Saturday, August 20, 2016

Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon

From March 2008,  six  full years ago on this very same blog:

It is said that when Spanish explorers found South Florida Indians living in the mess that they considered the Everglades to be, they asked their hosts, with some perplexity, where they slept. After all, the Spaniards, overdressed in rusting armor could not conceive of people living out their lives in the river of grass, as damp and leaky as it was then, and continues to be to a lesser degree, today. The Indians pointed to clumps of trees and said they slept in the hammocks, and the Spaniards who managed to cock up the meaning of just about everything they came across in their meanderings, thought the Indians were talking about the creepers they stretched between the trees to sleep in, hence the modern use of the word hammock to describe the contraption we use while on vacation to rest in. In fact the Indians were describing the small clumps of dry land which rose a few feet above the river of grass and allowed relatively spacious hardwood trees to grow and provide shelter for the Indians to live in. Thus it is in South Florida that hammocks are places where trees grow (and where for all I know tourists could also be slinging hammocks). And at Curry Hammock State Park one can wander a trail right through something resembling the original meaning of the word hammock.And we even found ourselves a meadow, though appearances can be deceptive.This meadow was covered in stout crab grass, not the lush soft grasses found in more temperate climes.

By some miracle of timing my wife and I both had a day off together and we had no chores to do. So it was only appropriate that we cast off our cares and take to the road, not, I am sorry to say on the Bonneville, but in the eminently more civilized convertible, which my wife converts all the time except when it's parked.
The state park isn't large where it sits on Little Crawl Key, (a name to conjure with) and offers visitors lots of access to the calm waters of the Straits of Florida, on the south side of the island chain. Apparently small children are encouraged to be off their leashes, discriminatory perhaps but rules is rules.
Curry Hammock lies at Mile Marker 56, technically within the city limits of the relatively new city of Marathon, which is no place much to write home about as it is a wide spot in Highway One about 12 miles long, and the second largest city in the Florida Keys. However it does contain more than one thing worth seeing and Curry hammock is one of those. The helpful information board near the sparkling clean, environmentally low flush restrooms, offers a list of the top ten things to do at the park, and I was glad to see "nothing" was rated number one. A piece of advice more than one visitor acted upon, vigorously:

Including the lucky few who filled the park's 28 camping spots next to the day use area:

The weather continues windy as we prepare for another cold front later this week and this state of affairs favored number 9 on the park's lists of activities: kite boarding.
This is a strenuous pastime and doesn't allow for much time to read apparently.There were several brightly colored kites buzzing dementedly back and forth along the waterfront.They were controlled by some very determined men in wetsuits who spun across the horizon doing pirouettes while the older, more sedate visitors stumped around onshore providing a serene foreground for the waterborne madness.And from time to time they would pop up like jackrabbits out of the water and change their direction of travel as though pursued by a farmer with a shotgun.
I thought the kite boarding was an excellent sport, silent, non invasive, non polluting though probably ruinous for their backs when they get to middle age. There were also a few people interested in the more traditional sports associated with Florida Parks. Pastime number five for instance, on the park list:

And though best friends are welcome, on leashes, they aren't allowed on the modest sized beaches, thanks to owners' habits of not picking up, if you follow my drift and leaving unwelcome surprises for bare feet in the sands that mask all defecation:
And thus, tour completed, sunshine enjoyed, water drunk, back to the main road of life, our life in the Keys.

Ride To Die

I'm not sure why this article from The Scotsman Newspaper struck a chord because non riders moaning about people who ride motorcycles are two a penny. It is worth reading, to me, because of the author's total lack of comprehension where he notes most accidents occur in summer. Amazing! And the oddly modest statistic of  31 deaths in one whole year causes panic in the breast of this tired old man, "This is a scandalous toll that surely merits more attention than is given." I doubt it. I'm too old to ride a sport bike too fast on narrow winding roads but I wonder what the author ever did for youthful thrills. Pruned his petunias perhaps and worried about paper cuts. I hope I never grow so old I tut tut in exasperation at the next generation. 

Bike thrills that lead to deadly spills

Read more at: The Scotsman Newspaper

Motorcyclists are significantly more likely than car passengers to be killed if they are involved in an accident. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Motorcyclists are significantly more likely than car passengers to be killed if they are involved in an accident. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Another death prompts Bill Jamieson to ask why motorcyclists are so attracted to the most dangerous of roads.

My roadside house in Lochearnhead is right on the A85. Around lunchtime on Saturday I noticed a group of motor cyclists chatting on the other side of the road before heading off eastwards to St Fillans and Comrie. The bikers love this lochside road. Its sun-dappled twists and turns offer some of the most beautiful views in Scotland. 

But it’s the twists and turns the bikers like. As the bends straighten out the road offers enticing brief bursts of speed – enticing, and all too often, fatal. Through the trees you can see the sparkling waters of Loch Earn and Ben Vorlich beyond. On a warm August day there are few pleasures greater than catching sight of the loch and the loveliest scenery that this spellbinding stretch of Strathearn has to offer. The bikers revved up and took off. The quietness of summer closed back in. 

