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My Million Dollar Ride at Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island

April 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on My Million Dollar Ride at Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island 

1908  Benz at Amelia Island

1908 Prinz Henrich Benz at Amelia Island


Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance ranks high on the list of elite car shows worldwide. In 2013 some 300 vintage autos wowed the crowd, each a prime example of its class.


Special categories highlighted the fiftieth anniversary of the Porsche 911, the Corvette Singray and the Lamborghini.


No wonder thousands attended the multiday events strewn around Amelia’s Ritz Carlton and the fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island.  Amelia Island itself is a gem, a skinny strip of land off Florida’s northeastern coast. The isle attracts beach goers with 13 miles of uninterrupted coastline and golfers to ten top courses within ten miles.


I drove from St. Augustine to Amelia Island to meet Richard Truesdell, Editorial Director of Automotive Magazine. Richard had flown in from California to attend three days of the auto festival: the auction, road rally and Sunday’s spectator viewing and awards ceremony.


Porsche Winner

A winning Porsche

While I’m certainly no authority on cars, hanging with Rich made the event more understandable and fascinating. He pointed out engine and design details and why each change was significant. I could best relate to the Porsche’s since I once attended Porsche Driving School sponsored by Brumos. In addition, working as a contributor at Automotive Traveler Magazine has provided me opportunities to tour auto assembly plants, get behind the scenes at Daytona Speedway and ride in a pace car on the Kansas Speedway.


But, I’ve never had a ride in a 1908 Mercedes Benz – I suspect not many have.  This serendipitous experience occurred after the awards presentation at Amelia Concours, as the vintage autos were being loaded onto transporters to be shipped home or to another auto show.

It just so happened that the trailer for the Mercedes was parked in an area near a deserted section of the beach.  Richard asked Hans Wurl, the manager, to drive the vehicle onto the sand for photos. Best of all, I got a ride!

1908 Mercedes-S

Riding in a 1908 Mercedes-S

The bumpety-bump, jostling feel of the car was somewhat akin to riding a bike with firm tires down a cobblestone street.  The horseless carriage engine made put-put sounds and the airy openness provided a totally outrageous view.  The brief ride gave me a memory I’ll always cherish.


I have now learned that many car enthusiasts acknowledge this roadster as the world’s first sports car.  How cool is that?


Like any journalist, I asked Hans about the prize-winning racer and its worth. He answered, as any good manager would, saying, “The auto, a 1908 Prinz Henrich owned by Bruce and Jolene McCaw, is not for sale.”


Yes, I said I understood, but then pitched the question in a different manner. “Suppose the car was listed in an auction, would the price start over a million dollars?”


“Absolutely,” was the answer.


So there you have it: my ride in a million dollar baby.


1908 Mercedes Benz at Amelia

1908 Mercedes Benz at Amelia Island Beach

Please watch the video to see some of the vintage autos on display at Amelia Concours: 

Florida’s Museum of History Celebrates new exhibit: Forever Changed: La Florida

April 5, 2013 by · Comments Off on Florida’s Museum of History Celebrates new exhibit: Forever Changed: La Florida 

Native Peoples Diorama  at FL Museum of History

Native Peoples Diorama at FL Museum of History

Florida’s documented cultural history dates back more than 12,000 years to Native Americans. The first inhabitants were hunters and gatherers whose diets consisted mainly of small animals, plants, nuts and shellfish. They learned to cultivate agriculture and began trade with other native groups in the Southeast. They developed a social organization and built large temple mounds and village complexes.


I recently visited the Florida Museum of History in Tallahassee to learn more about the state’s illustrious past.  The Museum proudly presents its new permanent exhibition called Forever Changed: La Florida 1513-1821,  in conjunction with Viva Florida 500. Phase 1 exhibits were opened March 3, 2013 and include three interactive galleries and artifacts showing 16th century European presence in Florida.


Wooly Mammoth

Wooly Mammoth at Florida Museum of History

In the Land of Many Cultures tourists learn about the native peoples shortly before the European arrival. They have a fabulous fossilized Wooly Mammoth, life size diorama, and a recreated Timucuan house. I was attracted by a rare (and gorgeous) ceramic bowl dating from 1350-1500, and a 1593 Astrolabe used for navigation.


