U.S. Roadtrip Stop #5: Jacksonville, FL – There’s No Place Like Family
They say home is where the heart is. If that’s in fact true, then I would easily classify Ponte Vedra, FL, a beach community just south of Jacksonville, as part of my home. I lived there part of the summer between my Junior and Senior year of college for an internship with my aunt Kathy’s company, Raymond James Financial. In addition, Kathy and my uncle Matt (my dad’s brother), and my first cousin Stevie live there, and have for some time. Given that Morgan and I are on the road for almost 2 months exploring the U.S., I had to make sure we paid them a visit. Morgan had never been, and I was not only looking forward to seeing my family, but also giving her the opportunity to see where a portion of my extended family spends their lives. We left Savannah in the early afternoon for the short 2-½ hour drive to the Jacksonville area.
Jacksonville is the largest ‘city proper’ in the state of Florida by population, and the largest city in the entire country by land area (I know… I was surprised when I learned that as well). This means there is a lot that can be explored, if desired. The downtown business district, the Intracoastal Waterway, the St. John’s Riverfront, many nice suburban areas, and if you want to see where the boys from Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up, you can take a trip to the west side of town. No, they did not call ‘Sweet Alabama’ home as the song implies. Note earlier that I said ‘if desired’. For those looking for a blog post about all the ins and outs of the great city of Jacksonville, Florida, this probably isn’t the post for you. Just as when I was living there in 2003, Morgan and I didn’t leave the beach communities, of which Ponte Vedra is a major part.
Matt and Kathy live 5 minutes from Mickler’s Beach, a less busy, equally beautiful spot in the sand when compared to Jax Beach just north of Ponte Vedra. If we weren’t on their back porch sipping a cold beverage, we were at or near Mickler’s having beach-y type fun. The usual suspects – bike riding, shelling, sun bathing, frisbee throwing, beach paddleball, and shark tooth hunting. It was truly a relaxing few days of not much more than enjoying good company and the beautiful North Florida weather.
It should be noted that Florida leads the world in shark attacks, and the beaches around Jacksonville are FULL of discarded shark teeth. Happy swimming people!
Their backyard butts up against a natural wetland and coastal river that empties in the ocean, and you can actually hear the male alligators belching and moaning in the distance as you sit on their back patio. Typical males trying to show off…
It’s a pretty cool experience to decompress in peace and listen to nature. It has a calming affect. It’s also something we’re able to do quite a bit on this adventure, and it’s one of the most pleasant parts. Humans, in the purest form, are a part of nature, not separate from it or greater than it. As you grow older, you realize that many times the people you are spending your time with are just as, if not more, important as where you spend your time. All Morgan and I wanted to do was relax and catch up with our relatives. We had only been on the road for a week at this point, but it was so good to see familiar faces, just as we did in Charleston a few days earlier. A week may not seem like a long time. But for Morgan and I, that 1st week felt like the longest. We were still working out all of the kinks that come along with living in an RV, trekking with 2 dogs, not to mention we had traveled through 8 states in 7 days thus far. Don’t get me wrong – meeting new people and exploring different places is what this trip is all about, and we definitely enjoy that aspect – But there’s no place like family.
We caught up about their lives, discussed our trip to that point, told old stories that never get old, and reminisced about those no longer with us. We feel so lucky to have family like them to be able to count on for a quick laugh (of which there were many), for a good story, or just for a warm pillow to crash on at the end of the day. This time and many times before, they were there for me, and for that I’m forever grateful. We love you Matt, Kathy, and Stevie! Thanks for everything.