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30th Birthday with Friends in Historic City

Mellow adventure with pirates, freaks, a castle, and an OK Saloon...in the fog

I wanted to do something different for my 30th Birthday. I rounded up 3 of my friends: Q- a longtime friend since high school, C and A- friends I had known several years. Q didn't know C and A too well, but I take pride in collecting 'good people' and knew the day would be a hit. I arranged the whole day by booking a hotel in St. Augustine, FL, the oldest city in the U.S. that goes back to the Spanish colony days. It sits on a harbor, has cobblestone roads in a grid pattern throughout the old downtown area, complete with shopping, bars, ghost tours, food, random pirate bums playing guitar, all types of museums (including a wax one that really tripped us out), and a beautiful castle/fort on the edge of the water. If you haven't seen it, please google: Castillo de San Marcos, to get an idea. There is also beautiful parks, fountains, weird art creations, and giant oak trees filled with Spanish moss.     

So we checked into the hotel- this place was awesome in itself. It was called the Conch House Marina Hotel (google it), built a long time ago. It sits across the Bridge of Lions (google it), a historic landmark connecting the historic downtown with Anastasia Island (beach side). It was about a 2 mile walk from the marina/hotel to historic downtown. It was kind of off the main road (A1A) , sitting back into a residential area. It had a cool tiki/pool area and a big lounge/bar house sitting out on a wooden pier, in the middle of the marina.

We entered the room and it looked clean; nothing fancy, but clean. I got a good deal too for $120. There was 2 beds, a couch, and A brought a blow up mattress. So we organized our stuff, put my laptop on the HDMI, and kind of chilled. A bought a 12 pack of Apple beer. He really doesn't drink, smoke, or anything, so it would be interesting to see if he would partake with us with the tea. Another one of the guys brought the other necessities. We had brought tea bags and had a hotel coffee pot in the room. We brewed 4 cups of tea with 8g of 'tea leaves'. We let our cups cool and watched some stuff on YouTube. Once cool, we all drank our tea.  

It hadn't set in yet, and I wanted to share a kind of a preface for the event, that was saved on my laptop. The preface was a short speech I authored that was kind of half serious, half kind of fun. It was like, "A day that comes from extraordinary precision/ The factors that have to line up, do, and here we are....Each is a king/ When kings gather, the city reaps....We come as servicemen with positive vibrations/ We resonate from the sandy beach paths, to the cobblestone alleys." Those are some lines from it- it was only like 20 lines long. Halfway through my speech, it started to kick in. I felt a kind of high that hit pretty fast. I was struggling to complete the speech but made it through. It was well received and we were all in a jovial mood.

My friend A, wanted to get set up for the night and blow up his air mattress before we left. He rolled it out, and hooked up the large hand pump. C was getting impatient right off the bat, and jumped in on the pump to "get it done really fast". He went all out on the pump- like full tilt! The bed was slowly expanding like a giant parade float being erected. Q was starting to feel it and was mildly tripping on this bed expanding. We all started laughing about the bed tripping Q out and C going berserk on the pump. He wore himself out but leaned it up against the wall, complete. He was really ready to "Get out and go do stuff".  

So we locked up the room and began our adventure. We immediately noticed how neat it looked outside. It was mid March and it was a really overcast day around 70 degrees. It was so overcast, that there was a gentle mist in the air, like slightly foggy. We walked over to the pool/tiki area and posted up in a tiki hut. There were some people out at the pool area and we tried to refrain from describing how we each felt, in fear we would draw attention. We tried to talk sideways about it, but got ourselves paranoid thinking we were looking like idiots. We decided to abandon the tiki area and hit the road; so we marched on with the adventure.

