Last weekend saw me doing a lot of driving, and in the ordinary course of things I wouldn't mind so much because I like road trips. Most people who live in the Keys seem to do so to escape time on the road but of course I have to do my own weird thing so I find I enjoy commuting on two wheels on a relatively easy road...and for me taking a trip to mainland Florida is no big deal. However my wife and I spent Saturday and Sunday in Fort Myers on business which was tiring. Monday I had a bicycle to deliver Up North.
Mandy came to the Keys from the Midwest armed only with a bicycle, a dog carrier and a dog and I figured to get her going north again it would be better if she bypassed the whole Miami-Ft Lauderdale urban agglomeration. -What better way to do that than in an air conditioned car with her dog and her bicycle and trailer behind? This was a mitzvah in my wife's people's language. Jews come in al stripes of religious severity and for some a mitzvah is a commandment from he who cannot be named, others say it is sort of religious requirement and for the less strict Reform shower like my wife a mitzvah can be interpreted as the right thing to do. I was a wide-eyed traveler and got lots of help years ago. Now I'm old I have to do the same thing for other young travelers behind me, so I did. But that meant traveling in traffic on Monday and Tuesday. Right after my working weekend in Fort Myers. Ouf!
We stopped for the dog run at the Pompano Beach rest area off the Turnpike and both Mandy and Mingus were quite taken by the fenced-in area. I was amazed to see some brilliant architect had put a short cut path through the flowerbed accepting the reality that most people want to cut corners. Why can't more architects get this right? I see tons of flower beds and hedges that refuse to accept this reality and expect people to walk the "long way" round and consequently the flowerbeds get torn up by impatient feet.
Mingus was entirely content to wander and sniff the dog run. I missed Cheyenne who had elected not to face the heat and stay home. She had had enough driving with the trip to Ft Myers and my wife wanted her company. I quite like Mingus has a tendency to flop in your lap at the least provocation unlike my stand-offish Labrador.
We had a grand dinner at Denise's place in Briny Breezes with chicken and wine and conversation. And did I mention the wine?
Denise was the first person I met whom I still know when I made my epic journey across the US on a Vespa in 1981. She was working the summer of 1981 interviewing tourists about their spending habits for a survey and she saw me at Long Key State Park next to my scooter reading Hemingway. I had bought a collection of short stories and I was struggling to come to terms with his view of the world before I got to Key West. She took me in for a month after I visited Key West and retired defeated by the little fishing village in the middle of nowhere. I lived with her and her boyfriend who lives in California now and with whom I am still in touch also. It was a surprising month for me in Delray Beach a few miles from this corner of Florida where Denise now lives. I met a lot of people and ideas (ozone holes, gays are not weird, and recycling) that started the slow process of getting my closed provincial mind to open. So when I suggested Denise take Mandy in to help her kick off her ride back north she saw the cosmic connection to the past. Mandy and Mingus liked the expansive beach and strong sea breeze (briny breeze!) of the Florida mainland.
Unlike Mandy I had a routine to get back to so I took off Tuesday morning stopping for very little, except a quick breakfast at a Panera in an unremarkable giant shopping mall. By lunchtime I was back in the Keys...and ready to be.
I was lucky with accidents on the Turnpike. On the way up Mandy and I saw one with a huge line of trapped traffic behind it. On my solo way back south it was the turn of the other side of the barricade to experience hopeless delay, blockages and stupid people who reduce speed to a crawl to stare at mangled cars.
Poor buggers I thought to myself as I watched the cars sit still in their suddenly created parking lot. No wonder most people hate commuting. People look at me like I'm mad when I suggest the Keys can be a great place to work. Of course you do need a decent job and they are rare as hen's teeth. I'm lucky to have one of them, but given that, it is a great place to work. Consider the weather is never too terribly miserable, with a worst some wind and rain, no snow, no frost, no truly freezing mornings to push you out of bed in your socks. Traffic generally is reasonable so commuting isn't terribly burdensome (I enjoy my commute!). Dress codes even for work are mild and as long as you have committed co-workers, which is rare, your workplace can be an ethical and fun place to be. I'm lucky in that respect too. Then, after a day or night at work fishing and swimming is right there in your back yard. Year round. And next year, maybe, I will have easy access to the mountain roads of Cuba to ride.
Back in the keys I spotted this relaxed touring couple whose dress code would give "serious" riders fits. Me? I like not having to hold other people's choices in judgement so I live and let live. I like not having to wear a helmet in Florida. Mostly I do, sometimes I don't.
I couldn't help but think of Mandy on her wild ride, every day an adventure as I slipped back into my middle aged routine.
Back at work my CPR certification was up and I have to have it to keep my job. I hate tests and being tested and Officer Sims our trainer kept berating me for getting ahead of the class. Bloody type A personality. I took copious notes and studied them before the final exam which was closed book.
I passed. I'm good for two more years. I wonder where Mandy will be in two years, doing what? Ah youth.