Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tons (literally) of manatees

Since we had turned in early on Saturday night, we awoke early at the Days Inn in Deltona.  Although we hadn’t taken breakfast or showered, we left for Blue Springs State Park before 7:30.  The park was a short drive from our motel but was closed the evening before because of the number of guests.  State parks in Florida close when all of the parking spaces have been taken and only reopen when adequate parking is available.  
We were second in line to enter the park and paid our entry fee of $6 per car to enter the grounds. We walked along the boardwalk and saw increasing numbers of manatees as we neared the stream’s source, Blue Spring.  The large spring puts out over 100 million gallons of water at 72 degrees all year.  In winter, the manatees swim up the St. Johns River over 150 miles to the warm spring.  The manatees stay at the warm spring during the night then venture out into the river to feed each day but may return to the warmth of the spring as desired each day.  
There were close to 300 of the manatees there today ranging from 3000 pound adults to young manatees with their mothers.  We enjoyed walking along the spring and the runoff water watching the manatees in the clear water.  Since the spring water came from underground, it is very lacking in oxygen which is not a problem of the air breathing mammals like manatees.  The only fish that we saw in the stream and spring were those who are tolerant of low oxygen levels like gar, topminnows and the invasive tilapia and carp. 
We spent over an hour at the spring watching the manatees swimming until our hunger and need to shower overcame us so we drove back to our motel.  The temperatures were up into the mid 70s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It would be impossible to imagine a more beautiful day.  It was tempting to stay out in the beautiful Florida weather but we needed to check out of our room by 11 am.  We spent the morning packing and preparing for our return back home.  We finished our cereal that we purchased earlier at Publix in Holly Hill then packed our bags to fly back home.
We took the short drive to Sanford as we made our way to the airport.  As we were driving we saw a hawk flying low just over the height of our rental car.  Turned out that the hawk had a large live snake in its talons and the snake was still writhing as the hawk flew away.  It was quite a site but since the cameras were already put away we were unable to get a snapshot.
drove to Sanford and spent some time at the Riverwalk where we read the signs on the history of the area as a citrus and vegetable farming area.   We learned a great deal about how the exceptionally cold winters in the late 1800s caused the orange trees to die.  After that, the area grew celery very successfully.  As we walked along the riverwalk, we found a few geocaches and took advantage of the sunshine.  We were surprised to notice that the redbud trees there were already in bloom in mid January.  Redbud trees in our area don’t typically bloom until mid April.  Although the temperatures were in the mid 70s, the wind off the river was sharp.  We cut our walk short because of the wind and drove to a nearby Subway for lunch were we split a meatball sub.  Along the way to the airport, we topped off the tank of the rental car with $1.99 gas.
Although we were early, we drove to the Sanford Airport and turned in the Nissan Sentra rental car.  The Sentra was a good choice for us this week.  The car was large enough to accommodate our needs but small enough to get great fuel economy.  The weekly rate on the car was quite affordable as well.
We had no trouble at checking since our bag was slightly under the weight limit at 39 pounds.  We sat with a couple at the terminal who sat on the airplane behind us last week.  They enjoyed their time at Cocoa Beach.  Our flight left on time at 4 pm and we arrived at Huntington Tri-State Airport before 6 pm.  We got our bag from the carousal and drove home to get ready for the coming week.

As with our prior Florida trips in January, this one was interesting and relaxing,  We saw from beautiful areas and learned about the history of the region.  It would be difficult to say which part of the state we found to be the better visit.  Each region has merits in their own right.  We hope that we can get low cost airfare to Punta Gorda next winter and seeing some of the Gulf Coast that is south of Tampa Bay then perhaps going east into the Everglades area.  We have some time to plan for that trip in 2016.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ocala National Forest

