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    Jacksonville to St. Augustine

    October 12, 2016

    By 10:30 a.m. I had walked Charlie; I had made a cup of French Press; I had readied and packed all my gear for the next leg of my Florida journey.


    "Jules" came back for lunch, and was thankful that I had walked their dog.


    Calley was getting ready for a restaurant shift.


    We all hugged goodbye, and "Jules" escorted me out of the city and practically back onto US 1.

    She took this picture of me while on the motorcycle.  


    I had part of my rain gear on because the sky looked uncooperative.


    Here's how it goes:  if you where the rain gear, it won't rain.


    If you don't, it will.


    Just covering my bases despite the very short route (less than 50-miles) into St. Augustine.


    When I arrived to US 1, I stopped for gas along the way and put on more rain gear (protective pants).  


    Unfortunately, I could smell and see smoke coming from under my motorcycle.


    My oil had been leaking.


    I got on all fours and practically laid down under the bike to assess the situation.  It did not look too serious, so I got up and told myself to pay attention to any weird smells or sounds while riding.


    I grabbed one of those blue paper towels and checked the oil.  


    It looked a bit dirty, but there was oil.  


    An oil change had not taken place since Ladysmith, Wisconsin.


    Meanwhile, my speedometer and odometer were both out; thus, it was difficult to know how many miles I had traveled.


    Had it been another 5000 miles already?  


    Note to self:  change the oil.  



    The drive along US 1 was not exactly scenic.




    Commercial and industrial zoning.


    A Bacardi plant.


    Strip clubs.








    In other words, dull. 


    A nice stretch of nothing but trees and fields (i.e. land for sale) could be seen just after an interchange with 95 and 295.


    Someday that scenic stretch will be sold and developed.


    That's Florida.


    Open land?


    Money to be made?


    Sell it.


    Level it.


    Develop it.


    Ruin it.



    As I approached St. John's County, Hurricane Matthew's destruction could be seen.


    Tree savagery.


    Helpless power lines.


    I pulled into a CVS pharmacy pick-up area (just inside of St. Augustine); it offered overhead protection.  


    Rain was imminent.  


    Taking out my cell-phone, I checked for directions to Jim's house.


    Wildwood Drive was right off of US 1; technically, Jim and Andrea lived in the southern part of St. Augustine.




    And, for the most part it was.


    I did get a little turned around here and there in the development, but I found their home.


    The rain?  


    It never came.  


    When I pulled into their driveway, I got off the bike and knocked at the door; then, I rang the doorbell a few times.


    No answer.


    I sent Jim a text.


    He and Andrea were in their workshop located in a separate building just behind their main house.


    Jim and his wife are both artists.


    Glass is their medium -- 720 Glassworks.  


    He opened the front door and Andrea came out with him, so did their little dog named Rudy.  


    Here's the first thing he says, "Andrea, meet Billy Idol."  




    That's why I love Jim.  


    That's why he was my best friend and roommate at UF.


    That's why we've been friends for almost 20-years.


    He's one of the funniest men I know.




    He was right.  


    My shockingly white, short blonde locks and motorcycle channeled Billy Idol.


    I had not seen either him or Andrea since their wedding.


    We exchanged hugs, and I hauled all my gear inside their under construction (just on the inside) home.


    As I settled in, Jim and Andrea finished up some work.


    Within an hour, we were all in their SUV taking a St. Augustine tour.

    We drove to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and walked up its 219 steps to get an aerial view of the city.


    Winds whipped at a little over 30-miles per hour.


    Here, I learned that this was where Jim proposed to Andrea.  


    This was also where Andrea asked Jim if he believed in G-d.  


    I felt honored that they shared those intimate stories with me.  


    Next, we gawked at the boats uprooted from their docks.  


    See those two washed up vessels in the upper third of the photo?


    We got back in the SUV and assessed the hurricane damage on the beach.


    The storm surge coughed up boots, toothbrushes, and plenty of other debris.  


    And the plastic!  




    Miles and miles of plastic.   


    We drove by previously flooded neighborhoods.


    Alleys and sides of roads filled with decaying furniture, moldy drywall, and soaked carpet and flooring.




                     mixed with loss... 


                                                      mixed with pity.  


    No words were uttered.   


    Nothing could be said. 


    Just gasps and more gasps.

    Later, we parked near the business district to see how some of Jim and Andrea's retail buyers fared after the storm.  


    A few of them were open for business including restaurants.  


    We had an early dinner at The Floridian.  


    For dessert, I ordered a couple of slices of pie.


    The owners said they were on the house.


    An unexpected local treat for patronizing their place post-Matthew.


    Next, we drove to the Ice Plant.  


    Jim wanted to show me the distillery, but it was closed, so we walked upstairs to the "unaffiliated" restaurant and bar.


    The place was an architectural masterpiece:  industrial mixed with the organic, yet the building maintained its historical integrity.


    I was in ecstatic AWE!  


    We sat at the bar and ordered fancy cocktails where even the ice placed inside of them is handcrafted.


    Paying upwards of $16 for a locally sourced (in every way) drink is a stretch even by Florida standards, yet I know that my "home" has some of the most pricey beverages in the country.




    Refreshing... Florida.


    Our redhead mixologist made the economic sting hurt less by joining us in some of our conversations.  


    Even Andrea patiently listened (and occasionally chimed in) as Jim and I reminisced about our Gainesville days and our strange adventures at campgrounds, concerts, and hotel rooms.


    It had been awhile since I had laughed so hard my stomach hurt. 


    On our drive home, we stopped off at a nearby Publix for a few last minute breakfast items. 


    Back at their house, we stayed up a little longer; we played with Rudy.


    Unfortunately, my itchy eyes and incessant yawning pushed me to bed.


    So I said goodnight.


    I bundled up in my sleeping bag and thought to myself:  


    I'm so happy to be here with Jim and his wife! 

    I'm so happy he and Andrea suffered no hurricane damages!

    I'm so happy they are spiritually, physically, and financially healthy!  


    I fell asleep with a giant smile on my face.  

    Until we meet again, my friend. 
















































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