Sunday, August 28, 2011

Virginia By Night

We are long past the equinox and the mornings are staying darker later. These pictures, apparently taken in the dead of night were shot shortly after six when I left work Wednesday morning.

It was, as the saying goes, as dark as the Earl of Hell's waistcoat, a perfect moment to enjoy Key West all to myself.

Key West tends to lose contact with the 21st century in the early hours of the morning, when the lights go out as fast the people inside the homes.

As usual it is always the vehicles that give away the era. The homes look timeless, planted in the era in which they were built.

A friend of mine attends Unity Church and a friend of hers cornered me once at a party and started explaining the philosophy if that's what it is, perhaps it's a belief.

Apparently life is but a dream and nothing matters, or some such. Which is an easy philosophy when you have everything you need but gets a little harder to sustain when you are hungry. They've done a nice job of restoring the building.

This is also palm frond season. We are supposed to clear coconuts and vegetation before a hurricane arrives to make missiles out of them.

In a world made crazy by television darkness represents vampires and violence. The streets of Key West after bar closing are havens of peace and quiet as the drunks sleep it off and the workers repair their bodies for the next day's toils.

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Indian Key

Lower Matecumbe Key and Indian Key Fill are a low lying stretch of the Upper Keys...

...a place to buzz through at 55 miles per hour, unless road work slows you up.

And that being the case, you might consider pulling over and contemplating a small strip of mangrove covered island to the south.

Cheyenne did just that while cooling off in the water.

Indian Key isn't much to look at from the highway, just a green smear on the watery horizon but the island itself is an absolute gold mine of South Florida history. The first known mention refers to the island as "Matanzas" (slaughter) in 1733 when it was apparently a way station for Spanish treasure ships. When Florida joined the US, Indian Key and Key West were prominent with permanent inhabitants among the islands. Indian Key was important even though it was only 11 acres because it had reliable fresh water wells and a steady supply of turtles and fish in the surrounding waters for food.

After Florida passed to the US a Silas Fletcher from Louisiana settled there with his wife and opened a trading post which flourished. John Housman from Key West took over one of two stores on the island in 1831 and ran the place till 1840 when Indians snuck up on the settlers and murdered 13 of them in a widely reported attack as part of the Indian Wars of the period.

During that period Housman defended his wrecking and property interests so vigorously in Key West courts he was not always liked and he petitioned to have Dade County created out of Monroe and had Indian Key designated Dade's first county seat, with a post office.

All this on a tiny speck of land with a deep water access and no competition on the surrounding islands.

It's pretty amazing stuff, as documented on the historic marker under the small palm tree overlooking the waters surrounding Indian Key near Mile Marker 79.

Hurricane Irene was off to the east and starting to send not only north winds our way, but bands of rain as well. By this time I knew I wanted to come back and check the island out some other day.

As it was Cheyenne and I hustled back into the car before we got completely soaked and headed home.

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Palm Beach Road

This is a suburban street actually and it's in back of the Blue Hole, wedged between asphalt and wilderness.

I love walking through these quiet streets, which consist mostly of empty lots, trees and a few homes.

Cheyenne likes it too.

The skies on our last walk started out mostly blue with contrasting clouds. It didn't last but even when the rain came our spirits weren't dampened, as rain doesn't mean hypothermia around here.

This thing looked like a bull's testicle dangling in a tree but someone probably knows what it is. I'm pretty sure it's not a meat product.

The roofline behind the spreading coconut is almost hidden but coconuts aren't native plants so where you see one you know there are probably people nearby.

And if you are in the back country of Big Pine expect to see, or hear, a Key Deer crashing through the undergrowth.

This is suburbia, it must be, there's a hoop out front. And it must be a great place to bounce a ball on this quiet back street.

It's not that quiet now that there's a man in pink Crocs with his Labrador.

I've photographed this natural sculpture before and I still like it.

Wayne is fond of telling me that they are giving Big Pine Key away, so low are home prices. There are houses for sale everywhere. This thing was abandoned before it was even close to being done and now there is no demand.

Shuttered and closed for the season or until a buyer comes by. Who knows? A classic Keys home on stilts in the woods. If you didn't need to commute to Key West, more than an hour away, this would be a nice country getaway, this neighborhood.

This part of the woods has not been forgotten by our friends at Mosquito Control.

I put the camera away as the sky went dark and rain threatened.

Did I mention I like these woods?

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Snake Creek Bridge

The southern end of Plantation Key has a weigh station for trucks,

...and it's quite pretty too set on it's own wooded mound on the south of the highway, doubtless an inconvenience for commercial truck drivers, but if one is stuck behind an 18 wheeler they may be forced to turn out here liberating traffic for a moment.

The Snake Creek Bridge is the only remaining opening bridge in the Florida Keys and at the moment it seems likely to stay that way owing to one odd circumstance.

There had been plans to Spanish the sixty foot wide salt water channel with a new tall bridge such as have been built over the past couple of decades all across Florida's innumerable coastal waterways.

However in the spirit of Keys Curmudgeons, locks residents protested loudly when plans were announced to create arises bridge above the creek to replace the old bascule bridge.

Residents feared the disfiguring effects of a seventy foot tall bridge with it's long attendant approach lanes and they asked the state to keep the funky old opening bridge.

And here it is, untouched by the passage of time. Only rarely have I been held up by an opening on my travels but in winter there is a fair bit of boat traffic up and down the "creek" which is mangrove lined salt water tidal channel. Supposedly from 8am to 4pm it will open on the hour and half hour on demand by boats, while overnight it will open any time the bridge tender is asked on VHF Channel Nine.

One day perhaps the bridge will change but for now Windley Key and Plantation Key are joined by the opening bridge.

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