Like adventure, design, photography? Here's where I stop to talk about some of my client's most beautiful memories that I have been lucky enough to play a small part in capturing or designing.
Get cozy and explore.
If you are new to my blog; Welcome.
I hope my blog provides some value, knowledge, and entertainment, as well!
I am a photographer and graphic designer in the Motorsports Industry, with a main focus on the 410 Sprints Division around Central PA and across the East Coast.
This trip was an exception to the normal trips I’ve been blogging about in the past. So hang tight!
Where do I begin…
This weekend was a complete 180 from what I had planned back in December when I originally booked my flight to Jacksonville, Florida.
Let’s start with the original game plan…
My friend, Nikki and I were to be going to Gainesville, Florida for the 2020 NHRA GatorNationals and working for 3 days with Amalie Oil during the event.
Let’s just say, plans completely changed for the “worst case scenario” possible about 1 hour prior to my friend, Nikki, boarding her flight to Jacksonville. With not much time, the United States began quickly preparing to shut down or partially shut down events with larger groups over the size of 250 people. Obviously, the NHRA draws more people in a group setting than just 250 people, so they had complied with the guidelines set in place.
Thursday was an absolute mess, as the country prepared for the worst with the Coronavirus. NHRA was no different. The event was cancelled due to the Health Department putting a ban on large group gatherings/events. This would leave us up a creek with no clue what we were going to do for the next few days, as we still had to catch flights with not much time to fool around.
Thursday turned into planning, replanning, and then deciding to still proceed with our trip to Jacksonville.
As I waited for my flight to leave Baltimore, I decided to work on a few hero cards in the airport. I got 1 done, and quickly finished a graphic for WB Motorsports. I needed to change the information for the race that they would be racing on Saturday.
I flew out of Baltimore International Airport (BWI), and landed in Jacksonville (JAX) around 10:30pm. It was roughly an hour and forty five minute flight down. I enjoyed a coke, and complimentary pretzels that Southwest gives you. My personal favorite on any plane ride!
This turned out to be a pretty good flight. The plane ride down was basically empty or less than half full, which I was pretty surprised about. I had a complete open row, to myself, with only about 90 of us on the flight total. I’m almost certain, that a lot of travelers had cancelled their flight or vacation plans for the weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic at the moment.
I landed in JAX on time, and proceeded to meet Nikki, who had been waiting for me for most of her afternoon at the airport after she had landed.
We quickly went to baggage claim, grabbed my suitcase, and went to find where we were to pick up the rental car.
I had never rented a car before, so I was definitely picking something that I was excited to drive, for what I was gonna pay. I picked a Jeep Wrangler. The rental car ended up not being too much more per day, then a regular sized SUV would have cost. Now looking back after the fact, I’m glad that was what I picked because we drove around with the top off for the majority of our weekend in the hot Florida sun. Kinda makes me wish I could take the top off my own car. HA. It was a fun experience. The guy at the rental car company was very helpful – You can bet I gave him a positive review afterword.
I realized that everything in Florida is pretty far apart, and we thought we were doomed when we hadn’t passed a Walmart or much civilization for 50 miles, driving to our hotel that same night. We were staying at a Days Inn in Lake City, Florida.
We decided to plan some of our weekend, juggling a few beaches, Disney Springs vs. Disney World. We ended up doing the majority of what we wanted, since we didn’t have any plans, now.
DAY 1 // FRIDAY
Nikki and I decided on going to St. Augustine Beach on Friday. We loaded up and headed that way!
We stopped at a Chilli’s on the way, for lunch, and then went to the beach!
This area was gorgeous! I would love to go back.
It was roughly 2 hours from where we were staying in Lake City. We enjoyed the road trip though.
I don’t get to see Nikki a whole lot, except for the drag races, which aren’t too frequent due to my boyfriend racing sprint cars. I’m usually where he goes. It was nice to catch up! We spotted a lighthouse when we crossed the bridge into the beach, and we did some searching to go find it after we spent some time on the beach over the afternoon.
