Sunday, January 31, 2016

Classic Motorcycles

Barber Museum, Leeds, Alabama
I make no secret of the fact that whenever we visit friends in Birmingham Alabama I make the 20 mile trek east to Leeds (Alabama) and check out what's on display at the Barber Museum. If you put "barber" in the search function at the top left hand corner of the page you will see all the bikes I have photographed there, like the 1964 Triumph TR6 single carburetor version of the famed Bonneville, which in my head was the better bike. Or the Ducati 750 I was recently reading about in a magazine:
Barber Museum, Leeds, Alabama
Barber owns something like 1600 machines half of which are displayed at a time. He also likes Lotus cars and he has a shop where they are restored as well as a racetrack where they are...driven? For me the joy is to wander round and see the bikes of my youth, and all the other elderly machines on show for me to peer at to my heart's content.
I read Motorcycle Classics every two months and I have been a subscriber for years. It's not necessarily that I want to ride an elderly motorcycle every day and I acknowledge my only vaguely classic bike is my 1979 Vespa currently awaiting a new auto advance mechanism when 911buddy isn't absorbing all my attention and money. It's just that I like reading about the history of motorcycles, and where our sport came from and how it has grown, and in some respects stayed the same over the decades. Maybe one day I'll have the time and money to buy and ride a 1970's superbike but for now I am content to read about them and ride my modern imitation daily.
Bonneville, Baby's Coffee, Florida
My serene world of sideline riding and reading of classic bikes got shaken up a little while ago when I found out I could get a subscription, or even individual copies of another magazine direct to my iPhone and iPad...from this page:Real Classics. Oh dear. So far I have downloaded half a dozen copies and I have tons of back issues to read before I even think about subscribing, which doesn't actually save much money on the annual cost of a dozen copies of this fascinating read.
I downloaded the teaser free issue and was amazed how easy this new digital version is to read. I tried this format elsewhere a while back and it was horrible. Here you can store the magazine on your phone on it's own page and you can pull down the magazine at will.
You can enlarge the page to make it easy to read for elderly eyes and you can slide page to page easily without interrupting your pleasure. Or, in the illustration above you can slide the whole magazine page by page at the bottom of the screen. Very very user friendly.
Let me say it: there is no technical obstruction to enjoying Real Classics anywhere in the world. The question is: why would you want to? Especially if you live in North America and get the aforementioned Classic Motorcycle subscription (every two months only, unfortunately). And this is where I have to get culturally sidetracked a bit I fear.
Real Classics does not put classic historic motorcycles on a pedestal. These bikes exist to be ridden, a sentiment shared by the American magazine but not put into action the way these British enthusiasts do it. In the photo above notice the luggage; these bikes get ridden and written about. You will often see little parcels bungee'd to the back of these bikes because the weather in Britain is as fickle as you like and going anywhere without waterproofs almost guarantees you a chance to get drenched. So these elderly bikes get ridden in the wet too! And photographed with mud on them. Check this out:
Real Classics celebrates British idiosyncrasy, a dry sense of humor and the ability to not take oneself too seriously while doing serious riding and serious wrenching (spannering). Yes you will have to get used to British spelling and quirky British use of the language which will make some references unintelligible. Hey, most of it can be understood by anyone who speaks some form of English. The humor may escape you if you think motorcycles are Serious Stuff but at heart these people are Very Serious about their bikes.
The best part is that the man pictured above in his "Shed" (the sacrosanct motorcycle space for men and wrenches, not wenches) edits the publication with no corporate pretensions whatsoever. He is more like your capable friend ready to offer unbiased advice with a dollop of tart wit than a snarky condescending journalist's journalist. He does this with a woman who may or may not be his wife. The English can be coy about these things and you can draw your own conclusions as I have drawn mine. FW as the Editor likes to style himself goes out and actually rides motorbikes and when he does so he has no hesitation being photographed looking like the Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Tell me with his whiskers, his weird lined visor and the shadow on his nose he doesn't look like the Lion:
Am I wrong?
Image result for the Lion from Wizard of Oz
I have been having a quiet love affar with Real Classics so I shouldn't be rude about the man who puts it all together. It reminds me in part of my lost youth, it reminds me I am not alone when I enjoy riding in the rain, even if it is only the warm South Florida version. It reminds me you don't need to ride around the world to have a two wheeled adventure. The editor's favorite motorcycle is a weird and not well known Norton Rotary which he considers his go-to ride and it's not spared England's liquid sunshine:
Not only that but FW is not terribly fond of classic Triumph Bonnevilles which have attained cult status on this side of the Atlantic (though he does express some deep fondness for Triumph's Trident). In Real Classics you will read about people buying selling, keeping and never selling, touring commuting and breaking down on their elderly machines. If your idea of classics is to put them on a pedestal and keep them secure in a museum this magazine will make your hair stand on end.
A lovely old BSA absurdly overburdened by sloppy luggage or what may be voluminous riding gear tossed into the photo. This would be a crime in the US:
By this stage you are either salivating to read this magazine or shaking your head at the way people like to waste their money. I hope you are curious enough to download the free issue and have a few giggles. These people are crazy and well worth your time.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Redland Hotel Sold

