Monday was also milestone day for me. Plus, since we were all together, my children surprised me with dinner at a St. Augustine restaurant to celebrate my retirement.
Here are a few photos as we headed up A1A.
There's not a lot to see. Just some strip shopping centers and restaurants.
Up ahead is the St. Augustine lighthouse. It's been active since 1874.
Next, we passed the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, owned by cousins of my grandmother many years ago.
The park began in 1893 on St. Augustine Beach as a minor attraction at the end of a railway running through neighboring Anastasia Island. The alligators were added at first to get visitors to buy souvenirs and see the museum there. Soon the reptiles themselves became the main point of interest.
Growing in popularity, the park moved to its current location in the early 1920s. The park changed owners in the 1930s, and after a devastating fire, they started reconstruction and expansion of the facilities. In 1993, for their 100-year anniversary, the park became the first place in the world to display every species of crocodilian.
As of 2012, this was the only place where one can see every species of alligator, crocodile, caiman, and gharial. Over the years the zoo has expanded to include exotic monkeys, birds and other reptiles. The bird collection alone boasts some species not often seen in other zoos, including hornbills, cassowary, marabou, Cape griffon vultures, and Pesquet's parrots. In 2008 the zoo opened a new Komodo dragon facility that also exhibits lizards and snakes found within the range of the saltwater crocodile.
Just wonderful! I have access to a big screen computer with excellent resolution, so have enjoyed this thread all over again. Love the new installments with the dazzling clarity of the photos and the extremely interesting narrative. I never knew gopher turtles lived in burrows! I guess I now at last know how they got their names. Your b&ws are total knock-outs! Mixing the family story into pictures & stories about St. Augustine really added to the beauty and interest of your report.
Thank you. We have some pretty nice beaches here in North Florida, don't you think?
I thought it might be interesting to share a few photos taken on the road to and from the beach (on several different trips). We traveled from Gainesville to Crescent Beach, which is represented on the weather map by the blue dot.
Anyone who has either grown up in Gainesville or attended the University of Florida knows the roads to the beach like the back of their own hand. Crescent is the closest beach to us, and is the unusual destination for weekend outings, spring break, and summer beach vacations. The roads there and back are mostly two-laned highways, sometimes widening to four. And the trip over is less than two hours. It's certainly very easy to take a day trip to the beach. (Anyone traveling to these beaches from the north or south can easily get there by Interstate 95 or US 1.)
Between Gainesville and the small town of Palatka the roads are a little hilly, passing mostly through sandy forests of pines and scrub oak. Upon reaching Palatka it all flattens out.
Palatka straddles the St. John's River, and you can see I'm just getting ready to cross the bridge in this photo.
What has always interested me is the farmland after Palatka where they grow mostly potatoes.
There is even a hamlet nearby called "Spuds."
I used to know the farm statistics for this area. It seems like they grew almost all the potatoes used by one major brand of potato chip company. Something like that.
Any forested areas at this point are usually planted loblolly pines that will be harvested in a few years before being replanted.
Then it seems like, all of a sudden, the Mantanzas River is before us.
We cross the river and have reached the beach.
One last look at the sunset from the top of the St. John's River bridge on the way back home.
Very recently my girlfriend in Miami and I talked about St. Augustine and our desire to visit there.
The beach there appears to be so pristine especially in contrast to the beaches further south down the coast. (save the motor vehicles being allowed to freely roam the shore. GRRRRR! The same occurs up on Long Island but only after Labor Day up until Memorial Day at the end of May).
I also love how few people there are roaming the seashore save the occasional jogger and walkers.
What a lovely place for a family reunion especially in light of your familial roots there.
I am totally surprised that there would be potato farms in that region. I would think that it would be too far South for them to thrive. It appears from the photos that harvest time was over.
(Just out of curiosity, what are those long sticks/poles that are in the pics of the swimming pool at the rental home?)
The long "stick/poles" are optical illusions. I was on an upper terrace taking photos across a plant bed. This "sticks" are the decorative grasses planted in the bed up on my level.
The beach is very pristine, and only a limited number of cars are allowed each day. They are also required to stay on a narrow track at the top of the beach. It's a big improvement over my college days, for sure.
Our potato growing season begins much earlier than those up north, to be sure. I've successfully grown potatoes here on a very small scale. I tried to plant near the end of our last frost period, and had several successful little crops.