This was the St. Augustine lighthouse. This was pretty neat to see, and climb. 219 steps to the top! About 6 floors high, and a circle staircase made for a fun activity to do after relaxing all day on the beach.
I really thought it was unique to learn about the history of the lighthouse, and tour the area. Apparently, this lighthouse was the oldest lighthouse in the country, dating back to the 1500’s. The St. Augustine Lighthouse was also featured on the Ghost Adventures tv show – Which was pretty cool to hear!
We decided to drive back to St. Augustine beach, and we would eat at the “world” famous Salt Life Food Shack. I didn’t know that Salt Life was actually a restaurant. I thought it was just a fancy sticker/brand company. Boy, was I wrong!
We sat on the second floor outdoor eating section, and enjoyed dinner by ocean in the sunset. It was so pretty! I love the atmosphere at that place. Food was reasonable for a seafood-like restaurant. I got crab legs, red potatoes, and a whole onion. I’m still confused about the whole onion, but the food was phenomenal.
As we drove back to our hotel, we drove through St. Augustine, the country’s oldest city!
Let’s just say, if we knew that the city looked the way that it did – We probably wouldn’t have went to the Beach! The city of St. Augustine was so unique and the buildings definitely had a Spanish spin on their architecture!
Hopefully, if I get back to Florida again, I can go tour the city of St. Augustine. I think that would be an interesting town to tour, and learn more about. Sorry, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to learning about history! After all, I am from Gettysburg, a Historic town in itself.
DAY 2 // SATURDAY
I had never been to Disney before. We lucked out and was still able to go.
With the Coronavirus, Disney was set to close on Sunday, March 15th. Whew.
I’m so glad we got to go, while we were down here! This was an incredible experience.
We went to the Magic Kingdom and saw Cinderella’s Castle. I couldn’t believe how cool this actually was. The Castle was much larger than I had thought it was – Not sure why I expected it to be smaller. It truly made me feel like I was in a different world! Very magical!
It’s something most dream about – from so many of my friends telling me about it, to actually now seeing this place for myself – I think I’d go back. It really made you feel like a kid again, as a 25 year old. I had a blast. I didn’t know what to expect.
We stayed the whole day for the Happily Ever After fireworks show. Wow. I don’t know what else to say about that fireworks show. That was very impressive. I don’t want to give too much away if, like me, you had never been there before – But I highly suggest staying for it! It was so cool. That had to be my favorite part of the whole day.
We walked a lot, about 7 miles alone, just in the park.
One of the rides that was really neat was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I liked how there was something for all ages to do! We were going to try to get on one of the roller coasters but ended up skipping those due to the average wait time was about 80 minutes or longer. All of the other rides were roughly under 45 minutes, which they kept the rides moving. The times usually felt shorter than what they were posted for.
Of course one big thing to do is to collect and trade pins from Disney, so of course, I found a few that I liked of my favorite characters to document the trip. I would later stick these on my camera bag.
DAY 3 // SUNDAY
We decided to go to Jacksonville Beach and see what it was like versus St. Augustine Beach.
We were really in for a treat when we freaked out that we couldn’t find a Starbucks, and of course then the next exit after we grabbed breakfast, found one….. Sadly, we didn’t stop.
Boy, was Jacksonville beach and St. Augustine Beach ever different! It was like night and day differences.
I’ve never seen sand like St. Augustine before.
That was way different, like little shells, but Jacksonville Beaches sand felt like the usual sand.
The atmosphere was also different. Jacksonville Beach was packed, for the virus being a huge thing. Jacksonville felt more like a “college-like” environment, versus St. Augustine. But I just relaxed on the beach.
The water was freezing at both beaches, which I wasn’t expecting. So I mainly stayed laying on the sand. I got burnt.
Nikki and I felt like we didn’t belong so we stopped at the local gas station, and bought a 6 pack of White Claw. First taste, I don’t understand how this is the drink of choice for so many. Yuck! Call me crazy, but I wasn’t a fan of White Claw. We really felt out of place, due to every individual group around where we were sitting had White Claw, but we didn’t.
As I sit here on the plane bound for home and am writing this, I can definitely feel myself getting warmer. Not a fever, just body temperature warm from the day in the sun.
