Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Long Key Bridge

Originally published on this page on May 9th 2009 - so long ago!- I thought it might be time to air it once more in honor of one of my favorite bridges on the Overseas Highway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I looked back over the pictures from that far off day

Long Key Channel

Everyone knows about the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys, but the lesser noted Long Key Bridge is a very useful piece of open road in the Middle Keys.It's proper name is the Dante Fascell Bridge, named for an industrious Dade County member of the US Congress, whose photo I append here from their roll:He was born in New York and went to law school in Miami and served in Congress for decades, more precisely from 1954 to 1993, and he died in 1998. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the creation of the Biscayne National Park in 1968 (and which itself deserves an essay). Spend any time in South Florida;s open spaces and Dante Fascell's name will pop up. He also has a research boat with the marine sanctuary named after him. This is the view north from the bridge looking at Long Key:I am fond of the Long Key Bridge because it is extremely handy for passing slow pokes, as it is about two and a half miles long and the yellow line is dotted all the way. The only thing to be careful of is the hump at the southern end that can mess with your sight lines. The beauty of Keys bridges is that visitors like to slow down to admire the water which makes it easy to zip past them.That isn't the only reason to enjoy the bridge, it does have some pretty views, including this section of the Gulf side of Long Key which reminds me of the Bay Islands of HondurasI got these three pictures by way of comparison from the excellent site
The new bridge which was built as part of the Overseas Highway modernisation in 1982, runs parallel to Flagler's original bridge built as part of the original 1912 railroad connection to Key West.
Nowadays the Flagler bridge is a most excellent walking, jogging, biking and fishing pier:
And if by chance you are in the area and attempting to kill fish please put your discarded monofilament fishing line in here:
To prevent critters like this from tangling themselves in it:Fishing was on the mind of this man who scrambled down under the main bridge to try his hand, not successfully apparently because later I saw him walking back to his vehicle, an 18-wheeler! Quite the enterprising trucker, I thought.Fishing isn't the only sport. A period of sustained southeast winds has raked the Keys with gusts to thirty miles per hour and this couple figured their own entertainment in the conditions:I was on a mission with no time for frivolities, so I had to saddle up and get going:Taking a ride up the Keys on my day off was the name of the game.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Night On White

 I took a brief tour from the police station on my break and rode the Vespa down to White Street.
 I parked on Eliza in front of the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses and went for a walk. Looking up Eliza, a play of shadows and light:
A beauty salon tucked away in a beautiful old house:
Messery Painting, one of  a number of useful businesses lining White Street. This is the city's secondary commercial hub, less known to tourists  than Duval but in many respects more useful for real shopping. 
 Mo's used to be owned by a French Canadian now it is Haitian and I need to put it on my radar because it has a reputation for excellent Caribbean food. 
Key West is a weird town, for all that it's small it seems to need two of everything so people don't have to travel "too far" on this four mile long island. So there is a Fausto's Food Palace on White Street in case the one near Duval Street is "too far."

 White Street at one in the morning:

On Travel and Safety this week we talk to Kathryn LeMaster about homes, design, travel and keeping it  light and simple. Check it out.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Not Keeping Old Town Old

There is  a new page on Facebook called "Keep Old Town Old" which is proposing to recall the Historic Architectural Review Commission members who have supported sundry peculiar developments around Old Town Key West. (LINK to HARC) I am following their drive with interest though I am unwilling to sign the petition as I live in the county and this is an issue for city residents. The main point of the protest at the moment is the approval of plans for a new home on 616 Eaton Street which currently looks like this:
The plans approved by HARC are supposed to end up looking something like this:
Which to most people's way of thinking is a rather too radical change for what is currently the United State's largest wooden historic district. That Old Town was preserved was a bit of a miracle in the first place as the much of it was tumbling down before incomers decided to move into the buildings. The Conchs moved out to enjoy modern conveniences in what was to become New Town, where HARC holds no sway and Old Town was gradually transformed into the highly prized, unique preserve of classic Conch architecture it is today. But the brouhaha over the Eaton Street transformation, the catalyst for the uproar, is not a unique case. There are several new projects ready to build that seem designed to transform the nature of Old Town.

Next we consider the fate of the old Spindrift Motel which no longer exists except as a hole in the ground:

This is where we find modern commercial design tearing down the notion of restrained historic architecture for Old Town. On Simonton Street a new fancy hotel is being built where the funky old Spindrift once stood, suites with pools and all that kind of exclusivity for a better future tourist experience:

