– Fort Walton Beach, Florida to Jacksonville, Florida –
We did a little better today. Yay! We got up at 6:30am for our run, which wasn’t anywhere great, as I mentioned yesterday. It’s been flooding a bit around here, so not only was our trail a little short, but it was flooded out in places. Luckily, we found another nearby stretch of paved trail to run that was pretty empty, so we had a good time running back and forth and in circles this morning, despite the intermittent rain. The biggest problem was our wet shoes.
It was still pretty foggy this morning, but we’d planned to drive along the beach a bit, so we did it anyway just to see what we could see. We showered, packed, had breakfast, and hit the road. The beaches in the Fort Walton Beach area have incredibly white sand, which Mark definitely wanted to stop for. If you’ve never read our blog before, you might not know that he keeps a sand collection, which I guess now contains sand from many states and several countries. He even asked for and received a new sand sieve for Christmas.
The white sand and the fog made for particularly white photographs, but you can at least spot the ocean in the one above. Mark braved the mist and potentially sandy shoes to get the picture, and to get his sand sample. Ripley and I waited in the car, labeling his little collection bags for future samples along the way. Every time I help him get this stuff, I worry a little more that it is becoming “our” sand collection instead of just his.
In any event, despite the narrowness of the island we were driving down, we didn’t see much of the ocean, so our morning beach drive wasn’t very eventful. Eventually, we pulled away to make our way across the middle of the state to head over to the Atlantic side of Florida. I think that if we wanted to get in the water on this trip, it would’ve had to be around Fort Walton Beach on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida. The water is so much warmer, even in winter. Alas, the area had horrible rip current warnings, which definitely kept us away. We aren’t strong enough swimmers for anything of the kind.
Most of the way to Tallahassee, we stopped at a little rest stop to get Ripley out and give her a bathroom break. By then, it was 76 degrees outside and the sun was starting to peak out of the clouds. No more fog, and no more rain. She had fun stomping around on the grass, and it was nice to get out of the car. Despite the fact that I-10 is a huge highway, the gas stations are not as frequent as you might think, and they are certainly dirtier. How can it be that travel centers and more common and cleaner out west, where nobody lives?
When we made it to Tallahassee, Mark and I were planning to stop at Chipotle for lunch, but in the same parking lot, we spotted a Grub Burger Bar, which we had never heard of before. It turns out it is a chain, and there’s even one in Plano and one in Dallas. They have a chickpea vegetarian burger, which is pretty good, I have to say. Their skinny fries are good, too. I love thin fries like that. My only complaint, which is common for Mark and me at any chain restaurant, is that the food is way too salty. Who eats that much salt? Ugh.
Somewhere along the way, the time changed from Central to Eastern, and we lost an hour of our day. It was before lunch, I think, though it didn’t matter too much. Since the national parks are already closed for the government shut down, it’s not like we are going to miss the visitor center or something if we get there too late. It would be closed when we arrived, no matter when we got there.
We didn’t do very well at taking pictures between Tallahassee and Jacksonville. It was a pretty straightforward drive without many stops. The weather continued to clear while we drove, and by the time we made it to Jacksonville, it was a sultry 81, with a mostly clear sky and a light breeze. It was gorgeous, though I could certainly do without the insanely high humidity.
My mom tells me that it is supposed to snow and ice back home in Denton and at her home in Gainesville tomorrow. I’m a little sad we are missing it, and I do occasionally enjoy a nice little winter storm, but I have to admit, this 80 degrees in December thing works for me. I’m definitely a summer girl. Mark always says what everyone says about it: “You can always put on more clothes in winter, but you can’t keep taking off more clothes in summer.” Summer is my favorite season.
In any event, arriving in Jacksonville wasn’t our final goal for the evening, though our hotel is south of the city. Instead, we drove on through and across to Fort Caroline National Memorial, which is also attached to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The visitor center, where we stopped, is right next to the fort. It was after 5, and of course the gate was shut, but we leashed up the puppy and walked back to the fort anyway. From what I can tell, the national park doesn’t have any rules against it anyway.
We had originally planned to go visit the ecological reserve this evening as well, but in the end we decided we would just do the fort. We can drive through wetlands tomorrow. The area around the park is covered in Spanish moss, which is just so cool looking. It’s what every picture of the south looks like in the minds of people who’ve never been.
It was just a short little walk back to the visitor center, then another little walk on the trail back to the fort. It’s funny, but I guess I didn’t read the information for this park too well when we were booking this trip. It turns out that Fort Caroline has no ruins at all, which is incredibly disappointing when that’s what you were expecting. Instead, it’s a recreation.
Fort Caroline was an attempted French colony back in the 1560s, and seems to have been abandoned after some nastiness with the Spanish not long after it was built. The recreation isn’t even where the original fort stood. In fact, they aren’t really sure where the original fort was at all. Isn’t that funny? The replica is small and triangular, with some minor earthworks and wooden fortifications. It sounds like it is close to what they believe the actual size of the fort was, based on descriptions and old maps.
By the time we were done exploring the fort, it was nearing sunset. It turns out that on our walk out there, Ripley picked up a couple of ticks. They hadn’t bitten her yet when I found them, and I’ve searched her thoroughly for more. Unfortunately, even though I didn’t find any more, I now have the heebie jeebies and feel itchy all over.
Fleas and ticks are my nemesis. Ripley is poison to them, as her medication straight up murders them, but they have to bite her before they die, which I’m sure is unpleasant. I found a flea, too, by the way. She may be looking at an early bath in a day or two. She won’t approve, but I can’t stand the thought of any of us getting bitten by creepy crawlies.
After the fort, we visited a Publix for glasses for our New Year’s Eve sparkling red grape juice, then a Whole Foods (which is in the same parking lot as our hotel) to pick up our dinner from the hot bar. We were originally planning to eat from the cooler for dinner, but the proximity of the Whole Foods was just too much for us to bear. The cauliflower dahl was delightful, if you were curious.
We ate our food in our hotel room before unloading our truck, and we were unpacked and settled in by around 7:30, even with the lost hour. Here in a bit, we’re going to have our bubbly juice to celebrate the new year, since we won’t stay up until midnight. Our chariot turns into a pumpkin at 10pm, thank you very much.
Tomorrow we have several more closed parks to visit along the coast. We are really hoping for clear skies, so we can cruise the beaches and actually see the ocean. Mark says our running trails won’t be great again in the morning, but you can’t beat the weather, so it should still be fun. Besides, I bet no one is out tomorrow morning. It’s a holiday, and everyone else will probably stay up late tonight.
– Trip Total : 1232 miles –