Sunday, October 17, 2010

Card Sound

This post first appeared in February of 2008 and I wanted to rerun it today, while I am away on my latest Iron Butt ride, because the fishing village of Card Sound Road has finally been swept away by Dade County. This is one stark example of how an essay of mine has recorded a lot of stuff that is there no more. Alabama Jack's is still there of course and reportedly still serving the best conch fritters in the Keys, even though as you can see here, it's barely across the Monroe County line...I put this picture on the ADVRider forum thread titled "Old Structures" and somehow it generated an enthusiastic response from some dude who had actually stayed at this place in his youth during a crazy mid winter trip from Up North on a farting Bonneville that dragged him, somehow, to Key West and back in 1984. Quite delightful to hear from another geezer gumming his grits under a snowdrift somewhere, recalling his impetuous youth. I quite recommend ADVRider if you like pictures of faraway places (the occasional burst of juvenile "humor" can be an added "bonus") especially if you spend hours sitting in a room waiting for disaster to strike, as I do.Anyway this entry is obviously a product of last week's rip snorting ride through south Florida and I was moved to stop on my way home because Dade County has been making noises about abolishing the community at Card Sound and I wanted to take a few pictures before change catches me by surprise. Most people who climb in their cages and decide to drive to Key West arrive in Homestead from the mad rush that is Florida's Turnpike and find themselves funnelled onto Highway One and just keep going, which works fine, but there is a Better Way. Card Sound road starts just past the Last Chance Saloon, a dubious establishment offering the last chance for a drink in 20 miles, and aside from that attempt at humor the place looks like a pit without the allure of actually being in the Keys.Card Sound road is 25 miles long and is thus a few miles further than the direct 18 Mile Stretch, as Highway One is known between Homestead and Key Largo, a place where impatient drivers are constantly hitting each other head on. Granted this is the bucolic route, but thats not to say you can't get up a nice head of steam on the long straightaways of Card Sound Road but the speed limit as you approach the fishing shacks drops to 40 miles per, which you would do well to observe as life is lived rather literally close to the edge on this road.As the Internet, Satellites and Nextflix penetrate every corner of our modern world people keep nattering on about the good old days, and to hear them you'd think it really was Paradise Lost. If you want a taste of life lived close to the edge stop in Card Sound and take a careful walk along the roadway.

Now I grant you a liveaboard slip in the Keys might cost between $12 and $25 dollars per foot per month but a lot of people I know would have difficulty coping with this level of amenity, picturesque though it may be. Of course toss a stereotypical palm tree into the picture and everything gets a brighter facade:

Or not, as the case may be:

What's important to note though is that people do choose to treat this place as their refuge from the rest of the world and they cherish it. Most of these spots are just fish camps on a mangrove channel alongside the main road. I'd bet some few of the boats and structures could be permanent homes and in an attempt to legitimize their claims on the waterfront owners give themselves addresses:

While their neighbors tout for business:If you speak Spanish around here you will do better. Card Sound might once have been a place where English was the premdominant language but not anymore, except perhaps across the county line which marks the end of Dade County and the beginning of Monroe County. Alabama Jack's touts in English and offers what it hopes is your first al fresco Keys dining experience. Its not real waterfront dining, because the eating area is on the roadside and the waterfront is a bit...derelict? which you'd think would qualify it as being Keys-funky. Some people claim the food's okay and it offers people a place to stop so I guess they do pretty well by calling their decrepitude "funk."

Across the road lies the toll booth which welcomes you to the fabulous Florida Keys, charging you a dollar per car or motorcycle, (plus 50cents per axle on your boat trailer); its a way of training you to get fleeced in the islands Down South!

Dade County (known to newcomers as Miami-Dade because county officials were afraid people wouldn't know it was the seat of the mighty metropolitan city) has made noises about seeking out abusive structures and tearing them down. I'm not sure why this needs to be a priority and perhaps the noises will go no further now that the land grab bubble has burst. Card Sound is no museum, locked into a sterile tableau of the past, it just is, and it provides a place for modest people to hang out, chill, fish and cast off the cloak of urban struggle that fills most of their lives. It can also be a place of beauty, outside of the grubby cast-offs of human lives:

I hope Card Sound survives a bit longer. It may not be to my taste, being as how I don't care to fish, or to sit in a boat and drink, but it isn't to my taste either for people to get steamrollered out of their lives just because they are too funky, or too poor or simply too bloody minded. I like to take Card Sound Road to avoid the maniacs on the Stretch but also to give a tip of the hat to a bunch of survivors who happened to erect their fish camp on the wrong side of the County line of toleration.Had they built decades ago just 200 yards to the south they would have been in the Keys, where anything still goes, if you have the fortitude to resist the blandishments of the Almighty Dollar. These guys seem to have what it takes to resist anything, for now.