After leaving Brunswick about 9:30 a.m. I arrived in St. Augustine before noon and nose-navigated towards the historic district, where I pulled into the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. It’s a big spread set back in off the road, with large parking lots surrounded by trees, and high fortress-style walls keeping all non-ticket payers securely out. I read what was inside and decided it wasn’t my main draw today….so I pulled out and found the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! parking lot. I ended up staying for almost 4 hours! This is a place you MUST come and see!
Robert Ripley was an incredible person who had an enormous fascination with all things curious, odd, different and bizarre throughout the entire world. Castle Warden in St. Augustine was built in 1887 and purchased by Ripley in 1950 as the perfect showcase for his collection. During his career as author/researcher/artist of the popular “Ripley’s ~ Believe It or Not!” cartoon, he traveled 201 countries, a total distance equal to 18 complete trips around the world!
There are three floors each loaded with curios laid out in maze fashion leading you from one room to another, with themes for each room, and some of them are scary! A three-story ferris wheel is displayed as you enter that was built entirely out of Leggos! There are shrunken heads from the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador, rice grains with the Lord’s Prayer etched into them, optical illusions for the eyeball’s delight, 10 foot tall towers built out of wooden matches, and it just goes on and on.
A life-size statue of the world’s tallest man – Robert Wadlow – at 8’11” and 491 pounds (that’s not fat, folks!) displays a replica of his hand print for you to place your own palm over – yikes! Mine looked like a baby’s hand in his palm! He wore a size 37AA shoe – Yowza!
There were interactive displays where you could test your speed in eye to hand reaction, challenge your wits, and see if you could keep your balance. There was so much, I was almost plumb tuckered out by the time I exited and headed back to the car. But what an extraordinary life Robert Ripley lived! I’ll never forget reading his cartoons as a very young girl and wondering at the strange information he
was sharing with the world. In my opinion he helped pave the way here in America for people to realize the vast differences that exist all over the world, and to become more accepting of them over time. Yay, Ripley! You were a true adventurer and leader!
And now, I was off to the southern realms of Florida to still another amazing place – a place that not one scientist yet has been able to determine exactly how it was created. A place called Coral Castle….