• gfeldstein

Day 48 Amelia Island, FL to St Augustine 60 miles 669 feet

We were expecting rain through the evening to taper off by the morning. We awoke to a classic Florida downpour. It probably lasted all of 30 minutes but the rain came down so hard that the streets were flooded. We lingered for a bit over breakfast and the storm passed out to sea. Since we were down in Florida I felt it was time to have some grits with my breakfast. For those up north, or out west, grits are a time honored southern tradition. Grits, like polenta, are made from dried corn that has been stone-ground. When cooked slowly in water, grits release their starch and make a creamy porridge that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Hominy grits is a type of grits made from hominy, corn that has been treated with an alkali. Grits are usually served sweet for breakfast or with savory flavorings for lunch or dinner. Grits take about 20 minutes to prepare in boiling water but are also available in an instant version. Of course no self respecting southerner would approve of instant grits. A point made clear by Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny,” which IMHO, was his best performance ever.

Today was the first of 9 days of cycling in Florida as we would ride from Amelia Island all the way down to Key West, some 600 miles, nearly 3/4 of the length of the entire California coastline. Timberline sent us our final set of RidewithGPS directions, not that we really need them. From her on out it is quite simple, keep the Atlantic Ocean on your left hand side and keep pedaling till you hit the Gulf of Mexico.

Once again our route today would involve a ferry ride. This time it was a public, regularly scheduled ferry, so while we wanted to try and cross as a group, it was not imperative like yesterday’s chartered ferry. I lagged behind to give the streets a bit more time to drain and dry. About a mile down the road we were routed onto a series of bike paths. Paths unfortunately are not crowned and designed to drain as well as roads, so they were a wet sloppy mess. After about a mile, and a filthy bike, I hopped off the paths and rode Highway A1A most of the day. Our route to the ferry ran right through both Big Talbot Island State Park and Little Talbot Island State Park. Bike and I hopped on to the St Johns River Ferry for the 7 minute ride across to Mayport.

Mayport is a small commercial waterfront community most noted for Naval Station Mayport. At one time it was a shrimping town and some old homes and shrimp boats are still around.

Just past the dock I would ride for a mile or so through another marsh, or was it a swamp. I wasn’t sure so I looked it up. The difference between the two is that swamps usually have deeper standing water and are wet for longer periods of the year, either one can contain alligators. After the marsh, I turned onto A1A which I would ride, with a few minor detours, most of the day. At about the 30 mile mark I hit Jacksonville Beach, a collection of fairly lower class homes with a few hotels mixed in, including one paying homage to Jimmy Buffet

Another 5 miles down the road I ran into Ponte Vedra where massive oceanfront home were built elbow to elbow, squeezed in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ponte Vedra Golf Course. Nice work if you can get it.

There were at least 2 dozen more still under construction.

As you headed farther south the homes became grandeur, many looking like hotels or resorts, set on multi- acre properties and protected from view behind high stone walls and 30 foot tall hedges. At about the 40 mile mark we exited Ponte Vedra and entered the Guana River Wildlife Management Area. The houses became much more sparse, lower class, and in some cases even run down. At about this time I took my eyes of the scenery and glanced down at my water bottles. One was empty and the other was at best 3/4’s full. The sun was out and it was starting starting to heat up but my cue sheet indicated it was 14 miles till the next town so I would need to ration my water as best I could. As I rode by all the entrances to the park and beach I searched in vain for a water fountain or even a hose bib. About 5 miles from Vilano Beach I spotted a gas station and grabbed a couple of quarts of water, chugged half then refilled my bottles. That would turn out to be a very lucky move as Vilano Beach was just another residential stretch, with no water opportunities, save knocking on a door and praying for the kindness of a stranger. I crossed the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway, into a very stiff headwind, then descended into St Augustine. I headed directly to Farmhand Kchn, 1280 N. Pounce De Leon, St. Augustine, for a farm to table lunch. They had a vast selection of healthy choices and I went with a simple smoked salmon on a bagel.

I checked into my hotel room just before the sky opened up for the second time and dumped buckets of water on those still out riding. When the sun came back out 10 minutes later, it is Florida after all, I headed out on foot to explore St. Augustine.

The city was founded in 1565 by Admiral Pedro Melendez de Aviles, a Spanish explorer. St Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European established settlement in the contiguous United States. Aviles chose to name the city after the feast day of St. Augustine as that was the day he first sighted land in Florida. Aviles went on to become Florida’s first governor. Spain and Great Britain exchanged ownership of Florida several times and ultimately Spain ceded it to the United States in 1819. The city today is primarily a tourist destination with many arriving in caravans of large tour busses, while others travel on foot, on trolleys, or even horse drawn carriages.

The city is full of shops and attractions that cater predominantly to tourists, including even a Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

I decided to spend my time at the two main historic sites, the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Castillo de San Marcos. The Mission of Nombre de Dios dates back to 1565 and is the oldest Catholic Church in the United States.

I visited the current chapel

The Great Cross, which was dedicated by Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo in October, 1966 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Mission Nombre de Dios. The cross is 208 feet tall and made of stainless steel.

The recently restored and reopened National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, a Catholic Marian Shrine. Originally built in 1609, it is the oldest shrine in the United States.

The Castillo de San Marcos is oldest masonry fort and the best preserved example of Spanish colonial fortification in the continental United States. It protected St. Augustine from pirate raids and from Spain’s major rival, Great Britain, during a time when the Florida-Georgia-Carolina coastline was an explosive international battleground. Ground was broken for the fort in 1672 and completed in 1695. The fort was built with a stone called coquina, which consists of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a sedimentary rock similar to limestone. This naturally occurring stone is similar to the manmade tabby stone used to build Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. The fort was built as a hollow square with diamond shaped bastions in each corner. The fort was surrounded by a dry moat, which could be flooded by seawater on demand, an outer wall, then a sloped grass and dirt embankment to protect the outer walls from bombardment. There was only one way in or out of the fort, which could only be accessed by crossing two separate draw bridges. The fort was designed to be manned by 300 troops but none actually lived at the fort. A small contingent would take turns on 24 hours watches while the rest lived in the city

Castillo de San Marcos was attacked several times and twice besieged: first by English colonial forces led by Carolina Colonial Governor James Moore in 1702, and then by English Colonial Governor James Oglethorpe in 1740, but was never taken by force. However, possession of the fort has changed six times, all peaceful, among four different governments: Spain, the British Empire, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

The entrance to the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean can easily be reached by cannons mounted on the parapet walls.

In the distance, over the walls, you canes the spires of what was once The Ponce de Leon, a grand Flagler hotel and now Flagler College.

Dinner was at Aymara Thai & Sushi, 140 San Marcos Ave, St Augustine. I had the wonton noodle soup with broccoli which was amazing but tasted more Vietnamese than Thai to me. The sushi was fresh and vey good but the soy sauce and wasabi both seemed watered down.

Fourteen states down, 1 more to go.

The Cumulative Totals

Miles 2,592

Feet Climbed 83,836

States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

For more details on my route, see my Strava Link

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