St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States settled by Europeans. It was founded in 1565 by a Spanish naval officer and changed hands several times amongst the Spanish, British, and finally America. It’s now a major tourist attraction on Florida’s northeast coast, and the place where my cross-country journey reached the Atlantic Ocean.
After nearly 4500 miles, 17 states, and 11 days, I finally achieved my goal of driving across the United States. While I still have a few days to play around in Florida before I fly home, dipping my toes in the water at St. Augustine Beach was the symbolic end of the transcontinental journey.
It all went by way to quickly. To do it right, I should have taken at least a month, and even then there would be many things left to be seen another time. I went through Yellowstone National Park in a day. It should have taken a week. There’s a lot to do and see in Kentucky, and it’s probably worth another whole week. As much fun as it’s been doing the trip solo, it would have been better if my wife were along to share in the memories.
The weather has been fantastic for most of the trip, and this morning was no exception. After a long walk on the beach, I wandered through the historic section St. Augustine. The community has done a great job of keeping the businesses in the historic district local – there aren’t any national chain stores or terribly cheesy tourist traps.
On the St. Augustine waterfront is the Castillo de San Marcos, which was built over 100 years before the American Revolution and is now a National Monument. It was another opportunity to use the parks pass that I bought in the Grand Tetons at the beginning of the trip. If you’re doing any traveling at all, buying this pass will pay off in short order.
From there I headed south to Daytona, Florida, the birthplace of NASCAR. The sport did not begin at site of the current superspeedway, but rather with racing on the beach. You can still drive on the beach, although at a much more leisurely pace. Just $5 buys you a one-day pass for access.
The sand of the beach is pretty well packed from the traffic on the beach, so it was no test at all for the Sorento’s all-wheel drive system. I tested the AWD a bit earlier in the trip, on snowy and icy patches in Wyoming, and it performed admirably. What I am using in Florida is the Kia’s large, panoramic sunroof. If I’m not careful, the top of my head is going to be redder than the car.
After my foray on the beach, I crossed the state to visit relatives on the Gulf Coast, and tomorrow I’ll be headed back to central Florida to visit Mickey Mouse.
Start: St. Augustine, Florida
End: Tampa, Florida
Total miles: 243
Tomorrow: Orlando, Florida