After checking out of our room at Daytona Beach, we drove inland to De Leon Springs State Park.  This park was a popular vacation site in the 1950s and 60s.  The main attraction of the park is a spring that puts out a huge volume of water that forms a small pond flowing into a river.  Today the spring is popular with SCUBA classes and locals wanting to cool off in the water.  However, 50 years ago there were a number of attractions there including a water skiing elephant!  It would be difficult to imagine an elephant on skis in the small pond but we saw the pictures at the small visitor center.  Another popular attraction is the old sugar mill where sugar cane was converted to sugar back in the early 1800s.  Today, the mill houses a popular restaurant where guests can make their own pancakes all day. 
Many locals come there for breakfast throughout the day.  Since we had just eaten breakfast of cold cereal back at the motel, we didn’t stay for breakfast.  We did chat with some divers who were there for a certification class.  The main part of the spring is very funnel shaped and not large at all.  However, the spring has a cave at the bottom where divers can go nearly 200 feet back along the underground stream.  There were also a few nature trails where we walked through wetland areas and saw cypress swamps and forested areas.
We headed out from there toward Ocala National Forest.  This forest is a huge expanse of land that includes prairie, pine forest, wetland, scrub and lakes.  We drove out many of the smooth sand roads to several trailheads and walked around some of the short trails.  There were a number of places where camping is permitted and many people came and put their canoes and kayaks in the river.  It was a very pretty area. 
We came back toward Orange City were we have a room at the Days Inn.  This is an older style roadside motel with three sections of one story rooms arranged in a U shape with parking in the center.  We were pleasantly surprised that the rooms had been recently updated and were very large.  We have a bedroom with a king sized bed and a small dining area with a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and table.  Perhaps the best part of our room is that it was free.  We had a number of points through Wyndham Rewards and used some to get the room tonight for free.
After resting for a bit, we drove to Gemini Springs Park, a small Volusia County park that offers canoe and kayak rental, soccer fields, and hiking paths.  People where there picnicking, flying radio controlled airplanes, bicycling, and playing.  We found a few geocaches in the park as we walked around and stayed until the park was closing at 5:30. 
On the recommendation of the motel desk clerk, we drove to Brian’s Bar-B-Q.  Turns out that it was an excellent choice.  Mary ordered the brisket and I had the smoked turkey.  We both ordered cheesy bacon grits and cole slaw on the side.  We swapped half of our meats with each other.  Although the brisket was outstanding, we both agreed that the smoked turkey was among the best we had ever eaten.  Our meal was around $20 and we left unable to eat another bite.
We were surprised to learn that John Stetson, maker of the famous Stetson Hats, lived much of his life in DeLand, Florida.  Since he donated generously to DeLand University, the school was renamed John B, Stetson University in 1889.  Stetson University was the first law school in the state of Florida. 
Since our flight isn’t until 4 pm on Sunday, we will have a little more time here.  We hope to drive over to Blue Springs State Park in the morning to see manatees.  We will come back to the motel afterward to pack up and prepare for our return home.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Daytona Beach