But the quietness did not last long. Barely 20 minutes later the first police car sped by heading eastward, its siren blazing. Then came the fire engine. Then the ambulance. Before long, traffic police arrived to block off the road at the junction with the A84: the tell-tale signs of another biker fatality. Just before 1:15pm the group of bikers heading east would have passed Scott Forbes travelling westward towards them on his white red and blue Honda CBR Fireblade about a mile and a half out of Lochearnhead. They were not to know they would have been among the last to see him alive. 

A woman pedestrian was the first to see his body lying in the middle of the road, the bike having careered to the side. He was treated at the scene but died a short time later. The road was closed for more than six hours. How we have become inured to motorcycle deaths on Scotland’s roads. For this was the third bike fatality over the weekend. His death occurred barely an hour after a 27-year-old father-of-two died after being involved in a collision with two cars on Great Northern Road in Aberdeen. 

Three days earlier, in Ayrshire, 23-year-old Ross Quin died after his motorbike collided with a Mercedes Sprinter and a BMW 3. Less than a month ago a 31-year-old motor cyclist died following a collision with a Ford Transit van on the A907 in Fife. And in June a 45-year-old biker was killed after a collision involving a tractor and trailer four miles west of Galashiels. Last year saw the death of motorcycle racing veteran Ewen Haldane from Greenock, killed in a bike crash in Argyll and Bute at the age of 86. 

All this forms part of a relentless biker death toll that seems impervious to road safety campaigns. The year 2014 saw the number of motorcycle casualties rise 6 per cent over the previous year to 819 while the number of deaths climbed by eight to 31. And latest figures show the number of motorbike fatalities in Scotland rose in 2015. Transport Scotland figures show bikers make up only 1 per cent of road traffic, but account for 15 per cent of fatalities. The figures prompted the Scottish Government, along with Road Safety Scotland, to launch yet another safety campaign. 

This is a scandalous toll that surely merits more attention than is given. Yet the fatalities barely receive more coverage than a down-page paragraph or two in the local paper. Occasionally, a small wreath of flowers is left by the roadside. How easy it is to regard Scott Forbes as just another statistic. But behind every statistic is a life lost and a family devastated. Scott, a 49-year-old from Dundee was a passionate biker. A photograph on his Facebook page posted barely a week previously showed a little girl sitting astride his immaculately polished bike. 

This was Scott Forbes’ world. He had taken up biking after serving in the Gordon Highlanders in the 1980s and 1990s and had completed several tours of Belfast with his friend Kevin Bruce. Kevin paid tribute to Mr Forbes, saying he always had the biggest smile for everyone. “Scott was someone who always had the safety of other motorcyclists at the forefront of his mind. Safety was always very important to him.”

 Of the circumstances of his death there are few details. He came off his bike on a relatively straight stretch of road, though one bracketed by particularly sharp bends. No other vehicle had stopped at the scene and police have appealed for eye-witnesses. An autopsy report is being prepared. On this spellbinding lochside road there is no trace of an accident. Only the continuous series of twists and bends give a clue as to what may have happened. 

What is a constant mystery to non-bikers is why they do it, every day, despite those repeated campaigns and the commendable work of police patrols at popular biker meeting places in offering roadside warnings and advice. It cannot be said that the bikers are impervious to the risk. It’s the risk that makes it so alluring - a truly fatal attraction. The bikers seem to like nothing more than the bends and the rush of adrenalin that comes as they tilt into them at speed. A road that does not twist holds nothing like the thrill. 

And across Scotland we have no lack of twister roads. I used to think that, because of its evident dangers, this part of Scotland was the most popular spot for thrill-seeking bikers. Whether you are heading along the A84 from Callander up to Killin, or on the A85 to St Fillans, Comrie and Crieff, all travellers have to proceed with caution. A journey of any speed is rare. Around every corner there is a hulking logging truck or a supermarket lorry or, arguably worse, the 25 miles-an-hour pootering caravans with their Belgian number plates and bicycles strapped precariously on the back. And then there are the swarms of bikers, the motorised wasps of our Highland roads, tilting and weaving through the traffic before they speed off into the distance. 

Little wonder middle-aged motorists cooped up in their Vauxhall Astras yearn for a burst of motorbike speed, envious of the thrill but feart of the spill. But the most dangerous roads for bikers in Scotland are not in fact those in the northern Trossachs where accidents seem so commonplace. Research into the deaths of 32 riders in 2011 showed the most likely areas for motorcyclists to be killed was in the Central Belt and the east coast. 

Almost all fatal motorbike crashes happen during the summer, when bike riding peaks. Motorcyclists are roughly 38 times more likely to be killed in a road traffic accident than car occupants, per mile ridden. The death of Scott Forbes is surely worth more than just another statistic. It points, amid some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, to a merciless, pitiful and unrelenting Scottish tragedy. 

Read more at: The Scotsman- Ride to Die