29/11/16. We have reached St Augustine where we turn west towards Houston having spent two nights with a lovely WarmShowers family – firstly with Joy & Howard Montgomery in Ormond Beach (just north of Daytona) and then with Joy’s daughter Abby & Mike about 20 km south of here.
While with Joy & Howard, Christine went to church with their 91 year old neighbour, Jim, while Stephen borrowed one of Howard’s road bikes to go for an early morning ride with Joy. Howard came with us for the first section before turning off to ride with his usual group of friends. Stephen accompanied Joy not out of gallantry but because he didn’t want to slow the “big boys” down! Initially Stephen kept up the pace that Howard had being setting but he was mighty glad when Joy took over in front and slowed the pace a little as he was about to expire!
Christine’s church service with Jim was a much more friendly affair than the previous week and she came away with a welcome pack of goodies, including a couple of sweets.
By the time Christine returned from church and had brunch it was almost midday as we set off, so we were a little unsure if we would make it to Joy’s condo where Abby & Mike live as it was about 65 km so we left things a bit vague regarding whether we would stay with Abby and Mike.
The first part of the route followed that which Joy had shown Stephen earlier and was simply glorious through lovely state parks with views of wooded areas and mangrove swamps. We then rejoined the A1A alongside the beach where we were fortunate that the strong breeze that was blowing was coming straight off the Atlantic making it a sidewind rather than being in our faces.
About 4 o’clock we came to a campsite on the beach and decided to try it. The lady proudly told us that there was room and was a little surprised when we declined the opportunity to pay $70 + tax for the privilege!
We pressed on and, as we passed a mountain bike trail centre, a car pulled alongside and asked if we were with WarmShowers. It was Abby and Mike who had just finished a ride and were heading to the grocery store. What a coincidence! A minute earlier or later and we would have missed each other.
We reached the condo just before the sun set and were pretty exhausted, Stephen having done a total of 70 miles in two sessions and Christine having ridden at a faster pace than she finds comfortable. Abby and Mike cooked us a lovely meal with three kinds of fresh fish (they are both keen anglers) and we had a good chat getting to know them a little before falling into bed at about 8 o’clock.
Monday was a much easier and shorter ride to a campsite in the Anastasia State Park on the edge of St Augustine. When checking in we were a little disconcerted to be told that we must keep to the recognised paths and roads as there are two sorts of venomous snakes in the park. Also food has to be hung from posts as the raccoons are always hungry and,” while the polite ones will unzip the tent, the rude ones will gnaw straight through”!
Today (Tuesday), we have walked into St Augustine itself for a look round the first city established in the US by Europeans (the Spanish in 1565). We had heard that it is lovely and worth a visit. We were not misinformed. There are some genuinely old buildings, even by European standards, and narrow cobbled streets. We have also been impressed by two former hotels built in the late 19th century by Henry Flagler (a tycoon from the same era as Rockefeller). One of these is now used by the city council and houses a museum while the other is part of Flagler College. The latter has a courtyard and an entrance hall that have a very similar feel to the quad of an Oxford college – most impressive.
We will be staying in town until after dark as everybody tells us that the Christmas lights are worth a look.