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The First Road Trip – Miami to New York Part 1

I’ve always had a Jack  Kerouac dream to be On The Road or is it a Jack Nicholson fantasy to be Easy Rider.  There was a motorcycle and leather jacket prominant in the vision  but in reality, at age 60, there is only a leather jacket and a compact rental car.

We’re off and running!!

David rented a car for 10 days from Hertz.  By joining the Gold Club, for free, there are benefits and they do not charge a drop off premium to pick up at one location and drop off at another.  This is critical because most rental companies do.  They give additional discounts to members of AARP and other groups like COSCO and additionally do not charge for a second driver.

We began driving out of Miami and decided to stick to the scenic A1A highway.  These are our stopping points and highlights:

Jupiter Florida

Home of the Roger Dean Stadium/Spring Training Exhibition Baseball Games. 

David is a general baseball enthusiast.  new-mobile-headerHe can name statistics of baseball players going back to when he was 7 years old, get him together with his peers who also love to do that, BORING!. I like baseball but in the girly sense.  A north sider, Chicago Cubs fan, I used to go to games regularly back in the 70’s.  It was mostly a social experience and even though it was fun, I didn’t feel the exhilaration of cheering and fan adoration until the Cubs won the playoffs and World Series this past year.  But Jupiter is exciting, even far from boring.  Tickets to the games can start as low as $14, parking is $10, there are endless food choices and the games move really quickly (somehow they time the innings and the game moves quicker that Major League seasonal games).  We saw a Mets/Marlin game and it was so much fun. 

Ormond Beach

Stopped for dinner.  The beach is lovely and romantic, nice for a sunset walk.  Much more relaxing than the very crowded beaches. 

St. Augustine

The oldest city in the US on the northeast coast of Florida and it is known for its Spanish colonial architecture. 

St Augustine

St Augustine

Our final Florida destination of the day.  We arrived at nightfall. Total driving the first day: 4.5 hours with breaks for baseball, dinner and a walk along the shore.  First nights rest choice: Hampton Inns (turns out that we stayed in Hamptons for many of our road stops).   

We awoke in the morning ready to explore the tourist site that is the number one draw for tourists in northern Florida.  We had coffee and breakfast (included) in the hotel.  Huge selection of breakfast choices from different coffees, choice of cereals, hard boiled eggs, bagels and different grain breads and spreads. 

Energized, we set off on the St. Augustine main street to explore and sightsee.  The best part about St. Augustine is the Distillery.  They give free tours and free tastings.  You can join when you arrive without a reservation.  Well worth the visit. 

I would like to be positive about the city but the best I can do is say that maybe it is fun for young children with an imagination because it is all very kitschy, dressed up and pretentious. 

The “Fountain of Youth” is actually water from a well, not a spring. There’s just paved walking areas from one mediocre exhibit to another. It’s mainly outdoor plaques set up to read. There’s a planetarium that wasn’t very interesting, and there is no history of Ponce de Leon at all, only a brief presentation about navigating by the stars.   Very hyped up and touristy.

Even though I did not find St. Augustine a great stop I learned a valuable road trip lesson;  blase, We just got into the car and left!  THE BEAUTY OF THE ROAD TRIP! 

BTW, when you check out of Hampton Inn they provide brown bags to go with fruit, pastry and a water bottle. 

A1A St. Augustine to Amelia Island

The trip from S. Augustine along the coast, right up against the beach line to Fernandina Beach by way of Amelia Island is truly stunning. 

Amelia Island

Amelia Island

Enjoy the solitude of this quiet shoreline which does its best to keep you close to the shore although rows of homes and hedges may limit your view here and there.  Mile after mile, you can ride and enjoy the sights where the Atlantic Ocean meets the sands of the Sunshine State. You will pass Vilano Beach and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is a 73,000-acre sanctuary for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and birdwatching.  For many miles opposite the reserve, you’ll find beach houses, some ostentatiously grand and hidden behind walls of foliage, others small, rustic and open. You will drive by the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel of Amelia Island, drive in either to see, have a cup of coffee or a cold drink. 

A must do along the way:  Turn on the radio and get down to the tunes on country music stations.  The music lends an authenticity to the drive and the stations play almost non-stop melodies. 

St. Johns River Ferry

St. Johns River Ferry

All of a sudden, at the end of A1A out of Amelia Island, the road ends and you will see that there is no way forward, but a waterway. Board the St. Johns River Ferry with your car. It is a car and passenger ferry that connects the north and south ends of Florida State Road A1A in Duval County, linking Mayport Village and Fort George Island via this pleasant sail across the St. Johns River. 

St. Johns River Ferry

On St. Johns River Ferry

The 0.9 mile voyage takes about half hour from river’s mouth to about 2.5 miles inland.  It departs every half hour.  The ride is exhilarating and scenic.

Savannah, Georgia

Driving into Savannah, Georgia, especially on a trip from south to north, is a porthole into the culture and style of the south and the first taste of the history of the American civil war, reconstruction and southern plantation life.  Savannah is so special, charming and romantic that I feel one needs to prepare for the experience.  The epic movie,

Savannah

Savannah

Gone with the Wind is THE must see film about the south, but by today’s standards of film, flashy and kinetic, this one is slow, almost boring however, historically it triggered changes the way African-Americans are depicted cinematically.  Most reviewers at the time called it dramatically lacking and bloated but I still think it will help put you in the southern “mood”  Additionally I recommend three other media experiences to prepare you for your initiation to the “South”.

  1. Read the book, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
  2. Read the book,  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (there is a movie by the same name).
  3. Rewatch the movie Forrest Gump.

I highly recommend the following highlights:

  1. Walking tours of the historical district of Savannah. 
    Mikve Israel Synagogue Savannah

    Mikve Israel Synagogue Savannah

    We did the Historical Walking Tour of Savannah that lasts approximately 2 hours.  The group is small and intimate, the guide is knowledgeable and friendly and the pace relaxed and it covers all the highlights of the historical district. 

  2. The Mikve Israel Temple tour is a must.  It is one of the three oldest synagogues in America.  The gothic stained glass are more like a beautiful cathedral than a synagogue and the museum is very informative about the Jewish History of the south and fleeing religious persecution to the new land.  
  3. Do a tour of one of the historical mansions, the best is Mercer Williams House Museum.  SO WORTH IT!

Coming up next: blog Charleston, SC to Washington D.C.

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