Well, you say, one hotel does not a trend make. True enough but consider the construction planned for the Seashell Motel, a  rare low cost (relatively) motel and hostel on South Street. This funky little place is scheduled to be torn down  and replaced with glass and concrete in the modern style. The Citizen reported a year ago that a "new modern hotel" was coming. So far, so good...
But then there is Truman Avenue where the funky old Japanese restaurant once stood, the place known as Kyushu which disappeared the day it burned down:
That funky tin roofed building is currently a hole in the ground:
But not for long because plans have been drawn up to build something that a friend of mine disdainfully describes as being more suitable for trendy South Beach in Miami. I'm not sure where it's influences are rooted, but not Old Town Key West, surely:
Seven Fish restaurant plans to make this carbuncle their new home which I think is upsetting a  few people as Seven Fish has been a highly prized low key gem of a restaurant, serving dinners only, reservations required. They are very popular in their spartan and reserved building on Elizabeth Street. Can you even spot the restaurant in it's current location?
And just up the street from the new Seven Fish we will soon be enjoying a new carbuncle apparently soon to be approved by HARC to replace the funky old bookstore and gym that used to moulder here:
The new building fits into the mould of the new Old Town as envisioned by people who think this is representative of what Key West has always been. HARC staff are quoted as saying that that the mass scale and proportions as well as the textures and materials are harmonious with the rest of Old Town. I guess I am just not smoking the same stuff they are:
I'm not sure how to view all this change though I feel much as some people feel about modern weird buildings in London. I like the proportions and style of the old buildings and I resent modern architects who feel they need to show us what they can do in the middle of our history and monuments. London is a city that has bred modern glass monuments:

Image result for london egg

Compared to the refined dignity of classical St Paul's Cathedral
Which is not to say that everyone feels modern architecture has no place anywhere but I am one of those tedious souls that finds the clash of styles to be tiring. As much in Britain's capital as in the Conch Republic's capital. Pritam Singh in developing the gated community known as Truman Annex created something called the Key West style. And whether or not you enjoy the uniformity you can acknowledge it is coherent and hearkens back to the city's roots:
And in the same way there is a new-ish development at Mile Marker 28 on Little Torch Key, clearly visible from the highway that was once an RV park. Now it's a bunch of homes in the "Key West style" more or less:
When you get up close it is a neat tidy and not terribly vibrant collection of homes but they don't actively look weird or out of place.
So then I ask myself, will Key West benefit from a few, hopefully not too many wild and weird buildings? Would it be better if they were more like these safe designs "in the Key West style?" Is there a middle way? Beats me, I just fear for the future of an Old Town where architects themselves don't seem to pose these questions to themselves or to the public, and we end up seeing stuff that has nothing at all to do with the style of the place that has grown organically in place since 1828. Like the Santa Maria on Simonton Street at South, a grotesque row of glass and cement bubbles totally out of place:
I suppose you could say the process of transformation has been underway for some time and maybe it is  too late. This home is on Simonton Street at Simonton Lane has been around for a while:
How that got into Old Town I'm not sure. Or this hotel on the 600 block of Truman.  I have no idea how this got past HARC:
Aside from the rather garish paint job they do have a roof line "in the Key West style." Perhaps that's good enough. And now the accusation are flying fast and thick around the proposed home on Eaton Street with supporters being described as nothing more than shills for the owners, threats of lawsuits and so on and so forth. My answer to all that is my favorite example of renovation in the perfect Key West style, on Southard Street. 
As it was, so it is, nicely done, no controversy and a home worthy of anyone who wants to take pride in their large Key West home "in the Key West style." Unfortunately not everyone has figured it out.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dog Food

There are days I have to confess when I wished I had some more interesting rides to enjoy on two wheels. Sometimes the straight shot east (northbound) or west (southbound) on the Overseas Highway feels a bit inadequate to meet my needs, and I long for a winding twisting road in hill country somewhere. Mind you even if I were to ride up onto the mainland there are few surprises there, flat straight roads, many of which I know quite well...the nearest hills are a dozen hours away!
So instead I make do and perhaps take the long way round on Big Pine Key's back roads, or I wander down the side roads on Sugarloaf, or Summerland or I relax and enjoy the views and plan some future excursion. It's been hard though as I didn't get to go to Italy last year or this where roads are twisty and interesting, and I haven't been back to North Carolina in a while either so I am missing my motorcycle excursions. Cheyenne is aging and is less interested in leaving the house on the hot muggy September afternoons so a run to the supermarket on Big Pine could be done on the Bonneville instead of hauling a formerly  frisky  dog in the car.
The views were terrific of course, one can't complain about the mixture of clouds, smooth waters and mangroves, so I stopped on my way home and took some pictures. I hadn't planned on buying 25 pounds of dog food but there was a sale on at Winn Dixie in  Big Pine Key and I bought the big bag and left the small bag I had planned to take. "I'll get it on the Bonneville somehow" I told myself at the check out even though I had brought no bungee cords...And in fact my cargo net that usually holds my waterproofs was up to the task and the bag folded obediently under it. Cheyenne had food for a while though she was sleeping when I got home, six miles later, so I doubt she noticed the new bag of small bites that she like so much.  
It's the small things that add up I suppose and its these inconsequential rides that make up daily life. Indeed were it not for my two wheels I would feel like I was missing out on my favorite way to reduce my daily stress. Commuting to Key West before my shift helps, but going for groceries is no bad thing either.
Bridges and water may not be hills and mountains but they get the job done, somewhere to ride, something to see.