Sunday, August 23, 2009

One Hot Bonneville

It was Hot as Hades Friday afternoon. My wife and I had planned a take out meal at home to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and I had spent my day off doing the laundry, vacuuming the house (all 700 square feet of it, which made that a quick chore) and generally spiffing the place up so she could come home from work and put her feet up. As a reward for my industriousness I took a ride to see what I might see out in the world of the Lower Keys.
I stopped here and there to take some pictures and by the time I got to the Seven Mile Bridge some thirteen miles from my home I was hot and sticky and ready for some shade. The sun was burning down and my thermometer was reading just about 102 degrees (39C) which is a tad bit hotter than one expects among these islands where a breeze almost always blows. Last year I lamented the passing of a summer in which the wind seemed to blow every single day and the flat waters one comes to expect between June and October never materialized. Every day was a ruffled day on the Straits of Florida. Well, this year I got my wish and every day is a furnace, off the water and on:I stopped at Bahia Honda State Park and used my annual pass to get inside and buy a cold soda at the concession stand, which had closed fifteen minutes before my arrival. There wasn't a Coke machine anywhere to be found and I had change in my wallet for a ...change. I took some pictures to justify the stop and pulled my open face helmet back on. For riders over 21 who enjoy the benefits of having a health insurance plan (seriously!) Florida is a helmet-optional state, but on a day as hot as Friday putting my lid on brought relief from the heat. Some people think a white helmet is going to radiate more heat away from the rider's head than a black helmet. However if that were the case the helmet would have to have no insulated lining at all. I like black clothing as it shows the dirt less, which is a consideration for a pig-pen like me. I attract dirt, grease, oil and debris like a magnet attracts iron filings and I marvel at people who have the nerve to buy white clothing of any kind.My plan, such as it was, had started out as a visit to Veteran's Park, a sliver of beach at the southern end of the Seven Mile Bridge. So after I left Bahia Honda, panting for something cold to drink, I stopped at the inconvenience store at the RV park on Ohio Key (August 9th, 2008). The lady in the store seemed grumpy and took my $1.44 with nothing approaching a cheerful demeanor, so I hope whatever was bothering her, gets better. I use Anti Monkey Butt powder for those annoying tropical irritations and I considered for a second mentioning it to her. A quick glance at her scowl and I took my well ripened banana and ice cold can of Coke Zero and fled back into the heat. She had the television on behind the counter and I am proud to be able to tell you she was ignoring a program called Everybody (except Conchscooter) Loves Raymond. I am totally hip to the culture, dude. Which comes from long hours standing in line with gossip magazines in the grocery store. Veterans Park was disappointing. Instead of being hard at work on a summer Friday afternoon hoi-polloi were swarming the place, the parking spaces filled with their vast spacious heffalump mini vans and extended cab gas guzzling Saudi Arabian economic support vehicles. What was even more irritating was that they seemed to be enjoying the shallow waters and the shady ramadas and clearly I was going to have to come back some other day to get my pictures. Humph. My coke was warming up nicely in my saddlebag.
Being a resourceful sort of elitist I knew how to implement Plan B. I crossed the Overseas Highway and rode down to the launch ramp parking lot on the north side of the main road. This strip of asphalt is shadeless and was burning hot so I rode the Bonneville illegally, past the barrier onto the grass and parked in the shade of what appeared to be some sort of buttonwood tree, though it probably wasn't. I drank my Coke and ate my banana, feeling all that potassium flooding my corn syrup filled veins, and started to feel right with a very overheated world. I had forgotten to bring reading material for once in my life so my camera was my friend and my entertainment.Fishing was over for the day for this crew and I watched as they retrieved their boat at the ramp. My phone rang and my wife announced she was done for the day, her classroom was organized for the little tykes' return on Monday. She was stopping at Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key to pick up dinner.
I struggled to get vertical and realized my legs had sweat their way through my riding pants and large ovals of damp were riding above the knees. My wristwatch was bathed in moisture that ran rather disconcertingly down my arm, and my shirt collar was plastered to my neck. It was time to get home. Had I brought my mesh jacket I would not have worn it as any extra clothing would have given me heat stroke. My lightweight leather gloves felt like damp neoprene mush on my hands. It was way too hot at six o'clock in the evening.
Fish was on the menu for me too. We had Crab Rangoon made as only Square Grouper knows how to fry this excessively familiar, and slightly bizarre dish, followed by sliced deep fried eggplant (aubergine) rounds. Eggplant is my wife's favorite plant and these crisply coated vegetable slices came with discs of goat cheese squished between them, combining her favorite flavors. The main dish was a fish stew also done Square Grouper style so it was a creamy chowder tomato bisque type of thing with bits of octopus and calamari and fish chunks floating beneath the surface . Leftovers went into the fridge to chill.Rather to my surprise we sank an entire bottle of Vincent Arroyo Melange between us and before I knew it my wife had slipped into a deep and dreamless sleep on the couch. All I had left to do was download the pictures and reflect on how good a day can be with almost no conscious effort.