Sunday, June 26, 2011

They Caught My Eye

Give me strength, for I lack the will power to stand around in colored underwear on city streets.Besides he's not wearing pink Crocs so he's not a proper Key West eccentric, never mind the open container. Mirror mirror on the wall..?Capt Harry he calls himself, perhaps because that's his name. Mind you everyone is a captain in Key West. I used to be until I decided commercial sailing was for the birds. Old Key West Home Alert.It does occur to me that if one felt one had the second best coffee in town it would not be a brilliant idea to advertise it as such, however opulent claims put me off. Perhaps it's time to give it a try?Coffee and a sandwich sounds good though, doesn't it? Some people put up with a bottle of half warmed water.And so we conclude this Key West essay with picture of a Key West woman. And even I devoted husband have to conclude she looks a whole lot better than Rasputin did in his colored underwear in the top picture.

Key West Riders

The phrase, "The family that cycles together, stays together," comes to mind. It's hard to say if this lot stayed together after burning up Key West like this:Ooh look! Photographers. Similar to if not exactly riders.I don't look like this when I perch on my Bonneville:I've said it before and I'll say it again: utilitarian cycling is what sets Key west apart in a world dedicated to conspicuous consumption. Can't get much more dedicated to utilitarianism than cycling with a giant panda in the front basket.I am old, inching up to my 54th birthday, but...really? Did we look this stupid in bell bottoms and long wavy hair? Be that as it may modern fashions are stupid in my considered, middle aged, opinion.I nearly forgot we are supposed to display women in this feckless beach resort town. Here's one, enjoying a fresh breeze on a fine scooter. I like the way people just jump on a powered two wheeler and make them part of their southernmost lives.And some people ride two up, like Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, exploring the vast wastelands of Key West construction zones.There's never a really good excuse not to get out and enjoy the world from two wheels.

Conch Tour Train

It's a goofy tourist thing to do, to ride the hated Conch Tour Train around Key West. Very uncool, exceedingly unsuave. But like so many things the hipsters reject it is also exceeding good fun.Entertaining, certainly but also surprisingly informative, and the price is right in June when locals ride free, which is a deal as adults pay $29 for a 90 minute tour, hop on, hop off, at several stops around town.We joined the train at Caroline and Margaret kitty corner from Harpoon Harry's diner. And then the ride began, alongside the famous Key West Bight......and the driver talks for ninety minutes solid, with two mysterious quiet zones which the boys and I speculated were bought for by wealthy pissed off residents who get tired of listening to the same spiel every day a dozen times a day rolling past their doors.The train rolls to Front Street, pauses for the punters to get off and buy some mass produced dust catchers and then hop on the next train down famous Whitehead Street, zipping past Key West's only covered shopping maul. This was called building number one, because it was......the first building constructed on key West's harbor water front. The drivers are working for tips and don't forget that and they work hard, talking joking and repeating the spiel laid down for them word for word by the strictly run Historic Tours.Locals hate the trains. They are loud and slow and block the narrow streets while rolling along barely above walking pace. The drivers are quick to point out over their speaker system that state law forbids them from stopping, thank God for small mercies, but the trains never run traffic lights and are quite slow to take off from a red light.Trying to get to work?Too bad. We have monuments to visit and roll past, slowly but inexorably.As the train winds its way around Old Town you will see them all,and the drivers will spill all sorts of tidbits and curious information about "our" history, stuff that your average tourist on a rental bike will never learn on their own.Anyone who reads my blog knows I am very fond of history; history is my guide, and there is a ton of it spewed out across the Conch Train.It rolls past you and over you and across you for an hour and a half.Hemingway House? There it went...Sandy Cornish's African methodist Episcopal Church on Whitehead? Yup, and that was the window known as the "Eye of God." Who knew?The Conch Train is an excellent people watching platform because you are a tourist and thus invisible. Key West zooms by and if you thought you knew the town, you'll learn more. if you want to know thew town, follow along on a map and plan a proper explore on foot, bicycle or scooter, later.And did I mention tip like a local, please?And if you want a tour of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas---they got that!Yeah,, the train is noisy and slow and blocks traffic and it's cheesy, but...They have a point.I hadn't done it in years and doubt I shall again, but I should do it every June and remind myself of how much fun it is to be a Key West visitor.
And for ten bucks less you can ride the competing trolley service put on by City Views, which is owned by Ed Swift's ex-son-in-law who used to work with the Conch Train people and decided to come back to town and open a competing service. Peyton Place ain't in it. They have been sparring publicly and privately over stops, hiring practices and their latest spat over membership in the tour operators association. Whatever.
One ride or the other will be fun and I think they are worthwhile to get an overview of the city.

No Name Bonneville

I got the Bonneville back from Jiri's shop on Stock island after three weeks and a thousand dollars.What I like about Jiri is that he actually takes care of the bike; he sees something wrong and he fixes it, in this case some cracked air box hoses which took ten days to arrive from some obscure parts manager's box-a-bits. Valves checked and found within tolerances, a new rear brake rotor, a rebuilt front brake caliper, fluids all changed, new rear tire and balanced carbs. The results are a lovely smooth ride and Bonneville ready for anything. Well almost anything. I did the round Europe and across Africa rides in my youth, and the and the across the USA rides periodically since then. But I am enjoying re-reading Ted Simon's adventures on an original Daytona 500.Ted Simon and I have nothing in common other than a background as journalists and a long ride or two under our belts, mine completed at my paced in obscurity. Simon has a desire to meet and a facility to engage strangers that is completely absent from my character. The unspoken part about lonely long distance travel is that, outside modern industrialized civilization, one inevitably ends up meeting a lot of people, and while the encounters drained my psychic batteries, they charge an extrovert's like Simon. One other thing we have in common is an inability to find a name for, or a soul in, a piece of machinery.My motorcycle is to ride, though I clean and seek imperfections frequently to make sure I'm not losing parts as I go. I read on fora, which I rarely contribute to, comments from anxious buyers seeking the latest model year of Triumph to retain re-sale value. My 2007 Bonneville has no resale value at 52,000 miles even though it runs perfectly and has hauled me everywhere with no break downs. It is pitted with rust, and scratched by my fall a couple of years ago.I finally found inexpensive waterproof panniers from Pelican, an cheap Emgo topcase and an expensive Aerostich cargo net together cost $250 and give me cargo capacity to make a Vespa rider envious.I have done nothing to make the bike louder or faster, it cruises easily fully loaded at eighty miles an hour, though fuel consumption plummets from the m id 40's to around 38 miles per gallon at those sustained speeds. It starts instantly, and at 500 pounds ready to ride with a narrow frame it's an easy bike to roll by hand and park and lift onto it's center stand. It really is an all purpose 21st century roadster.The proof is I am always looking for an excuse to ride, rather than looking for a reason not to ride. The Bonneville is light and easy and fun. It has no soul, no quirks and no awkwardness. If you want to gussy it up with a million pointless farkles they are sold by the hundred by Triumph, by Bella Corsa and New Bonneville. They will all take your money with pleasure, though the bike runs perfectly as it comes from the factory. The dealer did remove the air injection system without even asking me and i only noticed when I found the bike running stronger and smoother in the mid range after the second warranty service back in 2008.The Bonneville's soul comes from riding and I doubt I will ever be moved to name the bike or endow the bike with soul. It is a machine that works really well and deserves to be ridden, not polished or spared the occasional downpour. I look forward to 52,000 more trouble free miles.