The camera thought Smathers Beach was roiling with fog when I switched it on. That was just the effect of sudden exposure to the warm damp breath of morning after a night in the dry sub arctic office. While the picture looked evocative I had to stand around for ten minutes enjoying the dawn and waiting impatiently for the Camera to adjust to conditions. Testing, 1,2,3:The mass of humanity jogging by on the sidewalk didn't even notice me standing there peering into the black box and grumbling. I have a lot of patience to learn as we go in to the Peak Oil period and high energy tasks start to take longer and longer. Waiting for a camera to get ready to take a picture will require the same patience as waiting for a bus. Good things come to them as wait:Above is Smathers Beach looking west towards the harbor and not a soul in sight, while below the view is east towards the Airport. These pictures make Key West look like a beachy resort town. It's amazing how easy the illusion is to foster with just a couple of pictures. The ride out of town was easy this morning, not much traffic, not much headwinds and an open dry highway. The Bonneville has hit 13,000 miles since I bought it last October and I have slipped into the groove of familiarity with it. The handlebars fall right to hand, my feet fit comfortably tucked up on the foot pegs, the engine response is smooth and full of torque, the clutch light, the gearbox smooth. The engine with stock exhaust purrs quietly at sixty miles per hour across the Saddlebunch Keys. I manage to offend a dawdling Debonaire Air Conditioning van by passing him easily and quickly where the speed limit increases to 55mph, and he eventually puts down his cellphone or his sandwich or his newspaper, whatever the distraction was, and floors his boss's accelerator, damn all expense in a mad effort to catch me up so when he does manage to grow big in my mirror, I use him as an excuse to pull over and take a picture of this castle in the air:I miss riding in Italy, where most drivers pull to the shoulder to let motorcycles go by, and pause at stop signs to give right of way to let the bikers disappear ahead of them. Here instead passing is a comment on manhood and even women drivers get upset because they want to dawdle and you don't, so as you pull past they speed up as though to deny my 865cc twin the open road? Days when I want to dawdle I pull over when vehicles catch up to me, days when I want to go faster people hunker down and block my way. People are weird. The clouds are fascinating by contrast, all bunched and black and full of empty threats of rain.As dawns go today's was a bit of a bust, some mornings the sun rises all angry and red illuminating the horizon from end to end with white rays of light bursting from the edges of the clouds like a renaissance painting of the Transfiguration. Though I'm not religious there are mornings when I am surprised God in a white beard doesn't appear from behind these stunning arrays of light and cloud to descend onto the Overseas Highways and present me the Ten Commandments, or in a fit of absentmindedness to demand the life of my eldest (and non existent) son. The burning bush by comparison to these light shows was but a feeble ember. I ride with awe on my face and wonder why everybody doesn't pause in their commute to drink in the beauty of it all. But they don't, they're too busy, and on a pale colorless morning like this I hardly blame them, but I stop anyway to enjoy the gray and steely views and force myself to take a picture:It costs me a few pennies more to fill my three point two gallons of fuel at my neighborhood Chevron, since they don't give me the five percent rebate I get with my Shell credit card . Nevertheless I like to patronize my local business. Three point two gallons of 89 octane with 141 miles on the trip odometer equals...um...forty three miles per gallon? All this open amazing road all 27 milesof it from my workplace, enjoyed for less than the cost of a con leche. Why do they commute by car?
