Day 33: St Augustine to Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler Beach) - Grampies Go to Florida - CycleBlaze

March 7, 2015

Day 33: St Augustine to Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler Beach)

The unhelpful man from the front desk yesterday at Pirate Haus put in a repeat appearance and repeat performance, making pancakes this morning. Sheesh, what a surly guy! Had the owner been the one on the pancakes, we would have asked for a "judicial review" of the bikes decision. Instead, we slouched off and submitted a negative review on Yelp. One thing, though, Mr. Surly makes a nice pirate pancake!

Pirate pancakes by Mr Surly
Heart 0 Comment 0

Without a safe place to store the bikes, we rejigged our thinking about the day. We decided to re-ride the trolley route, and be able to get some photos not from a lurching vehicle. Dodie also put in a strong vote for the chocolate factory tour, and we hoped to find a safe bike harbour there.

Before heading off, we stopped at the Trolley Tour office to see if we could get any benefit back from our three day pass. To our delight and surprise, they made a full refund. They even said to keep the passes, in case we ended up finding a spot for the bikes somewhere. Hooray, there is at least one sensitive and helpful business in St Augustine.

So we took our bikes and noodled around town, taking some further photos of some of the hot spots. Because of the admission fees and the lack of place to stash the bikes, we abandoned any idea of visiting museums, or oldest houses, or the like. But there was one attraction that Dodie just was not going to pass up - the chocolate factory. We cycled down there, arriving 15 minutes before they opened. Out back we encountered the man who would be the tour guide, and put our bike storage request to him. He failed to come up with anything, though unlike many who are unused to bicycles, he did give it some passing thought.

Our next move was to visit the police station, which was basically next door. Inside, where reception used to be, or ought to be, there was only a telephone. The voice on the end of the line, after listening for a bit (and breaking off to attend to one or two real emergencies) sent an officer to see what we were all about. Like the chocolate man, Officer Liu gave it some thought, but had no ideas. We asked him to impound the bikes, but he pointed out we had carelessly failed to break any laws. In the end we locked our bikes, using our dollar store locks, at the bike rack in front of the police station. Officer Liu wryly pointed out that with the video surveillance they have there, they would at least have a record of who took the bikes.

Back at the Whetstone chocolate factory, we presented our coupon for $1 off the $8 per person cost. You really need to bring your lawyer to operate effectively in America, and in this case the cashier lady refused to accept the coupon as grounds for giving $1 off for each of us. So $15 later, plus tax, we were in!

It turns out the chocolate factory is not really a complete production. They seem to buy prepared raw chocolate and are mainly engaged in mixing basic ingredients (like the cocoa powder, lecithin, cocoa butter, sugar, etc). and then doing molding, enrobing, flavouring, and such. Nevertheless, the tour did follow the whole product from the tree to the finished goody. They did this first with a film about cocoa bean production, fermentation, and drying, and then by having a display of the various machines that roast, roll, pound, grind, sift, the beans, prior to when you start actually making chocolate bars, coconut creams, and so forth.

Along the way there were some tasters of chocolate of varying cocoa content, of white chocolate, amaretto chocolate syrup, peppermint chocolate seashells, etc.

The chocolate seashells are actually their signature product, and are made in several flavours and chocolate types. Interestingly, Mr Whetstone, who started the enterprise in 1967, was the inventor of those super great split apart chocolate oranges. His original mold for this was proudly on display.

A lot of the tour seemed designed to encourage you to buy stuff in their shop at the end, and we were willing victims of this. One thing we got was "Minorcan Hot Chocolate" mix, made with local datil peppers. Anyone reading this who is actually family back home can expect to try this out!

Back at the police station, we were mildly surprised to find our bikes still there. So now we headed out of town. With our plans so disrupted by rain and bike storage, we quickly passed the KOA where in fact we had reservations for the night. We stopped in, and again to the credit of a local business, they refunded the amount we had paid when reserving.

Now we set out in earnest along A1A, the famous scenic route that runs by the water all down the east coast here. Surprisingly, for about the first 15 km we saw nothing of the ocean. Rather there were dunes, and on them giant houses or condos, totally blocking access, even visual. The town names listed on the maps certainly did not correspond to main street type towns, or even to bits of commerce strung along the highway. Basically we saw nothing, save maybe two service stations.

