Wherever the Road Leads

St. Augustine

You Can’t See the Wal-Mart For the Trees

It’s a pretty city. They seem to like wide boulevards, seem to have height restrictions on retailers’ signs and seem to like a lot of trees. So far, it’s been a bit like living in Niagara Falls. Tourists flock from around the globe but as a resident, you learn how to avoid them by staying away from the tourist attractions.

I’ve found my Mail Forwarder in Green Cove Springs, Camping World of St. Augustine, the Ponce de Leon Mall – a starving-to-death structure with Belk at one end, JCPenney at the other and a virtual vacuum in between – and of course, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart on the inside, but this has to be one of the nicest exteriors I’ve ever seen.

What I haven’t seen yet include the St. Augustine Beach, the Old City and most importantly, The Premium Outlets of St. Augustine. The beach… meh. It’s hot here. Even in the camper it’s hot because at this park I’m paying for my own electricity to run the a/c; each site is metered. I can improve my tan by opening up the lounge chair beside the camper, where I can step inside when it gets too hot.

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The beach? During the winter, there’s probably more yankees than people standing shoulder to shoulder to sweat and gaze upon a landscape that’s not snow-covered. This is Florida. It’s July. Salt water to cool off? I’ll pass, thanks.

The Old City? I was there once many years ago. I’d like to see it again. St. Augustine is, after all, oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. The vicinity of St. Augustine was first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer and governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, who claimed the region for the Spanish crown. Prior to the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, several earlier attempts at European colonization in what is now Florida were made by both Spain and France, but all failed.

It’s been here pert near 500 years, it can wait a couple more weeks for me. Of some interest might be the pronunciation of its first explorer, Ponce de León. How do you pronounce the man’s name? Knowing Spanish, or following the pronunciation guide of the accent makes no difference when you’re from Atlanta. Everyone there knows the man’s name is Pawnse de LEE-on. Get with it.

The St. Augustine Premium Outlets are calling out to me. They are that close. In the winter they might be within walking distance but not in summer’s heat. Although at the red light where you cross, there is a Wendy’s where you can get a Value Cheeseburger and a free Senior’s drink for a very reasonable price while you are cooling off.

All in good time. I’ll be here for a month.

Getting here was an adventure. I did a much better job of getting packed up, disconnected and then hitched up, even in the drizzle. I wasn’t sure if I had tightened the anti-sway bar sufficiently and it didn’t take long to figure out on I-75 with tractor-trailers zooming past in the rain, that reefing down on the friction would most likely help.

It rained a good bit of the way. That was a new experience. At 10.2 miles per gallon in wet conditions, I wasn’t about to try to set any speed records. I sat in the right hand lane at 63 miles per hour and let whomever wished to just go on by. I-75 through Georgia is three lanes in most of the state, that made it easier.

Even without watching behind you, you can feel when a truck is about to pass. When he gets alongside, you get pulled into him, then as he begins to pass, you get pushed away.

I had mapped out my route with fuel in mind. I figured, safely, I can run about 200 miles on a tank, even although I have a 26 gallon tank. I don’t need ulcers worrying about running out of gas on top of all my other learning experiences. I knew there was Pilot Truck Stop near the Georgia – Florida state line. I am usually very picky about gasoline and use name-brands only, preferably Shell. But most important is being able to get in and out of the gas station, especially my first fill-up with the trailer attached.

In the rain, I pulled into the Pilot, but the automobile pumps, not the truck pumps. The pump islands ran parallel to the road, as opposed to facing the building. Good. There were three pumps per island. Good. Sort of. I figured I could pull the truck alongside the middle pump, blocking the third pump with the trailer. Yah but…

Although pump number one and two were vacant, there was a car using pump number three, closest to me. My first thought was to sit and wait until the car was finished. Not good thinking. I was half-way blocking the entrance, plus, what if another vehicle arrived, deciding to use one of ‘my’ pumps.

Y’all go first… right after me. I angled into the island at the pump number two, the middle pump, then pulled forward so that the truck was perfectly parallel to pump number one. The trailer was on a 45º angle, blocking off pump number two, with its rear end sticking out considerably. Get over it, folks. I’m old and I’m hungry.

I got soaked in the rain but I also got a tankful of gas without event, more than enough to get me to St. Augustine.

 

Poor Tupelo. I’ve always wished he was more of a lap cat. He is very independent. But I’ve got to give it to him, he’s a trooper. He’s been dragged to Canada and a tiny apartment where he had a runny nose for months. Eighteen hours in a truck back down to Georgia again, where his empire shrank to two hundred square feet, exposed to ringworm and an Elizabethan collar.

He loved Arabi, long grass and a couple of trees where he could lounge and stalk blades of grass without venturing far.

tupelo-arabi

However, I had to watch him constantly to make sure he didn’t bolt, or one of the two resident camp cats decided to protect their territory. I tried two different collars and harnesses on him, he immediately figured out how to wiggle-worm out of them both.

When I picked up my mail down here in Florida, waiting for me was a specialty harness that is supposed to contain everything short of a cheetah. The poor cat. He’s contained all right. He’s immobilized. I hope he’ll soon get used to it, because the changes in his life are becoming constant.

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Comments

  1. elayne  July 28, 2014

    Tupelo is certainly a trooper..Cats definitely do NOT like change.. His new harness looks comfy but is probably warm in the Florida heat.. Better a little heat than losing him . Cats DO like warmth after all. Thank you Gordon for allowing us to share portions of your journey . I look forward to your future posts.. Take care. et

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  2. Mike G  July 29, 2014

    Gordon, I have learned cats are very vengeful creatures. And that look on Tupelo, 2nd picture from the bottom looks as if he is plotting something so sinister that it might even make you consider leaving him in St. Augustine in a month.

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