Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don & Gail Travel Update # 11

It has been quite some time since our last update. We were in Florida for about a month and a half: a month in the Hudson area (north of Tampa) and two weeks in Flagler Beach (a bit south of St Augustine).  We’ve had fun times exploring up and down both the Gulf side and the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and enjoying many days of lovely weather.
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We found a lovely state park to view manatee in their habitats of warm waters. The one above was actually feeding on alga on the submerged log.  His head is coming up for air (at the top of the screen) and he is much bigger than he appears.  They are quite friendly creatures, have no predators and their biggest hazard are boat propellers.  Every large manatee we saw had a number of scars from close calls.  The next two old lovely homes are Thomas Edison’s and Henry Ford’s winter homes in Ft. Meyers, Fl.  We were able to view them through open windows and doors on walk-around porches.They were lovely to see.  The grounds were planted with exotic plants from around the world, to further the search for an economical source of rubber for car tires!  The laboratories and museum explained the processes of research and testing. Mr. Firestone was also a partner in this.
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The street view is of the oldest town in America, St. Augustine.  It was founded in the early 1560’s.  There is so much to see there, including the oldest house (over 400 yrs old) in America, a wonderful 1600’s Spanish Fort, a gorgeous bay where Indians used to fish, world explorers entered and claimed for Spain (Ponce de Leon in 1513), then France, then England, and pirates,as well as gorgeous early 1900’s luxury hotels and churches built by Henry Flagler ~ partner in Standard Oil ~  for the rich and famous in his day and still in operation today.
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We climbed the lovely St. Augustine Lighthouse (1870’s) and toured the keepers’ house and buildings. (This lighthouse was built by James Gould, for all you Eugenia Price readers)  The view from the lighthouse is looking west toward St. Augustine and Matanzas Bay.
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The old fort, Castillo de San Marcos, situated there on the Matanzas Bay is too huge to capture with our cameras.  It truly is a delightful thing to tour, built in the shape of a star, with several levels, dozens of cannons, wall etchings by soldiers from many eras, and even draw-gate entrances and a moat! It is one of our all-time favorite forts to visit.

# 11 continued



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This is the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse on the Ponce Inlet further south on the Atlantic Coast.  It was completed in 1887 and is Florida’s tallest with over 203 steps to climb.  The views were spectacular!  This is one of the few lighthouses in America with all the original buildings preserved. For years before electrically lit, keepers carried 30 pound buckets of hot oil up to the lens burner every 2 1/2 hrs around the clock! Amazingly, even their wives did this at times. Both these lighthouses are still in operation today, operated (electrically) by private organizations for the Coast Guard but still using their original Fresnel lenses.

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We spent a fast-paced day at Daytona Speedway.  What a great tour it was, seeing all there was to see: the entrance tunnel, garages, infield, VIP boxes, pre-race driver’s meeting room, and cars racing round the track with those who wished to go FAST in real race cars (The Richard Petty Racing Experience).  The cost for those special laps around the famous track was $500-$2200!  We thought we might just save that for another day!

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Here we are in Winner’s Circle, where all the glory takes place.  Fun!!!  The beach shot is Daytona Beach, where NASCAR racing began!

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We’ve stopped at a number of very old sugar cane mills all over Florida. They operated around the clock, regardless of the weather, were quite ingenuous, and all were done with slave labor.  It was grueling work, especially the hand ladling from cauldron to cauldron till cooked hot enough to become “sirup” and the molasses drained off.  Sugar, syrup, and molasses (sold for rum making) were the products of this labor-intensive and profitable endeavor.

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In St Mary’s, Georgia, we discovered we were staying next door to the very large King’s Bay Submarine Base. No tours available, but the entrance gate was worth stopping for.  It is a replica built with earth, covered with gunnite, and the neat thing is the sail.  It is the real deal, from the USS George Bancroft, the fourth vessel named for the former Secretary of the Navy (during1800’s). This last bit of info is from our ex-submariner, son, Dean! Veterans from this sub did all the work for this great entry.

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While here in St Mary’s, GA, we boarded a ferry to visit Cumberland Island Nat’l Seashore.  This was the island on which the Carnegie’s of Pittsburgh Steel fame had their winter home. That home, which was named Dungeness and over 37,000 sq ft, is no longer there, just ruins left from a fire. The home below with the Georgian columns was built as a wedding gift for one of their daughters. It was a mere 22,000 so ft, and fun to tour.  The little building above is the African Methodist Church built in 1800’s, and it’s claim to fame is being the place John Kennedy Jr chose to marry his bride.  He often vacationed on the island while growing up.  The last picture is of the Country Club on Jekyll Island, the island north of Cumberland Island.  It was the playground for the rich & famous of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  (J P Morgan, Rockefeller Sr, Goodyear, to name a few).  The private old stately winter homes there are really something to see.  The people in the last picture are guests there today, playing afternoon croquet, and all dressed in white!  

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Hope you all are not worn out by our long blog! We hope to check in with you all a bit sooner from now on.  Sending ‘hello’s’  and hugs to all of you, We think of each of you often.  Mom and Dad/ Don and Gail