When I was young, vacation meant road trip. No one (at least no one I knew) ever flew anywhere. You drove. There was no destination. Every day was an adventure. We’d start planning these trips months ahead–unfolding maps, checking out points of interest, making an itinerary.
One memorable year we spent ten days touring Florida. I had just studied its history in third grade, and my parents decided why not spend time exploring our own state. My textbook had been pretty dry, but the writers were smart. They inserted a vacationing brother and sister at the beginning of each chapter just long enough to tease us story-loving children to the meaty text. It worked. Every time I started a chapter I was Sally on vacation with her brother John. (A lovely fantasy for an only child.)
Our last stop that year was St. Augustine in the Northeast corner of the state. I could hardly wait. That past year I had read all about Ponce De Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. There was even a picture of the famed fountain in my textbook. Like Sally and John, I wanted a sip of that water.
I remember entering the cave-like chamber where the fountain had been enshrined. After the guide recited the history and folklore, I finally got what I had come for–a drink of that water. At that age, I probably knew better, but I half-expected to feel something. I didn’t, of course, and it was all a bit of a letdown. But I remember thinking maybe the water would keep me young. Hah!
Fast-forward forty-five years. We’re at our vacation rental in Ponte Vedra, FL. Spur of the moment we decide to hop in the car and head south to St. Augustine for a little afternoon exploration. It’s a lovely coastal town, more kin to Savannah and Charleston than the beachy towns to the south. We toured the invincible Spanish fort, cooled off in a couple of old churches, and meandered around the narrow, quaint streets. Not that I wanted to revisit it, but I was quietly on the lookout for the fountain of my youth.
We’re also in search of a cupcake shop called Luli’s. With conflicting reports about its location, we finally determine it had recently moved to a converted house on our way out of town. As we head out we see the landmarks—the big stone cross, the pizza joint—but not the shop.
After several blocks, we know we’ve missed it. We turn right to head back for a second look. In front of us is sign for The Fountain of Youth. We can’t resist. We head down the residential street, pull through the arched parking lot. There it is in all its cheez-ball glory. Now when I could use a little magic water, I’ve got no interest.
We turn back. On our second pass we find Luli’s hidden in a quaint house. It’s too hot for tea or coffee, and I’m thirsty so I order a bottle of water and a Key Lime Cupcake. Now that’s magic!
Growing up, you gave us a good mix of flying places and looooong road trips. I still attribute our closeness as a family to those 24 or 36 hour car trips, where no walkmans or discmans were allowed. The only acceptable activities were talking, sleeping, or listening to books on tape with the whole group. Loved it.
Incidentally, however, my first and only experience of the fountain of youth was on our trip to France…what? a decade ago at this point?
I remember we read all about it in the guide book–something about the story of Merlin–and got all excited in that sort of cheesy way that we do. We hiked all over this forested area and came upon other “landmarks” associated with the Merlin story that were more like crooked trees and funny-shaped rocks than magical sights.
And the fountain of youth, ah the jewel of our trip, was nothing more than a dirty little well with dead leaves floating in it. I wouldn’t drink from it if you paid me! But, maybe that’s the secret 🙂
Anyway, the disappointment in the fountain ended up being the best part of the trip. We laughed and laughed, and then got something to eat…(any one else see a theme here?)
Glad I have a mom that doesn’t have any interest in the fountain of youth–literally or figuratively. Besides, I think the stuff you drank years ago may have worked…if one more person asks if you are my sister, I might scream. Hah!
Great story! Speaking of road trips, we’re taking one in a few weeks to see y’all! It will be our longest one together in quite some time, with a teenager and a tween in the back, it should prove to be a memorable trip for sure.
Road trips rock! My family and I are leaving on a 8-10 day eastward roadtrip on Friday! I’m looking forward to roadside diners, amusement parks, museums and maybe an early morning run in some unknown place (the running might correlate directly with the number of diner visits).
Mom, everyone always thinks you are our sister – so I don’t think you need to be too concerned about the Fountain of Youth just yet 😉 I think the cupcakes are a far better find. I had one…or two…and a half…they are AMAZING. And really do taste just like the pie.
I’m a Floridian who loves citrus of any kind. Can’t wait to try your Key Lime Cupcakes! Might even make some to throw in the cooler when we head for the beach. I enjoyed reliving some of my own childhood vacations after reading about yours. Thanks!
I think my mom must have visited there too – I can empathize with Sharon and Maggy’s comments about being asked if you and your mom are sisters 🙂 Just put some of these in the oven – looks yummers! Thanks!!