It hurt to put my book bag on over my shoulders.
Even though I had put sunscreen on, I still somehow got burnt. HA. I always seem to get sunburnt. It never fails.
We got to the airport, and returned the rental car – I had dropped off my luggage to be checked and headed to the security checkpoint. This was so strange. I was very surprised at the lack of people that were shuffling through Jacksonville International Airport at the time. I didn’t have a super late flight, but around the time that I was there, 6:30ish, I would have thought it would be busier. I made it thru security in a total of less than 5 minutes. That was the quickest ever. There was no line, and I was able to breeze right on through. I still think the Coronavirus had something to do with this.
I grabbed a strawberry refresher from Starbucks and proceeded to sit with Nikki until her flight left. Nikki’s flight left prior to mine, and then I went to sit at the correct gate. We were able to board earlier than expected and that would put us to land about a half an hour earlier than expected.
I’m so glad that I decided to still go, and get to spend time with one of my good friends.
We needed that trip, to relax and get away from the outside world. It was so nice to not hear much about racing, or drama surrounding the Coronavirus.
It was relaxing.
As I sit and look out the plane’s window into the darkness of the night, I’m really bummed that we didn’t get to experience the GatorNationals, like originally planned, but I’m so glad we still got to enjoy ourselves.
We had shut out the world, partly because we didn’t have much cell service in different parts of the state. This also surprised me for having Verizon. The cell service was pretty scarce.
I didn’t realize how much we drove, but when we returned the rental car – we put a little over 750 miles on and about 13 hours driving total.
For where we were located, roughly an hour from Jacksonville, it wasn’t really that bad.
We planned for Gainesville, but in the end it was a great trip.
If you would have asked me Thursday, before I left, I couldn’t have expected our trip to go as great as it ended up.
I would love to go back to Florida, for the Gainesville race, if they reschedule it and work for Amalie Oil. We have several races coming up, and this was to kick off my season with them, but the next race, depending on the Coronavirus will be the 4 Wide Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 24-26th. I always look forward to this race. Which reminds me, I’ll need to book my flight for that when I get home this week.
Since I took this trip, I’ve gotten a lot of questions: “Are you allowed to go to work on Monday?”, “You’re going to need to be quarantined, before I can see anyone”.
I will start my 14 day quarantine, when I get home tonight from Baltimore, and I will be working from home tomorrow. It’ll be hard, I won’t even be able to see Troy.
I haven’t gone 2 weeks without ever seeing him. That will be a challenge.
Well looks like were landing. It was a good trip. I tried to cover everything that we did.
After a bumpy start, it turned into a pretty fun and relaxing trip.
I couldn’t be happier that we took the jump and still decided to go!
It was a bummer that I didn’t get to see any racing, or go for the original reason, but getting to tour Florida a little bit, was exciting too!
I’m not sure what my next trip is to be honest.
Our country has gone into kind of a panic mode around the whole Coronavirus.
I guess we’re just going to keep washing our hands, practicing social distancing, getting back into the swing of things and let this disaster run it’s course.
Currently the race tracks in central PA are the only racing going on throughout the country. Every other area or sanctioning body has delayed their season for at least 2 weeks, if not longer.
It will be extremely difficult to remain sane, asI work from home. Sometimes going for a 30 minute drive in the morning keeps me calm.
If you plan on taking a trip to any of the places that I went to (ie. St. Augustine, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Disney, Jacksonville Beach), I hope this helps you better understand what you might be spending during a trip and how to better navigate those locations as a tourist.
Have you ever been to Florida? What was your favorite memory? What are you looking forward to if you go again? I’m curious to hear how your experience compares to mine!
About Nicole Signor Creative: Headquartered in South Central Pennsylvania, Nicole Signor Creative provides professional grade photography, graphic design, marketing, content creation, and social media management in the Motorsports industry; sprint car racing focus. Join Nicole Signor Creative on social media: Twitter: @NSignorCreative; Instagram: @NicoleSignorCreative; and Facebook: Nicole Signor Creative