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Exploring the Area around Mayport

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

With Karen in California I used this time to do some solo E-biking on and off the naval station. I put a few miles riding around the airfield to Gate 5 which borders the intercoastal waterway to the St. John River. This commercial gate was closed over the weekend but just beyond it I could clearly see where the USCG Station Jacksonville Annex is located and also where the St. John River Ferry crosses. After the ride around the base I came back to Osprey Cove for a much needed nap and did some reading outside in the recliners I've set out. Later that evening I splurged and went off base to Bono's Pit Bar-B-Q on Atlantic Avenue near the town of Atlantic Beach for a barbecue rib dinner.

Sunday, October 22 was my most ambitious day on the calendar. I found a bike route off Mayport Road onto Plaza Road that provided me backroad access to the beaches along the Atlantic waterfront. The locals use it to access the beaches with their golf carts, bikes and scooters. I left for the beach around one in the afternoon. The Blue Angels were scheduled to fly around 3 PM so I had time to explore and get a bite of lunch. After the initial 7 miles into Atlantic Beach I stopped at Joseph's Pizza for a slice and a salad. Located on Ocean Blvd. near Neptune Beach I was able to get a table outside the restaurant to do some people watching while I enjoyed the meal. This is a tourist area but not too congested like other beach towns. With the Blue Angels performance I expected a crowd, but it wasn't so bad. I was still glad to be on my E-bike for the added mobility and to eliminate the parking issue.

After lunch I headed for the beach to find a spot to watch the show. Once again I expected large crowds but they were spread out over the massive expanse of the beautiful sandy beach. I wish I had brought my beach chair. I found some wooden stairs from the beach up to the Lemon Bar, located on the Atlantic Ocean in Neptune Beach in the Seahorse Oceanfront Inn courtyard which offered amazing oceanfront view and some back support. True to form, the Blue Angels did their thing with show center at JAX Pier about 2 miles south.

I decided to explore the area after the show and rode up Seminole Drive parallel to the oceanfront. The road leads all the way to the south end of Kathryn Hannah Abbey City Park but there is no walkway or bike path through the fence, so it was all the way back to Plaza Street to get back to the main gate for Mayport. I traveled a total of over 20 miles by the end of that day. Even with my new seat cushion, my bottom was still pretty sore.

I spent the remainder of the time, both Monday and Tuesday, just chilling, reading my Jack Reacher novel, napping and occasional walking around the lake near the RV park. The lake has alligators in it and occasionally they come on shore to get warm. They look slow but I give them a wide berth when I encounter them. On a night walk I came across an armadillo in the RV complex digging for his meal. I approached it slowly and got amazingly close to watch it doing it's thing; truly a wild looking creature to see in person.

Karen's flight arrived close to midnight on Tuesday, so I used the late afternoon to explore the areas north of the naval station. Fernandina Beach is a city in northeastern Florida and the county seat of Nassau County, Florida.. It is the northernmost city on Florida's Atlantic coast, situated on Amelia Island, and is one of the principal municipalities comprising Greater Jacksonville. The area has some great bike trails and parks to explore. When Karen returns, it's worth a trip back for a longer visit via the St. Johns River Ferry to see Fort Clinch State Park and the town of Fernandina.

On Wednesday, Karen and I took a road trip north. We took the St. Johns River ferry across to Fanning Island which took all of 5 minutes. We then drove north along the Atlantic shoreline through several small islands until we got to Amelia Island. There are upscale resort areas with large homes, golf clubs and restaurants and beautiful beaches. We also saw many "middle class" neighborhoods on the beach. We stopped along the way for a short walk on the beach and a snack at Sliders Seaside Cafe, where we sat outside with our toes in the sand. The historic town of Fernandina on the Amelia River has period homes that have been well maintained and a quaint section with many ethnic restaurants and shops.

Fort Clinch is a 19th-century masonry coastal fortification, built as part of the Third System of seacoast defense conceived by the United States. It is located on a peninsula near the northernmost point of Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida. The fort lies to the northeast of Fernandina Beach at the entrance to the Cumberland Sound, in the northeast part of the state. Today it is included within the boundaries of Fort Clinch State Park.

The fortified compound is pentagonal in shape, with both inner and outer walls, and consists of almost five million bricks. There are corner bastions and embrasures in the outer walls and several structures in the interior courtyards, including a two-story barracks. The fort was named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch after his death in 1849. General Clinch fought in the War of 1812 and was an important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars.

Confederate forces seized the fort in early 1861. It was used as a safe haven for Confederate blockade runners during the first year of the Civil War. However, changes in technology, specifically the development of rifled cannon, had improved weaponry to the point that the fort's brick walls were vulnerable to attacks and thus obsolete. In March 1862 General Robert E. Lee ordered abandonment of the fort in order to use scarce troops in other areas. Afterwards Federal troops re-occupied the fort, taking control of the adjacent Georgia and Florida coasts. They used the fort as the base of Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War.


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