Saturday, July 9, 2016

From The Archives

From March 5th 2011

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Rolling south on Highway 29 from Alligator Alley I spotted a road sign to Copeland, a village of trailers that have apparently suffered some not so recent devastation. I wondered if it was possibly from Hurricane Wilma from distant 2005 but there were graffiti asking the Feds to please mind their own business (I'm paraphrasing here) and keep out of people's homes.I saw people living in homes with hurricane shutters on the windows and it all looked terribly depressing. I came to Copeland about four years ago on a Vespa ride round the Everglades but that time I was busy checking out the nearby Turner River Road and I barely stopped in here.I wrote a ride report for Advrider: about that trip in 2007 in June before I started this blog. I go tired of all the attitude on fora that i decided to carve out my own niche on the web in mid 2007. And now almost four years later I was back at this spot and ready to penetrate all the secrets of this place:
The signs promised an eleven mile dirt road through the preserve followed by more miles of the same dirt which is currently interrupted by construction before I could reach Naples on the other side.Cheyenne was not excited by the rumbling noise and lurching of the dirt road and I hadn't the heart to tell her we'd have to double back the way we came to get out.It was a glorious day, one more in a series we'd been having for weeks.We stopped and Cheyenne took off across the grass.A flower, an orchid possibly but of course I am still not a botanist.
This, I later discovered was a bicycle tour operator towing bicycles in the trailer.
This diminutive animal looked quite like a Key Deer, bounding around and utterly ignored by my dog.
The road droned on feeling a lot longer than eleven miles and my car got progressively whiter with the dust.
The road, narrow as it was, had frequent turn outs and several of those had intriguing looking trails wandering off through the woods. We did a bit of checking out together much to Cheyenne's delight.
These watery woods were more like what most people expect to see in the Everglades...
...and Cheyenne took advantage to cool off and have a refreshing drink in a small running stream. I was rather concerned about alligators so I kept a rather closer eye on her and limited her wandering, more than I usually do in the Keys.
There was no pedestrian crossing marked but the bird behaved more like an annoying high school student dawdling in the crosswalk.
For some reason I swerved to avoid a stick in the roadway, and when I looked back in the mirror I noticed the stick was all coiled up, pissed off, as though suddenly awakened from a deep slumber. I backed up to take a picture:I have no idea what make or model it was but I didn't get out of the car and off it went into the brush. Eventually the eleven miles came to an end and we broke out into a new preserve.
This place has been in the news lately as our new idiot governor wants to stop rejuvenation work in this section of the Everglades, work that has closed the road heading west for several more weeks. In the bad old days canals restricted the flow of water drying up the Everglades and now that work has to be undone to get the flow going again, flow that filters the water before it ends up in Florida Bay to the south.
Florida's wilderness never ceases to amaze me, blue skies, winds whistling and whole stands of trees bending to the breeze. The silence was perfect.
Cheyenne pottered about happily, coming and going on those weird missions only dogs understand.
The signage was as bad as a home owner's front yard in Key west, notices all over the place and not many making much sense:
Here's a road map to show where I was. The dirt road comes out somewhere near where "Naples Manor" is written on the map. My only option was to turn round and drive back eleven miles to Copeland as a barrier was across the road closure.
Back at the entrance to the park we stopped by some old gravel pits filled with water. I played with the camera while Cheyenne took one last wander.It would have been a pretty spot had we had a picnic.
Then it was on to Highway 41, the Tamiami Trail, the original early 20th century road across the Everglades. I find it much more fun to drive than Alligator Alley, even though the speed limit is 60 in Collier County and a modest 55 in Dade. Motorcycles don't help either as they seem to be ridden by people barely interested in moving at all.The frequent Indian villages are a nice speed trap as the limit there drops to 45. I got a ticket here a decade ago after a Highway patrol car followed me at four in the morning blasting through the zones at 60 miles per hour. Nose bleed speeds, I'm sure. Then it was back to the Keys via Card Sound Road and the seventy foot tall bridge giving a view across the northernmost mangrove islands:In Key Largo I went through a gas station car wash to get rid of the white dust and Cheyenne was quite startled by the process:From there we rode the Overseas Highway into the night getting home at 7:30, thirteen and a half hours after we left.It was as tiring as riding a motorcycle, so after a glass of wine and dinner I was ready for bed. I had scratched the itch to see the mainland and for a while at least the Everglades won't call me back.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Hot Day