We walked through the residential area and were vibing good now. We came to the main road to head west, towards the bridge which was about a mile away. We immediately noticed something we missed on the way to check-in to the hotel: a pizza restaurant called Mellow Mushroom. The whole restaurant was decorated to look really trippy so we saw that as a sign. Q said it meant we were going to have a really cool, mellow time. We continued our walk. Everything was amazing! Each building we passed looked so intricate- like all the details I normally miss were really intriguing to me. It's hard to explain but I kept whispering out loud, "Look at this"! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I think everyone else was feeling the effects.

Down A1A we walked, admiring all the shops, motels, and random sights. One thing I noticed about St. Augustine: everything is so random. It's really, a cool place to be. Someone was wondering how much time had passed and I went for my watch. I had a G-Shock on and somehow, it got stuck in compass mode. I had a hard time on concentrating on the buttons to figure it out and noticed myself getting super flustered in a matter of like 2 seconds; I was trying to get the watch back to the time screen. I just started mashing buttons and my friend Q, noticed my frustration and stopped to look at the watch. He took one look and it said something like '161.4 degrees' and it blew his mind . I don't even think he knew it had a compass; I had a hard time communicating anything past one short sentence. I could, it was just hard to be patient enough to put it together and get it out. So we checked our phones and were totally blown that it had only been like 30 minutes since we drank tea. We laughed pretty hard at the fact that it had only just started.

We got to the Lion's Bridge and marched up it. Like I said, it was overcast, and we literally walked up into a cloud. The bridge is full of intricate stone and wrought iron work. In the cloud of the bridge, everyone was really taken back by the whole thing. Just when it couldn't get any more surreal, I noticed what I thought was my imagination for a second, out in the harbor. I focused on it and alerted the group, afraid to call out what it was- in case I might be just tripping. They felt the same way and we slowly agreed that it was in fact, a real life pirate ship. Through the fog, there was an actual 16th century wooden ship! Q was just...mind blown the whole time. He kept grabbing his head with both hands (like the way someone does when they are on overload).

We walked down the bridge, entering the historic downtown, and it felt like we were entering a video game. There was horse drawn carriages, plenty of people walking about, and the cold fog only seemed to get denser. We noticed the two marble Lion sculptures at the base of the bridge and they were really remarkable. C provided narration of the sculpture saying "It was anything but easy- no, no, no- Simba had a harrrrd life". Q had realized that Simba indeed, did have a rough time. We were all laughing pretty hard by this time.

So we ended up on one of the main strips, down a cobblestone road. It was freaking packed- crowded with tourists. I remember looking at all these tourists: everyone looked so unflattering. I don%u2019t know how to put this, but they all looked like they had some syndrome from birth that made them grow to the weirdness I was witnessing. They weren't like monster weird, just like ugly weird. Like big foreheads, small mouths too low, eyes too close...just unflattering. No one looked to be having a good time, they were all just moaping about. There was the occasional extra attractive person, but for the most past, we were in a sea of freaks. I'm not superficial or even remotely concerned with people around me normally, but at that point, it was bothering me. I swear, I had a nagging feeling inside that I was meant to see this. I felt as if I was a different species. I was happy to not be a part of the freaks. We were all tripping pretty hard at this point. I think the whole group was getting freaked out.

The people moving about these cobblestone walkways were like a river of traffic moving in all directions. Our minds were being blown by the weird, artsy, random things that we kept seeing. It was too much. We stopped aside, near a bench for a minute to collect ourselves. I was freaking out about the way everyone was looking, so much I was like, "Do you see this", motioning to the crowds of pedestrians in almost disbelief? Q was looking super uncomfortable and C was saying out loud, "It's just the shrooms". I snapped back, "Shhh", and this only made Q more uncomfortable. We were having a meltdown. We got up and were unsure which way to walk, and I think C and I ran into each other, and I kept seeing Q panicking, mouthing, "They know", in a look of almost terror. I was freaking out too, and we needed to get out of there. "Let's go", someone said, and we somehow made it out that busy area.

We came to a kind of permanent art exhibit, constructed of concrete and steel. It was so captivating. It was some sort of giant puzzle. Just then, a weirdo on a bicycle road by, looked at Q, and pointed up. This really threw Q overboard. He looked at us in complete disbelief and erupted, "See, They know we're on shrooms! How do they know?!? I wasn't sure what was going on, Q was losing it, and luckily, C noticed that it was in reference to Q's shirt that said 'Turn Up' on it with an up arrow. The guy on the bike was signaling 'turn up'. We all erupted into laughter.

We decided to go to these benches where we could finally converse in peace about the experience so far. These benches were in a quiet courtyard nearby.  We all had felt pretty paranoid about talking out loud the whole time and I really wanted to share so much. You know when you haven't seen a best friend for a really long time, and you have so much to share? That's how I was feeling. We sat down to decompress. We starting talking and joking. The mood started to lighten. I was still mind-blown by how freaky the crowd had looked. I kept referring to them as "they". Everything was cool until someone made a reference to bugs. Somehow, Q heard someone mention bugs while looking at A, and apparently saw a bunch of bugs crawling all over his face. All I saw was Q jump back in his seat while looking at A in horror saying, "Oh, Shit"! Somehow, he quickly gathered himself. I came to find out Q was on about 3g's while we were on 2. Q ate a little extra, dry.

So we gathered ourselves and wanted to find a really chill spot without a s***-ton of people. We started walking the outskirts of the town headed east, towards the fort. There was so much to explore; the sky was the limit. Everything looked super cool. We passed by some really trippy storefronts. Everything about that town was meant to be trippy. We passed by the wax museum, and that was kind of weird. I made the mistake of stopping and locking eyes with one of the wax men. I was starting to get convinced that it was real, despite the fact that I knew they were purposely made to look real. Q wanted no part of the wax men. So we arrive to the fort area and begin to walk the giant fields towards it. C and I talk about running in the empty field, and next thing you know, we're running wide open towards the fort. It felt so liberating! I felt so free, like I was a kid again. Q and A were embarrassed by our running and walked a different path. The fields have paths beaten in the grass towards the fort, with varying level changes, coquina (type of rock) knee walls retaining each level. There were rock stairs to accompany the 3' level changes.

We ended up on the side of the fort; you could walk completely around the whole thing free of charge. There was a 5' drop into what would be a moat, but it was always kept dry now. C and I jumped into the moat to get right up to the castle wall. It was absolutely breathtaking. The castle stands about 50' tall and it is HUGE in person. The castle's walls are made of Coquina rock, started in 1672. These 350 year old coquina walls are filled with ancient sea life, varying shades and textures, and has beautiful molds and plant life growing in sporadic places. I touched the castle and it was just completely awesome to be standing there, thinking how people built this so long ago. I've been to the castle plenty of times throughout my life, but never appreciated it like this. You could almost feel the history. There were cannons fires here, the castle has stood though sieges, people have lost their life here, the city was burned down before and raided, and now we can walk around it, freewill, hundreds of years later, taking pictures off our cell phones. We convinced Q and A to come down too.

We walked around the castle grounds and really enjoyed the whole thing. We walked the perimeter to the seawall, which was built as part of the forts grounds. It was made of the same coquina and you could walk right over the seawater, looking down into the waves, 10' below. There's no rails, so I wouldn't advise just anyone jump up there, but a lot of people do and it's not prohibited. The water looked amazing! I could see crabs and oyster beds. It looked so intricate. We were in amazement at every turn.

After that, we started walking back towards the town. The whole time since we left the hotel, C kept talking about wanting to go to a bar. No one else wanted to sit among a crowd of people in this state. Despite telling him, "no", numerous times, we finally gave in. I still wasn't keen on the idea but was tired of listening to him trying to convince us. We entered the first bar we seen. Inside, there was a guitarist playing live acoustic and singing over the PA system. The whole bar area was full with people around the perimeter of the room, except for the low tables in between the bar and the stage. There wasn't a soul in the low table section, right in the middle of everything. For whatever reason, my 3 friends had to take a triple piss and I was left there at a low table solo. I looked at the people around the perimeter at the bar and looked at the guitarist. An ominous feeling started to build. The guitarist was looking at me with a super suspicious look. He was halfway playing his song, halfway looking at me. I felt like it was a western saloon, where the piano player is playing half-heartedly, ready for gunshots to erupt. I was trying my best to hold it together. Just then, C pops up with a beer in his hand in his normal jovial mood. I told him we had to go. I hated to be that guy, but I couldn't handle it. Q and A weren't married to the idea in the first place so C drunk his beer and we left. We decided to go back to the hotel and kind of reset. We were tired from walking miles, it was cold out, and we just wanted to unwind.

Another thing I forgot, C is a talkative person and nothing changed today. He was literally, exhausting me with his talking. His mind was racing with ideas. I couldn't handle it and kind of walked ahead of the group on the way back as Q took the bombardment of ideas from C. I was really enjoying the sights from the bridge again. I was looking over at the water and someone freaked out thinking I was going to jump in- I don't know why. C went on with his ideas about some invention. He was talking a mile a minute. He kept asking for a notepad (even through we were on foot), saying he has to get it all written down. He kept saying, "Someone, write this down", and was going on and on. He got a hold of A's ear and I dropped back to Q asking what C was talking about. Q shook his head from the overload saying I was going to have to hear it from C myself. So I became more occupied with enjoying the experience as we walked back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, we were starting to come down. C got a hold of a pen and a pad and was hard at work at his newest "breakthrough that was going to change the world". Q and I were listening to music and A was on his phone. As I was looking for videos on my laptop, I heard laughter and talking erupt from the group. Apparently C's work was finished on this hotel pad of paper and was already being reviewed by Q and A. My attention turned to them, and I had to get a load of whatever the hell C's been going on about for the past half hour. They passed the paper to me. I don't know exactly how to explain this in proper detail but I will say this: there were a couple diagrams, some sort of chart, and the words 'taxi, change the world, and perpetual energy' involved. Apparently C had come up with the "break though" to change the world with a taxi service with engines that run off perpetual motion. I think it's prudent to say: he was dead serious. We all laughed until it hurt!

We kind of unwound the whole night at the hotel. We did go to Mellow Mushroom and ordered a pizza. We left C in charge of going in and ordering whatever looked good, which was a mistake because he ordered some pineapple-chicken pizza with weird spices involved. To make matters worse, after taking so long to come out, Q and A told me to go in a make sure everything was okay with C, and without fail, he was at the bar talking someone's ear off, as the pizza was already done. I round him up and we ate the pizza back at the hotel. I took a shower which was exhilerating. Everyone came to the same conclusion as me eventually, about the shower. I even took C back out that night to hit this really cool bar I knew. It was a small cigar bar with live jazz music. The acoustics in the 150 year old house were amazing! We walked up these creaky stairs to the attic area. It was only about 6' tall so you almost had to duck. There was leather couches up there and we smoked cigars, enjoyed beer, and just mellowed out. The music lofted through the dimly lit room filled with cigar smoke, over the balcony, into the attic section in which we were sitting. He had smoked an L with Q before we went out and I guess it shut him down. Mr. 'Let's go to a bar' was getting tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. I didn't mind too much, I was tired too.

The next morning, Q had to go to work and A and C had to go back to Daytona for some reason. I stayed behind to kind of enjoy myself for the day. I was actually happy to be solo. I walked around the downtown area a bit and came across a gathering of Hindus about 200 deep. They are apparently called Hare Krishnas. It was odd to see a bunch of Indian people mixed with hipsters in St. Augustine, but nothing about the last 8 waking hours had been normal anyway. I figured what the hell and hung in the middle of their celebration. I felt good overall. I guess it was the afterglow. Overall I enjoyed the experience and am glad I had the chance to celebrate with the dudes. I was equally as happy to get home to my family. It was a hell of a 30th!

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