Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We made it to the Atlantic and Amelia Island!

We spent lots of time at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, and now we have finally made it to the east coast and the Atlantic Ocean! So we planned a day trip to Amelia Island to get our feet back into the salt water. Amelia Island is actually in Florida, so we traveled back across the Georgia state line and over the bridge to the historic downtown area of the town of Fernandina on the island.

We stopped by the welcome center for maps and advice, and took a walking tour of the many houses built in the 1800's and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fernandina is a lovely little city.

It also has a busy little port, with sea-going sailboats anchored in the bay behind Mark, and sizable yachts in the marina beside him. We tried our best to look yacht-like, but I'm pretty sure they could tell we weren't sailors--just land-lovers traveling in our land yacht.

Main street is filled with cute shopping and eating options. We ate wild-caught-fresh-local-shrimp (not to be confused with that frozen foreign farm shrimp) and grouper tacos for lunch, and then cruised main street. We don't usually shop, but this pirate insisted we stop in at this store because it had a big sign on the window, "We buy and sell shark teeth."

For some reason, Amelia Island beach is a great place to find shark teeth. Inside the store, we found displays of shark teeth for sale from $3 to $300. There was even a shark tooth vending machine, right beside the display of beach tools necessary to make anyone a professional shark tooth hunter.

Right outside the visitor's center downtown, we found a statue of one of the prominent citizens of early-day Amelia Island. Mr. Yulee was trying to read over Denisa's shoulder as she read her new brochure about present-day Amelia Island. It has changed a bit since he lived here in the 1800's.

We stopped in at the shrimp museum, and learned about the local shrimping industry. We were interested to find that a local company has been in business for the last one hundred years, sewing shrimp boat nets. They have learned that it is necessary to diversify as the number of shrimping boats have decreased. So now 95% of their business is sewing back stops and other sporting nets for baseball fields around the country. Knowing that we love a factory tour, we found out that they welcome drop-in tourists, so we just dropped in at Burbank Sports Nets. In their big warehouse they had netting stretched across the floor, and were beginning to sew sections together for another project.

On a smaller scale, they can produce any kind of protective screens or netting product that a coach can dream up. Our tour guide apologized that there wasn't much to see today because all their orders had to be finished and delivered in recent weeks. They have been working long hours getting everything produced and delivered before the start of baseball season.

They also sew the backstop and wall pads for each stadium. He mentioned that they outfit most of the Division I baseball fields in the SEC and ACC. When we saw the bright orange, we wondered if they also supply the Big 12 universities. Sure enough, they had been in Stillwater, Oklahoma, installing new backstops this year. They also do most of the professional baseball stadiums, so we have seen their work on television many times. Interesting to find such a big business in such a little town!

After exploring around town, it was time to hit the beach. We finally got to dip our toes into the waters of the Atlantic for the first time since we started this motor home adventure!

We think it is interesting that every beach has its own personality. Amelia Island is strewn with many shells, but they are some of the tiniest we have ever seen.

This is a sample of some of the shells we picked up today. They are tiny little wonders that are smaller than Mark's wedding ring.

There were parts of the beach that those tiny shells were stacked an inch thick over the sand. There were millions of shells in these areas. As we walked back at high tide, the beach narrowed and we couldn't walk around these areas on the sand any longer. We can confirm that walking on millions of tiny shells can be a very uncomfortable trek with bare feet.

Among all those tiny shells we had our eyes pealed for a treasured shark took. We never did spot one ourselves, but we talked to a woman who comes down to the beach each day. She had found two so far this afternoon, and she let us take a picture. Before seeing them in the store earlier today, we assumed that shark teeth were white. But they are actually black, and shinier and harder than most shells. We were sad to see that our camera focused on the sand instead of the shark teeth in her palm, so this blurry picture is the best example we have of the prize that evaded us today.

We did find a blue man-of-war jellyfish on the beach. We found only this single jellyfish, and it's the first we have seen in all our recent beach combing.

But our best find of the day came at the end of the beach. We walked over three miles to get to the pier, and we were greeted there by a large flock of birds.

There was a great diversity of shore birds hanging out together at the pier. We could spot five different kinds of birds in the picture below. Maybe we have visited too many civil rights sites, but it seemed the birds were segregated by types.

All the black skimmers (with their long beaks necessary for skimming lunch as they fly low over the water) were standing together in one section.

While all the Caspian terns were standing together in another segregated area. Denisa thinks these guys look like something out of a cartoon, with their black caps pulled down over their eyes.

But Denisa's favorite were the tiny birds, just a few inches tall. The sanderlings were closest to the water, and looked especially small compared to the sea gulls.

There were a couple hundred of these tiny birds in their segregated group. These sanderlings are just vacationing in Florida for the winter. Very soon they will be migrating to their breeding grounds in the Arctic for the summer. People from up north that spend their winters in Florida are often called "snow birds," but we would say these are the true definition of snow birds.

The birds were surprisingly calm, as we walked very slowly on different sides of them taking pictures.

But then some swift-walking tourists decided to walk right up for pictures and spooked the entire flock. We started snapping pictures as the sound of a thousand flapping wings filled the air.

Since we were on opposite sides, we got opposite pictures of the take-off.

The tiny sanderlings were the last to take off towards the waves.

We had spent thirty minutes, just watching the flock and marveling at their differences and similarities. We are so lucky to have the time to enjoy our nomadic life and wander His wonders in places like Amelia Island!

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