Monday, March 19, 2018

College Road

Changes are coming to College Road, the loop road around the north side of Stock Island that the city annexed years ago. That was to help get the golf course developed but the road includes the hospital and the Community College, hence "College" Road. There is also a school which is itself getting rebuilt and the Sheriff's headquarters along with the jail. And nearby is KOTS, the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter which is close to being shut down.
KOTS was opened in response to a Miami judge ruling that Florida localities cannot arrest people for sleeping in public if the jurisdiction (city or county) doesn't offer a free safe place to sleep. So they opened KOTS whereupon the nearby high end condominiums built later threw a fit and demanded that the living dead shuffling to and from KOTS morning and night are too unsightly. So the city and county agreed to end all lawsuits and find KOTS a new home. Not yet they haven't, so the daily shuffle continues.
It's unfortunate because many of the occupants aren't bums, they are in fact working poor. Maybe they lost their homes or their partners or their health and they can't come up with $3,000 to move into a $1000 dollar a month apartment so they walk or bus to jobs and sleep at KOTS. Enter the Easter Seals Building:
Someone suggested turning it into a day use facility and sleeping are for the homeless to help them get back on their feet. That went over like a lead balloon. The Mosquito Control building in the rear is being replaced by a  new headquarter sin Marathon so who knows what plans there are for this land. City voters are going to vote on a referendum later this year to raise height limits for "affordable housing" on Stock Island without actually knowing what constitutes affordable. So I suspect there will be even bigger changes to announce in this area. Already Sunset Marina has replaced its parking lot with apartment blocks filling the marina with urban concrete. Meanwhile the news for animals is better.
 The new five million dollar SPCA  building should be finished in a  couple of months.
 It's sorely needed as the old place is a mess. But I do note the irony that the homeless people don't get anew home while the animals do. Personally I prefer dogs to people yet I find this situation a tad bizarre.
Bayshore manor is another incipient problem...One has to wonder how all these Gordian knots will be unravelled...There are I believe 14 or 16  elderly folks being taken care of at Bayshore Manor and there has been talk of moving them to the new facility being built (and overly tall it is too... as an aside) on Duck Avenue. Some people support the idea as this could be another option for a new homeless shelter but other people say the for profit facility on Duck Avenue won't be a secure long term option.
I would be nervous were I a resident here as there seems to be some huge unseen drive to redevelop this stretch of College Road. I have the feeling this will all look different in a few years. 
The city relocated its bus depot here from Palm Avenue and sited the bus depot on top of what used to be the waste-to-power plant that got shut down by the same entitled condo owners who closed KOTS. The idea was to replace the old air scrubbers with modern air cleaners but that wasn't good enough and the  facility that produced cheap electricity was shut down and the city hauls it's trash to Pompano Beach for burial 170 miles away. 
 I suppose the new transit facility is a good thing and they are running the buses on clean gas...
A good thing indeed.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Key West

I posted this picture on Instagram describing it, accurately I think as a saw tooth home. The additions get their roofs shaped to a point to add to the water catchment properties from the days when the city (before World War Two) relied on rain for it's water.
I saw this electric bike in a box and it caused me to recognize that electric bicycles are everywhere in Key West these days and they look very good indeed. Many of them you can hardly tell as the days of clunky motors and huge batteries are fading fast. I see people speeding down North Roosevelt in the face of a strong headwind and I hope they know how lucky they are. It's not an easy ride under pedal power, cycling to Stock Island against an east wind. I predict these will soon replace scooters almost entirely around town.
I saw this display on a porch and the caption "winter gardening" sprang into my head. The weather this past week has been cold at night, less than 60 degrees (15 Canadian) but sunny and crips by day.
 I am always aware of the dog.
Bikers biking in cold Keys weather. Lots of leather and bandanas but no helmets, ideal for warmth of course.
 No idea where this is from but it struck me as funny:
My beloved in the alley behind the Chevron gas station.
The reason for the lovely walk in the first place.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I wasn't even thinking about airplane crashes or anything when I took this photos, idly watching my dog running through the mangroves and chasing his nose. The plane below reminded me of the blind horse at the Sheriff's  zoo at the jail, the one with the hood over its head. It was found starving when Dade county deputies raided a home and it was rescued and brought to Key West for a new life.
I am always surprised by how much activity there is at the airport with airliners coming and going and  lots of private planes.
Standing at the Hawk Missile farm at the end of Government Road you can see the planes lined up at the airport across the Salt Ponds: 
It was not a brilliant day for photography, leaden skies and not much definition.
And then the helicopter, that miracle of flight, like a bumblebee. It looked out of place hovering daintily before picking a precise spot to land.
Years ago I pondered briefly the idea of learning to fly. In the end it seemed impractical and somehow unnatural. I decided I preferred to sail.
I still like to look from time to time, and wonder where they came from and where they go so fast.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Things Go Wrong