First let me point out my essay below is from 2009 and more shame on me that we have not been back. This place set me on fire to go to Argentina and try real South American barbecue as only they know how, or so the rumor has it...but then I read this on my favorite Miami Blog Redland Sold :

Lynda Bell and Mark Bell's Hotel is Sold. By Geniusofdespair


So one is forced to assume things will change and development will not be for the better. If you have followed Eye On Miami you know developers are sniffing around Florida City and Homestead with much land, not so much water and willing political partners. Here is my memory of the grand old hotel from six years ago. Read it and weep.


Redland Hotel

Because we had to go to Miami my wife decided we should spend a little extra time in and around the metropolis so she booked us a room at the Redland Hotel in Homestead. Homestead is a sprawling suburban city surrounded by farms and nurseries in the rich soil that used to grow oranges where Miami sprawl currently lurks. Indeed the Redland Hotel owes it's name to the color of the soil in that part of the world- at least according to the Historical Marker plunked down in the hotel parking lot:We had driven by the Redland Hotel many times on our way to our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, Los Nopalitos at Mowry at Krome in downtown Homestead, and every time we passed the old hotel I mentioned how much fun it might be to stay she called my bluff and reserved us a ninety dollar room. I mean, look at the facade at wouldn't you want to stay there?


According to the literature the place was built in 1904 but burned down about the time Homestead was founded, 1913. The rear parking lot is secure with a tall gate and shaded b y tall trees:

Inside the hotel I found a wall covered with historical photos of Homestead, including the obligatory "drowned hurricane" picture:

The Redland Hotel is a thing of beauty, because of it's age no doubt, narrow hallways thickly carpeted... entirely adequate room complete with television and wi-fi Internet connection and the all-important adjoining bathroom......with adjoining expansive balcony, even though the view is only that of industrial roofs:The view of the surrounding streets is no great shakes either:But the front door has a nice way of separating the interior from the wasteland outside:

The effect is to make the interior of this hotel more snug, and comfortable in an old fashioned relaxed way than ever. The dining room:Which is advertised as an Argentine Steak House. We took the sampler grill at $29 for two and it was enough meat for a small army:Steaks of various cuts, three kinds of sausage (including blood pudding) chicken and pork all piled up and sizzling. It was overwhelming and delicious as were the entirely unnecessary mashed potatoes, but fortunately for us the hotel provides a to-go box:The only other occupants of the weeknight restaurant was a party of four English birdwatchers, I think, rather odious people making snide remarks about the colonial lifestyle on this side of the pond and laughing, or rather braying like loud horses as they tried to sort out in their avian brains the differences between England and America. They reminded me of people I'd rather forget from my childhood. You'd have been proud of me: I said not a word but chewed my Argentine steak, forcefully but silently, exhibiting better manners than they.My wife, who tends to be critical about these things, found the bed to be entirely comfortable and I slept the sleep of the just. The next morning the repulsive bird watchers were infesting the parking lot with nary a polite word between them but it was a fine day to be out and about. We waved to the old Homestead jail as we drove by after loading up on cereal and fruit in the dining room:And made a pact to drag Lisa and Josh out here for a night of meat and alcohol at the Redland Hotel, in Homestead. Who would've thunk?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Food And Drink

Forbes Magazine says Key West is still off beat but attracting people with money. We who live and work here know which way that pendulum is swinging and we are told the Food and Wine Festival this weekend is moving in the direction of pulling in people with money and good taste.

