Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pennekamp State Park

Originally published in September 2008. I really should go back
On my recent jaunt up the Keys I stopped off at the John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo. This is probably the most well known state park in the islands, and the fact that it has received awards is duly noted on a signboard at the entrance. This was my first visit to the park since I had sailed there in 1990, ducking out of strong winds while on my way from Key West to Bimini.I recall a rather unpleasant stay on a mooring buoy in the lagoon, bouncing around and bickering as we waited for the weather to ease up and let us go on our way to the Bahamas. Ours was an under equipped expedition in many respects and i don't believe we went ashore as we lacked an outboard to propel us back to the boat from the little beach in the park. Our relationship was doomed by these inadequacies and my inexperience to lead us to foreign shores. She still loathes me to this day, and i don't think therapy has helped her either for which I am sorry. I got it right later and the woman who spent a couple of years sailing with me through Central America is still married to me, and calls me daily from Turkey making sure I am eating right and getting enough sleep. We live and learn.Reminicences aside the Pennekamp park is best visited not in September, I believe, because it is hot:

Up North I read people are already observing the shortening of the days, changing of leaves and colling of temperatures. Down here September is the cruelest month, not least because a person raised in a temperate clime in the northern hemisphere has a right to expect the weather to start cooling off. Not a bit of it.Rain clouds built up overhead but yielded nothing in the way of cooling raindrops. Nevertheless, here I was two hours from home and determined to enjoy this park, whether I got heat stroke or not. It was ninety five degrees (37c) with humidity to match but there was a mangrove trail to be explored, so by God, off I went, down the boardwalk.It's not like I haven't seen a mangrove swamp before but I find the light and shadow of these forests to be particular and in some way always varied. In California I used to like walking through redwood forests and their similarities to cathedrals were too obvious for them not to be pointed out by anyone and everyone. I find mangroves, with all their subdued activity, and silence to have a similar effect on me and I tend to get contemplative:And of course I was denied the chance to climb the observation deck and look out across the greenery. The path was gated, presumably to allow rangers the time to repair damage to the boardwalk, which was a disappointment:But from ground level, or as close to ground level as one can get in a forest of trees growing out of saltwater I did get to see a boat chugging by, or at least I got to see part of it:African Queen ain't in it...Back at the visitor center and aquarium they had a little window dedicated to life an death in the mangroves which in some ways looked more active than real life:
This end of the Keys is where several of the 500 or so remaining American crocodiles reside, and I peered about looking for them but they didn't show. I don't suppose park people would encourage them to show up in the middle of the human madness of the park. A couple of witless young females nearly wet themselves and deafened me with their screams when they stumbled across a small squirrel minding his own business outside the gift shop. I dread to think what a Crocodile would do to their tender gray matter. Of course I forgot to photograph the squirrel, a mammal not yet found in Key West, happily but I did get some other wildlife:

That last was actually a group of humans at the beach evading the sun. The Keys I never hesitate to point out are not endowed with sandy beaches, which some ill informed tourists expect to find when they arrive. Thus it is people who long for sand take it where they find it on their days off. and haul grandpa down to be propped up in the shade of a palm tree:
I am not much of a beach goer and all the paraphenalia of family picnics makes me cringe (tote that bale!) but this small stretch of sand brought pure delight to those using it. I parked the Bonneville in a spot where I hoped I could return from a short walk and not burn my backside through my pants:
The park is a haven for flora and fauna and the park needs to be there to allow things to grow unimpeded by human interference and development:
The rest of Key Largo is along suburban tract, houses, businessesand roads everywhere, and as it's Spanish name implies it is the largest Key in the chain, so it's landmass gives the Pennekamp park room to breathe. It offers small marina with room for some boats to dock and take tourists out to the reef, which is actually what the park is famous for. The Bonneville is a great ride, but it doesn't ride at all well on water. Luckily there is an aquarium at the park:I continue to insist I enjoy the heat and solitude of summers in the Keys, but that is not to say I don't like the cool refreshing blast of air conditioning too, and the visitor center did a good job of cooling me down while the Bonneville rested in the shade:I don't go to zoos, I don't like to see animals locked up, but aquariums generally don't seem so bad, perhaps because I can't empathise with fish. I did wonder about the little nurse shark though, hiding his nose as though to make the world invisible. A small boy nearby was learning all about the fishes and stuff, and I suppose this was really his classroom, not mine:One last stop to tank up with a bottle of refreshing water and I would be on my way. I wanted to be cunning and dropped two dollars in the machine outside (I was still refrigerated from the aquarium visit) in order to avoid the lines inside. The machine ate my money and just to prove I am a slow learner I had the same damned experience in Marathon when I stopped for gas and the soda machine failed to cough up a bottle of water for my money.The shoppe had stuff to sell and one interested window shopper caught my eye. My thighs are nothing to write home about but I do keep mine covered in public and don't go shopping in my underwear. He should follow my example:
So we close with a little thank you to Mr Pennekamp, a Miami newspaperman and outdoor enthusiast who pushed and pulled his strings to get the park created. He was successful in 1957 and there is a photo of him happily casting, on the wall of the visitor center. I think he would be pleased to see the park still there. I am.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Jack Riepe In Hospital

Jack Riepe just called me and he didn't  sound at all well, which was not surprising as he is in the hospital suffering from what I can only assume are complications from his long running bodily ailments. Jack hates making a fuss but he did tell me it was okay for me to post about this to let others know of his misfortune, holed up at the Community Medical Center in Tom's River New Jersey. 
Piecing together his story as far as I can gather his diabetes got the better of him and he went into a coma, discovered after possibly 24 hours by his brother. From what Jack told me his blood sugar was so far out of whack he is lucky to be alive. 