What a beautiful day today! 
We awoke at our usual 5:30 or so but stayed around the Super 8 and had breakfast from the boxed cereal and bottle of milk that we purchased at Publix a few days ago.  This Super 8 was fine and was certainly affordable.  It was clean and quiet which are our two primary criteria for lodging accommodations. The carpet in the rooms had been replaced recently and the bathrooms were remodeled to include quartz tub/shower surround and the wood look ceramic tiles.  The water pressure is excellent and we had instant hot water for our showers.  The refrigerator in the room is about twice the size of a dorm refrigerator and there is a microwave as well.  The room has a balcony overlooking the ocean and there is plenty of free parking.  Daytona Beach is perfectly positioned between our trips to St. Augustine and Titusville areas.  We really don’t care about the quality of the hotel breakfast which is a good thing since the Super 8 here has two kinds of cereal and the typical waffle maker.  Their “breakfast” area didn’t open until 7 am by which time we are usually out for the day.  We found that it is much easier if we pick up breakfast items from a grocery store and have breakfast as we like.
Unlike most mornings we didn’t leave our room today until around 8:30 to arrive at the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences when it opened at 9 am.  Our membership in Cincinnati Museum Center got us in free which was a nice surprise.  The museum has a nice collection of furniture and early American art.  The area that we enjoyed most was the collection of Coca-Cola artifacts that was the collection of the Root family.  The Roots designed and produced the iconic curved bottle of Coca-Cola.  The collection included many bottles, delivery vehicles, vending machines and advertising items.  The museum also makes their stored collections visible to the public which was interesting. 
Another great exhibit at the museum was the collection of Cuban art and artifacts.  The Daytona area has a large population of residents with Cuban family and cultural roots.  Many families donated beautiful items to the collection.  A good many of the items were donated by President Fulgencio Battista who had a home in Daytona after his exile from Cuba. 
When we came out of the museum we were greeted with the most beautiful day we have seen since we have been here.  There wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the sky!  We had planned to spend much of the day in museums and in the Daytona area but weather like this is just too good to pass up so we decided to drive along the beach.
From the museum we drove over to the Daytona International Speedway.  Since neither of us are automobile racing fans, we didn’t choose to take the tour but looked around outside and took some snapshots of Bill France, founder of NASCAR as well as Dale Earnhardt
From the speedway we drove north up A1A along the coast.  We stopped at several public beach areas and took some snapshots as we walked along the beach.  When we got to Ormond Beach we felt hungry so we stopped for Thai food at Thai Erawan.  Mary had chicken Pad See Ew which was rice noodles with egg, broccoli and sauces.  I had chicken cashew.  We both had a spring roll and small bowl of soup.  We both enjoyed our meals.  We continued driving up the A1A along the coast and stopped at a few state parks and beaches along the way.  We decided to go on to St. Augustine since we were so close.  We went to the quarry where coquina was quarried back in the 1600s.  Since the day was so pretty, drove back over to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and took a few snapshots.  When we were in St. Augustine earlier in the week we didn’t get a chance to go to the Mission Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche so we parked and walked around the area.  When we were there on Monday and Tuesday there were very few people in town.  That shouldn’t be surprising since it was early in the week and the weather was cool and rainy.  Today, however, the town was hopping with people.  Since it is a Friday that is before a three day weekend and the sun was out, everyone was flocking to St. Augustine.
We drove back to Daytona Beach on US 1.  We had taken US 1 on Monday evening but the rain prevented us from enjoyed the drive then.  Since today was pretty the drive was very nice.  There was a ton of traffic leaving St. Augustine and even along US 1 there was way more traffic than we had seen earlier in the week.
We crashed at our room for a bit and made some phone calls before going to dinner at Hull’s Seafood in Ormond Beach.  After we had parked, we walked in with a retired couple from Syracuse, NY.  At Hull’s you stand in line to order your meal then the food is delivered to your table after it is prepared.  A couple was leaving a table when we walked back to the dining area so we invited the Syracuse couple to join us.  They were a very nice couple and made for interesting conversation as we ate.  Mary had broiled local rock shrimp with onion rings and cole slaw on the side.  I had blackened vermillion snapper with spicy fish chowder and cole slaw on the side.  We shared a slice of homemade key lime pie for dessert.  Although we both enjoyed our meals, we had better at Harry’s, Bay Street and Dixie Crossroads

After dinner we returned to our room to crash.  Tomorrow, we think we will take off fairly early and check out of our room here in Daytona.  We will find some attractions in the Orlando/Sanford area then check in at the Day’s Inn at Orange City.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore

