Another sip from The Fountain of Youth
Today's drive should have taken
us from New Orleans to somewhere in Alabama, but it turned out differently.
Sweet Home Alabama
I've driven through this state
three times in the past, and currently the only evidence I had, was a picture
from a rest area on I-10. This time though, it would be different. We had
planned to stay overnight in Alabama, and I would take pictures - lots of them.
However, don't plan to much ahead, as it never comes true anyway. The overnight
stay was canceled and my photo portfolio was increased by only three or four
pictures. On the other hand, we spent two hours driving around in the
southeastern part of the state, which was actually rather boring.
home we had planned to stay in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, because we assumed that
we would get there after a swamp tour in Louisiana. Since we extended our stay in
the New Orleans area by one day, staying ovcer in Bayou La Batre would not be
ideal, as we would get there far too early. Instead we decided to drive as far
as we felt for, using the U.S. 90 through southern Mississippi. We left the
hotel fairly early, around 8.30 and drove to I-10, which we followed to the east
of Twin Span Bridge, which crosses the eastern part of Lake Pontchartrain. From
here to the Mississippi border is only a short distance, and immediately after the
border we left the interstate to return to U.S. 90, which runs along the Gulf of
Mexico. This road is longer and slower than the interstate, but on the other
hand, there is much more to look at, like for example, the 100 yards wide, sandy
beach where you had to look far for beach visitors, even though the sun was
shining and it was around 90 degrees. We stopped in one place, so Tim could get
his feet wet in the Gulf, but otherwise continued along the coast and enjoyed
the sight of the many casinos around the major cities, and the many Waffle
Houses that were placed at regular intervals along the way. Sometime before the
Alabama border we left US 90 and returned to I-10, so we could avoid going
through Mobile. After Mobile, we left I-10 again and instead followed U.S. 98
The purpose of this detour was to get pictures from Alabama. I managed to take
three photos in the town of Foley, including one of a UPS truck! The road,
however, was rather boring, and the landscapes looked like many others we had
seen along the way, so after two hours drive on small and even smaller roads in
Alabama, we returned to I-10, and just headed east. We got back to the
interstate in Pensacola after crossing the border into Florida, and for the rest
of the day we stayed on the interstate. The goal was initially to stay for the
Tallahassee. Along the way we stopped only to refuel, eat our own food and
switch driver. When we reached Tallahassee it wasn't that late, and we still had
plenty of energy, so we decided to continue another 100 miles to Lake City, and
stay there for the night. Along the way between Pensacola and Tallahassee, we
lost an hour as we entered the Eastern Standard Time Zone, and it was therefore
7.25 when we reached Lake City. After getting a room in a hotel, we had dinner
before carrying our baggage to the room.
Reaching the Atlantic
Our long drive the day before,
meant that we only had about 100 miles left to Saint Augustine, today's goal.
We decided to settle there for a one night, not the preplanned two, and then use
the extra day for a visit in eastern Tennessee, a state that otherwise was not
included in our program. Instead of taking I-10 to Jacksonville and then
head south to Saint Augustine, we chose to drive south on I-75 to
Gainesville, and then go east to Saint Augustine.
Gainesville we left the highway and drove through the town, which turned out to
be a relatively large city and home of the University of Florida. On the way
through town we passed several of the university's buildings. Some celebrities
related to this university,are Faye Dunaway, who had her theatrical education
here and musician Stephen Stills from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who joined
the university for a short period. One of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly
studied construction at the university, but fortunately his grades were not good,
so he switched to journalism and went on to become an excellent crime writer.
Elections were due in the
United States, and therefore there were many candidates who offered their
services for various offices along the way in different states, and in Florida
as wel. Tim wanted to get a picture of such a cluster of elect-me signs, but we
didn't meet any at this time. Instead he had to make do with a picture of a
single sign, which advertised a candidate for the office of tax collector! Some
people volunteer for the most peculiar jobs.
From Gainesville, we drove east along the small Florida Route 20 and later 207
and the even smaller 206, which meets with U.S. Route 1 just south of Saint Augustine.
