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  • Steve

Gulf Island National Sea Shore, Florida Springs, and St. Augustine

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After leaving New Orleans, we headed East towards Florida. But first, we had to check out some recommendations we got from our friends Matt, Lindsey, and Gene that we met at Big Bend NP. Gene recommended that we stay at Davis Bayou Campground in Mississippi, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore that stretches into Florida as well (more on that later). We spent a couple days there and attempted to get our first glimpse of the Gulf of Mexico. Matt and Lindsey recommended a BBQ joint called "The Shed" that we tried out as well. It was good, but I still miss Helberg's BBQ in Waco, TX which I think was the best of our trip.

(Move your mouse over the pictures for more info)

Sticking with the Gulf Islands National Seashore, we headed to the Florida end and stayed at Fort Pickens Campground. We got lucky because the reservations had been full every time I looked, and one late night a couple of weeks ago I found this 5-day window. It was well worth it, and it will probably make our top 5 campgrounds of the trip.

We've had 2 different "What is this going to cost me moments" this month.

First, our slide-out sprung a leak. We had noticed the carpet was pretty wet under our "pantry" and Lila swore she didn't spill anything. 😂 Fortunately, the rain stopped, and we were able to get the area all dried out. I spent most of one day taking all the old silicone sealant off the slide-out (what a pain!) and resealing the whole thing with Pro Flex RV sealant. Problem #1 solved.

Second, we were told multiple times that the I-10 freeway from Texas to Florida is so bad it will make your teeth rattle, and you better make sure all your bolts and screws were tight, but apparently, I missed some. The awning was missing two clevis pins that hold the linkage arms together. Luckily everything stayed on the trailer, but unluckily while Jen and I tried getting everything back in place the gas strut got jammed in the wrong spot and busted the crosshead off threads and all. Thanks to Amazon, we were able to order the correct one and have it delivered a couple of days later. Even better, we met a very handy gentleman at one of our Boondockers Welcome locations that helped me get everything put back together. Sorry, no pics on that one. The cylinder had 120lbs of force so we didn't have time to hold up the camera 😉. Problem #2 solved.

For the next 8 days, we split our time between two Boondocker Welcome locations. One was near the town of Defuniak Springs, and the other was near Fort White.

I can't say enough good things about our experiences with Boondockers Welcome. So far, we have stayed 18 nights split between 5 different hosts. One of the last two had water, electricity, and a dump station, while the other had all but electricity. Neither of them would accept a donation or a gift for their hospitality. Altogether, we have spent less than $100 total for those 18 nights (<$5.56 a night). If you are interested, check it out here.

The Sante Fe River is a 75-mile long river that flows through northern Florida and surprisingly disappears into a sinkhole and reappears 3.5 miles away. Conveniently, this created a land bridge for Spanish explorers to build the Spanish Mission trail which is now called Bellamy road. It is the oldest road in Florida, and our Boondockers Welcome host was located just off that road, so we got to check it out. Crazily enough, it still isn't paved.

Jen’s video of manatees

Our last 6 nights were spent at Ocala Salt Springs Recreation Area.

This is called a boil and is created by the underground springs "boiling" up through the thin limestone. At some point the limestone will dissolve and either create a cave or collapse. Hopefully, the former since I am standing right over the top of this one.

We decided to take a day trip over to St. Augustine, FL which is in the NE Florida area. We want to stop there on the way out of Florida but haven't been able to find an RV spot yet.

St. Augustine is rich in history, given it is the oldest town in the United States. It began as a Spanish settlement in 1565. The Spanish built a fort there called Castillo de San Marcos that we visited. It is a National Monument and has a very nice Jr. Ranger program booklet. Interesting fact about the fort, even though it had been in many battles with cannonballs and all, 95% of the structure is original. The Spanish were surprisingly apparently lucky in regards to the building materials they had at the time. There were 9 other wooden forts built before this one, and all were destroyed by fire, termites, weather, and quite possibly cannonballs. The 10th and final fort was built out of coquina. Coquina is Spanish for "little cockleshell" and is a sedimentary rock composed mostly of seashells with little sand. They quarried all 400,000 blocks from nearby Anastasia Island and shaped it by hand. What they didn't know, but later found out was that when a cannonball struck this rock, it absorbed most of the force from the cannonball. They said not one cannonball penetrated the 9-18' thick walls by more than 2'.

We also walked down the pedestrian-only St. George Street for some window shopping as well as toured through Flagler College and the Presbyterian church, both of which were built by Henry Flagler who was one of the founders of the Standard Oil Co with John D. Rockefeller, and later became the founder of the Florida East Coast Railway.


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