It was actually great fortune that we went to Key West first, because the day we headed north, we had rain. It rained for most of the drive to Bahia Honda. We set up the RV on Sunshine Key, and the rain cleared out enough to take an evening swim, and then we had a big storm overnight. Incredibly, I slept through most of it!
The next day was cloudy with sporadic rain, but it didn't stop us from getting on our bikes and riding through the State Park. I found a huge sponge on the shore and brought it home. I planned to clean it so I could actually use it, but it's still in the garage......hopefully not stinking too much! When the rain got too heavy, we went back to the RV and downloaded pictures and read. But again the rain cleared enough to let us have another sunset swim. Yay!
On Thursday we took off, planning to spend the night in Miami. We passed a place called Theater of the Sea on Islamorada, and decided to check it out. It was interesting, with bird, dolphin, and sea lion shows, and a nice garden. After seeing the shows, we thought we'd make sandwiches and take them to the swim beach at the back of their gardens. We stood with our bags and bottles at a little bridge, waiting on the tour guide to take us through to the beach and she pointed out the different species of mangroves as we walked. We crossed a little bridge to the beach and I heard Jesse snort. The "beach" was a pile of sand next to a tiny pond-like inlet covering an area about 2,000 square feet. The pond had a lot of big fish that looked like carp. You could rent snorkels and fins (some kids took advantage of that) or buy snacks at the little thatch-roofed shack. We were hungry, so sat down under an umbrella and ate our lunch and laughed. This was no beach, particularly to some one who knows Fort Myers Beach!
(There was a sort of nasty incident with a manipulative, controlling woman who was sitting next to us. She was talking very nastily to her husband and children, which made us cringe having experienced similar people in our pasts - and we were glad to get out of there.)
Next stop was to look around at John Pennekamp Park on Key Largo and we found a place to camp. Not surprisingly, it rained then too. A lot. We lost electricity, but were able to switch to generator so we didn't swelter.
If you make it to Pennekamp, be warned that snorkeling at the swimming area is not good. We saw a few fish, but the water was very murky. There was supposed to be a "sunken ship" there, but we couldn't see it. Later we read that it was only a "re-construction" of a Spanish wreck as it would appear after 400 years underwater.
Save your snorkeling for a reef trip from the park. We didn't take it this time because it had been canceled due to seaweed, so the next day we left for Miami and the zoo. And the rain was fortunate, because it was cooler for walking around outdoors all day, though we were damp most of the time. Also, there was no crowd, so we could ride the little tram around the park without waiting, and it was cool enough that the animals were outdoors for our "viewing pleasure."
We just missed getting a great video when we were watching the tigers. There was a large bird of unknown species, about the size of a hawk, that landed in the tiger habitat, and one of the big cats hurtled toward it with deadly intent. He made one swipe with his big claws, but just missed when the bird took flight. That would have been a great video! Sorry you missed it. :)
At the end of the day, we boarded the RV and made a 2-hour ride north to Fort Myers....in a driving rain. Again. We arrived home about 8pm, unloaded the refrigerator, and saved the rest of the unpacking for a clear and sunny Saturday.
There are so many pictures to show you that I decided to create a little slide show, and I must say I'm rather proud of how it turned out, considering I haven't done one before. It even has music.
These were taken at the Miami Zoo, Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor, and while snorkeling on the reef. Mallory Square in Key West is right on the waterfront, and you can see by the photos that in the evenings there is a carnival atmosphere. There were mimes, painters, potters, musicians. Oh darn, I just remembered a picture I left out! Oh well, I'll post it separately.
Can you believe this beautiful sunset???? This has not been touched up or filtered, and Jesse just handed the camera to another tourist to take a picture of us together. We were so happy we made it to Mallory Square the first night, after the Bus Stop incident, because that was the prettiest sunset of our entire stay.
I will post a video of the Catman and maybe a slide show once I figger out how to do it!
My previous post makes a good segue to the Vacation Report.