Based on a recommendation from our friend, Bruce Neale, we decided to make a day in the nature preserves surrounding Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.  We left the Daytona Super 8 around 8 am and drove south on the A1A along the ocean to the northern entrance to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Our first stop was at the manatee viewing area on one of the canals across the island.  Unfortunately, there were no manatees there when we were looking.  We drove on to the visitor center where we paid for a day pass to the nature trails in Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore
The staff at the visitor center was very helpful and gave up tips on places to look for interesting birds, mammals and alligators.  Since it was Thursday, a number of birders were in the area and the park service took a van load of visitors out to spot some of the many resident and migratory birds in the area.  A number of people were admiring the beautiful painted buntings that were common around the visitor center.  We also learned that a huge group of birders will flock to Merritt Island in late January for viewings and a number of events for birders. 
We took the seven mile drive around the Black Point Wildlife Drive on a well maintained gravel road where we saw more numbers and varieties of birds than we could imagine.  We saw several species of egrets and herons, ospreys, kingfishers, scrub jays, bald eagles, coots, gallinules, white and glossy ibis, rosette spoonbills, turkey and black vultures, and any number of duck species.  We also saw a number of alligators and turtles basking in the sun and even a few armadillos scurrying along the road.  Just to know what we were looking at, we picked up a simple guide to Central Florida birds at the gift shop.  The guide helped us to know which birds were which.
We ran into Titusville to get lunch from El Leoncito Cuban and Mexican Restaurant.  Mary had the Ropa Vieja which is roasted and shredded beef.  Her meal included fried sweet plantains, rice and black beans on the side.  I had a Cuban sandwich which was excellent.  We swapped some of each other’s meals and had a very good lunch.  We found El Leoncito on Trip Advisor and we agreed with the good ratings. 
After lunch, we crossed back over to Merritt Island but drove to the Playalinda area of Canaveral National Seashore.  This end of the park is mostly public beach although there are a number of wildlife areas as well.  From many of the beaches you can see the launch pads over at Cape Canaveral.  We learned that many people come to the beaches to watch launches at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.  
There are 14 parking areas with a boardwalk over the dunes leading to the beach.  Visitors are not permitted to walk on the ecologically fragile dunes to protect them from erosion.  According to my pal, Bruce, beach 13 is commonly a “clothing optional” beach.  However, with air temperatures in the mid 60s today, it is highly doubtful that anyone would be prancing nude along the beach today.
To access the northern, Apollo area, of Canaveral National Seashore we had to get back on US 1 and drive to New Smyrna Beach and cross over to the barrier island.  A light rain started as we drove which caused the temperature to drop to the low 60s.  We stopped at Turtle Mound which is a huge midden made of cast off oyster shells that the Timucuan people dumped over the course of time from around 1000 BC to around 1400 AD.  The mound was huge and contains over 35,000 cubic yards of shells.  Since homes and other structures were built on the mound, it was spared from destruction when roads were built in the area and many mounds were torn apart to use the oyster shells to lay the base for roads.  We drove around the grounds of the Apollo area of Canaveral National Seashore until around 5 pm then started back toward our motel in Daytona Beach.  We stopped at a Super America and purchased gas for 1.99 per gallon.  I haven’t filled up for less than $20 in many years. 
After a brief stop at Publix to restock on fruit, we came back to the motel then went back out for dinner.  Since we really liked the nearby Bay Street Seafood where we ate on Monday night we decided to go back this evening.  Like a lot of places here, the restaurant closes at 7 pm so we headed there quickly.  Mary had a salad and I had a fish sandwich made with local grouper that was blackened with their good homemade onion rings on the side.  On seeing my Marshall sweatshirt, the cook came out and talked to us about the We are Marshall movie.  We came back to the room to plan for our day on Friday.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kennedy Space Center

