Sunday, October 2, 2011


I was turning onto Fleming Street from Elizabeth when I saw this pile of kindling. My only thought was that somebody must be getting well prepared for the onset of winter...

I think the reflection was prompted by the Kotzebue Blog in my blog list wherein we are told that pretty soon the ocean will freeze over and it will be finis for boating for the foreseeable future. A frozen ocean, salt water reduced to Popsicle status, is my idea of tough living. I consider myself hard done by if I need the heat turned on for a total of one week in Key West's winter months.

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How To Work

I am facing a week of working during the daylight hours and I am not looking forward to it. I would rather put my head in a black sack, shut out the sunlight like this splendid shrouded motorcycle pictured below, and sleep the sleep of the just.

As it is we have a training class organized all week and my night shift colleagues will have to soldier on without me, though I must confess I found them to be disappointingly unperturbed by the news that they would lose their leader for a week. I have been reflecting on how most people work, straight shifts, morning to evening five days a week and I realize I have no appetite for the regular hours of a daytime job.

I frequently see a fleeting look of pity in the eyes of people who discover my strange and unnatural working hours. In vain I explain how much I enjoy going to work at six and coming home twelve hours later as the sun comes up, but still that fleeting look of pity remains impressed in my mind. I am the victim of some unspeakable breach of etiquette that has condemned me to the Siberia of jobs, dispatching police all night long. I expect it's just as well they don't know what I know else everyone would lust after my job and my hours.

My wife likes it because she says we get to spend more time together and we use that time more wisely, and I know Cheyenne is going to hate seeing me go at that hour when usually we are left alone at home to sleep together in peace. I suppose I could quit my job, get a bicycle and cart and spend my days hanging out at Bayview Park. However because I enjoy my job, my strange hours and my colleagues I am not one of those workers who envies the endless idle hours of the voluntary unemployed. I am going to miss my night shift this coming week and I dare say my blog will suffer because of my drastically altered routine. Well bugger, we'll all have to suffer together!

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Elizabeth At Truman

I had this wild belief that because it was September, slow season, the main road into Key West would not be completely clogged. What a silly bugger I am sometimes!

Truman Avenue is a street I avoid during business hours just because of this shambles. In Italy I would have weaved down the centerline in between oncoming traffic. In Naples I'd have got up on the sidewalk and swept pedestrians aside with my Bonneville, but I was in Key West....soooo I pulled off after tottering slowly along forever and went up Elizabeth Street when finally I got there.

Timed coordinated traffic lights are an innovation that has not reached this far south and probably never will in my lifetime. Traffic circles which are coming to be appreciated for the gas savers they are, will be a choice for a few generations down the road, in their hydrogen hovercraft. For now we have lights that go red at random and drivers who, for whatever reason, can't concentrate on their driving so when a light does eventually go green drivers are still texting and fail to move. Grrr. Mind you I don't blame them. Why would anyone drive when it is so boring compared to riding?

Rhetorical questions aside, Elizabeth Street is marked by the Catholic School on Truman, on one side and one more giant, spreading poinciana on the other side of Truman:

Elizabeth Street itself is quite the tree covered tunnel on the way to Solares Hill and worth a detour even if Truman Avenue is not pretending to be a Big City arterial. A classic Key West street:

This is how Truman Avenue looks from Elizabeth. And don't be fooled, Elizabeth is now a one way street going away from Truman, even though the entrance is painted to look like a two way street.

In the end I left them to it, trickling into town on Truman Avenue, which until the late president started vacationing in the Southernmost City used to be called Division Street. That was because it divided the developed part of the island from the undeveloped wilderness. Imagine that.

I rode up Elizabeth and with pictures in the camera I turned outbound on Fleming and went to work.

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Bogie Channel

The bridge that connects Big Pine Key to No Name Key, shown below looking toward the latter, crosses a body of water called Bogie Channel.