I don't know what is going on but the newspaper has had stuff to report lately. Just yesterday a small plane with two adults and child on board had engine failure shortly after take off and according to the news the pilot tried to ditch in the ocean near Key West airport. He failed and somehow landed on a  tiny street near the airport almost blowing up the car rental fuel pumps. Amazingly enough the plane landed upright, stopped a few feet short of incineration and everyone walked away from this:
Two military flyers weren't so lucky earlier in the week when the fliers ejected as they tried to land at Boca Chica Naval Base on a training flight. They died at the hospital. It's hard to imagine what could have gone wrong with those sleek fast darts in the sky. I watch them circling while I travel on Highway One approaching Key West and I always feel glad to be firmly on the ground. Yet I never think of them actually failing and killing their young strapping occupants. Death in combat maybe, death in is that possible? According to CNN the witness who took this picture of the recovery saw the plane explode. I can't imagine what that felt like.
Barbie Wilson took this photo after winessing the crash. She said she saw it roll, explode and go down.
Then there was the fire at Rockland Key, Mile Marker 9. It was  a home being rebuilt after Hurricane Irma damaged it. The fire was complete and spectacular  and the home was destroyed, helped aong by the strong winds we've been having all week.
Image result for rockland key, florida fire
We got lots of calls where I work for the Key West police but it was a Monroe County fire and they were on scene. It was apparently quite the blaze and there were lots of 911 calls. Then on my way into work yesterday I came across a vehicle crash, and not your average Spring Break madness either. I was the only caller according to my colleagues at Monroe County dispatch. I drove past a steaming white van nose first in the mangroves, the driver slumped over the wheel. After I called I walked over and the driver came out. She was all bundled up against the cold and told me she had fallen asleep. She was not wealthy looking as you might imagine. I figured she was another of those who work two or three jobs to survive in these absurd islands. I left when the deputy arrived. And I took no pictures. Great photographer I am!
Image result for footbridge collapse miami
And then in Miami yesterday a new footbridge designed to get university students safely across SW 8th Street (Calle Ocho) collapsed suddenly and crushed five cars and some pedestrians. They were saying up to a dozen people may have died. 
I have no idea what to make of it all. I am alive and well and feeling lucky. It's been cold enough all week I've driven the car to work.  That and all the bizarre distracted driving I'm seeing around Spring Break. This weekend I'm off to the mainland to get away from it all. Another whole weekend off! I can hardly believe it after all the overtime I've had to do. Lovely.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Everglades 2009

From the archives, in this case September 2009, a report on a  trip I took on my much loved Triumph Bonneville 865, drowned last September by Hurricane Irma.

