Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jamestown, Virginia


Jamestown was established on May 13, 1607 making it the first permanent  English settlement in North America and of course, the first settlement in what would become the United States.

Historic Jamestown is the National Park that protects this site. To quote the National Park brochure:

“Jamestown, a place of many Beginnings

Come, walk in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas as we explore America's beginnings. Here is where the successful English colonization of North America began. Here is where the first English representative government met and where the first arrival of Africans to English North American was recorded in 1619. Jamestown, the Beginning of America.”

P1040117 a model of Fort James

Walking in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas is probably what makes it so special to visit Jamestown. Most of us know about Jamestown as the Johns Smith and Pocahontas story from a Disney movie. Being here makes them “real” and the stories of starvation, disease, fighting Indians and death shows how  close they came to NOT being the first permanent settlement. After the first year, only 38 of the original 144 had survived. The winter of 1609-10, known as the "STARVING TIME," may have been the worst of all. Only 60 of the 500 colonists survived the winter. At the end  of that winter the 60 survivors loaded onto a ship and headed for  England. By pure luck they met Captain John Smith and the relief ships as they were entering Chesapeake Bay.


This tower from 1647 is the only 17th century building still standing in Jamestown although it originally was 28 feet taller.



Between 1607 and 1686 the colonist built 5 churches on this site. This church was built in 1906. It attaches to the original  tower at the front.

In 1699 the capital was moved to Williamsburg and Jamestown faded into disuse and became farm land  on a  plantation. By the 1800s no one knew exactly where the old fort had been and by the 1990 is was thought that the original fort had been lost to 3 centuries of erosion. However in 1994 archeologists working near the church tower found the actual post holes dug for the original fortifications. Subsequent, archeological digs have uncovered additional post holes, foundations, wells and 1,000s of artifacts. Many of these artifacts are on  display at a wonderful museum at Jamestown.



Archaeology continues today in Jamestown


Rebuilt palisades and a partially rebuilt building in the background.


Yes, there really was a John Smith.

It should be noted that what really made the Jamestown colony viable was that John Rolfe, the future husband of Pocahontas. succeeded in growing tobacco in the colony. Once established, the amount of tobacco shipped England doubled almost yearly. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

A stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina


An interesting bridge just outside Jacksonville, Florida

Upon leaving St. Augustine we took a couple of days to drive to Fayetteville, North Carolina for more visiting.

Kathy’s nephew Stephen is currently stationed at Fort Bragg after his tour of duty in Iraq. This is the first time we have seen him since he returned from Iraq and it was good to see him looking so well. We had a nice dinner together and caught up on his time in the Army and his future plans. Unfortunately, with all of the talking we didn’t get a pictures.

We also got a chance to meet another of Kathy’s Chatty Cyber Chick  and Arctic Camster friends. This time we met “HiC”. Cecilia and her husband Bryan live in Raleigh, about 60 miles from Fayetteville and they came down to  have lunch with us. Although, “HiC” is on a countdown towards her retirement she didn’t sound like she was going to sell everything and take up full timing RVing.  Note from Kathy: It is always fun to meet someone you have “known” for a while in person!


May 2,2010 016

The weather remained very humid during our visit but it didn’t rain. However, about an hour after we left Fayetteville we hit a very intense 5 minute rain storm. The kind of rain that wipers on full don’t really do much good. The good news is that after the rain both the truck and the trailer looked liked they had been power washed and all of the tree stuff from the St. Augustine thunderstorm was off of both of them. How very nice of the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation to give us a free car and RV wash!!

On to Virginia.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Florida – St. Augustine


P1040097  Castillo de San Marcos

After leaving Disney World and Kissimmee, Florida we turned north. After all we only have about 5 months to get to New England for leaf season. We also wanted to have some non-driving days to relax. On my list of “must see places” in Florida was St. Augustine:  “Founded in 1565, it is the oldest continuously occupied European established city, and the oldest port, in the continental United States.” How amazing is that? A town that was founded 445 years ago! That is 42 years before the founding of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia.

Our drive to St. Augustine was uneventful on typically very good Florida highways. Florida may have the best highways in the country. The weather was also what we have come to  believe as typical Florida weather. Lows about 70 and highs around 82, with the humidity about 80%. As everywhere else in the south we ran our A\C day and night.

St. Augustine is very much a tourist town. There are miles of hotels, motels, shopping and places to eat. The number of people around on the weekend seems to be triple what we saw during the week days. Also, as a very old town the streets are narrow and NOT a good place to be driving a one ton dually pickup! On the weekend parking was non-existent

We came to St. Augustine to see its two primary historic landmarks the old fort and the lighthouse .

 IMG_6489 St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine is the site of the Castillo de San Marcos. From its founding in 1565 St. Augustine was attacked and burned periodically by the French, the English and Pirates. Including an attack in 1586 by English privateer Sir Francis Drake. Finally, in 1672 after more than a hundred years of raids the Spanish started work on stone fort. The fort was under construction for 25 years and is made out of “shell rock” called Coquina; almost a  limestone, but very porous. Due to the unique nature of this rock cannonballs that hit the wall are simply swallowed up. Over the next 150 years there would continue to be raids on St. Augustine, but the fort was never taken in battle.


Arial picture of Castillo de San Marcos


Parade Ground inside the fort


Cannon at the ready


The Moat is dry these days


South Battery

P1040086 17th century Mortar

Florida’s first lighthouse was built in St. Augustine in 1824 on the site of Spanish “watch tower or beacon” that had been there since at least 1589. However the current lighthouse was started in 1871 and went into operation in 1874 shortly before the 1824 lighthouse fell into the sea. The 1874 lighthouse was declared surplus in the 1960s and fell into disuse, disrepair and vandalism.  The Keepers House was burned in an arson fire in 1970. In 1980 a group was started to restore the lighthouse and grounds. Today the 165 foot lighthouse tower and adjacent Keeper House are in perfect shape. There are 210 steps to the top of the tower where you can walk outside around the tower and get a great view of area. 

P1040011 Docent and visitors on the top walkway

P1040049 Lighthouse Keepers house


P1040033 Castillo de San Marcos from the top of the lighthouse

Before we started on the road we were told that every Fulltime RVer needs a weather radio to be notified of local weather problems.  We bought one before we started and plugged it in. However, the weather in the west generally isn’t all that exciting so we neglected the weather radio. We used the outlet for something else. let the batteries run down and never tuned it in. That all has changed since we have been touring the south. One afternoon the weather radio went off telling us of a “Tornado Watch”, then a “Thunderstorm Warning”, followed by a “Strong Wind Warning”. This continued ever 15 minutes for 5 hours. All the time we had no wind, no rain and not even very dark clouds. We also came to the realization that RV Park had no tornado shelter, no basement, or any building made of brick. No one in the RV Park seemed  too be concerned. We have come to the conclusion that natives receive so many watches and warnings that they just ignore them. Much to Raider’s dismay we did get a 15 minute Thunder Strom right at sunset. It rained very hard and washed all of the dirt, pollen, and who knows what else, from the trees above us, all over the truck and trailer. When it was all over they were sticky and very dirty looking.

Bird Note:

Just after crossing into Georgia we saw a flock of 6 birds rising out of a field on the right side of the road. They circled a couple of times and then flew over the highway at about 20 feet. We were shocked when we saw that they were Whooping Cranes. Whooping Cranes are among the rarest birds in North America and a new addition to our life list.

The RV Park we stayed at in St. Augustine had a small pond with turtles, ducks, nest Red Shouldered Hawks and an Anhinga.

IMG_6526  AhingaIMG_6528 AhingaIMG_6524 Florida Red Shouldered Hawk