, weapons, and even treasures from the sea such as gold, silver and jewelry found off the Florida coast. We felt privileged to even see photos of things never before published. The rich history of the Spanish, British and French expansion into the area was only part of the story. The museum also offered more recent history from the 19th/20th century and those people that came much later. The “Crackers' ' were rogue pioneers from Georgia or the Carolinas having settled in the northern inland areas of Florida. Arriving in their covered wagons, yearning for privacy and fiercely defending an independent lifestyle, they were the poorest of the poor. Also descending into the area were what was known as the “Tin Can Tourists”, mostly a clan of middle-class empty nesters who preferred camping in trailers in lieu of the old-fashioned motel. And of course there were the wealthy Americans. With Harry Flagler’s vision of establishing a long-distance railroad on the east coast all the way to Key West, with stunning hotels planted along the way, St. Augustine would become a popular winter retreat for the rich. Fascinating stuff. Near the end of our tour, I found my favorite piece in the museum which came from this era. It was called the
“Boneshaker” bicycle built in 1867, a true bicycle with pedals. Though it doesn’t look like the most comfortable ride, the concept is very similar to what’s made today.
Having many other streets to tour in town, we parked our bikes again in front of Fort Castillo and walked into the main square. Even though we weren’t interested in shopping, it was still fun to tour the brick lined streets and check out what was on display in the many shop windows.
One of the must stops in St. Augustine, but off the beaten path, is what’s dubbed to be the “most beautiful street in America”......... Magnolia Avenue.
The ½-mile long street was a stunner with beautiful but modest homes built right alongside a row of 100 year-old oak trees that not only form a spectacular arch, but provide much needed shade from those hot Florida days. The long-bearded appearance of the Spanish Moss hanging from the oak’s branches makes the trees seem like they're dancing. As we left this row of oaks, we stumbled on the beautiful location of the Fountain of Youth. This location may have a rich history, but after studying the map, it too seemed a little too touristy for us. So we didn’t pay to go in. But thanks to a nearby interpretive sign, we were reminded that not only was Ponce de Leon a Spanish explorer who discovered the Gulf Stream. But legend has it that he also discovered a spring at this site (known as the fountain of youth), which could magically maintain a youthful appearance. Maybe another time, Ponce.
As we rode back toward the main part of town, a little thirst quenching was in order. Since we liked the Backyard at Meehan’s Irish Pub so much, we returned there, but to a much busier “backyard” than the other day. Once again, it was the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine while sipping a favorite beverage.
Before our ride back, we had one more stop near the Lions Gate Bridge. There is a charming brick street just off the Plaza de la Constitución called Avilés Street.
Originally known as “Hospital Street”, it is the oldest street in the U.S. and was the early home to St. Augustine’s art district. Reminding me of a quaint street in Italy, we entered through the stone archway which gave way to a row of older restored buildings, many of them turned into charming B&B’s, galleries, boutiques or cafes. There was even a small garden dedicated to the discovery of an old well
dating back to the 1600’s.
We have certainly enjoyed our time in this unique and unforgettable place of St. Augustine. With its rich history in a beautiful location, it’s definitely a place worth visiting and living. No wonder so many celebrities call this home, or maybe even a second, third or fourth home…..Jack Nicholson, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks (you get the picture). But there’s only 1 thing left on our to-do list before leaving Thursday…..Fort Matanzas. So we’ll fill you in on that one….that is if we can snag those first-come, first-serve tickets.
We just wish our day had come to a nicer ending. When we got back to the trailer, we found a limping dog; maybe a little too eager with her ball playing this morning. She wasn’t limping before we left, but maybe something settled in by straining a muscle or something. We’ll definitely keep an eye on it. She has her annual check up once we get to North Carolina. Looks like we’ll have to maybe start looking into joint supplements for her now that she’s close to 9 years old. For now, we’ll call her “Miss Gimpy”.