We left our room at the Super 8 in Daytona Beach around 8:30 and drove south on I-95 to meet my friend, Bruce Neale, at the Village Inn in Titusville, FL.  We followed Bruce to his house where we left our rental car and rode to the Kennedy Space Center with him which is where he works. 
Bruce was a social studies teacher at Cabell Midland High School until he retired in 2005 and moved to Titusville.  His teaching skills of preparing lessons, making educational information relevant to a diverse audience and public speaking makes him a great fit as an educator with the Kennedy Space Center.  In the nine years that he has worked there he has taken a variety of people and groups from all over the work through the facility.
As an employee, Bruce gets a few guest passes to the Space Center.  We were very appreciative that he was not only able to get passes for us but gave us a personal VIP tour through the facility.  As a product of the post-Sputnik generation, I was very influenced by the space program.  The heroes of probably everyone of my age were the Mercury and Apollo astronauts.  Many memories of my childhood were watching a manned rocket take off to orbit the Earth or to land on the Moon.  It was a walk down memory lane to see actual Redstone, Saturn I and Saturn V rockets.  There were a number of actual rockets at the facility that have done service in the NASA space program.  Displays also included capsules from Gemini and Apollo missions as well as space suits and interactive displays of the experiences of training and flight in a NASA rocket. 
One of the newest displays is the one on the Atlantis Space Shuttle.  A brief movie introduced the Space Shuttle program and the Atlantic space ship.  Then we were able to get an up close look at the actual retired Atlantis.  It is displayed at the Kennedy Space Center as it looked after the final mission without having been cleaned up or prepared for display.  Many displays in the Atlantis display familiarized visitors with what a Space Shuttle mission was like. 
While there, we participated in a simulation of a launch of a Space Shuttle.  The seats moved in ways that give visitors the experience of launch and acceleration to 17,500 miles per hour as they would on a shuttle flight.  It was a very realistic simulation.
Another great exhibit was on the International Space Station.  Displays on what astronauts do aboard the Space Station were interactive and informative.  The exhibit on the toilets in the Space Station was especially popular.  
We watched a 3D IMax movie on the building of the International Space Station was very good once we became used to the 3D movie. This exhibit was especially meaningful today since an incident was in the news this morning because an ammonia leak, from a cooling system was detected in the US living quarters this morning.  As a result, the US astronauts moved into the Russian section of the Space Station until the leak can be repaired.
The Saturn V/Apollo Center has a complete Saturn V rocket on display along with many artifacts that that had been to the moon such as scoops used to collect samples of lunar material, space suits for walking on the moon, a lunar landing module and several moon rocks.  We had a salad lunch at the Moon Rock Café there.
We finished our visit to the Kennedy Space Center by stopping by the education office and picking up some packets for educational material and to sign up on the center’s mailing list. 
After leaving the Kennedy Space Center, Bruce drove us over to the Canaveral National Seashore which is where we plan to go on Thursday.  There are many species of birds, mammals, wildflowers and aquatic live to be seen on the many hiking trails.  While we were there with Bruce, we saw wild boar, bald eagles, osprey, and many other animals.  We should have a good time there.
After returning to Titusville, we went to dinner with Bruce and his wife, Letha, at a local favorite restaurant, Dixie Crossroads.  Bruce and Letha had a salad with a bowl of clam chowder.  Mary had a dozen on the local rock shrimp that had been broiled.  She had a side of cole slaw and a baked sweet potato.  I had shrimp and grits made with the local rock shrimp.  They also brought their signature corn fritters to the table.  Everything was very good.

We were very appreciative to Bruce for giving up his day and giving us an excellent tour from an insider’s perspective at the Space Center.  We had a great day.  We said our goodbyes and drove back north on I-95 to our Super 8 motel in Daytona Beach.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