Jack is indomitable so I suppose one can only stand on the sidelines and watch him recover from this setback. I was reeling as he spoke to me from his hospital bed but his  sense of humor was alive and well in the middle of his recitation of woes with a metaphorical jab at my lack of testicular strength so I was thus certain that the whispered voice on the phone was indeed riepe's.
God speed and swift recovery Jack.

A very  valued friend, more than he realizes. 

Caroline Street

Caroline Street is  getting a long overdue makeover. It's complicated for the businesses in the corridor but this street really does need to be improved because the surface is horrible.
Caroline Street is one block set back from the Key West Bight and it's here you have to pass if you want easy access to the Schooner Western Union and the docks, the Cuban Coffee Queen, Half Shell Turtle Kraals or the new Waterfront Brewery. In it's way it is an important artery and its been worn down to a series of potholes, jagged kerbs and rotten asphalt. You can be bounced out of a scooter seat on some of these holes if you don't notice them in time.
The street is also subject to frequent flooding so the storm drains will get a clean up I'm sure. They re-worked them about a decade ago but this looks to be a more comprehensive redo for the entire street. Below we see the old West Marine store now gradually becoming a  24-hr gym. 
The new West Marine will also get a fresh coat of asphalt on the street and even though the uneven surface is hard to photograph it is astonishingly bad:
I tried to capture the awfulness here against the afternoon sun:
The construction plans are also more sweeping than just a re-surface and better drains, its going to be a beautification project as well.  
The construction work has been designed not to interfere with the first amendment panhandling zone:
The idea ultimately will be to have Caroline Street street properly landscaped with nice sidewalks and cut outs and everything a good looking street should have, they say. Something like this maybe, which I photographed on William Street alongside the old West Marine:
This is a sample of the future design, a proper turnout built to accommodate the Marker Hotel newly built at the end of William Street, which you can see off to the left.  What you can also see is that traffic including bicycles is supposed to keep right...good luck with that.
The connector street past Cuban Coffee Queen and the Brewery will also need repaving as you can see:
It's another of those projects that are making everyone crazy, street closures, difficult access for businesses and general disruption but one can only hope that the finished product will look good, work well and not bounce me out of the saddle anymore. Oh and no more high tide flooding please. I think this could be pretty good.
 And check out the amount of equipment they've assembled to tackle this job!
Serenity will return to this corner of Key West.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


It occurs to me I have been woefully deficient in getting out on the water this year what with creating my app and being terminally busy. Partly too because I don't find Cudjoe Bay to be nearly as alluring as the waters around our old home on Ramrod Key. In any event it's a good time to be enjoying some multi colored waters photographed by me at Marvin Key around 2009 as I recall. It was, as you can see, a very good day. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Signs Everywhere

I have made the point before, about how signs crop up everywhere in this city. Key West is a remarkable town, built on beauty that grew out of found wood, ship's timbers pressed into service to build homes on land. Streets and alleys that grew up organically, spreading out from the waterfront as the population grew, yet remaining stable for most of the city's existence around 12,000 inhabitants from its founding when it grew rapidly, until New Town was built after World War Two.
In the midst of all this profusion of solid wooden houses, narrow lanes and tropical plants growing everywhere human beings attach eyesores. I have no idea why cheap plastic signs telling strangers to keep out seem necessary when there are gates and fences everywhere. Tow away zone? Its a driveway, or course you get towed if you park in a stranger's weedy overgrown driveway. Happily Key West also encourages whimsy, a flying fish:
And a surfer threat to wipe you out...if you block the space. Surfing is a difficult sport to enjoy on an island surrounded by reefs that create shallow waters and not much in the way of waves.
Cheyenne can be seriously annoying sometimes, like a donkey she stops where she feels like and noses around. If its in the middle of the street, too bad. Its like being leashed to Eeyore. Mm, something delicious got squashed here.
I like the brightly colored bicycles one finds along the street. Cheyenne likes to look for stuff.
A woman passing on the sidewalk remarked how we were suited to each other, ambling along at the same pace. I wanted to tell her how Cheyenne was dumped for being too old and too slow and how lucky I am she likes strolling with me. Cheyenne pauses while I aim the camera and she never gets annoyed at me for holding her up. The only ting she doesn't like is if I stop to speak to someone. Then she gets impatient and barks. Gotta go...
Hurricane season ends on the last day of November, officially, but some people leave their hurricane gutters up year round. They aren't that hard to take down or put up especially on the ground floor. They come in pieces, you slide them into the top and pop the bottom over the bolts and screw them down. I don't like leaving them up as they bang and clank in the least wind and it is totally weird looking at them from the inside. It's like being trapped inside a corrugated box.
Besides, if the owners are home and not shoveling snow Up North they are missing out on the world outside:
Sunlight dark blue skies and long dark shadows. I like winter days in Key West.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Watching Mallory Square

I took a few pictures at Mallory Square in strong north winds.
The pilot boat heading to the harbor mouth to meet a cruise ship.
This guy saw Cheyenne coming and made noises and she let him pet her for a moment.  I guess he is homeless but his outfit was coordinated. The bums never bother me in Key West. Perhaps I give off some anti magnetic vibe. Perhaps it's my beard.
I fiddled with the picture below and manipulating the settings I  turned it into something other than a photograph. An interpretation of an impression of people taking their constitutionals in the public plaza.
There's a story there, in that drinking pineapple. No idea what it is, abandoned outside the urine smelling restrooms.
The blue winter sky of Key West at 24.5 degrees North Latitude.
A man and his rooster. Or more likely, a man and a public rooster wandering by.
A bum most likely and he didn't bother me a bit. I need to bottle my bum repellent properties. I do shower, I swear it.