Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating My Way To Work

Daylight savings time is how I like my commute, as it means leaving the house in broad daylight to go to work.5:10 pm and Indies Road is clear of traffic all the way to Highway One. The empty lot next to my house is for sale for $168,000 the last time I looked.Pretty soon the three quarters of mile of single lane road gets clogged with slow pokes in cages. I generally find it easier to pull off and trim my nails while I wait for the car to amble up to me.
Once out on the Highway I run up through the gearbox as I pass Boondocks, the open air fried food and beer emporium that is about the most famous place on Ramrod Key which is a mere blip in the roadway as tourists rush to the fleshpots at the end of the road. Ramrod is about two miles long and two miles wide so it doesn't take long to reach open water, crossed by the Niles Channel Bridge.The bridge rises 40 feet (12 meters) above mean high water and though that may not sound very tall it is the highest point between the Seven Mile Bridge and Key West.
Summerland Key spread out to the west of Niles Channel as seen from the top of the bridge. It may appear I was doing 60 in a 45 but it is an illusion, officer.
Key West is a pretty little collection of 19th century wooden homes; the rest of the Lower Keys are definitely not. Urban planning is a communist plot you see, designed to take away people's property rights so the sort of urban blight, lack of sidewalks and general derelict mayhem that characterizes Summerland Key is pretty much par for the course from Mile Marker 112 all the way to Old Town.Of course when you know that Ace Hardware is the best store of it's kind for hundreds of miles, and Slice of Paradise has the best pizza, and the Wharf superb fish sandwiches and organic beer and so forth, the pain of ugly streets is lifted somewhat. I am also told that the Galley in it's latest incarnation makes eggs Benedict to die for, so I shall probably feel obliged to check that out too. It would be nice as the Lower Keys need somewhere good for breakfast between Sugarloaf Lodge and...somewhere else. Square Grouper looks like a barn but looks are very deceiving. We celebrated a friend's graduation there last week which just confirmed what a surprisingly good place this is to throw money. (Yes Rob, I know it's pricey but I am an old fart so humor me).Mangrove Mama's is just past the Mile Marker 20. You'd think my commute is measured by eating establishments. I suppose it is really.This is the wilderness section of my commute, five miles of nothing but bridges and causeways (and Baby's Coffee if the loneliness of the highway starts to get to you). Why they are called the Saddlebunch Keys I couldn't say but they are a collection of innumerable unnamed islets, most of which are just clumps of mangroves.
And then, after the brief exhilaration of 55mph and several passing areas we are back to 45 and the urban agglomeration that is Big Coppitt. 24 Hour gas at the Shell station and Dion's chicken at the Mobil and a new and delicious Cuban Coffee Shop between the Mobil and Bobalu's Southern Café. More food for the weary traveler.And after Big Coppitt, Mile Marker Ten, the last five miles to Stock Island are on the Lower Keys' only semblance of a freeway, albeit held down to a staid 55 miles per hour, four lanes, a median and an actual on and off ramp at the Boca Chica Navy base. And then the Boca Chica Bridge onto Key Haven and Stock Island, the second-to-last look at open water.And on Stock Island, 23 miles from my home we are back in the land of intersections, traffic lights and pedestrians.
On North Roosevelt Boulevard the traffic thickens and as you can see it's 5:45pm, 35 minutes from home. I'm almost there. I've passed the last stretch of open water to my right and now it's city gridlock to the Police Station.1604 North Roosevelt Boulevard, my home from home for the next twelve hours. To the left is the fire station at 1600 North Roosevelt. The story that was told to me was the main fire station was built first and they got 1600, and then the police station came later on the side of the fire station but nobody wanted to change their letterhead so the police are at 1604 and instead of going up the numbers then dip to 1600 to accomodate the pre-existing fire station. A little known fact with which you can astonish your nerdy friends and win impressive bets.You'd think I'd be tired of the commute but Highway One, for some reason, never bores me.