We were able to sleep in a bit this morning not awakening until after 6:30 am.  Since we had made a run to Publix the night before, we had cereal and fruit in the room for breakfast.  We were able to leave the Super 8 before 7:30 and headed toward St. Augustine.  By 8:30 we were at the parking area near the St. Augustine Old Jail.  Since we had tickets with Old Town Trolley, we were able to park for free all day.  We walked around the reconstructed village and the gift shop before going through the old jail that opened in 1891.  When Flagler opened his luxury hotel, he didn’t want the town jail nearby so he paid to have a large modern jail built a mile from the then town boundary and specified that the jail be painted pink to not look like a jail.  Our informative guide “arrested” us and booked us into the jail but gave us a tour of Sheriff Perry’s home that was attached to the jail.  
The jail had a secure and high tech locking system that was part of the installation by the St. Louis company building the jail to Flagler’s specifications. The jail looked so much like a hotel that it was common for rail passengers to come to the jail thinking that it was Flagler’s exclusive Ponce de Leon hotel
After leaving the jail, we went to the small but well displayed historical museum adjacent to the jail.  After that, we walked over to the area that is believed to have the area where Ponce de Leon looked for the Fountain of Youth and past a 600 year old live oak tree called Old Senator.  We walked over to the trolley station and rode into town then walked over to the St. Augustine Visitor Center.  We walked over to Flagler College in what was Flagler’s luxury Ponce de Leon hotel.  We had lunch at the student center there at Flagler College.  Mary had a ham sandwich from the Boar’s Head Deli.  I had a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.  Since we were in the historic heavily tourist part of the city, the student center was the least expensive place to eat.  After finishing our lunch we walked two blocks to the pickup point for the shuttle going to Anastasia Island where the Alligator Farm, lighthouse, state park and beaches are located.  We were pleased that the shuttle which runs once an hour was at the bus stop when we arrived.  We made the short trip over to the island on the bus while our driver gave us interesting information about the area along the way. 
Our trip package from Old Town Trolley included passes to the Alligator Farm and when we arrived at 11:45, the feeding at the large alligator area was preparing to begin.  We enjoyed watching the large alligators eat game hens and prepared pellet food.  Some of the alligators in the pond were very large.  The feeding lasted about 30 minutes and included a lot of information on each of the alligators in the pond. 
After the feeding concluded, we walked around the many displays at the Alligator Farm and saw nearly every species of alligators and crocodiles from all over the world.  
The Alligator Farm works with conservation groups to promote breeding of rare and endangered species of alligators and crocodiles to attempt to preserve the species.  There were also displays with snakes, birds, a few mammals and a number of turtles including four Galapagos Tortoises.  We especially enjoyed the large display with the Australian Saltwater Crocodile named Maximo and his mate Sydney.  Maximo is over 15 feet long and is still growing.  Maximo replaces Gomek, the prior saltwater crocodile who was nearly 18 feet long and weighed in at over 2000 pounds.  Gomek was a wild caught crocodile who died in 1997 while Maximo was hatched in captivity in 1971 and should be at the Alligator Farm for many years to come. 
After walking around the Alligator Farm and seeing what there was to see, we walked across A1A highway to the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  We weren’t interested in going up in the lighthouse, especially since there was fog limited visibility.  The lighthouse was constructed in 1874 to replace the prior lighthouse that collapsed due to erosion in 1870.  The current Anastasia Lighthouse operated until 1970.
When we completed our walked around the lighthouse, we caught the shuttle back to St. Augustine across the Matanzas River.  Once back in town, we walked a few blocks over to Whetstone Chocolates for a tour of their facility and processes.  We were able to get in the day’s last 55 minute tour at 3:30.  We learned the history of Whetstone Chocolate and that they invented the chocolate orange.  At one time, Whetstone Chocolate contracted with M & M, Mauna Loa and other large manufacturers of chocolate.  However, they are have recently downsized and are making high end artisanal chocolates.  We enjoyed our samples of white, milk and dark chocolates along the trip then stopped in the shop to make some gift purchases before catching the trolley back to our car on the day’s last trolley run.
After getting our rental car from the lot at the Old Jail, we drove back into town and headed for dinner at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill.  This restaurant was recommended to us by my pal, Joe, who spends a good deal of time in St. Augustine.  Harry’s specializes in New Orleans style seafood so Mary had shrimp and grits and I had shrimp etouffée.  We both enjoyed our meals then finished by sharing a slice of excellent key lime pie. 

