Read From Beginning of COVID 2020-21 US Tour
Our time in NC had come to an end. And a good thing because it is getting cold here! Who would believe I was from Michigan? Amazing how fast you become accustomed to warmer weather. Our next stop is Flagler Beach FL. We were not specifically looking at that town, more a result of looking for the right lodging (price / accepts dogs / self-contained unit). So that last one kinda went out the window on this one. Up till know we were pretty isolated, but it is hard to find these small 1-bedroom cottages. Our place in FL would be part of a 9-unit, 2 story condo complex encircling a community pool.
It was a 6 hour drive down the coast through South Carolina and Georgia before dropping into Florida around Jacksonville. We took the long way from St Augustine by following A1A along the beach for the last hour. Flagler Beach is the beach town that has not changed much in the last 40 years. Nestled between the tourist traps of Daytona and Augustine, it has a slow-paced vibe. No high rise condos or resorts. The town is just a couple blocks of ice cream and surf shops with a few restaurants.
We got in around 3pm and Amy unloaded our stuff in our place on the second level while I convinced the care-taker to let me stuff the TW200 into a corner inside the complex. Not sure where I would have placed it otherwise as we were smack dab in town, steps from the beach and parking and open space was at a premium.
After hitting the grocery store, we considered driving the hour south to watch a space shuttle launch, but it had been a long day and we decided to try and watch from our place. It turned out, we were able to see it. Looked like a shooting star taking off from the horizon
A surreal experience that makes you feel small, considering there are 4 humans sitting on the top of that roman candle heading toward the international Space Station.
Was up early the next morning to catch sunrise on the beach
Flagler Beach’s claim to fame is its Pier.
Even though we were staying about 200 ft from it, we never actually stepped foot on it. Nor the Funky Pelican Restaurant attached to it. Thank you COVID! We had to keep our guard up around here. Similar to NC, people here were not too concerned with the virus, but at least they wore masks in the grocery stores.
The East side of FL is a little more blue collar compared to the paler shade on the sunset coast of Sarasota and Naples. Lots of Motorcycles and biker bars here. I think we would like a middle ground if possible but not complaining, except that during COVID it seems a little more lax with this clientele.
We walked over to the post office to see if I could get mail sent “General Delivery” but they were not having it, telling me I needed to buy a PO box. So we drove to another post office and they had no problem holding mail for me behind the counter.
Basically just my mail forwarded from my house back home and a few items through Amazon, but the above is my weekly routine of waiting in line to pick up packages. By the end of each stay, they were usually pretty tired of me.
We took Max to the beach that first day. The beach allows dogs 500 yards away from the pier area on both the North and South side.
He loves to run along the beach dipping into the surf to chase sandpiper birds and sea gulls. Occasionally he gets too aggressive with his attack angle and gets blasted with a wave. He kept this up until I experienced how strong the undertows and riptides were here, and also our neighbor told us dogs get sucked out every year. No more freestyling for Max.
We had the ocean on one side of our condo, and about 2 blocks the other way was the intercostal with an immense boardwalk preserve
We would walk the beach for sunrise and try and catch sunset in the preserve. The boardwalk was a sanctuary for all kinds of birds. Cranes, Herons, Hawks, Ducks, etc. Our first walk through we even saw deer roaming the mangroves.
Our neighbors in the condo were all very kind to us. Helping us with local information and inviting us to join them for conversation in the common area. Unfortunately we could not be as social as we would have liked. A couple, Allen and Amy, from Georgia were our new best friends and the caretakers and their young children enjoyed having Max around and he always appreciates the attention…unless it’s from us.
The next day we walked to the Golden Lion Café along A1A from fish sandwich lunch
After we loaded the bikes up and drove back over the Intercostal to ride the Lehigh bike trail. It was about 6 miles (12 miles total). There were signs to watch out for alligators, but we never did see one out here. Amy was on the lookout!
It was a perfect bike path. Unlike the ones in NC, this was shaded from buildings and roads. Much easier to relax and feel in touch with nature. Reminded us of one back home in Dexter MI.
After the ride, we drove A1A south through Flagler to the next town of Ormond Beach. The high rises here made us appreciate our spot even more. We circled back inland and stopped at Bulow SP.
Walking back to our condo our neighbor had put out his empties. We thought this must have been a year’s supply, but next recycle day we learned it was a weekly event and the picture I took was only half the next total.
Drove to a tire store the next day. I had a slow leak in one tire and was filling it up every 2 weeks at a gas station. It started to become more frequent so I took Discount Tire up on their Free tire repair. They found 2 screws in there. Someone must have been pissed at me for a past transgression. Since the Internet at the condo was slow (a work in progress) I sat in the tire waiting room doing some work. They fixed it too fast! I might have to come back here another day to try and get more computer stuff accomplished.
I had brought my mountain bike with me and decided to ride the Mala Compra trails. Trails here were a lot different from New England. Up there I complained about the uphills, down here it was all palm roots and technical junk. Can’t a guy just get a smooth rolling trail like Michigan? I guess with no hills down here they had to jazz in up with obstacles to keep things interesting. As a rule, when you turn 40, never do anything that has a Black Diamond attached to its name. Anyway, it wasn’t for me so after finishing (giving up) I changed out the knobbies for slicks so I could keep pace with amy on the paved trails
When I returned home, we headed out to Washington Oaks SP.
Seemed most of these parks were old plantations. Fruit or Sugar. We walked the property, but nothing too spectacular
We got back and took max to the beach
The wind was whipping. I was wondering if this was normal for the East coast of Florida. The other residents said it had been like this since Zeta came through. We saw the effects of that storm up in NC. It would go on for another week then start to calm down. You could not really lay on the beach because the wind just made it too cold.
I finally was making a little progress with the Internet. Really, I think the neighbor who was sharing the wifi with us was just cutting down on his porn searches. I had signed up for SCUBA diving classes while down here. Instead of spending a week in a classroom they let you do it all online and then just show up for a few dives to certify. The whole thing runs about $500 which is pretty good for the amount of direction, gear rental, and overall education you receive. I think most dive shops do it as a break-even in hopes that you will become a regular customer of theirs for gear, tank fills, and dive trips.
I had called a few local shops and found one that would accept my PADI online certification and then bolt on the 3 days of local diving to get the dive card. They wanted me to provide my own gear (except wetsuit) but I convinced them to let me rent most of it and bought a $20 mask on amazon.
Anyway, I bring all this up because I had 4-5 hours of online learning to complete in the next week before meeting the instructors for the hands-on portion. It was frustrating finding a spot where I got service long enough to load pages, watch videos and take quizzes before it all crashed and I had to restart from the beginning. I was trying not to just click through everything, rather actually digest information as I figured it would not be ideal swimming along at 60ft below the surface with a faulty respirator trying to indicate to my instructor that, “Im sorry, but I really didn’t pay attention during the online courses…see my Internet was bad”. I am not sure I remembered the hand signal for that message.
The next day we went to the ruins of an old sugar plantation
Each town had one. It was an interesting process on how they went from sugar cane to refined sugar and the various byproducts like molasses. Most of this plantations suffered a similar fate. Rich white settlers came in and built up the area in the late 1700s through slave labor. Then the native Americans(Seminoles), got tired of getting forced into a smaller and smaller box and torched the plantations. Then the military came in and permanently sent the natives packing. Can read more about it here in the Seminole Wars
A happy little side of American History