...we just had to see what all the fuss was about. When someone says 'Tourist Trap', they are referring to this place. The $1/bag fruit was moldy, most of the goods were dusty, the salesmen reminded me of used car salesmen in the old days.... but the size of that sign was cool.

Tackled a 50 mile drive to St Augustine after about a dozen people insisted that we must see it if we were this close…and it was on the way North-  so we headed for the oldest city in America.  While driving we passed by at least 8 highway billboards that were black, orange and brilliant yellow that advertised a fruit and nut stand ahead of us that offered $1 bags of oranges! We stopped. There were 2 or 3 moldy oranges in a clear plastic bag. Otherwise it was $8 or 16 for oranges that were edible- not such a good deal either. Neat (because it was) HUGE sign though. You’d think that since they had us there, they might try to impress our money out of our wallets? Nope. Dirty salesmen were eating greasy lunch right over the top of the fruit and food products for sale and commented that 2 of the stores under the orange and yellow billboards (one on each side of the highway) were owned by the same guy. You could say our stop here was - fruitless.

Henry spotted the crabs that had settled the shoreline en masse. Past the bridge: the cemetery and tallest cross in the world.

Arrived in St Augustine and parked the bus at Beals, drove a little further to Our Lady of La Leche shrine. Biggest cross in the world (?) 208’ tall, surrounded with an authentic old cemetery. Henry spotted a bunch of little crabs along the shoreline running in and out of their holes which was good for about 20 minutes of entertainment- like the ground was moving. Drove through town into busy Sunday traffic, and decided to stay until tomorrow to try to avoid the weekend crowds.

As if she had a handle on this 208' cross standing at the edge of the water.

Funny thing about this week- the National Parks are free. Right, free admission just a few days after the government smarties planned to close the National Parks due to a lack of money. The park ranger did not take my comedic attempt at that topic very well, as he started into an explanation about how the fee free week had been planned a long time ago and etc etc… I guess he’d heard the comments before? It just reinforces the lack of common sense on the part of those folks in charge.

Standing on the drawbridge that was the only way in or out of this ancient fort.

We sure enjoyed looking around Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and hearing the story about this location hosting so much triumph and strife- another opportunity to contemplate the greatness of being in the same spot that history had occurred in, in so many ways. We like using an historical photo and placing ourselves on the same spot. Easy to see yourself in history at this place, since not much had changed in hundreds of years. Ran into a peppy Park Ranger on the way out that called our attention to the availability of the Federal Land Access Pass, available to any resident that had a permanent disability- he noticed that Henry and Simon were missing arms. His intentions were pure, his tact was reasonable, and we didn’t know about this perk of being one armed, so we’ll be checking into that someday. Currently, we’re traveling with the ‘America the Beautiful’ National Parks and federal recreational land use pass. Issued by the National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation the pass costs $80 and pays for itself very quickly. On a trip like this, it’s one of the first things you should consider investing in.

They could always recommission this old fort if they wanted to take a stand against the tourists... The walls are 9' thick at the top, and over 13' thick at the base- no wonder it's survived so long. The fort is wisely constructed out of coquina, an incompletely consolidated sedimentary rock- found only along this coastline! This material was superior for use during the cannonball days of attack: when fired upon, the cannon balls would be absorbed into the wall because of its loose but sturdy composure. During the night, the troops in the fort would fill the holes, and the attacking troops would confused by the mysterious ability of the walls to repair themselves? (ranger information)

One of the top sellers in the 'Oldest School House' gift shop were the assortment of paddles, modeled after the attitude adjusters of the old days. That's right kiddies, teachers used to paddle students that were unruly. There were interestingly no gangs or persistently unruly kids in 'those' days. Consequences were swift and effective.

We managed to avoid the gridlock by staying past the weekend although there are still a lot of families on spring break- and here we encountered a lot of foreign language visitors. We dropped into the historic (albeit touristy) commercial district adjacent to the fort, and came across some surprises including the oldest wooden school building in America! We also encountered a trio that either entertained or scared us as they hung out in an alley- with snakes around their necks, and a crowd forming, and our kids trying to touch the reptiles (we have experience with reptiles you may recall).

We were fortunate to witness our first drawbridge opening on the 84 year old Bridge of Lions. I'll bet the novelty of a drawbridge wears off quickly if you live in the area.

The pictures tell a lot, but I’ll call your attention to the finer points of this trio. If it turns out that they are legitimate, I apologize for anything that comes across negatively, but I’d recommend they get on the horn with their PR department about a week ago. Where do I start? They were wearing shirts that said REPTILE RESCUE, but no organization name. Without officially stereotyping them, they looked suspicious. You might say it was their location (alley without a table or sign), the girls hat (pot leaf behind a skeleton hand giving the middle finger) or their rescue plan (get the snakes out of the hands of incompetent owners, then breed them and sell the babies to pet stores). They did have a digital camera and would accept a donation to take a picture of you with their snakes. You might consider your own safety before letting these folks set one of their tame snakes around your neck for a photo. (!) They were gone when we returned the way we had come, just 30 minutes later. You have to give them props for being creative about taking the tourists money though! Cost of shirts, Polaroid camera and you’d be in business. Oh yeah, you’d have to bring your pet snake and answer questions intelligently.

The picture tells so much in this story. Remember to enlarge a photo, right click it then select 'view image'. Their shirts read "REPTILE RESCUE Help stop the dumping of unwanted wildlife in Florida's woodlands".

Back at the bus, a man had pulled in, in a box truck that could have passed for a delivery vehicle, but had some telltale signs of habitation: high slider windows in the box, translucent roof, extra stuff tied on the back that wasn’t delivery/work related, cab full o’ stuff (maps, living goods). Sure enough, about an hour after we got back to our vehicle for habitation, a Chinese man emerged with a Gatorade bottle and proceeded to dump it in the nearby grass (emptying his toilet)- then was digging around under the back door he had rolled up part way.

We were discussing traveling across the country. Kind of. Communicating without a common language is comical. Meila was standing with me, then pulled back to get this photo. Good job, Meila.

Couldn’t pass up this opportunity to talk, so I found out: he was from California, an artist, traveling the country painting and creating, then selling his work. I tried to discuss him teaching an impromptu art class or two, but his English wasn’t sufficient to cover my shortage of Chinese words so we could discuss it (I know about 5 Chinese words). So, we went our separate ways- he was headed to Walmart, and we were staying in this posh parking lot one more night. During the course of this entire trip, we have truly run into some interesting stuff that we would have missed if we were always in RV parks. A lot happens in parking lots at night- we’ve witnessed vandalism, heavy lovin’, arguments and candid conversations directly below our windows about- us. I personally prefer staying in parking lots.

Typical parking lot stay looks like this- and the bus is nearly invisible under cover of darkness! Works best to park facing East, into the morning sun so the side windows won't take direct sun during the day, and the hot afternoon sun will be on the back of the bus, where the least amount of heat will make it inside.

It’s late in the day, so we’ll depart for Jacksonville in the morning, to see the place where they build robots for the scary dark rides and animatronics at amusement parks.