Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rest Beach Sunset

The big sunset draw in Key West is Mallory Square.

It's the noise and the color and the vendors and the crowds.

Not to mention the not-half-bad water views.

But there are other corners of this two mile by four mile island where the sun can be viewed as it sets in an entirely different frame of reference.

Rest Beach is on of the nicer spots to contemplate the connection between water and sky in Key West and normally there is nothing remotely resembling a crowd.

When I rolled up there was a little party underway at one of the tables at the beach. A group of possibly Dominicans were playing loud salsa from the car stereo while hanging out talking and laughing in a small huddle.

It sounds like it might have been intrusive or annoying but they were so cheerful and their music so Caribbean they just added to the ambiance. I walked the sand and enjoyed the moment.

A very nice moment it was too.

This is the time of year that sunset celebrations at Mallory square are conveniently timed for me so I shall return I am sure. But Rest Beach is a pearl all year long.

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Key West Homes

You will be told many times that Key West, incorporated in 1828 was built from ship's timbers.

The houses were built not to an architect's design but to the specifications of men used to building and repairing ships. Thus not all houses were built as neat and trim as this one.

Offsets are marginal frequently which makes fire a severe and potentially serious hazard in Old Town. key West's history like that of any wooden town has been marred by many fires some devastating.

Hurricanes have damaged the city too of course over the centuries. Even today there are certain parts of town much less likely to flood than others. Those are the streets which are crowded by local cars parked for an meander of safety from flooding.

Wrecking was a big 19th century industry that made some families fabulously wealthy. Between wrecking and regular trade Key West saw the influx of a great deal of expensive and status improving materials, marble, crystals, silver and silks.

Wreckers also got timbers to build and up they went all higgeldy piggeldy the houses of Key West. Taut the weren't torn down was an act of fate and good fortune.

These homes have been refurbished to make comfortable though small middle class residences but in the 1950s and 60s they were not half so pleasant. When the gay communities Up North discovered this island paradise filled with sailors, the original draw, and charming wooden homes for bargain basement prices the scene was set for Key West's transformation.

Locals living in the wooden homes were happy to take top dollar from crazy incomers and use the money to move out to modern American ranchettes springing up in the fields and dairy farm land of what was to become New Town, the land beyond Division Street. The street that divided New from Old Towns was later renamed Truman Avenue.

Nowadays the funky little wooden town is a top tourist attraction and even through these years of economic stagnation Key West has remained the only city in Florida with an expanding base of visitors. Prices have dropped and numbers have increased, they tell us. Amazing.

There aren't many places (any places?) on the continent where you can find street views like these.

Palms, outside stairs and a well preserved wooden home baking under the winter sun.

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Mohawk Farewell

For want of a $400,000 refurbishment as mentioned previously on this blog, the last of the Atlantic Convoy USCG cutters of World War Two is to be towed away and ignominiously sunk in the silty waters off Sanibel Island.

Already the CGC Mohawk has been stripped of all welcoming signs for visitors, the awning above the quarter deck is gone and the boat is shuttered and sad.

It seems such a cruel waste that this remarkable survivor has to be destroyed to make way for an up market marina and shopping complex.

I am glad I got to take the tour and thoroughly enjoyed the superbly preserved story of this elderly ship.

For those that didn't take the time to visit, here are the few photos I took, not realizing at the time that the Mohawk would one day soon be destined for deliberate destruction. Click the link below for the full essay of the tour:

CGC Mohawk

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Flowers And Palms

As seen around town. An essay without words as nothing need be said.

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Getting Around

I wrote earlier this week about a couple of near misses I had on my Bonneville commute Hit And Near Miss which inspired a few comments regarding the safety of riding.

Protective gear is used by a minority of riders in Key West as illustrated here, whether by motorcyclists, scooter riders or cyclists.

You might expect the rider of a K1200GT BMW might be an all-the-gear type of rider for they're are stereotyped as such. However I have no idea who rides this behemoth but I see lots of BMW riders in sandals and shorts around here...

Seen in the flesh that's an amazing piece of rolling architecture, that BMW.

Two Chucks I know personally left comments, one the non riding Chuck mentioned a traffic study published in the Citizen newspaper which discussed the high accident and mortality rate among two wheeled riders in Key West as a per capita percentage of city residents. And traffic can be hectic:

Chuckspeed, the barefoot motorcyclist pointed out that per capita the Southernmost City has a far higher proportion of bicycle and motorcycle riders and statistically one might expect there to be a higher accident rate per capita. Which sounds reasonable to me.

This couple cycled past me talking quietly, bicycles creaking gently. They looked and sounded very companionable and in keeping with the peaceful surroundings.

Not only is Key West flat to enable easy cycling it is also a town that makes cycling enjoyable by it's very beauty, though a few more bicycle paths wouldn't hurt.

I may be biased but a Vespa is always a thing of beauty.

Modern iterations of the Vespa scooter principles founded by Piaggio in 1946 may be more economical and just as effective but are surely not as pretty.

And everybody rides them (helmet-less).

I liked the label on this mass produced Asian scarlet beauty.

However Chuck's BSA is the real limited edition.

And for those who want fresh air with the perceived safety of four wheels in the narrow streets of Key West, an MG Midget could be the answer.

I caught a glimpse of the car my wife lusts after, a convertible Fiat 500 last seen on White Street turning onto Von Phister.

I wanted to pull alongside on my Bonneville and say "Hoy! You're driving my wife's car!" I doubt the would have been amused.

I rode on to Rest Beach to enjoy the sun setting over water.

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