Week 4: Pirates, Forts and Birthdays

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In some ways it seems like just yesterday that we were waving our goodbyes to Camp Jasper and South Carolina.  Then when we talk about all that we’ve done in the last seven days it seems like ages ago.

We hit the road Sunday mid-morning and started south through Georgia.  The eastern edge of Georgia, where we were driving, is fairly short and after just a few hours we were crossing into Florida.  Around 3:00 we pulled into North Beach Camp Resort, which would be our home for just a few days.  We quickly setup camp; since this was a short stay, we skipped some of the details that we would normally do in a longer stay.  Because of my work, this Sunday afternoon was my best chance to see the town with my family.  Before heading to town, though, we stopped at a restaurant in the camp called Aunt Kate’s for dinner with a little live entertainment.

We headed in to town looking for some touristy things.  Kelly had heard that the old town puts up millions of Christmas lights this time of year and that there was a trolley tour that was reasonably priced.  We figured it would be fun as well as give us a chance to see if there were any other sights we might want to see over the next few days.  The thing is, we had no idea where to go for this trolley ride.

We also didn’t know where anything else in St Augustine was located.  Or where we should park.  Or eat.

We almost ended up in a parking garage that cost $12 to park.  That seemed kind of high given that we would only be there a couple hours.  A couple blocks later we spotted some empty spots in a tiny parking lot and pulled in.  Kelly parked and went to the attendant to ask the rate.  It turns out that it was free to park there if you bought tickets to ride the Holly Jolly Trolley, which we were looking for anyway.  Since the trolley ride just happened to start and end right where we were, it seemed like a no brainer.

It wasn’t dark yet, so before catching the trolley we walked towards Castillo de San Marcos, one of the oldest forts in the country.  That makes sense since St. Augustine is the oldest city in the country.  Founded in 1565, it is celebrating its 450th birthday this year.

The fort was just a couple blocks from our parking spot.  On our way we passed a cute little courtyard with a few boutique shops.  We walked through but didn’t do any shopping.  We figured we’d stop by later.  When we got to the gate of the fort we found that it was going to close in just about 15 minutes. I was a little disappointed since this was the day I had the most time to explore, but then I saw a familiar logo on the ranger’s sleeve.  I didn’t know it but Castillo de San Marcos is part of the National Parks system.  We had intended to buy a National Parks annual pass anyway for when we visited other parks later in our trip, so we quickly bought one and spent the next fifteen minutes walking around, looking at the old cannons.

After the park rangers started kicking people out for the night we headed back to ride the trolley.  They gave us “special” glasses that made all of the lights sparkle even more, and the Christmas music was blasting over the trolley speakers.  The kids had a great time and the ride ended with apple cider and cookies.

Tuesday was my 41st birthday.  On Monday I decided that I would work a little more than half the day and then take off the rest of the day to hang out with the family.  We swam in the campground pool for a while; I can’t say that I’ve ever swam outside on my birthday before.  I’m not even sure I’ve ever even been swimming indoors on my birthday before, but it was around 80 degrees outside and the pool was nicely heated.

We headed back over to the Castillo again and spent some more time there.  We eavesdropped on some tours that some school field trips were having, and got to see all of the various cannons and mortars they had.  I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed it.  They’re usually not that interested in historical things, so I was glad to see they were paying attention and showing interest.  Charlie even got a National Parks Passport that she can get stamped at any National Park we visit.

By this time we were getting hungry.  It turns out that the little courtyard we saw on Sunday was actually the end of St. George Street, a long, pedestrian-only, touristy street with little shops and restaurants.  We found one with a patio and had a quick lunch before heading to the Pirate and Treasure Museum.  That was another place I thought the kids would last about 5 minutes before the complaining started, but the museum had added a “treasure hunt” of sorts.  There were certain exhibits throughout the museum with special symbols on them.  If the kids completed a sheet that described all of the different treasure spots, they would get a little prize.  My kids are all over treasure hunts and missions.  We found each of them and even learned a little about the pirates of the area in the meantime.

Wednesday morning Kelly and I got up before the kids and took a short walk.  Our campground was directly across the street from the ocean.  It was low tide, so we headed over to the small little beach and walked all romantic like.  Well, we walked the dog, avoided the surf and looked for shells for a few minutes.  Close enough to romantic.

Wednesday was moving day again – an unusual middle-of-the-week move.  So after we got back home, I worked until close to check out time, then we started to get the trailer road-ready.  Our site in St. Augustine was wooded and private.  A downside of that is that branches and leaves had fallen on to the top of the slides and needed to be cleaned off before sliding them in for the road.  Since we still don’t have a ladder, I climbed up on top of the trailer with a push broom.  They told us that it would be totally fine to go up there, but I’m not so sure.  It felt like the roof was “soft” in some places.  In the end it was uneventful and we hit the road about 5 minutes before check out time.

Our next campground, Wekiva Falls RV Park, was just a couple hours away so it was an easy drive.  Or it would have been if we had the right address in the GPS.  We ended up in a neighborhood about 15 miles away from where we were supposed to be.  Fortunately we caught it before we went any farther because there were limited places to turn our big rig around.  We’re still not sure how we ended up with the wrong destination.  Personally, I blame Apple and Siri.

When we got checked in at Wekiva we found that this would be our first back-in site.  All of our others so far have been pull-through sites.  Kelly has been our primary driver on this trip and she wanted to back it in.  In our practice at home, this actually worked out well: she’d drive and I’d tell her when and where to turn to get the trailer in place.  We even have walkie talkies so I don’t have to yell to her.  We got parked in our spot relatively quickly.  We’re not experts yet, but it wasn’t bad at all.  Fortunately, there was plenty of room.

After getting the trailer leveled, we disconnected from the truck and I started setting up while Kelly and the kids were getting ready to head over to the pool.  It didn’t take long to find out that we had a problem, though.  Our power cord was about 6 feet too short to reach the shore power connection.  At all of the other sites we’ve been to so far (this one is our sixth), the power was alongside the trailer.  Here at Wekiva, it’s behind the trailer.  Long story short, we had to hitch the trailer back up to the truck again, move it back, re-level it and start setting up again.  The kids were pretty disappointed at yet another delay before hitting the pool, but they were pretty good sports about it all.  Finally, once I knew for sure that everything would be OK, they all left to swim while I stayed to finish setting up our home for the next month.

This park advertises that, in addition to the pool, they have a big pond/lake fed by natural springs which stays at a constant 72 degrees.  In the middle there is a huge fountain and a couple water slides.  Thursday after school, Kelly took the kids over there, but it didn’t last long.  Charlie decided that the water was “hairy” and insisted that she would never go in again.  As Kelly says, our kids are definitely not lake people.  They like their chlorinated clear water.

Saturday we drove about 45 minutes to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) at Disney World and spent much of the day wandering around, looking at shops and getting the general Disney vibe without the cost of hitting up one of the parks.  I was surprised at how crowded it was here, but it was fin.  I think the best part for the kids was going to the LEGO and making cars to race against all the other kids.

Not much else happened this week.  We did put up a few Christmas decorations outside since we will be here for all of December.  Also, Sophie ripped up the screen on the door.  She will not be staying loose in the trailer any more.  She also has a shock collar to try to calm the barking now.  We’ll see how that goes.  Also, Kelly finally got a bike, and it has a basket, so all is well with the world.

We’ll be here at Wekiva for a while, so it will give us a chance to work on some things we haven’t had time for yet – things that will finally get the trailer completely organized as things become even more normal.  The kids are doing great at school.  Routines are forming.  We’re all referring to this as “home” now.

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