Starting Late: Saint Augustine

So when you’re trying to live a life of adventure after many years of stale existence, you look for anything that might feed your eyeballs something new. You start scanning maps and checking distances.

Sidenote: Google Maps is one of the best things that’s happened in my life. I’ve been known to end up in the wrong county depending on my own spatial sense to navigate me. Google Maps is also perfect for calculating distances, so it also helps in the decision-making process.

I was back with my partner in crime, and this time we picked Saint Augustine, the oldest city in Florida. The drive was pleasant enough. She did most of the driving so anything outside of a tornado would’ve been a great ride. I mean, yes, we did run into a few snow birds, ehh Canadians, ehh Quebec. I’m talking to you, Quebec!

Traffic was light enough that she didn’t have to lay on her horn.

That girl can lay on a horn like Mario Andretti on the gas pedal. I mean, she lays on it. Like, a little crazy lays on it. Like, maybe she has unresolved anger issues lays on it. Like, maybe this isn’t about the other driver at all but the combatting of her own demons lays on it. I digress.

We arrived at our motel (I don’t care what they want to call it, it was a motel). I don’t mind a motel; there’s something nostalgic about them. They sort of feel like they hold all of mankind’s experiences in them. Sort of like they cradle the seeds of all Americans. But seriously, there always seems to be more Americans in American motels. ย Foreign tourists stay in hotels cause they’re scared.

There should be a Motel of the Americas. Every room will look exactly alike. I digress.

First we went to an imposing fort, the Castillo de San Marcos. It’s a beautiful limestone structure. If you haven’t seen limestone, imagine dried up beach sand after you squish it in your hands. Now throw all kinds of random seashells into that sand. Sit in the sun to dry out and that is limestone. I say all of that to say that it was interesting to look at. There were the rooms within the fort modeled after life during its occupation and there were artifacts, some authentic some not. I starting asking a young volunteer soldier too many questions and it frazzled him. Inside though, was a man who knew the answer to every random question that came to my mind. And believe me, the questions come in droves.

The gun salute. If you are a real sentimental history type of person, and I don’t mean the Drunk History kind; I mean the grade 10 textbook kind; in-between is also okay; then you will love this. I felt there was a whole lot of build up and a lot of letdown. Like meeting a gorgeous guy and he being a bird brain or worse, dull. Maybe I was just hungry and tired and couldn’t focus because it was super windy and I had already once flashed a group behind me the full monty when my dress flew up to my ears. It’s a good thing I wear granny panties on vacation or I would’ve charged everyone there. In other words, I’m a bad judge on this one.

I don’t think I mentioned that I love history and that I’m a dork. I know you can’t tell; I keep it cool on this blog.

We spent the afternoon walking the streets of old something or other. There was a big music festival going on, so we missed the real old-timey Saint Augustine that we wanted to see. The parts that we did see were so cheesy we thought we were in Wisconsin. (See how I made a cheesy joke to exemplify cheesy. I’m on a roll today). At a street cafe, we were told by the most loving-looking couple I’ve ever seen in real life, that this busy street full of gift shops and cheap period costumes was the highlight; the best seat in town. I love people watching like the next man or woman but…

I absolutely loved the oldest schoolhouse. As a lover of history and a teacher myself, I was giddy to see the extent to which things have changed. Reading the list of rules that teachers were ordered to abide by, I realize I would’ve been fired on multiple counts. Hell, this blog would’ve gotten me fired!

That night we headed toย The Ice Plant, a bar with adjacent brewery for dinner and stepped into the coolest place in town. I was never so happy to see hipsters in my life. It was like walking into Walmart and finding a little Target in the middle of it. Ahhhh. Exhale. It also helps that the food was spot on delicious.

Later, we went back to the fort. It was dark and we thought we’d have the place to ourselves. We giggled at our cleverness.

Imagine our come down when we turned toward into the parking lot and found it full of cars. Nevertheless, we found a lonesome enough spot overlooking the ocean. We sat on the edge and talked and laughed and laughed and laughed. It was over an hour before we realized that there were couples there for a romantic evening and solitary people there for a peaceful meditation on the universe and their place in it.

“Everyone must hate us”, we said, and crackled with uncontrollable giggling. It was a magical night.

The next day was for nature and we headed out for Anastasia State Park. A day of snorkeling, kayaking and sunshine.

I imagine laying in a canoe, a book in one hand, a grape in the other. The light is reflecting off of the calm waters and a bird caws overhead, breaking the quiet of the day. Maybe a couple of champagne glasses.

What we got was an epic fucking journey into the pits of bloody Hades.

The wind wouldn’t stop smacking us and whipping our kayak/canoe hybrid around. But the day was beautiful and clear and fresh like only windy days are. It was good exercise; I felt powerful.

Then we got hungry and went back for the standard canoe. Remember, I had dreams of floating while reading and this day is a windstorm just waiting to happen.

“If we stop rowing for 60 seconds we will be washed out to sea.” Basically, the next two hours was a fight for our lives. I don’t know what happened. One minute we were unwrapping our sandwiches and pouring ourselves a drink, and the next minute everyone on shore looked like ants. It was ceaseless rowing. Oh yeah, the wind was against us. The plasic cups that held our liquor were crumpled between our clamped teeth as we tried to row without spilling. We could spill water, but we were going to need some intoxication for those first desperate hours adrift at sea. We’d worry about the rest as if came; we’re zen like that.

To keep ourselves motivated, and chanted and grunted like warriors returning home. We created stories of a mission to avenge our father, killed (no, a broken man) after his battle with the great sea monster who now churned up the seas and threatened us. When the jumping fish started flopping around our canoe, however, we shrank back in cowardice and rowed harder. There was some screaming.

Finally we decided to switch places. Krystle was dissatisfied with my steering and kept saying so; I put up a bulwark and decided to tune out her commands. Live or die, I was taking a stand.

When I stood up in the rocking canoe to switch places though; when I felt the earth moving under me; when I looked over at the angry waters convulsing, and the flying fish… well I was paralyzed with fear. Paralyzed like not one toe on my body is going to move right now. I stood there with knees bent and wobbling while Krystle told me I was a warrior and ‘this ain’t nothing.’ Once I was sufficiently embarrassed, realized that standing increased my chance of going overboard, we made the switch.

When we finally made it back to shore we were honored with a round of applause by all the others who had returned to shore ages ago and were watching us floundering out there like it was a spectator sport. I scratched my back up pretty bad when the applause made me too enthusiastic and I jumped up in triumph, oar raised above my head, lost my balance and collapsed backward into the wooden rest thingy.

I actually drove the whole way home. It was a driving record for me. My previous record was two hours straight. I look back on that weekend and think: we weren’t on a mountain, in a jungle, or a big city, but we had an adventure nonetheless.

It’s never too late for adventure. It’s still out there. The 20somethings haven’t snatched it all up. Go get you some.


Having lost my phone shortly after this trip, these are the only pictures I have. Thank you social media.

Here’s Starting Late Part One and Part Two.












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