Along with its unapologetically offbeat ambience and burgeoning allure for luxury travelers, Key West is steadily adding another distinction to its dossier: a paradise for serious foodies. Case in point: the annual Key West Food & Wine Festival, which kicks off this Wednesday, January 27, and runs through January 31, featuring nearly 40 events for adventurous gourmets that spotlight a wide range of cuisine as spirited as the island itself.
Key West, the southernmost city in the U.S., is drawing serious foodies thanks to its ever-growing collection of top-quality restaurants.
Festival highlights include “Henry Flagler’s Welcome Party” on January 28, on the beach at the Waldorf Astoria’s storied Casa Marina, a sponsor of the event. The sunset shindig will take guests back to the early 1900s, when railroad tycoon Flagler completed the Florida Keys Overseas Railroad—an engineering marvel initially referred to as “Flagler’s Folly” and then as the “eighth wonder of the world” following its stunning completion—and conceived the storied hotel.
Casa Marina will host a kickoff party for the Key West Food & Wine Festival on its private beach, the island’s largest.
On Saturday, oenophiles will converge on Key West’s renowned main drag for “Duval Uncorked UnDone,” a tasting event showcasing stellar vintages and flavorful bites, along with “Sip & Stroll,” a free pop-up tasting at galleries along Caroline, Greene, and Simonton Streets. Rounding out the five-day itinerary are a variety of brunches, cocktail classes, dinners, and kitchen tours across the island.
Whether or not you make it to the festival this year, Key West’s list of exceptional eateries (over 300 and counting) and inspired watering holes gets longer seemingly by the minute, while tried-and-true local favorites turn residents and tourists alike into regulars. Meanwhile, recently launched ventures like Key West Food Tours offer a tantalizing taste both of the island’s singular specialties (think stone crabs, pink shrimp, cracked conch, and, of course, Key lime pie) and its incomparably colorful history. Below are ten must-visit spots for those keen to eat and drink their way through the Conch Republic.
Roaming roosters and generous portions make Blue Heaven a local favorite in the Conch Republic.
Blue Heaven—Live music and roosters roaming the outdoor dining area create an inimitable atmosphere at this perennial favorite close to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Sunday brunch is a popular draw thanks to specialties like lobster eggs benedict and banana pancakes, while yellowtail snapper with citrus beurre blanc sauce and Jamaican jerk chicken lure hungry crowds come sundown.
The Flaming Buoy—This low-key hideaway on a charming residential street combines alluringly amber-lit ambience with cuisine that’s simultaneously sophisticated and stick-to-your-ribs, including lobster mac-and-cheese, pan-seared hogfish with banana salsa, and beer-battered chicken with spicy waffles.
Kojin Noodle Bar—If your hangover inspires a sudden hankering for authentic Japanese noodles, head straight to this friendly spot, which consistently earns rave reviews for its steamed pork belly buns, house ramen, and other satisfying dishes.
A short ride from Key West on Sunset Key, Latitudes offers upscale dining in an idyllic beachfront setting.
Latitudes—You’ll have to hop the free shuttle boat from the Westin Marina (one block from Duval Street) to reach this fine-dining restaurant on Sunset Key, but the idyllic location overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, coupled with a thoughtful seasonal menu, makes the brief trip well worth it. Menu highlights include delectable tuna tartare, grilled Florida lobster tail, and tenderloin you can practically cut with a fork, while tiki torches and palm trees swathed in white lights add to the rarefied island ambience.
nine one five—This laid-back eatery in a Victorian house on Duval Street is a study in understated elegance and irresistible fare. Grab a table on the porch and while away the evening over starters including asparagus with pancetta and pine nuts and clams with chorizo and cherry tomatoes, along with can’t-miss homemade pastas like oven-roasted tortellini with ricotta, spinach, pancetta, and parmesan.
The oldest “eating house” in town, Pepe’s dishes up hand-cut steaks, homemade desserts, and a bustling atmosphere.
Pepe’s—Established in 1909, this local favorite across from the historic waterfront is the oldest “eating house” in the Keys, serving up a bustling patio scene along with specialties like baked oysters “Rudi Style” (with parmesan, butter, and garlic), hand-cut steaks, and quite possibly the best homemade coconut cream pie on earth.
The historic Porter Mansion is home to The Porch, a festive local watering hole featuring a wide range of beer and wines along with a calendar full of inspired events.
The Porch—There’s always something fun and funky happening at this Caroline Street bar in the historic Porter Mansion, where you can sample an ever-changing array of 18 beers on tap and 12 wines by the glass. Upcoming events include a “courtyard boogie” (with an all-vinyl music lineup) and a Girl Scout cookie and beer pairing.
2 Cents—On a quiet lane just a few steps from Duval Street, this unassuming spot with a roomy outdoor patio elevates comfort food to whole other level. Don’t miss the bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, chicken-fried oysters, or colossal B.L.T. at lunchtime. And speaking of bacon, here it’s thick-cut, delicious, and served gratis at happy hour, when you roll the dice (literally) to determine how much you pay for your poison.
The Waterfront Brewery—This newly opened bar/restaurant is a lively seaside option where beer aficionados can sample a rotating selection of exotic ales made on-site, including a peanut butter brew that’s as tasty (and unusual) as it sounds. Hearty fare like Bahamian white conch chowder and Lower Keys fish dip help the suds go down easy.
A newcomer to the local scene, Wine-O combines both wine bar and wine store in a design-minded setting.
Wine-O—A recent addition to the historic La Concha Hotel & Spa (whose location is unbeatable if you want to stay in the heart of the action on Duval, and whose airy rooftop spa is an oasis ideal for recovering from too much overindulging), this sleek bar-and-wine-store hybrid features over 200 bottles from around the world. Wine flights served by the friendly and knowledgeable staff let you sample a few vintages before choosing your favorite.
Where to Stay 
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The landmark Casa Marina resort, a luxurious option in Key West, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The aforementioned Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria property, is a sprawling, casually luxurious option for visitors coming for the festival or just a tropical escape. Opened in 1920 to accommodate wealthy customers of Henry Flagler’s celebrated Overseas Railroad, it was designed by architects Thomas Hastings and John M. Carrere, whose other esteemed credits include New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and the New York Public Library. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the landmark boasts over 300 rooms and suites, an incomparable location on Key West’s southern edge complete with the island’s largest private beach, and gorgeous pools and public areas.
With a full roster of inspired spirits programming—including the memorably monikered seminars, “To Have and Have Another (Rum)” and “Death In the Afternoon Absinthe” on  January 29 and January 30, respectively—festival visitors with a hankering for the harder stuff will be well served at Casa Marina and its neighboring sister resort, The Reach.
The atmospheric Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada is an ideal option for those who want to break up the picturesque drive to Key West.
Those driving to Key West from Miami should consider breaking up the four-hour trip halfway with a stay at Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The resort’s lush setting, atmospheric elegance, and distinct sense of place is rivaled only by its long and illustrious history, during which it’s hosted countless boldface names including Paul Newman and former President George H.W. Bush.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Glorious Key West

