Sunday, February 17, 2019

St. Augustine Road Scholar Wrap-Up

Day 5, January 18th, 2019

As expected this day began with the option-heavy catered breakfast. The difference was it would be my last chance to visit with my new Road Scholar friends before leaving for home. It felt like I was leaving family members after a holiday gathering.

Today's speaker was Eddie-Joyce Geyer travel writer and frequent event speaker. She gave us a fun talk - "Hats off to History" - using hats from each era to illustrate the history we'd just explored and learned. A condensed and clarified story of St. Augustine's 450-year history that now absorbed us too.

Eddie-Joyce Geyer is second from the left
each of us wearing one of her hats.

I took this Road Scholar(RS) tour as an experiment to test its tour service quality and to escape Omaha's frozen winter. I was attracted to this one because St. Augustine's history begins before 1600 as does the SCA's focus. This tour didn't disappoint.

St. Augustine is a charming city who's Spanish architecture makes you feel you're visiting a foreign country exploring historic times. It surprised me. I didn't expect St. Augustine's fascinating, diverse history. It is such a lovely town.

The Road Scholar presenters made the tour the great learning adventure it was. They are experts in their fields and have a passion for their expertise. A plus for me was most were reenactors. My favorite speakers were James Bullock, Carl Halbirt and Charles Tingley who stood out for their knowledge and presentation style. 

You learned so much about Henry Flagler the Standard Oil founder and railroad builder, his amazing hotels, churches, and philanthropy. You discovered new historical truths. Did you know St. Augustine's people had a Thanksgiving feast before the pilgrims? Did you know 14 colonies fought in the American Revolution? I didn't before this trip.

But there's more to a tour than speakers and museums. There are organizational necessities too.

Our hotel, the new Courtyard Marriot, was changed on short notice due to water issues requiring the hotel to close for repairs. It was planned to be the quaint Hilton Garden Inn. The Marriot was an extra block away from the beach two blocks from the Atlantic ocean. I still walked there and talked with local people.  And met one friendly black labrador dog. The hotel itself was modern, stylish, and comfortable with our meeting room on site. Although I was slightly disappointed that it only had a shower and no tub.

On this tour, you road small vans to and from the old town center and a trolley for a city tour. The bus trips were short - if the bridge wasn't up - so we made good time-use and saw a lot. Had I chosen a later date the hotel would have been closer to the old city and skip the bridge altogether. But the tour's cost would have been more. 

The daily breakfasts provided you hearty catered selections. And as I've written to you before our main meals were varied and scrumptious with several options from which you chose prior to the day.

Ruth Kurlandsky our tour leader was not a Gen Xer. She was one of us. She even moved to St. Augustine after taking a Road Scholar tour there. She was gracious, patient, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly. And always cared about our personal comfort and safety. One of our members - unfortunately - had a medical emergency. Ruth took the opportunity later to tell us about the Road Scholar Assurance Plan so we knew if you if needed in an emergency medical evacuation or an escort home was provided.

The 28 people on my RS tour were friendly, interesting life-long learners and history explorers. These long-lived 18 singles and 5 couples, 20 women and 8 men mixed, talked and easily shared their life stories. And we came from 11 different states. The long lost family I just met.

I loved my Road Scholar experience and have already scheduled my next trip. I plan to tour Philadelphia with them in October. I still have my flights to schedule because I do that myself, not through RS. I'll be more careful with them than I did for this trip. All my struggles on this adventure were at hub airports, both arriving and departing. 

I'm excited this Road Scholar tour proved this solo Elder Chick can travel and feel safe. It even lets me leave the details to capable, caring experts. Their tours aren't a collection of "Wow, isn't that pretty!" photo op stops. Judging by this one they're well planned and executed learning adventures. This one took you back in time through St. Augustine history. 

I know this has been a different series of posts but I needed something different in my life. Something to lift me from the dreary cold. St. Augustine's magical warmth and milieu was the perfect place. 

Related Prior Post:
Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Parts 1 2,  3, and 4.

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