One should be resigned I suppose to the idea that heat records set around the planet will have their reverberations here and heat has been an issue. At first Spring came with lots of cooling breezes and I much enjoyed that. Oppressive heat followed so a shady passageway off Southard Street has it's uses:
Summer also brings occasional, sudden and thus unexpected showers. On the mainland rain seems to follow a more repetitive pattern where in the Keys clouds form at random, it rains, sun comes back out:
Many residentially challenged leave in the summer, just as snowbirds with housing leave but some hardcore year round bums put up with the sudden rain and the mosquitoes and the humidity.
Rusty does pretty well in the heat. Note also the famous Coral Gables book store has put in an appearance back where Voltaire Books used to be so we now have two independent book stores.
Key West Theater is up and running after years of neglect. Key West's third live performance stage.
I heard loud thudding muzak and this scooter hove into view with a boom box on the floorboards and a cell phone in the rider's hand. A disaster waiting to happen. Happily as he's riding a  scooter and not a tank the problem will be all his. If I ride like that I'd have a wreck in five minutes knowing my luck. So I'm the one in helmet gloves and a mesh jacket most days.
Do Not Disturb.  Nuff sed.
"Lunch All Day!"  CLOSED
My good walking companion, my dog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Walking and Watching Around White Street

I love these shutters, just the right shade against the perfect background properly framed:
Using your car as storage is commonplace while living out of your car is common enough though neighbors don't approve. I am frequently amazed how indiscreet some people are about their unconventional living. Drawing attention to yourself does no good.
I took this next picture on Varela Street planning to make some remark about how Glynn Archer is no longer a school but is now being transformed into a most excellent City Hall, what the Germans would call a rat haus which is what some disgruntled Key Westers might want to call it in English.
Some people think the splendid Palladian structure is too over wrought for mere city officials and they would prefer something more along the lines of a trailer to represent their city to the world. I think the city hall has practical advantages as it is easy to reach from anywhere, offers lots of parking, is across the street  from the National Weather Service and is not far from the police department. Thus the the location could be said to be perfect. More perfect shutters too:
I brought a lizard something like this back from a vacation in Puerto Rico, though mine is rather smaller, and more colorful. And in point of fact is a frog, known to Puerto Ricans as a Coqui. 

The city has been posting poems in sidewalks around the place; Rusty ignored it. The poem in question is n front of the Montessori School which is why I suppose the school warning sign at the top of the page is still appropriate even though the big school has gone.
City Hall coming along:
I am very fond of Key West bicycles around town that one sees in daily use as station wagons not toys:
This was going to be a parking lot for the refurbished motorcycle shop that used to exist on Southard Street near the Green Parrot. The city and the property owner got into a dispute over the number of parking spots and this is the result, charming:
A "pet lovers boutique" is coming; the mind boggles.
A car wash is superfluous when you are on yer bike: 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Key West And Varela

Doctor Felix Varela has a street named after him as wella s this lodge. It's funny  because Varela actually had very little to do with Key West and  a lot more to do helping Cuban refugees in New York.
 He was a Catholic priest born in Cuba and represented Cuba in Spain during talks for greater autonomy for the island in 1821. He was a bit of a radical arguing for independence for  Cuba and an end to slavery which was all too much so the Spaniards sentenced him to death, as you do, and he buggered off to New York which might be viewed as hardly better than a death sentence for a character like him. He died in St Augustine in 1853 at the age of 65 of asthma and hard work. No mention really of Key West but he did apparently visit once or twice. The lodge shown above was chartered by Cuban exiles in 1873 apparently during another period of strife in Cuba as the island sought independence from Spain.
Key West has lived on the edge of major events throughout it's history, making money smuggling of course, watching revolutions come and go, accepting migrants from the Bahamas Haiti and Cuba, sitting out the Civil War as a Union City seething with Confederate sympathies, always ready to trade (and smuggle) guns rum people- and ready to put to sea. 
 A home to poets and artists, and not averse to a little ironic or wry humor... galleries in various shapes and of assorted longevity, and size:
The cemetery offers  a view of history in a parklike setting. The squeamishness some people affect at the thought of inspecting a  cemetery I find unsettling. I find myself reluctant to deal with old age and my own death in a  culture that pretends it doesn't exist. I find it doubly baffling as so many people profess to believe in God and after lives and all sorts of stories to press back the shrouds of darkness that await.
From darkness to light has been a theme throughout human literature, that notion of life following death following life in a continuous cycle. The other island cultures nearby haven't had the luxury of avoiding the inevitable transitions and in the case of Cuba and Haiti in particular much blood has been spilled and where there is poverty life and death are in your face.
 I think about Varela and his crusade 150 years ago when I pass by Varela Street on Truman. It was not a long life, but a short life well lived. We should all be so lucky, even in exile.

Monday, July 4, 2016


Happy fourth of July and enjoy whatever the holiday means to you. For me it marks my independence from my old life and my transition to the new, now more than thirty years ago. This holiday and Thanksgiving are my favorites so I shall take some time off and come back in a few days. Cheers.