It was bright, but not too early when we set off for downtown Key West on our bicycles. We arrived about an hour before departure time, so toured the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society & Museum where I was apprehended by a savage pirate, but managed to elude his clutches … probably because he had only one “clutch” and a hook on his right arm (photo above). On display in the museum are treasures recovered from the Atocha, a ship that sank en route to Spain from Havana in 1722. Gold, silver, emeralds, amethysts … You can even buy a little bit of gold, if you’re willing to forfeit a lot of green. One item of interest was a $60,000 snuffbox. I don’t remember if it was gold or silver, but it was about four hundred years old. Wouldn’t it be interesting to touch it, and imagine the aristocrat who may have last carried it in his pocket?
We chained our bikes behind the Key West Art & History Society building (http://www.kwahs.com/customhouse.htm) with the enormous statue (about 30 feet high) of a dancing couple, and walked to the pier where we boarded a catamaran for a thirty-minute ride to the reef.
While we enjoyed the sail, one of the mates instructed us on the use of our manually inflated buoyancy compensator (BC) vests. I couldn’t help laughing because it reminded me of Eddie Izzard’s routine discussing life saving techniques in the event of an airplane crash. “Care for a top up?”
I overfilled my BC a smidge, so I had a little trouble diving, but that was ok, because if I had dived I might have hit the reef, it was so near the water’s surface. The initial problem I had, however, was when I first jumped in. The seas were choppy, and we had to “butt-walk” down a folding stair which bobbed around like a cork. It made me slightly dizzy, and I held tightly to the ropes to prevent being pitched in head-first. I was doing OK, but forgot to pull down my mask! So naturally I couldn’t get it cleared of saltwater once I got it on, and my eyes were stinging, and my rhythm was thrown completely off. So I dog paddled – tossed and bobbed would be a better description – back to the “cat” and crawled up the steps to dry my mask and adjust it so it wouldn’t leak. Poor Jesse thought I was going to chicken out, and I thought I might not be able fix my mask so I could use it, but tried it again. I never got it to be leak-proof or fog-proof, but was able to clear it enough to see the pretty fish, coral, and even found a stingray and a needlefish. Time flew past, and they whistled us back to the boat. Jesse had bought a dry bag for his little camera, so we have some nice pictures to post. On the return sail, we were served wine and beer, listened to island music and enjoyed the scenery, including a school (pod?) of about five dolphins.
Back on shore, we weaved our way to our bikes and peddled through Old Town, stopped at Cheeseburger Key West for – of course – a cheeseburger. Stopped to listen to a flute player on the street with his “singing” dog, and rode through the city cemetery as we looked for the Haitian art gallery. The cemetery is very interesting, both culturally and historically, and I hope to go back to spend more time there. At last we found the art gallery, only to discover it was closed, so we rode to Fort Zack for a leisurely beach afternoon in the sun followed by a windy sunset.
And that’s the second chapter of another day in Paradise.
I have been performing veterinarian/zookeeper duty for almost two weeks, but the work has diminished slightly as Lenny the Cat appears to be recovering from a bout with hairballs. We were worried about the little feline because he was completely off his food and hiding away to rest. I took him to the vet about 8 days ago, and OMG, it was more expensive than a checkup for a human! Plain old amoxicillin was $28 for one ounce ... about 14 times the price for same thing humans get. I hope there isn’t a next time, but I will be better prepared if it happens. This morning the old Lenny is back…harassing Delilah, fighting Angel the Bichon, and chasing Logan down the hall. And, of course, climbing the screen on the lanai! But we are so happy he’s getting well.
I found a perfect coconut Sunday! I was too tired to open it when we got home, so I’m waiting until this weekend and will report on the taste. I found a good one in the Keys, but it got cracked somehow and spoiled before I got to test it.