To illustrate the lack of services, at one point Dodie hung a sharp left into the garage of a vacation rental, where what turned out to be some New York firefighters were revving up their Harleys. We asked them to fill up our water bottles. They had come, we later clearly learned, because this is "Bike Week", and the place is flooded with bikers. Many local businesses (when we eventually found some) were sporting "Welcome Bikers" signs. (This does not mean us ).

Somewhere before Palm Coast, we noticed a bike path paralleling the highway. This was broad and safe, and sometimes dove into some nice forested areas. Of course, there is no mention of this on the ACA map.

With the help of a tailwind, we zipped along nicely, and reached Flagler Beach. There are some "campgrounds" near here, but of course in America, camping does not always (or often) mean what we think it means. Here, if you are not motorized in some way, you mostly do not exist.

So it was that we rolled up to the Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area, a facility of the State department of Recreation and Parks. "No Vacancy" we were told. With the sun setting, we pulled out our letter quoting the departmental policy on hiker/bikers fetching up at the door. This triggered a chain of phone and radio calls up the chain of command, until I finally got the park manager on a phone that was handed to me. The lady berated me for not knowing about Bike Week, and not knowing that I needed to predict where we would make it to, and reserve (as everyone else had) 11 months in advance. I gently berated her back for not properly distinguishing environmentally evil motorized campers from angelic hiker/bikers. In any event, she sent a pair of rangers down to escort us to their huge, unoccupied, covered sheltered, multi picnic table, day use area. The rangers, by contrast, were very friendly, and did everything possible to set us up, open a washroom, offer to move tables should we wish to pitch the tent under a shelter, etc.

By the way, we were also beraqted for not knowing that this is Bike Week. We of course do not care a flying fig for these noisy, flatulent, almost always speeding monstrosities, and object to the appropriation of the word "bike" as in hiker/biker. To be fair though, this is my opinion mostly. Dodie feels more affinity with motorcycle riders, who after all are on two wheels, are exposed to the weather, and often are tenting.

So here we are at one of the five tables under our shelter, with no one around for 1/2 km. We feel a little guilty, but just a very little!

St Augustines walking street
Heart 0 Comment 0
An interesting story
Heart 0 Comment 0
The monument
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Spanish styled cathedral
Heart 0 Comment 0
A street in old St Augustine
Heart 0 Comment 0
Flagler College, the former Ponce de Leon hotel
Heart 0 Comment 0
Flagler's statue at the entrance
Heart 0 Comment 0
The story of the hotel
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Villa Zorayda
Heart 0 Comment 0
The story of the Villa
Heart 0 Comment 0
Maybe the best place to park the bikes
Heart 0 Comment 0
From the film about chocolate
Heart 0 Comment 0
The chocolate tour
Heart 0 Comment 0
A good tee shirt
Heart 0 Comment 0
The "enrobing"/machine was not in operation today, but we can still try the results. The one with the cherry inside was really good. Come to think of it, the cherry, with the goo, must be a different process again.
Heart 0 Comment 0
A galleon at anchor at St Augustine
Heart 0 Comment 0
A look back, and goodbye to the oldest city
Heart 0 Comment 0
One of the giant buildings (houses) occupying the beach along A1A
Heart 0 Comment 0
A1A
Heart 0 Comment 0
Condos block the beach along A1A
Heart 0 Comment 0
Beach buildings along A1A. We saw this same style approaching New Orleans
Heart 0 Comment 0
Giant building along the beach on A1A. By Flagler Beach, however, the views and access were open.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The bike path along A1A
Heart 0 Comment 0
Oxymoron. Camping - no tents!
Heart 0 Comment 0
"Camping" in this part of America.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Bike Week - who knew!
Heart 0 Comment 0
A pirate house along A1A
Heart 0 Comment 0
We saw Gamble Rogers years ago at a folk festival, and have one of his records. Our favourite song was the "DeKalb County Deputy Sheriff" a parody on southern police. Gamble Rogers died here, trying to save someone in the surf.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The staff at the Park office were fairly pissy about having to accommodate us cyclists, but the rangers were nice. Here Dodie is following them to our private preserve.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Our private preserve.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 1,740 km (1,081 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0