After dinner, we drove back to our Super 8 in Daytona which took about an hour.  Mary called to give Sarah birthday wishes and we talked to our friend Bruce Neale who will give us a tour at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday.  We are looking forward to the day.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Historic St. Augustine, FL

We left home at 4:30 in the afternoon for our 6:40 pm Allegient Air flight out of Huntington Tri-State Airport headed for Sanford Airport near Orlando, Florida.  We ran into a number of people we knew at the airport including Sarah’s friend, Lauren who is living in the Parkersburg area.  As we were preparing to board for our flight, we saw Natalie and Wendy who arrived from Salt Lake City after attending an EL training there. 
Our 95 minute flight was uneventful and was well worth the $50 cost of the airfare from Huntington.  We arrived at Sanford around 8:30 and picked up our bags and the Nissan Sentra rental car from Enterprise.  Since Mary had packed ham sandwiches for the flight, we were not hungry when we arrived in Florida.  The drive from Sanford to our Super 8 in Daytona Beach took about an hour and there was very little traffic.  Our room is nothing fancy but is adequate for our needs and includes a small refrigerator and a microwave.  Our room also has a small balcony that overlooks the ocean. 
We woke up early on Monday morning and had a cup for tea before heading north toward St. Augustine.  We made a quick stop at Pubix for some bottled water for the trip.  We arrived at St. Augustine around 9:30 am and found a ticket booth for Old Town Trolley.  We purchased three day passes that include admission to several museums and the Alligator Farm.  We took the trolley around the town and enjoyed our driver’s interesting comments on the history of the area.  After the trolley ride, we walked across the street to Castillo de San Marcos which is the oldest masonry fort in the continental US.  
We were impressed with the construction of the walls from a stone called coquina which is like a concrete made of tiny shells.  We came back into town and had lunch at La Herencia Cafe which is a local Cuban restaurant.  Both of us had the Cuban sandwich which is roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban style bread.  We had black beans and rice on the side.  We both enjoyed our lunch.  The weather was mostly sunny but had some periods of cloudiness.  However, the temperature was nearly 80 degrees which felt pretty good to us compared to the temperatures we left behind at home.

After lunch, we got back on the trolley and rode over to the area near Flagler College and many of the historic locations in the city.  When a light rain started, we decided to do some indoor sightseeing so we got back on the trolley and rode to St. Augustine Distillery.  The small distillery makes Vodka from sugar cane as well as gin.  They are starting to produce a Bourbon but it will be several years until it has aged to the point of being available to market.  We were impressed that the distillery uses heirloom sugar cane and purchases all of their ingredients from locally grown, non GMO sources.  The Vodka was a decent drink but neither of us likes gin so we were not tempted to have any of their products shipped home.  Since we are not vodka or gin drinkers, we are not the best judges of the spirts produced there.
Since the rain was still heavy when we left the distillery, we took the trolley for the short ride to the San Sebastian Winery where we toured the wine making facilities and learned that their wines are made from Muscadine grapes which grown much better in the subtropical climate than many other traditional wine grapes.  We had an extensive tasting of a number of red and white wines that ranged from very dry to sweet port and sherry.  We enjoyed the tasting very much.  After spending about an hour in the San Sebastian Winery, the rain had actually intensified so we took a short trolley ride to Whetstone Chocolates.  We were disappointed that the last tour of the day had departed so we browsed the gift shop then caught the trolley back toward where we had parked the rental car.  Since we were pretty much soaked, we decided to drive back to the Super 8 in Daytona to dry off and change clothes before going out to dinner in Daytona. 

We tried to eat at Caribbean Jack’s but it was under renovation so we went to Bay Street Seafood nearby.  We had excellent meals at great prices.  I had blackened catfish and Mary had local butterfly shrimp.  Her shrimp had a slightly different taste and texture than other shrimp we have had but they were quite good.  We both had homemade onion rings and cole slaw on the side.  We both enjoyed our meals and the bill for both of our meals was $25.  We drove back across the Halifax River to our room at the Super 8.

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