If you visit Key West, and some one recommends public transportation, be aware that there is no “schedule.” Both of the guidebooks we read recommended the city bus system as the most economical transportation, which would provide the opportunity to see places in the city we would like to explore, and eliminate the need to find parking - a perpetual complication in Key West. On Saturday evening, we arrived in time for the famous sunset at Mallory Square, and were told by a citizen that the bus stop was just down the street, and the bus would show up when the driver got around to it. We have decided it is a “phantom” system because we never saw a city bus during the three days we were there! Disclaimer: This experience is recounted from the perspective of two tourists who lost themselves in a not-so-good neighborhood and decided to make the best of it. It is not meant to treat unsympathetically those with addictions or mental afflictions.
We walked to the bus stop at 6:30 and recognized immediately that we were going to have free entertainment similar to Bill Cosby’s description of the “free show on the subway.” Standing about twenty feet away from the pavilion, a Haitian woman seemed to be arguing with someone on a cell phone. Two men who apparently shared a fear of soap and water were sitting on the bench, their gestures defining an argument in a creole of Spanish, English and cheap whiskey. A thin woman who may have been in her mid-thirties, with long, stringy, brownish hair, freckles, and missing her front teeth was also on the bench, waving her arms and proclaiming, “Nobody gonna disrespeck me!”
My first thought was, Is this a good idea? Second thought: I’m glad Jesse is with me! We stood some distance away from the bus stop shelter, but still within earshot of the unintelligible discussion. Jesse realized that we didn’t have change for the bus fare, so he tried to get change at the deli across the street. One of the men said, “They closed tonight …” and attempted to tell us where we should go to eat. I think he recommended a restaurant down the street because it sold “all kinds of food – Cubano, Mexicano, Americain ...”
Jesse ran back to the RV for change. Returning in a hurry, he said, “I want to get out the video camera, but I’m afraid it could cause trouble.” I wish he could have, because I can’t begin to describe it all!
The longhaired woman sauntered toward us to give us her history, opinions, and advise us about the bus schedule. “The bus will be here any time … my family used to have a lot of property in Key West, but my husband had to be a drug dealer, and we lost everything … now I have to live on” [multiplied increase in volume] “f*****g Stock Island!” Then she walked into the street and back to the pavilion.
A small, thin, person of indefinite gender, with a very short haircut, an unbuttoned shirt, and a bra staggered toward us from the street corner. I will call the person She. She muttered a lot, but we had no idea what was being said because she was not lucid. She seemed to be sympathetic towards the long-haired woman, and possibly trying to prevent a fight.
The next character was a woman who rode past on a bicycle. The long-haired woman jumped from the bench and ran into the street to berate her for riding past, and that she was going to get an “ass-whoopin’.” The cyclist called the long-haired woman a “meth ho” and rode on past. “Meth Ho” chased her unsteadily down the street yelling, “Nobody loves you! At least my mama loves me and fixed up her garage for me to sleep in! You’re just a *&#@* TV dinner ho!”
Jesse and I now quietly discussed the possibility that we might need a taxi. The woman on the bicycle was returning and the long-haired woman ran back into the street shouting epithets. The TV Dinner Ho turned down a side street to take a safer route, but the Meth Ho ran across to catch up with her in an alley, and did not return.
Fortunately, a taxi arrived and Jesse waved him down. We made it to the pier just in time for the sunset, and that was the most beautiful sunset of our visit, so I’m glad we didn't take the Spirit Bus.
One more transportation note: taxis are expensive. It cost about $20 to go five miles. Parking for more than two hours may cost about the same. Our best decision was to drive the RV to Fort Zachary Taylor, pay the $6 to visit the fort/park, and ride our bicycles to tour the city. The fort is interesting to see, and it has a very nice beach!
So that’s the story of our first evening in Key West. Stay tuned for more!
We had such a great time in the Keys! We snorkeled around the reef in Key West, watched Dominique and his Flying Housecats in Mallory Square, bicycled and shopped and saw the sights. I will write more for posting and upload some photos and maybe videos when they are ready. I'm posting this picture just to prove that I was there! Some people would argue that Harlingen, Texas is farther south than Key West, but I'm not getting into that debate. More and better shots to follow!