This used to be the main road, a wooden bridge in the early 20th century, to the ferry terminal at No Name Key which took cars and people forty miles to Matecumbe Key where they drove a little and picked up a second ferry for another hop. It was an all day affair driving to Miami in the bad old days.

Nowadays we have this fine cement bridge connecting the two islands and it also makes an excellent fishing pier.

That I was completely alone on it is attributable to the fact that it was a weekday in September and reasonably early in the morning. So I stopped the car and stepped out for some pictures.

It was a little weird for a law abiding soul like me to be stopped in the middle of the road but it was worth it. This picture looks north up the channel:

This west toward the shore of Big Pine:

And this south where in the distance one can see the arches of the old Highway One Bridge connecting Big Pine to West Summerland Key.

Slightly more visible here:

These waters may be smooth and may look deep but the birds standing around looking for breakfast gives the lie to that.

And inevitably ere is then odd live aboard boat minding it's own business on the edges of the channel.

I parked on the top of the tallest hump so I could see both ways and make sure I wasn't blocking traffic.

I had the place to myself. How delightful!

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Bonneville Commute, Or How I Burn Dead Dinosaurs

It is not, in motorcycling terms, a great commute. It's 27 miles of mostly two lane road at sea level with not too many curves.

But the thing is, I really like riding it.

Every afternoon when I'm working I actually look forward to the ride. Cheyenne gets grumpy and retreats to the bedroom when she sees me assembling my gear and as a result I try not to be too cheerful as I leave the house.

The trick I have found to keep my forty minute commute interesting is to treat each ride as a separate challenge. Some days I work hard to pass the slow cars on the road, and because the dotted line passing areas are limited it can be quite a challenge. I'm not twenty years old any more so risky passing and being deliberately stupid are out of the question.

Other days I pull off the Highway when traffic backs up and I'll explore a side street for a couple of minutes to let the cars get ahead. Other days I leave a few minutes early and stop to take pictures.

The Bonneville is an easy bike to ride, undemanding with light controls and enough power to take on the assholes who speed up when I go to pass them and a clutch light enough I never get cramps from changing gear in town.

It's got 54,000 miles on the clock most of them racked up here on theOverseas Highway. I like taking longer trips with the bike including my Iron Butts but as long as Cheyenne is around I prefer to take her with me when I can which is limiting when it comes to riding. I end up driving the car more than I would like, all for the sake of my Labrador.

I feel like a jerk grinning inanely for the camera but I guess part of the point is that I do wear protective clothing, including Kevlar pants and a mesh jacket and gloves. I don't know how people ride without gloves, I feel exposed without them. Much more so than riding without a helmet.

The views on this ride are excellent, even thought they don't vary much. This time of year the sun is relatively high on the horizon at five pm, but my return trip around six in the morning is in total darkness, which I enjoy a lot.

The curves in the highway are pretty mild too, so the stock suspension that gives many owners fits works just fine for me. I am often rathe dubious when people start their motor bikes before they have even ridden them much. It takes me about five thousand miles to get to know a new machine.

Coming in to Big Coppitt at Mile Marker Ten the speed limit drops from 55 to 45 and frequently there are people fishing or admiring the view at the free public boat ramp.

One of the pleasures of highway one is that anywhere there's a shoulder one can pull over and stop to admire the view. Not everyone does of course, they seem to prefer to weave and dawdle in the traffic lanes. And where the highway runs through Big Coppitt there is always the danger of a left turning car.

I position myself close to the center line to make sure cars can see me coming. After Big Coppitt the highway resumes a 55 mile per hour speed limit and the road becomes a four lane speedway the last four miles to Stock Island.

Actually it's a four lane all the way to the Police Station at Garrison Bight, though through Stock Island and into Key West the speed limit drops to 35mph.

If I arrive in town at all early I'll pull off on a side street and take off some gear to ride around town in the 90 degree heat of an October afternoon and snatch some pictures as I go before arriving refreshed and invigorated, thanks to the Bonneville, at work.

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