Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Pine Alligator

Everybody loves to be thrilled by the sight of a dinosaur.

In the Lower Florida Keys the easiest way to spot an American Alligator is to head over to Big Pine's Blue Hole and there it sits, the replacement for Bacardi the full sized alligator that choked to death on a plastic toy, tossed in the water by a thoughtless human.

There is that elemental fear of an alligator, even a little guy less than six feet long so safety signs abound at the Blue Hole.

The turtles seem to live harmoniously enough with the big predator.

The have an odd way of sunning themselves.

Unlike that other predator in my life who prefers the shade:

All in all it's a peaceful enough spot.

A good spot to sun yourself if you are the master of your domain.

And check this fish out, courting death:

How does it know that the the alligator's larder isn't empty?

The odd thing about (fresh water) alligators and (salt water) crocodiles (found further north in the Upper Keys and Florida Bay) is that they can't chew so they have to tear meat and swallow chunks whole. This means that alligators don't kill when they are hungry, but they drown their victims and store the bodies in "pantries," holes where the bodies can be wedged until the meat is rotten enough and soft enough to be torn off in edible sized chunks.

The fact is that unless you go into the water you are safe enough at the Blue Hole.

Cheyenne accidentally went for a swim once, dropping off the stone ledge of the old quarry and splashed around in the fresh water pool. I pulled her out with superhuman strength by the scruff of her very wet neck.

Another time she slipped down to the water's edge behind my back and said hello face to face with the gator. I keep her on a tighter leash than usual after that encounter.

It's a good spot to sit and commune with wild nature.

Me, my Crocs and my dog.

The Blue Hole... wouldn't know what danger lurks from looking at it.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Downtown Stock Island

My favorite Stock Island landmark, the soon to be renovated fire station on Macdonald.

The true downtown landmark on a suburban island with no downtown may well be the convenience store that has pretty much a monopoly on processed foods in this part of the world, Tom Thumb.

Macdonald becomes Maloney and turns south toward the marinas and fishing boats.

Stock Island has suffered lime everywhere else has with the shrinking economy and homes that sold for more than half a million are worth a lot less now. Well established businesses and lofty industry soldier on.

This is the land of trailer parks housing workers that find jobs in expensive Key West. There are also auto body shops, carpenters sailmakers canvas workers and electricians based on these streets.

There is a big old Baptist church here with a school attached.

Cabinet makers of long standing:

Stock Island is on the bus line of course.

And some streets have puddles to refresh a hot Labrador's paws.

West Marine has a store in downtown Key West, Marathon and Key Largo. Not forgetting Stock Island:

Trailer parks look exotic when they have palm trees waving in the wind.

And the hidden Hogfish Restaurant a favorite of visitors who want to go slumming with the locals away from Duval Street, has a couple of strategically located signs to guide the diners.

Cheyenne likes Stock Island, full of smells.

Urban enough to keep my Labrador's interest, messy enough to make it interesting.

It's a stereotype, the car on blocks surrounded by plastic wrappers blowing in the wind.

This is the other Key West, the one that keeps Old Town functioning.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Night Landmarks

I took this picture for reasons I cannot remember, perhaps because I haven't eaten there for a while and a night photo might make up for it.

Then I thought to myself as I rode back toward work, there are lots of night time landmarks in Key West, I wonder how many I can spot. The Truman-Margaret Laundry at the corner of those same streets (nothing to do with the late President's daughter):

Saint Mary's minor basilica further down Truman.

And here in Truval Village at the corner of Truman and Duval I saw the new burger joint coming to life. Its called Five Guys Burgers and Fries and it is much anticipated.

It will be across the street from a night time institution open twenty four hours, Denny's, never closed:

Heading outbound on Truman, Don's Place a dive that's open till 4 am and reopens at 7 am for people who need their beer in company at that awful hour.

Before I turned in to the Police Station I stopped on the sidewalk for a pause at the west end of Garrison Bight.

I'm not sure the Bonneville counts as a landmark but I wanted to include it.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Cloudy Overseas Highway

Driving toward Big Coppitt Key, Mile Marker Ten, on a cloudy afternoon threatening rain as we approach Key West.

The houses on Shark Key, an exclusive gated community next to Big Coppitt.

These are the views that zip by at 55 miles per hour on the modern two-lane highway.

One of the 42 bridges that connect Key West to the mainland 120 miles away.

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Another Day On No Name Key

Cheyenne took me by surprise stretching what I expected to be a short walk into a long one. So we rested for a while.

A cyclist came by pedaling with determination and noticing us sitting in the dirt.

Missing the native fauna who popped out when she went by.

We sat by the side of the road and watched the locals at work and play.

The No Name locals continued on about their business.

Unmolested by my fearsome attack Lab. "Kill! " I order Cheyenne when idiots ask if my dog is 'dangerous.'

"I'm training the world's first attack Lab," I tell them. "Kill!" and no one seems to get the joke. The little Key Deer seem to.

Hitting one with a motorcycle would not be good but they are cute to look at.

One wonders what a diet of gravel does for them but they seem to enjoy it on their Saturday morning off work.

The Key deers' job is to stand around looking cute for tourists but at this early hour they get a meal break to brace for the onslaught later in the day.

The experimental power poles are still there waiting for wires as the debate continues over who and how and when and if grid electricity will be brought to the island.

The bridge connecting No Name to Big Pine Key is getting some cement work done to the parapet.

Salt air plays havoc with the rebar in cement over the years.

But the essential pastime of bridge fishing continues as always. It's the essence of what people do on No Name Key. Stand around and wait for something to happen. Just how they are coping with the imminent "threat" of mainland electricity.

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