Sunday, September 13, 2009

Late Dawn Patrol

The plan was a good one: get up early and go for a ride to Anne's beach, take pictures, come home to a late breakfast. The plan came unstuck when I awoke a little before dawn as my wife rustled her way into her work outfit, whereupon I promptly sank back into the memory foam pillow and stared hard into the backs of my eyelids. By the time I pulled myself together and left the house it was showing 7:50am on the Bonneville's aftermarket analogue clock. Still and yet the sun was struggling to break free from the early morning castles in the sky: As I approached West Summerland Key (inexplicably located well east of the main and better known Summerland Key) it occurred to me that in addition to a flask of water and a couple of granola bars I might well have done myself proud had I remembered to pack a swimsuit and a beach towel. My plan was unraveling with every mile I rode east/north on the Overseas Highway. I find flat ocean waters very enticing and this is the season for breathless skies and flat waters: It had been a week of training at the police department where we have a new to us, computer-only phone system installed in the 9-1-1 center, and I had spent a couple of days learning to use it (I hope) and was thus waking and going to bed like normal people at civilized hours. Like normal people I was struggling to get out of bed when the alarm beckoned before sunrise. Commercial fishermen do not seem to suffer from these mortal foibles. These trappers were busy long before I fired up the Bonneville:
It was many years ago that a friend who published a book about sailing catamarans gave me some advice. Rod Gibbons, a catamaran dealer in cold and rainy Seattle, said the only way to publish a book was to put your boat next to a palm tree on the cover. It is advice I have never actually used, but it is advice that has never left my consciousness. Two perspectives on a lonely palm tree at Bahia Honda:
On the subject of advice a newspaper photographer I have cause to mention previously once told me the best pictures are close ups. Bill Lovejoy, an improbably named employee of the Santa Cruz Sentinel told me a photographer can never get too close to a subject. It's advice I have learned to trust over the years but sometimes distance helps a composition. This next picture violates the rule because I wanted an illusion of expansiveness. Visitors tend to notice the lack of land mass in the Keys, I see a broad field of opportunity among the islands, like this picture which looks like the Bonneville was parked miles away in a meadow:
In fact there is a broad shoulder on the north side of Bahia Honda Key, at the southern end of the bridge, and I had parked the Bonneville close to the Overseas Highway while I walked down to the water's edge to photograph the palm tree.
There are ambitious plans afoot in a state that boasts a budget deficit, so far, of around a billion or a trillion or a quadrillion dollars, expected to triple in two years, to build a bike path the 160 kilometer length of the Keys. The idea is to pave a path on the land next to the highway and join the pieces together for the entire 100 miles by rebuilding Flagler's 1900-era railroad bridges. It sounds like a delicious irony, first the state demolishes segments of the old bridges and allows them to deteriorate then wants to refurbish them for recreational cycling. Personally I think an electrified narrow gauge railway might serve us better in a future freed from the tyranny of infernal combustion, but who am I to argue with Progress? Every Eden has it's serpent and the new segments of Trailways bring with them new demands on our attention:
Bi-lingual instructions on how to use a cycling path; let there be no fire, camping, trash, mooring or alcohol on the trail- in two languages. Presumably if you speak Indonesian or German or Swahili all things are possible. Here's another non-closeup to violate Bill Lovejoy's rule:
I wish I weren't so enamored of infernal combustion but even these long straight roads fail to dampen my pleasure in simply going for a ride, at a rate of 43 miles per gallon of irreplaceable crude oil ($67 for a barrel these days as it comes out of the ground). This is me crossing the seven mile bridge (if you want to see more pictures of the bridge see this essay: ):
Having failed signally to organize my journey north I had no caffeine in a thermos with me so I stopped at Villa Blanca Cuban restaurant at the south end of Marathon, close to the West Marine Store. Which on this morning looked more like a scene from one of those cute TV shows with Little rascals getting up to no good:
His companions inside the restaurant were not quiet and composed eaters, and the TV was blaring Hispano-commercials featuring loud over-made-up women in impossibly tight dresses selling unnecessary household goods; all of which didn't add up to the peace and serenity a man needs for recuperation from the vicissitudes of the road. The woman at the counter treated me more like a dominatrix than the normal relationship one expects in a restaurant between customer and owner. I came away wondering if signs of her personality abuse were visible on the exterior of my person, and I suspect Jack riepe would have sweet talked her into producing the whip she so desperately wanted to be wielding. I got one Cuban sugar in my large con leche, which is the equivalent of seven Anglo sugars so my teeth were on edge and the remaining 23 miles to Anne's Beach passed in a jittery blur.
Some people think it's easy living and riding in the eternal summer of the straight roads of the Fabulous Florida Keys. Other people think I'm demented because I like to pass cars dawdling on the highway. I blame the Cubans, all of them, no exceptions, them and their coffee.