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Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Junior Rangers Badges In Florida!

I was looking up National Parks, and I saw Casillo de San Marcos (at St. Augustine, FLA) was only about 4 hours from here.  That is a do able day trip!  Long, but do able. There was another National Park about 15 miles south, called Fort Mantanzas.  We could do both!  The next one down the coast was over an hour south, so that was not a do able day trip. (Canaveral National Sea Shore)
This was the day to go to Florida. I  looked up the weather before we left, about a 60% chance of afternoon thunder showers. We would be gone by then, so it was good.
We left at about 6:15 am. This truck was looking really good to me!
Our first stop was a rest area in Brunswick, Georgia. They have a big cast iron pot there for the claim that this is where Brunswick Stew came from!
Brunswick stew vary greatly, but it is usually a tomato-based stew, containing various types of lima beans/butter beans,cornokra, and other vegetables, and one or more types of meat. Most recipes claiming authenticity call for squirrelopossum or rabbit meat, but chickenpork, and beef are also common meats.
At the Fort. We did a little driving down A1A. So much fun I could show that to Lon
The entrance to the Fort
The Fort. We had to get a ticket for the ferry to take us across the Mantanzas River.  It was a pontoon boat. They warned us that if there was thunder and lightening we would have to leave the Fort ASAP because the pontoon boats could attract lightening.
We watched the movie at the Visitor's Center and learned that Mantanza means slaughter in Spanish. It is named for the massacre of the French by the Spanish at this Fort.   The Fort was originally covered in white limestone.  When the Fort came into British hands, they did not bother with the limestone. And when the United States gained the Fort, nothing was done with it and it fell into ruin until the National Park Service took it in the 1920s. They brought it back and have taken care of it ever since.
It is a little place.  It was a warning station for Castillo de San Marcos, just 15 miles up the river.  If an enemy approached,  they could take care of them before they got any farther or at least warn St. Augustine that someone was coming in the back door!
The landscape behind the Fort. I don't think it has changed much since the Spanish were there

Inside the watch tower.  That was part of the work Lon had to do for his Jr. Ranger badge was to tell how it felt to be in the watch tower.
He said it was small and there was not much inside
This was the opening to get to the upper deck.  Lon got to explore up there by himself!
There were two levels, and the roof. The top level was the Captain's Quarters, and the powder magazine. The lower level was everything else. Kitchen, sleeping quarters, etc.
Back on the mainland.
Yes, it was HOT
What is that?
It is moving really fast!

It is a little crab! The Ranger said there were hundreds of them all over the place last week!
The oath was taken very seriously at Fort Mantanzas!
Lon did  the extra work to get the Master Jr. Ranger patch too. He had a choice to be an Jr. Enviromental engineer or a Jr. Anthropologist. He picked Jr. Anthropologist.  Two pages of questions on the life of a soldier at the Fort. He also he had to complete ALL the activities in the booklet, not just the 5 required for his age group.
We printed out the booklets at home, and he worked on what he could on our drive down.
This was just a beautiful tree, on our way out.
Time to drive the 15 miles north on A1A to St. Augustine and Castillo de San Marcos!
So easy to find the Castillo! Cross this bridge into St. Augustine and turn right. Can not miss it. Parking at the Castillo is difficult. It is a pay to park city lot. So it is jam packed. Even on a Monday afternoon.  We got lucky and someone was pulling out, just as she is about to pull out, she jumps out of her car and runs to my window and hands me her paid parking ticket. It  had about 45 minutes left! What a nice thing to do. I did have to get another parking ticket since we spent more time in the Castillo.  So when we pulled out, I passed on our ticket to the person who took our spot.
Getting ready to go explore!

Goofy face but a nice picture

In the wall.
Exploring the gun deck. It was good we went up there first, when it started to rain, they closed the gun deck.
Part of Lon's Jr Ranger badge was to interview a Ranger.  He found a very nice lady in a soldier's costume.  She is from Norway, and the adult conversation turned to food.  Now I am craving Lefse!
We learned about the Castillo. There was a Charleston connectoon. When the English were setting in Charles Towne, they were threatening Spanish holdings. This made the construction of the Castillo a priority.  The English tried to capture St. Augustine in Queen Anne's war, but never did. The Castillo never changed hands due to battle, only by treaty.  The Spanish held Florida longer than the United States has had Florida. Lon also learned that Florida means land of the flowers.
Storm moving in
They did not make Lon take the Jr Ranger Oath here. They did check his work. To get his Master Jr. Ranger from the Castillo de San Marcos, he had to write a letter telling people why they should care about this place and why they should visit.  They kept it so they can use it later if it is really good.
We did not want to walk too much in the rain so we drove around to find something to eat. The first place we came to, with parking,  was something called the Village Inn. It is like a Denny's.  It was not terrible.  Lon had chocolate chip pancakes. His meal was good.
We then got on the road !
There was something going on with the road to get to I-95. There were several police cars blocking the entrance. I drove around in a circle so I could ask the police man how to get to 95. He said something about speedway road. I did find it and made it to 95 without anymore problems.
We stopped in Brunswick again for gas. When we were pulling out, we got a beep on the local radio station. It said severe weather alert for Savannah. At highway 16 and I-95. There is very little between Savannah and Brunswick.  The truckers were not pulling off the road,  so I figured it might be okay.
Driving in that storm  it was very similar to a white out. Heavy, heavy rain. You can not pull out of your lane because you are not sure if someone is in the other lane. I had my flashers on to make us as visible as possible.  Everyone was going about 35 miles an hour.   I thought this was the last of the storm.  Then...

Round two. Closer to Savannah.
More of the same heavy rain.  We got though it without any trouble.  Lon was really good, he was quiet as I concentrated on driving.
Once we crossed into South Carolina, no rain at all. High overcast, brighter sky.
It was a fun trip, we learned a lot and had a great drive!

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