Friday, November 23, 2012

World's Weirdest Turkey Day

Normally my wife and I load a covered dish into the car, push Cheyenne into the back then the wife brushes down my shirt front to clear any latent crumbs and we climb into the car, the three of us, and go visit some friend or neighbor for an afternoon of light conversation and heavy eating. This year we drove to St Augustine and camped in a La Quinta hotel. Brilliant! Turkey Day started and ended in a diner. Double Brilliant!!

We spent Wednesday in Naples at the Carmax exchanging our 2007 Ford Fusion with 95,000 miles for a 2010 Ford Fusion with 8,000 miles. I love Carmax if I have to buy a car and the day went smoothly with a quick road test of a Fiat 500 Sport - enormous fun but too small for Cheyenne in the back, and a Volkswagen Eos Turbo. That's a fabulous car with no trunk left after you fold the metal roof into it and Cheyenne would have hated the lumpy bucket seats in the back. I loved how the car drove and handled and my wife loved the metal convertible roof. So the sensible Fusion it was, and don't be fooled it's quite luxurious with excellent gas mileage. I have grown very fond of modern Fords and the Fusion in particular. The Carmax employees stared with their jaws dragging as we swiftly and efficiently transferred Cheyenne's travel requirements from the red Ford to the silver Fusion. A new kennel and a happy dog. We took off for St Augustine at six in the evening.

It was a long drive which ended at midnight when we had a snack of edamame hummus from the Naples Trader Joe's, weird but delicious with cheese it turns out and extra delicious with lots of red wine. We slept till ten thirty Thursday morning. As one does. Breakfast was lunch and my wife had the best corned beef hash she'd ever had while I had a chicken fried steak. I had forgotten how good a greasy breakfast can be, working nights as I do I skip cooked breakfasts these days.

My wife was in charge of the schedule Friday while I was in charge of Thursday, the national day of widespread, unforgiving closures. I settled for breakfast followed by a brisk downtown walk in The Nation's Oldest City, a place filled with photo opportunities. Starting with a picture of the lot which used to hold North America's first hospital.

Then quantities of absurdly picturesque streets and houses. Note the total a sense of bums, alcoholics and piss stains on the walls.

And a statue of this rather swishy character, hand on hip knee bent slightly, lookslike the world's oldest poof, actually called a Ponce by Anglos. His proper name is ponsay de Leon because his first name has an accent on the e. He was the first Spamiard to show up around here.

We finished the walk and took off up the barrier islands on Forida Highway A1A, know. As South Roosevelt Boulevard in distant Key West. The barrier island is surprisingly well preserved as wilderness north of St Augustine.

We found a parking lot allowing passing vehicles to stop a d their occupants to get out and walk. I was the days's scheduler and I decreed a close up view of the massive waves pushed ashore by the north winds.

No beaches like these in the Florida Keys. Nor is it as cold happily, further south. We met a candle maker from Georgia looking for sea shells to use in her candles. She liked Cheyenne which is no surprise as everyone likes Cheyenne.

We drove an hour north to Mayport wherein lies the endangered St John's River ferry which was sold as part of a profitable port operation by the city of Mayport to a private corporation which has decided to close the ferry critical for locals to cross the river. The city and state has agreed to subsidize the incompetent private corporation to keep the ferry running for now. As usual, government to the rescue!

We paid six bucks for our car to ride while motorcycles pay five and pedestrians and cyclists pay a buck each for the five minute ride. The ferry crosses the river every fifteen minutes. Very cool. Thank you government.

We, that is I, had decided to visit the northernmost state park (thank you government) in Florida, Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. It's very different in some respects to Fort Zachary the southernmost park with which I am of course, very familiar.

The Park ranger at the gate was very cheerful, lying about a cop being in the park so we should check our speeds, then he spotted Cheyenne asking "You ride that thing?" before he slipped my hundred pound Labrador a cookie. The difference between the southern and northern parks was the flora, panfish moss on live oaks, and the fauna, squirrels which Cheyenne ignored.

What is familiar between the northernmost and southernmost parks is the human structure, a brick fort, (closed to dogs). This one was built overlooking the water during the Civil War to protect the entrance to St Mary's Rver and Cumberland Sound.

 

The entrance over a dry moat with drawbridge and granite lintel looked identical if smaller than similar at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.

 

The Confederates held the fort briefly but the Union got it back and moved the confederate blockade runners off the river.

It has elements from Fort Jefferson, the dry most and the drawbridge, the canon, here on their original mountings, and the big grassy parade ground with buildings scattered around.

Life in the fort is well preserved with traces of daily living shown off in the jail the quartermaster's stores and the gruesome beds. We tried laying down on the straw mattress and wondered how anyone could sleep on such a stiff lumpy apology for a bed.

 

It was a great place to wander and think about the past. We were left much to ourselves and we took advantage to see everything. There was one docent disguised as an 1864 corporal who showed us the jail and mentioned that President Lincoln started Thanksgiving in 1863, by decree. Thank you government.

Fort Clinch was a blast, highly recommended but we had to drive south and look for dinner on a day when everything is closed. I guess Turkey Day is the day for diners for we found another after we took the ferry back across the St John's river, well after dark.

We happened to be at the front of the boat for the 6:15 ferry south and it was like flying as the boat went gliding across the black water. All too soon we arrived at the ramp.

It was in Jacksonville Beach that we passed the only appealing restaurant that was open, and there weren't too terribly many that were open at all. Even Dominos was closed. This was the traditional pig out meal, cream of turkey soup, Greek salad roast lamb and rice pudding washed down with Stella Artois. I don't know where all the Greek influence comes from on the First Coast but Greek influenced food is everywhere up here. The Mediterranean influence was also visible in the diner where the family publicly took a corner and started a poker game. Very cool.

And so home to bed, stuffed and cold in the fifty degree night. Our last stop, and it was a stop only in a manner of speaking because for us it was too cold to get out of the car. St Augustine is famous for its Christmas lights.

A worthwhile day, perhaps my best Thanksgiving in a while because I do enjoy being unconventional. And I never once wore my pink Crocs.

 

All pictures taken with my Android phone and uploaded to picasa with a couple of failures (weird lines and the like. I used two not terrible failures in the essay)and published here using Blogsy. An experiment because according to Blogsy's developer his application hates Canon cameras for reasons unknown. Quelle pain in the derrière.