Monday, June 30, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Many years ago I was bringing Emma home from an afternoon at Boca Chica beach, which is where this road dead ends and I was pulled over by a Sheriff's motorcycle cop with a hand held radar. He pulled back from the car when Emma awoke from her torpor and started barking loudly- she was a typical Labrador, all deep throated bark and never a bite. I got off with a written warning because my alibi on the back seat was proof positive I was out for a ramble and not rushing to get anywhere. I mention this because Monroe County Sheriffs patrol the beach frequently and "strictly enforced" may not be too much of an exaggeration. It is a drag though as the roadoffers smooth riding with even a few interesting curves. This part of Boca Chica Road is actually Big Coppitt Key until one crosses is a small bridge separating it from Geiger Key proper:Shark Channel, east of Geiger Key has seen an increase in anchor out boats, many of which I suspect are liveaboard homes. The waters around Key West are becoming more inhospitable as expensive beachside homes spread across slivers of formerly open land used to park dinghies. The result is an increase of anchor outs further up the Keys:For Key West residents not used to the wilds of the Lower Keys this particular island is known for one thing, a bar of course, and a place that likes to rival Schooner Wharf as a slice of the "old keys way of life." There are no signposts to Geiger Key RV Park, Marina and restaurant but its there hidden away off a side road:Alongside the working dock there is a sort of Tiki bar and a decent restaurant serving, of course, fresh fish. There is a certain sense of humor required to run a place like this, which styles itself the "backside of paradise," but success brings with it the usual crop of complaints. There are more homes scattered around Geiger Key than might at first appear and the arrival of live music and lots of patrons at the marina caused the usual rash of grumbling, which the business appears to have weathered:And there is what passes for a small muddy park just beyond the marina where one could stand and contemplate the mangroves if one felt so inclined. Sitting isn't an option as the pea rock isn't that comfortable:If one seeks a well-to-do tropical lifestyle such as is frequently touted around Key West, one doesn't seek it on Geiger Key. This is a rather more down at heel neighborhood, more like a comfortable old pair of bedroom slippers than a pair of name brand high heels. Homes around here are either double wide trailers or their newer replacements, homes, frequently modular, on stilts:Either way their occupants get to enjoy waterfront living, decent sized yards (by Keys standards) and a certain level of privacy guaranteed by the absence of tourists or tourist related advertising. Canals were dug into the rock decades ago when such acts of environmental vandalism were not only permitted but encouraged in Florida's mosuqito infested swamps, and the happy result is easy access to boating in lots of places otherwise landlocked in the Keys. There are two types of canals prominent here:This is a regular boating canal with direct access to Hawk Channel and the straits of Florida. A double wide for sale on one of these canals is advertised at $499,000 though I doubt the owner will get that sort of asking price at the moment. In 2005 people were lining up to buy these trailers at those prices, until Hurricane Wilma flooded them out. In the next photograph w see what's known as a swimming canal, a place where engines are not allowed and access to the canal is shallow enough that only a kayak could possibly might make it in and out. This particular canal emerges into the shallow back country of Boca Chica Key, the navy base west of Geiger Key:These homes on canals are grouped into a small community known as Tamarac Park, not to be confused with the city of Tamarac on the mainland. Realtors advertise this area as "Key West" frequently because the zip code is the same as the city's (33040) but that's just because the post office in Key West delivers out here. This is unincorporated Monroe County, and as rural as one can get ten minutes from the city of Key West:Supporters of urban chickens in Key West frequently make the claim that were the fowl removed from city streets insects and the dreaded scorpions would make life unbearable. Those claims notwithstanding there are wild birds, quieter and less invasive that quietly go about the same business. I prefer their gentle dignity myself, but tourists don't want to see egrets and herons and ibis gently pecking the public flowerbeds of Key West. They want chickens, until they settle in Key West and learn the pleasures of being kept awake at night by barnyard fowl. These guys are just minding their own silent business:The other big disadvantage of Geiger Key is that it sits next door to Boca Chica Naval Air Station, a large military airport just across the water. Even since the island of Vieques, next to Puerto Rico was closed down as a military base, flight training has been moved to Boca Chica and the Florida panhandle. The result is frequent low passes by navy jets and concomitant noise. This of course produces complaints and counter complaints ("aircraft noise" versus "sound of freedom") with the Navy patiently pointing out they have been there longer than anyone else. Indeed every time a development is proposed in their neighborhood they protest for safety reasons and the county moves smoothly ahead supporting further civilian development which will lead to more noise complaints etc etc... Outside the rather limited developed areas Geiger Key is a swamp of mangroves and shrubs and these rather peculiar grasses. There are trails among the mangroves but because I am a law abiding sort I don't even try to slip behind the institutional green hurricane fences put up by the Navy and I limit myself to yearning from afar:Of course I happen to think even mangroves are enhanced by the presence of a Triumph Bonneville:Well worth a gallon of 89 octane even at $4:25, in my opinion.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Bear in mind these are likely locals vehicles and it usually doesn't pay to park like a local in Key West as parking enforcement and property owners usually know and recognize vehicles that belong in outlandish spots. Technically its not legal to lock a bike to city sign or street lamp but it would be an unlucky tourist that got her bike removed by Public Works during a brief stop. Riding the wrong way down a one way, even on a bicycle can get you a ticket, especially if you have a shitty attitude. As far as parking goes you can't beat a bicycle. And, by the way, if you have a few extra bar stools you don't need this is where you can dump them apparently: