Pelican’s Roost in one of the more popular military RV parks in Florida and it is not easy to get a reserved site. We thought we might have a chance this early in the “snowbird” season, and were pleasantly surprised when we were able to get a full hook-up, pull through site right on the waterfront. I guess you could call it a post-Thanksgiving blessing.
As I was checking out the possible sites, I ran into Steve and Linda, a couple we knew from last year in Key West. It was almost comical as I had run into Steve while at Myrtle Beach and we had dinner at their RV with another Key West couple. You can’t let these opportunities go by and we made arrangements for dinner at our place.
We spent our first day, Cyber Monday, doing Christmas shopping both online and in local stores. Some of our gifts will be shipped back to Michigan where we will pick them up, some wrapped and boxed to send to relatives, and some we will take with us when we fly back to Michigan for the holidays, so we have to get it done early enough for that to happen.
We took the next day to take care of some house-keeping chores – washing the trailer and taking advantage of free washers and dryers in the park laundry. One of the benefits of staying here is that you are right on the St. Johns River and can watch the ships as they go by – Navy ships from Mayport Naval Base and commercial vessels from the commercial ports up river.
As I walked past the Navy Ship Basin I spotted the USNS Detroit, a Littoral Combat Ship. This is the second warship I have seen in the last year named after our home state of Michigan.
Dinner with Steve and Linda that night was fun. We had so much to talk about – where we had spent the last year, and will Sigsbee Island open up soon so we could spend the winter there. Steve and another friend of ours are chartering a sailboat for a two-week cruise in the Caribbean. We were invited to join them, but didn’t let them know soon enough to make the cut. Too many friends were interested in going along. We talked about when they might do it again and they assured us we would be at the top of the list. Steve and Linda had a local seafood place they wanted us to check out so we made plans to join them the next night. Sometimes our social calendar is crazy!
Next morning we drove over to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a National Park. This part of the preserve consists of the Visitor Center and Fort Caroline and the Theodore Roosevelt Area.
Fort de la Caroline was established as the first French settlement in Florida in 1564. There the French were welcomed by the Timucuan Indians who helped them to build the fort in the hope that the French would support their tribe in a conflict with another tribe. The French stayed neutral and the relationship with the Timucuan soured as a result.
Learning of this settlement, Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez attacked and destroyed the fort in 1565, killing most of the French settlers. In 1568 the French attacked and burned the fort in retribution, but French settlement of Florida was effectively over in 1565.
It was interesting to tour the fort, but disappointing. The remains of the fort had been washed away in the 1880s and a replica was built, based on a sketch by Jacques le Moyne. However, the interpretive signs show several drawings of the what the fort should look like, but none of them looked like the replica built by the Park Service. We walked away confused, why build a replica that doesn’t look like the pictures you display of what people thought it looked like?
The Theodore Roosevelt Area was the childhood home of Willie Browne. Willie Browne was a long-time admirer of Theodore Roosevelt and in his final years he encouraged the public to use his land as a refuge from the modern world. In the area you can see varieties of water fowl, Bobcats, amphibians, and even dolphins in the salt marsh. In 1969 he donated the land to the Nature Conservancy. Browne died in 1970 and is buried on the property. In 1990 the National Service acquired the land.
That afternoon Steve and Linda took us to an early dinner at the Safe Harbor, a seafood market and restaurant. This is a “hole in the wall” establishment on the shore of the St. Johns River. The food was delicious with big servings, a military discount, and a view of the traffic on the river. After dinner we perused the seafood available for sale, everything from shrimp, fish fillets, to whole fish! What a great way to end our short stay in Jacksonville.