Instead of driving north along U.S. 1 we continued east to Matanzas River, at
which Saint Augustine is located. The river is not actually a river, but an estuary - but like many other estuaries it's called a river, none the less. The
waters separates Anastasia Island from the mainland and we crossed the river to
the island . The island has many beaches and large homes and summer cottages,
so it was an interesting drive north to Saint Augustine. We made one stop on
the island to get a cup of coffee, and when we got to Saint Augustine, we
crossed back to the mainland over the Bridge of Lions, a bridge from 1927. Two
so-called "Medici lions" made of marble guard the bridge at the Saint Augustine
terminus, hence the name.
A rejuvenating drink of water and
When we got to the mainland, we
continued through town back to U.S. 1, did some shopping and got ourselves a
hotel room. As soon as we had carried the luggage to the room, we were off again.
After almost 3 weeks away from home, it was time that we got refreshed, and how do
you do it better than with a sip from The Fountain of Youth? Coincidentally The Fountain of Youth is located
right in Saint Augustine - how convenient!
spring is located in the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which lay just
north of our hotel. The park is private, and we had to pay $ 12 each to enter.
After entering the park we went directly to the spring and got a sip of the
rejuvenating water. Ten years younger and quite refreshed, we continued to the
planetarium, where we watched a short movie about how the Spaniards navigated to
Florida, the same movie that I had watchedin 2002. When it was finished after
nine minutes, we just had time to get to another building, and watch another
short movie. This one was thrstory of how the Europeans spread across the
American continent. When it was done, we walked around the park, and looked at
among other things an exhibition about the Timucua Indians, the people who lived
in the area when Juan Ponce de Leon, as the first European arrived in Florida.
Also the location of this first landing is claimned to be within the park's
boundaries - although recent research suggests that de Leon landed much farther
south. The kind of detail doesn't matter to a tourist attraction.
We saw a gun being fired like in Spanish times, and enjoyed the nature, which
are not tampered with, went out on a pier in the marshes from which we
could overlook the city and - and this time it's true - the place where the
first Spanish mission station in the present day's USA was established.
Eventually we went back to the entrance, where we once again visited the spring,
and enjoyed the water (which smells a bit like rotten eggs, but do not
taste quite as bad). Then we visited the souvenir shop where we both bought
spring water to take back to those back home who we thought needed a
rejuvenation. After the visit to the souvenir shop, I enjoyed one last sip of the
spring, the third in addition to the two, I drank in 2002, so if each sip takes
away 10 years of your life, I will soon celebrate my ten years birthday.
From the park, we crossed the main street, to a trolley terminus from where we
could get a tour around town, so we did. The trip was hop-on hop-off, but we
stayed on board for the whole trip, which gave us a quick impression of the city
or in my case a reunion. On this trip we heard about the city's history, from
its founding in 1565 by Admiral Pedro MenÚndez de AvilÚs, to modern times. The
main emphasis, however, was on the period known as The Flagler Era, named after
Henry Flagler, co-founder of Standard Oil, who was a dominant figure in the city from about 1880 to his
death in 1913. Flagler built hotels, build a railway, donated a hospital to the
city and cheated his competitors, if possible. Flagler was also the man
behind the construction of several churches in the city, and many things are
named after him, including Flagler College, located in the buildings that once
housed his fashionable Ponce de Leon Hotel. During the trip we were of course
told interesting anecdotes about what we passed and the people who had inhabited
city in the past. Among these stories was the story of millionaire William
Warden, who in 1887 built a "winter home" on what was then the outskirts of the
city for himself, his wife and their 16 children. Here they could spend the
winters, when it got too cold in New York. The house had 19 rooms, but only one
bathroom, and 15 of the sixteen children were girls! So 16 women and one
bathroom! The guide found it amazing that none of the women had murdered him,
but he survived - Believe it or not! And that is exactly what the house is used
for today, a Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, actually the very first of its
kind, opened in 1950, a year after Robert Ripley's death.
After eating dinner I could took an evening stroll in the old part of town,
while Tim returned to the hotel to relax. I walked past the old Spanish fort
Castillo de San Marcos, which unfortunately was closed for the day, through the
remains of the city gate to St. George Street, the city's old main street, now a
pedestrian zone, looked at the cathedral, the old wooden school house, and the
nightlife before I returned to our hotel.
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