Riding The Everglades

This is the southernmost road across Florida, Highway 41, also known as Tamiami Trail.For some people the name inspires romantic visions of some native culture, though actually all it means is Tampa to Miami Trail. Oh well. It remains my favorite way to cross the state and plans to enlarge it have fallen away as the economy imploded. The views are typical of the Everglades either side of the two lane highway:
A wealthy land baron on Florida's west coast, by the inspired name of Barron Gift Collier got busy in 1923 building paved roads in southwest Florida, in the area known today as...Collier county. He also decided to connect Tampa to Miami, a job as you can see in this picture from the Pompano Beach Historical society, that had nothing to recommend it:I think of these poor, nameless sods every time I ride the trail and wonder how they coped in the muck of the middle of Florida. It must have been ghastly even for our ancestors who were, we are told, much tougher than us. It's about 60 miles from the Krome Avenue intersection to Carnestown (a solitary gas station) at the intersection of Highway 29 which heads north towards Lake Okeechobee. And it all looks pretty much like this, wet prairie and clumps of cypress trees:It isn't what Hollywood depicts the Everglades to be: a foggy, Spanish moss infested jungle with huge ferns and crazy old hermits living in huts and eating human flesh. The Everglades is a swamp filled with sunshine and heat and teeming with life. And yes there are alligators though I did not get to see one this trip. I will return to Loop Road to take some pictures of them, I'm sure this winter. Meanwhile I took off north on Highway 29 for twenty miles to the intersection of the other east-west road crossing through the Everglades:There is an intersection here which will get you onto Alligator Alley for free, avoiding the $2.50 toll that is charged upon entry at each end of the cross-Everglades section of the highway. Alligator Alley is part of I-75 from Fort Lauderdale to Naples.
Beyond the Bonneville lies Florida Highway 29 that runs another 20 miles north to Immokalee (pro: im-mock-a-lee with the emphasis on mock), a lilting name for a not particularly scenic town that makes it's living from agriculture and tomatoes in particular.Some people prefer Alligator Alley to Tamiami Trail because it feels less closed in and the views are somewhat more expansive. Still, hill country this is not.

I had decided on this trip that as far as I was able I would ride the back roads and a glance at Google maps for south Florida shows a spider web of very straight lines across miles and miles of open countryside.
I was relieved to get off Highway 29 as I found it to be littered with law enforcement including a rather sneaky Dodge SUV parked on the shoulder with radar. 60 miles an hour suddenly seemed a very reasonable speed on the dead straight road. I ducked off onto these agricultural roads as soon as I decently could.
I have long harbored a fantasy that one day God would dump a huge pile of granite in South Florida, just south of Lake Okeechobee, and humans would build three roads up it and down it. Two narrow winding ones for motorcycles and one wide one through the pine forests for cars filled with car-sick prone families. And then, when I got the urge to leave the Keys for a day I could ride up and down twisting mountains roads to my heart's content. Instead the heat of a burning hot 100 degree (38C) September day produces mirages on the highway which appears to submerge beneath flooding Everglades waters:
I wondered what, if anything, might be left of the Devil's Garden and as far as I can tell it's a creek of some sort.Apparently the Devil's Garden was a slough in the Everglades with lots of hammocks (dry areas of land) of cypress trees that was complicated to navigate and thus seemed devilish to the early explorers. Now it looks like this:And it is to be found at this junction. Which is where two dead straight roads join:
I find these views amazing, perhaps because I have spent too much of my life admiring mountain ranges and open ocean.
This is not a spot where I would like to live even though there are spreading oak trees in the vicinity to break up the monotony of cypress trees and grass:
Devil's Garden is not a flourishing center of commerce or industry as far as I could tell:
So I kept on riding, heading for my target for the day, the Clewiston Inn on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee, where I found a well air conditioned dining room brimming with (unsweetened) ice tea, filled with ice cubes, which I sucked down like a desert traveler deprived of water, while I checked the day's news in the Key West Citizen, published three hundred miles to the south and none the worse for having traveled here in my saddlebag:Pot roast, macaroni and cheese and fried okra set me up for the ride home, across more prairies, more wide open spaces, more silence that closed in whenever I stopped and turned off the engine. I also came across this phenomenon which one doesn't see in the Keys:
And somehow, while I was riding at speeds more than twice as fast as the posted 45 mph (70km/h) limit I spotted a black lump in the road. I stopped and went back to give him a lift to the safety of the grass at the side.He stretched his neck and his feet in an effort to get away from my invasive hand. He didn't seem to much enjoy his first ever flight, which lasted all of ten seconds and ended when I gently landed him in safety twenty feet away. I got back on the Bonneville as a large truck came by, filling the empty space where the tortoise had been, and I promptly hit a pot hole with my front wheel jarring my tongue and compressing my spine for a moment.
The Everglades are special we are told, but for someone riding a motorcycle one needs to have a particular outlook to enjoy these roads. At least, having read this you can't say I didn't warn you.