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A visit to Saint Augustine, Florida

Was I Looking For Adventure?

I opened my eyes on a Saturday morning with the rhythm of the Pacific ocean in the back of my mind. Seagulls were peeking through the shutters as if saying: “Come on, wake up, it's time to go!”

I practically jumped off my bed, took a short shower, got dressed while through the radio speakers “some guy” was singing “On The Road Again”... My bags were already in the trunk and my camera in the glove compartment so the only thing left was to turn on the engine.

I took Freeway 5 South from Carlsbad, then Freeway 8 East which meets Interstate 10. Once on 10 you are off to new adventures until you reach Florida. I drove 2500 miles with no GPS or other smart devices. THAT'S an adventure!

Although people were seeing only a woman in the car, driving, I was not alone. The passenger' seats were full of memories of my parents visiting me in CA from Europe , sharing with them the beauties of the US...even my sixteen year old Dachshund, Oscar, was still in his, now, empty seat....

Interstate 10 takes you all through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and, finally, Florida. I saw dramatic skies with clouds sleeping on flat “tables” of Arizona red mountains, I took pictures of the Wild, Wild West and imagined I was one of those cowboys in those black and white movies of my childhood. I experienced that optical illusion in the desert called Mirage when driving on those loooong and boring stretches of road at 80 miles per hour and seeing the big eighteen wheelers just disappear as the end of the road was shivering into a combination of water and sky ... That's a real Mirage! I did notice , even from the speed of the car, the desert in Spring...Life does find its way. Seemingly sterile cacti were showing the travelers that they were alive and especially in multicolored bloom.

“But enough of the desert”, whispered Breeze....”Welcome to Louisiana”....all along the freeway, yes, still Interstate 10, a happy green was coloring the landscape... I felt alive, refreshed with a tendency of smiling...and you know what? ….people and nature were all smiling back at me all along this trip...I fed birds in all the states I have passed through and I felt good. about it. And, by the way, there was a kind of “mouthy” bird that would keep on scolding everyone at the gas station....until I gave it some food.

I drove over beautiful and impressive bridges, tunnels which gave me chills, as if driving towards the dark unknown but, yet, hoping for the glimpse of light.

“Welcome to Florida” - the sign awakened my interest as a wide gate like bridge, the water, sky, and sun invited me in from the Northeastern side of the state. Yes! Still on Interstate 10 until Jacksonville and then on the 95 South towards Daytona Beach.

What impressed me, as a driver, was the good quality of the freeways, especially going South., on the 95.

It was dark when I arrived at the hotel but, after checking in, I went outside to put my tired accelerator and break feet into the Atlantic ocean for the very first time and it felt good.... The next day I opened the curtains and saw the long stretch of beach, the row of hotels and condos (probably vacation rentals). Along the streets there were many small restaurants, bars, entertainment spots, and many, many little and beautiful parks next to the rusty and tan colored beaches where long fishing lines were stuck in the sand upwards.

I jumped in the car and headed up north until I saw an interesting sign.

Saint Augustine is not only a place for tourists but also a historic spot. Fifty-four miles away from Daytona Beach, Saint Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and it is port in the continental US. The city was founded in 1565 and was the capital of Spanish Florida for two hundred years and it remained the capital until Tallahassee became the new one in 1824. So I found out...

Approaching the city I had to stop and wait in a relatively long line of cars.

Seeing my facial expression the bike rider next to me smiled and explained that whenever a ship or boat navigates in or out they have to raise the bridge. Each and every time a boat has to move, all the cars need to wait so they can get into the town.

The view of the blue waters and yachts when crossing that bridge was breathtaking and the horse-and- carriages waiting on the other side were already making me curious about the place.

I saw the large ruins of a fort, and then entered into the First Catholic Church in North America, an impressive and tall Holy place.

The narrow streets were packed with tourists getting in and out little dwellings satisfied with their souvenirs , and also there were some very “hot” Conquistadors and First Explorers posing with the people there. :)

A huge “Boom !!!” startled everyone. After a while another one. They were firing the (maybe original) small canons but they certainly were loud! That scary noise turned into a festival of authentic Spanish music. While approaching it I could hear and feel the rhythm of the Spanish dancing. A big sign above the crowds was saying: “ Ponce de Leon – The 500 Anniversary Celebration”. Who was this guy? Juan Ponce de Leon (1474 - 1521) a Spanish explorer and conquistador led the first European expedition and named the place FLORIDA. He is associated with the Legend of Youth, which is thought to be this state. He was also appointed Governor of Puerto Rico.

On a stage Spanish women in beautiful range of bright colored dresses were spreading that rhythm and feeling of pride of the Spaniards, the pride that has been passed on from generation to generation.

.

By 6:00 PM I was exhausted with excitement. I jumped into my car and while heading to my hotel in Daytona Beach ugly and threatening clouds started hovering above me. The Atlantic became furious along the way and, later on, while in my room, I found out that the northern part of Florida was in the “Red Zone” in the threat of a hurricane.

I closed the curtains tightly and while lost in a King-size bed too big for me I was thinking how much I was missing my home and my Pacific ocean. Although we all are interconnected somehow by oceans and by land each of us has in their heart a place they call home....and mine is California...


















by: Iolanda Scripca    5/7/2013


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