Sunday, August 30, 2009

Florida Mountains

I wanted to do this last summer but windy conditions and a general lack of humidity made it harder to find towering thunderheads, and I lost interest. Not this year.
It was the perfect afternoon. I left home early with an appointment to meet my wife in Searstown for coffee, con leche actually, to set me up for a long night work.As I got dressed to leave I could hear thunder rolling off to the north, in big cracking waves of sound. From Highway One it seemed likely I could get to Key West ahead of the rain which appeared to be mostly paralleling the highway. This, I figured was my opportunity to get some pictures.As they are in most places, thunderstorms are localized in the Keys, the difference here is that with the small elevation offered by the highway, an observer can see for a long way across the open waters. It's possible to look ahead, unencumbered by hills or forests and get a good idea of whether or not one needs to put on waterproofs. Checking the National Weather Service radar (that would beBig Gummint functioning perfectly, contrary to stereotype) also helps. I can see with my own eyes there's no rain down the road here, just castles in the sky. Or as Florida photographer Clyde Butcher calls them, "Florida Mountains."
If I remember correctly this was out in the Saddlebunch Keys west of Sugarloaf, and the rain was hammering down a long way north. As I stood astride the Bonneville I glanced down at the thermometer and it was reading dead on one hundred degrees (38C). It looked a lot cooler in the rain.The sun was dodging in and out between the clouds as they rolled over and over themselves. Summer in the Keys is the season for rain and thunder and lightning and spectacular displays of what Radio Nacional in Havana calls tormentas electricas, "electrical torments." So that is what I like to think of the roiling black clouds, writhing "torments", in the picturesque language of the communist weather forecasts.It doesn't take much time for the snowy white mountains to somehow pick up moisture and transform themselves from benign and white to a dark foreboding gray:
Still looking rain-free on my way to Key West, by now about ten miles to the west.
Looking to my rear the rain clouds were roiling over Sugarloaf Key after my passage:
To the south there was no sign of rain thunder or electrical torments, just those lovely white puffy piles of cotton wool:
Approaching Shark Key the rain seemed to closing in and shutting out the sun:But from there I kept going, ignoring temptations to take pictures. I was supposed to be at Conch Scoops in Searstown a little after five for the café con leche, and time was running out. As it was I got there thirty seconds before my wife and had tie to take a picture to the south- no rain showing behind Outback Steakhouse, but rain aplenty was coming from the north still:
Somehow I managed to make it to work without either a) getting wet or b) bothering to drag on my waterproofs.
My favorite picture of the afternoon's ride to work was this one:I stopped on the shoulder near Baby's Coffee and parked for a quick picture that I think expresses the fun of taking the motorcycle when your wife thinks you should be sensible and take the other car. Motorcycle versus the Storm. How elemental, my dear Watson.