I too would like to see the wires put underground but that won't ever happen. I'd like to see modern traffic lights in Key West, the ones that change rapidly in response to the weight of the traffic, so you aren't parked at a red light forever. They've done a brilliant job on North Roosevelt so I know it's possible. 
Other than those minor inconveniences Key West has been lovely lately after one set of storms and before the next. This is one of those times when you wake up an wonder who painted the world in primary colors for you. Of course there are tons of other issues going on right now. The school district has embarrassed itself with another financial scandal losing $20,000 which went -poof!- into thin air. The leaders of the district thrashed around ineffectually wringing their hands and wondering what to do before they brushed the mess under the nearest carpet. 
There is much talk of Cuba in the news as everyone waits for Congress to repeal the embargo which they won't do as Our Man in the White House has been making strides in that department without them. Everyone wants a ferry from Stock Island, from Truman Waterfront and now I'm hearing Miami is thinking about getting involved in a ferry plan.
When I took these pictures Up North was getting hosed by epic blankets of snow. Very pretty and all but I was happy to be out of it. Apparently I'm not alone as the Keys are packed with winter visitors even though it's been mostly cold and gray. I love the bright colors of winter sunshine, and I don't photoshop my pictures.
In the  housing wars city voters get to choose in a couple of months how to dispose of Peary Court. The city wants to buy the property and turn the former Navy housing into affordable housing whatever that means. Voters get to offer their opinions in March. I wonder how affordable the housing will be.
Key West - the struggle continues.