Sunday, July 1, 2012

Off to a Slow Start: Jacksonville, FL

Every day when I came back to my hotel, there was a man - and sometimes a woman too - sitting or laying on the floor at the end of the hall, just past my room.  One day was odd enough but he is here all 4 nights.

I mentioned in my last post that Tropical Storm Debby and I made landfall in Jacksonville around the same time.  The night before my arrival, parts of the city experienced some flooding.  But by the time I arrive on Monday afternoon, the sky has returned to beautiful blue streaked by non-threatening clouds.

This gives me the ultimately incorrect impression that I can go with my plans for the day.

When researching what to do in Jacksonville while still in Dallas, I am not finding a lot.  They have some interesting bridges.  There is a fountain by a restaurant/shopping area downtown.  A co-worker's brother who lives there gives me a list but nothing is really jumping out at me. 

Then I see something about the Kingsley Plantation and Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, part of the National Park Service.  They are only open until 5 but if I go directly from the airport, I should be able to make it.

On the drive out, I notice the clouds begin to shift and become darker.  I am still determined to make it.

It is a pretty drive and I want to stop to take photos but I don't have much time so I resist.  When I turn on the road to the plantation, I start to have second thoughts.

It isn't paved.  It is generally dry but there are some large puddles/potholes so I am glad the rental car agency gave me a small SUV (without charging me extra).

I decide to keep going thinking that if I come to a place that is at all iffy for passage, I will turn around and go back.  Easy enough to do since there isn't any other traffic on this road.  Again, I have the urge to get out and take more pictures but this is a pretty remote area, very swampy.  I did see one turnoff that appeared to be a hiking trail but was afraid an alligator might drag me off into the vegitation and no one would miss me until they discover my abandonded rental car several days from now.

The plantation is a couple of miles down this road and you can't go more than 15-20 mph due to the potholes.  It takes a while.  I am eating up the time I will have just trying to get there.

Ultimately it doesn't matter since they are closed "due to weather".  I made it down this road.  The person who hung the red sign made it down this road.  I wish they were here now to let me in.  You cannot see anything from the road.

The road to the plantation makes a loop so I continue down the other half and take time for some photos because now I don't know what to do other than go to the hotel.  (Some are at the end of this post.)

Back on the main road I see a sign for Fort Caroline so I make a spur-of-the-moment decision to go there.  When I arrive, I have 15 minutes before they close.  I ask a park ranger in the parking lot what is the best thing to see in 15 minutes.

His answer:  The Owl Totem Pole in the visitor center.  This dates from 1400-1500 AD and is the largest wooden artifact ever recovered from an archealogical site in either North or South America. 

I asked the ranger about the fort before going inside because I am surprised that isn't what he suggested.  You cannot see the fort unless you take the short hike down to it.  "Are you wearing bug spray?" he asks.  When I answer no he says, "Then I wouldn't go down there."  Normally mosquitos don't bother me too much but when I walk around back to check out the trail to the fort, they are already swarming and biting me so I give this idea up immediately.

On to the hotel for a little work and then I want to head to the beach and dinner.  By the time I get to the beach, the sky is definitely more threatening.

I spend about 30 minutes taking pictures when...

I am driven back to the car.  I really, really don't like to be wet when wearing regular clothes.  Plus, I am going to eat next and don't want to be forced to go back to the hotel to change first.

Before leaving the hotel, I selected The Blue Fish Restaurant & Oyster Bar as my dinner destination.  The restaurant is along a stretch of road that offers other restaurants and some independent shops.  The kind I would normally like to go in. Of course, none of them are open. 

Window shopping isn't really a good option in these conditions.  I have to park pretty far from the restaurant so I run from awning to awning and sometimes there are big gaps between awnings.  I purchase an umbrella on the way back to the hotel.

Inside the restaurant, they seat me at the bar even though they aren't that busy.  In my experience, when I sit at the bar and order iced tea, the bartender seems put out.  This is no exception.  After he brings my tea, he totally ignores me, even though I have a menu I have reviewed and placed down closed in front of me.  After about 20 minutes, I am seriously considering leaving when he finally asks for my order. 

I order crab bisque and the crab cake appetizer, more annoyance for him.  The food is okay.  The service isn't.  I wouldn't eat here again.

During my lengthy wait at the restaurant, I found a new photo editing/filtering/sharing app for my iPhone.  I am already addicted.  Here are some results, all from today:

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