Leaving Mount Dora, we ambled north through the Ocala Forrest, happy to finally have found a campground in Florida with room for us. Unfortunately, we found out why it was relatively empty when a scary, roaring monster sound made Lety crawl under the front seat and made us flinch, even during daylight hours. We learned from the ranger, who said it terrified her as well until she came to understand the source of the sounds:bombing and strafing practice at the nearby military training ground. We would have figured it out when the equivalent of the Blue Angels started doing maneuvers atop the canopy of the hammock (forest) overhead. I recalled the thrill of those same screaming jet sounds when I was working in a skyscraper in San Francisco, and could see the Blue Angels at eye level. That screeching sound is just a horrible intrusion when you are swimming in a warm freshwater spring, letting your mind happily wander. Between the humidity, mosquitoes (we should have had a clue when the ranger told us the vending machines there dispensed insect repellant), and the intrusive military presence, we were happy to leave after one night to try another spring. Little did we know it would be our last Florida freshwater swim.
Our last Florida warmspring, Salt Spring, was high-walled all around except the opening into a jet ski, speed boater’s paradise; it was not the “small pond in the wilderness”, conducive to lazy wanderings of the mind, so we left without a swim, for the drive to St. Augustine.
St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the continental USA, changed hands several times since Ponce de Leon visited, followed by 22 other Spanish missions. The Brits invaded (thus the lovely masonry Fort to repel them) and ultimately colonized it as a British Colony. The USA deeded it back to Spain after the Revolutionary War in appreciation for Spanish assistance fighting the Brits. Ultimately, we took it back, but the Spanish Colonial architecture is dominant, and very well preserved. Lots of live music and tapas were available in the bars and restaurants, where they allow smoking (Aaaargh!) so…we didn’t drink and dine there, but instead enjoyed the Freedom Trail, following the footsteps of Andrew Young who was struck down after just a few steps at this spot in a civil rights march here.
We found St. Augustine, rich in architecture and tourism, comparable to a more sober Key West, with the emphasis on weddings, romance, and retail. We preferred St. Augustine Beach for the excellent Tango class with Honey Burton, followed by a Practica. No signs were barring dogs from the beach, so we had the great pleasure of watching Lety acting like a greyhound, streaking around the beach with the other dogs, right in front of the beachside Tango class. Sweet! For sure, dogs are granted immediate entry to heaven for their generous natures.
Also part of the Freedom Trail, right in front of our Tango class was the place of, “Wade Ins” in 1964 at what had been a beach reserved for “Whites Only”. Images broadcast internationally of peaceful demonstrators being brutally attacked for walking onto the beach, was one of the events that provided the motivation to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We said, “Adios, Florida..Hasta La Vista, Baby!” after leaving Amelia Island. It reminded us of Captiva and Sanibel Islands with fewer tourists and more high end resorts (Ritz Carlton…$3500/day). Even the federal post office, above, was inviting.We only stopped for a coffee at Fernandina Beach, and a walk, but decided it would nonetheless be a super nice place to anchor off.
We wonder more often now, which places we might like living off the hook on a sailboat. Unfortunately, hurricane season is long (May 15 to November 15) and given the heat and humidity, we wouldn’t likely be anywhere near our “home” if she was hit by a tropical cyclone/ weather bomb/hurricane during the season. So we head north to Savannah, GA with no nautical plans, just dreams.