Northern Florida and Georgia
||St. Augustine, Florida is one of the country's oldest
permanent settlements. It was the landing site of Ponce de Leon in
1513 and where he searched for the Fountain of Youth.
The photo to the left is of Castillo de San Marcos National
Monument in St. Augustine. It is the country's oldest surviving fortress
and dates back to 1672. The Spanish built this fort to protect their
settlers and to fight off French, who wanted a piece of the new world for
The Okefenokee Swamp! Now, there's a name that conjures
up all kinds of childhood visions from old black and white TV shows.
|St. Augustine is an interesting place, unfortunately,
it's very touristy. Locals claim that this building is the oldest
schoolhouse in America.
We only spent two days in St. Augustine. The weather
wasn't very good and we were anxious to get out of Florida and see the
rest of the Southern states.
|The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwater of the Suwanne
River. As a kid I remember watching an episode of Mutual of Omaha's
Wild Kingdom on the Okefenokee Swamp. It seemed like a place more
wild and outback than the Everglades.
The roads and trails only penetrate a couple of miles
into the swamp. To really see the swamp as shown on TV one would
have to pack up some gear and head into the heart of the swamp by boat.
||So we did! Well, kind of anyway. We took a tour
boat about half a mile into the swamp. Our guide told us that you could
float through the Okefenokee Swamp from Georgia all the way to the Gulf
of Mexico. That is, if you know your way.
There are some signs posted along the narrow, winding
channels, but you'd sure have to be careful and watch for them or you could
get hopelessly lost.
||Here's a picture out of the front of the boat.
The channels are pretty narrow. Our guide said that once in awhile
a snake falls out of a tree into a tour boat. He said that everybody
usually gets pretty excited when this happens.
||Speaking of snakes, here's the infamous Water Moccasin,
Throughout our visit to Florida we asked about the dangers
of alligators. We were always told not to worry about the gators;
"just don't feed them and stay back 15 feet." (I can't bring myself
that close in the first place so it's no problem.) But repeatedly,
people would say "watch out for the Water Moccasins." They would
say, "when you go swimming . . . . . . .", but I would interrupt
and tell them that wouldn't be a problem either.
|Our guide told us that if we ever swam in muddy, swampy
water then we have swam with Water Moccasins. This water looked more
like thin chocolate milk with a visibility of about 6 inches. He
said these snakes are everywhere.
Here is Max with Oscar in the background. Oscar
likes to hang out in this area. He is 14 feet long and estimated
to be nearly 100 years old. Cheryl and I were wondering if Oscar was real
or just a prop for the tour.
||We pulled up closer and could see that the top of this
gator was dry, dusty and looked cracked like old plaster. We were
pretty certain it was a prop now. The boat became high centered on
the mud and got stuck, so I help the guide push off the mud by using a
As we splashed about in the water, Oscar opened an eye
to check out what we were doing. OK, now we know for sure.
There are a lot of old moonshine stills and cookers in this
part of the country. Most tourist areas have a few sitting around.
I don't remember for sure, but this may actually be a syrup cooker for
||Along the way we became high centered on a log and stuck
again. I pushed against a tree but with everyone in the boat there
was too much weight. Another fellow and I jumped out and pushed the
boat free. He got in, but I got stranded. The rest had fun
telling me to "swim for it", "watch out for the snake in the tree", "a
gator in the bush" and so on.
Very funny -- now let me back in!
Our next stop was Savannah Georgia, a city that Cheryl had
been anxious to visit. We had read about Savannah while studying
about the 13 original colonies, (Georgia was the 13th.) Georgia's founder,
James Oglethorpe and his settlers, laid out the design of the city in an
||Sitting along the bayou, playing harmonica and watching
the sun come up. Though the water is murky it reflects every color
of the morning sky and botanical life around. If you bend close to
the water you can see your reflection as clearly as in a mirror.
But don't think for a minute that any of us did that.
We never did get over the sensation that a gator or snake was just inches
away, hidden in the murky water.
||Instead of a standard grid system, the city was set up
with 24 squares, (parks,) with commercial and residential buildings around
them. As a result of this planning, Savannah is one of the most beautiful
cities in America. We were amazed at the size of the live oak trees that
line the streets. We've never seen such huge, old trees along city
streets anywhere else in the country. Spanish moss hangs down from
every branch three or four feet, giving Savannah a true feeling of "Old
This is the river front in Savannah. Most of the
city is a story above the river but the river front road is just a few
feet above the river.
|I found the concrete interesting. It's a mixture
containing about 20% seashells. A lot of the old mortar was also
made from the lime of powdered and baked seashells.
Did you know that Savannah, Georgia has the second largest
St. Patrick's Day parade in the country? A large percentage of its
citizens that are of Irish decent. (Your trivia for the day.)
A couple of ships came down the river. Either they
were enormous or I'm just used to seeing them in larger bodies of water
(like in Seattle or San Francisco). You can see Mitch and Max getting
ready to race the ship. When the front of the bridge aligned with
them I yelled "go." They ran about 150 yards and I was surprised
that they actually came out ahead.
||The Georgia state flag was being heavily debated in the
state legislature while we were here. I thought I'd better get a
picture of the state flag, as this one might not be flying much longer.
A bit of rot, but with a little work she'd be a beauty
||When we saw this really neat old sailing ship, we thought
about Cheryl's dad. He's a superb craftsman when it comes to wooden ships.
He's done some truly wonderful refurbishing jobs. This one had his
name written all over it.
But don't worry Joe, we know it would be too much for
one guy to do alone.
||So we guaranteed this fellow you'd hire him to help out.
From here we head west to Atlanta to catch a plane to Yucatan.
|This is an old taffy packaging machine. A batch
of taffy is place between the rollers and as it spins the taffy is slowly
twisted and stretched. Once it stretched to the length of the rollers
the operator feeds it into the wrapping head and small pieces are cut and
wrapped. This batch was watermelon flavored.
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