At the end of the street I trudged past my local gas station doing land sale business with all the mini lobster season hopefuls. Mini lobster season is two mid week days of mayhem for amateur lobster killers before commercial hunters swing into action. The county gets flooded with boaters from all over Florida filling hotels and getting wild on the water. They need fuel for their adventures and apparently four dollars isn't enough to put them off:
I am not particularly fond of lobster and neither is my wife after I told her they would outlive us if left alone to do their boring lobster thing. My sensibilities gather no adherents among these desperate hunter-gatherers who seem to go demented at the prospect of lobster suffocating slowly in their boats.
The Lower Keys Shuttle as the inter city bus service is known, has ramped up its schedule since I first rode it a few years ago, and by all accounts it continues to grow in popularity. The schedule is available online at keywestcity.com if you want to ponder your three dollar trip between Marathon and Key West. I left my house at 2:45 and waited for about ten minutes in the companionable shade of a sea grape bush across from the Looe Key resort on Ramrod Key, with another dude who got there before me:
The mosquitoes were not very busy which was as well as i had forgotten to apply repellent and the breeze was wonderfully cooling. I decided to ride the bus in the spirit of declining resources and excessive carbon footprints and so forth and I do wonder from time to time how we will cope when the air conditioning bill gets to be too high. Life in the keys would not probably be as bad as in a lot of other places because even on these torrid summer afternoons we do get some movement of air. On the other hand keeping my books and clothes mold free is also nice so even though our electricity bill has, for the first time, passed the $200 mark for the past month, we have turned the thermostat up, not off.
No such problems on the bus which is more like a refrigerated truck than a public tropical bus:
The ride itself is just another bus ride though I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Highway One as a cosseted passenger. The sweat congealed rapidly on me as I watched the world go by outside our tinted windows. There were perhaps a dozen people on the bus riding quietly even though some of them were youngsters. I saw one gangsta type with a bandanna and a defiant East L.A. look to him but he was a polite as could be- the Keys seem to produce all sorts of wanna be pirates who are just nice and suburban beneath their disguises.
Waiting for the bus can be hot work though, as I noted in Summerland Key:There are a few stops along the way with benches and shelters and solar equipped illuminated advertising, but mostly the stops are poles along the highway. The ride to Stock Island's College Road took about 40 minutes, ten minutes longer than a ride on my Bonneville might have taken, and I spent the time finishing Carl Hiassen's novel Flush, set in the Keys and a fun read:The driver was a barrel of laughs, actually he just drove like the silent connsumate professional he was, though I liked his Keys look, of the understated fishing guide school of dress:I pulled the pinger after we passed the dump on College road and the bus came to a creaking halt:From there it was a short walk past sunset marina to the Sheriff's Administration and Jail complex where my wife works as the Juvenile Jail teacher. This stop is also the pick up point for people who live at the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (K.O.T.S) which offer air conditioned dormitories showers lockers and an address for the working poor of the area. Anyone is welcomed and not everyone actually rides the bus to work. Some hang out and wait for the Safe Zone, as it is also known, to re-open in the evening:
I found the experience to be a positive one overall however I do see some issues, not least the fact that bicycles are not allowed on the buses, this despite the fact they carry the usual racks on the front. Apparently too many people wanted to take bikes so they banned them all. As usual helping discourage people from riding is more important than seeking solutions...My answer to that would be the purchase of a folding bike to get me to work from the last stop at Searstown, 2 miles form the police station. The cost is not negligible, a per ride fare of $3 or a monthly pass at $50 and a weekly pass somewhere in between. Compared to riding the Bonneville I might save $15 a month and lose the flexibility (and fun!) of the motorcycle. The schedule works well in the afternoon for my ride to work but in the morning I'd have to wait an hour for the seven o'clock bus that leaves from Searstown which would get me home by 8am. Currently I'm tucked up in bed and snoring before 7 am...
For now I'm going to keep riding but I'm going to use the bus for one way trips because its too easy and too convenient. The ride would make an amusing and inexpensive sight seeing tour through the Lower Keys for an intrepid and adventurous visitor.Here's where I ended my trip, my book finished, cool refreshed and ready to help my wife move her boxes around her office. A highly satisfactory journey with a tiny carbon footprint, I think.