The second section called Meeting of the Cultures showcases Spanish explorers such as Hernando de Soto and Tristan de Luna. Stop to hear these historical life size figures tell their stories. Note to parents — kids really like this area.

Life size model of Ana Menendez

Life size model of Ana Menendez


The third new section, Spanish Exploration, boasts a portion of a 16th-century Spanish ship which everyone can board, plus investigate the dock area. The interactive exhibits, such as knot tying, allow guests to learn about life on the sea, navigation and what items the settlers needed to bring to the new world.


Spanish Ship within FL Museum of History

Spanish Ship within FL Museum of History

In addition to the Forever Changed exhibits, I found a fabulous collection of sunken treasures and gems discovered from Florida shipwrecks. Made me think of gold doubloons and pieces of eight! I also viewed displays on Florida’s involvement in the Civil War, WWI and WWII.


Sunken Treasures

Sunken Treasures

Personally, my favorite exhibits were the array of kitschy Florida souvenirs spanning many years:  an orange shaped tea set, mermaid memorabilia from Weeki-Wachee Springs, early Disney bric-a brac and the artwork on Florida orange crates.


Florida Orange Crate Art

Florida Orange Crate Art

The Florida Museum of History in Tallahassee also offers a changing collection of art, alone worthy of a visit.


Best of all, there is no entrance fee.


Facts Support the Viva Florida 500 Celebration

April 2, 2013 by · Comments Off on Facts Support the Viva Florida 500 Celebration 

Viva Florida 500 Celebration

Viva Florida 500 Celebration

Fact: Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew first sighted and named the land La Florida on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, and sailed north. They came ashore on Florida’s east coast in 1513. The exact spot was not documented causing a few municipalities in Northeast Florida to vie for the honor.


Fact: Historical documents show that on April 2, 1513, Ponce de León’s navigator logged the ship’s position at 30 degrees 8 minutes — just south of Ponte Vedra Beach and just north of St. Augustine – my hometown.


Fact: Florida was then the first place Europeans arrived in what is now the continental United States and therefore, may claim the longest recorded history of any state in America.

With the 1565 founding of St. Augustine by Spaniard Pedro Menendez, Florida settlements predate Jamestown Virginia (1607) and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts (1620) by a significant margin.

The above historical facts are the core behind the celebration of Viva Florida 500; a statewide initiative to showcase 500 years of Florida’s history and diverse heritage. Viva Florida 500 hopes to reintroduce Florida as the Gateway to the America’s and the first place in the nation where old and new world cultures first came together.


Who was Ponce de León?


Ponce de Leon Statue St. Augustine

Ponce de Leon Statue St. Augustine

Ponce was born in the village of San Tervás de Campos in the province of Valladolid, Spain in 1474. He became a page to the prince of Castile who later became King Ferdinand of Castile. Ponce was a soldier, a sailor and explorer who lived from 1474 to 1521.


Golden Glow at Castillo

Golden Glow at Castillo

Gov Rick Scott

Governor Rick Scott attends Viva Florida 500 Celebration

What did Ponce de Leon do?


In 1493, as a young man, Ponce de León was aboard one of the fleets of Spanish ships in what became known as Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. The expedition established a permanent Spanish colonial presence in the New World.


As a prominent Spaniard, Ponce eventually was named Governor of Puerto Rico by King Ferdinand in 1511. Then on March 13, 1513, under a license the King granted him to explore and discover lands reputed to lie to the north of Hispaniola and the Island of Bimini.  Ponce set sail with a crew of 200-including women and free blacks on two caravels, Santiago and Santa María de la Consolación; and a galley like craft, the San Cristóbal. They sailed up the eastern coast of Florida before doubling back and exploring some of the western side. They also discovered the Gulf Stream.


Ponce returned to Spain, was knighted and given a coat of arms – the first conquistador to receive these honors.. He made a second trip to Florida in 1521. It was on this latter expedition that he was wounded by natives and died shortly thereafter in Cuba. He is associated with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, although it is likely that he was not actively looking for it.