Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Road Trip With Rusty

To take off with Rusty on a week long trip grew in mind to become an event worth anticipating. My wife said that as my summer had been interrupted by her gall bladder I deserved a week off in the mountains while she was working. I squeezed in a week before winter descended on western North Carolina. There was some mention of a motorcycle trip but to me a week of wooded hikes with Rusty sounded just the job.
First though we had to make the 16 hour drive to the Asheville area where my sister-in-law lives in a cabin in the woods. We decided to split the trip in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, eleven hours away. The idea was to have a short trip the next day to leave time for exploration on the way to Celo, the small community east of Asheville which was my destination.
We stopped here and there for short walks but mostly it was a matter of driving and to leave the Keys and reach anywhere that isn't flat involves a full hardcore day of driving. I don't mind the drive with satellite radio and a comfortable car. Rusty settled in to his bench seat in the back which is filled in behind the driver's seat to make an "L" shaped bed. 
Eventually it got dark around 7:30 and we arrived in Columbia around 9:30. La Quinta was full so we had reserved a Red Roof Inn, another dog-friendly chain. Check-in was a reminder of my work: 
A cop was taking statements from a family complaining they been harassed and someone had stolen an expensive knife from their room. I was past caring. The room was $59 all included, the TV didn't work which was fine by me and the sheets were clean (I think). Rusty was ready to pass out and so was I. He woke me with a cold snout to the face at 4:45 and over all my protests demanded a walk. The parking lot was silent as you might imagine but I found evidence of what might have been the stolen knife being put to use:

Not my blood, not Rusty's so all was well. We left the accursed motel at six and went foraging for breakfast in rural South Carolina early on a Sunday morning. I ended up eating the sandwich my wife had packed while Rusty ate a chicken strip on the road. My plan was to explore a patch of green I had seen on Google Maps and stick looked likely on street view. It worked out.

I parked in a small lot off a dirt road I had spotted on the map. Then a Honda Element pulled in and I asked the driver if it was safe to walk or were they shooting turkey today. Not on Sunday he said and offered to show me the way to Lake Wattacoo (I think). 

Pam had retired from 28 years as a school agronomist so she knew all the trees and their stories. Tom kept a close eye on their two rescued Plott hounds. We walked and talked and they told me of their latest rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. They live forty minutes away but they know these trails very well. We saw waterfalls a lake and visible signs of beaver, the first I've ever seen:
It was an extraordinary window into little know local sights near Cleveland, South Carolina. 
Insect eating plants:
Much gratitude and before we split they showed me a modern take on the Sugarloaf Key bat tower: 
We stopped again and again and Rusty was totally absorbed by the smells and sounds of these woods. 
Federal Highway 276 to Brevard, North Carolina:
And then we took a dirt short cut for fun:
It was time to make tracks to the Blue a Ridge Parkway to avoid traffic around Asheville and Burnsville. Unfortunately it was Subday night and weekend drivers were out in force and barely able to drive 30 miles an hour such was the draw of the colored leaves...we even found ourselves unable to keep up with a cyclist. The Italian driver within me was appalled: 
I broke free. 
Twin Tunnels means I'm close to the Highway 80 edit to Celo:
And so north off the parkway, still lovely still twisty:
And so to our base for the next three days where my sister-in-law and her husband have lived for forty years:
 Bob and Geeta conversing after a pasta dinner over pisco and rum. 
And so to bed. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Around Watson Street

It is a fact of life in Key West, most people like to dress up any chance they get. And their houses aren't immune either. At Halloween the decorative theme is as obvious as it is at Christmas. 
Despite, or perhaps because of, being born on all Hallow's Eve I have no desire to dress up though I thank strangers for celebrating my birthday by resorting to costumes which I know are their idea of a celebration...
I am not terribly fond of Watson and Packer streets off Truman Avenue in Key West as they feel crowded and chaotic to me. They lack proper sidewalks and the largely un-restored cottages are piled up alongside  a narrow street packed with parked cars. 
 This is Watson Lane,a curiosity off Watson Street:
I would hesitate to live in a home with louvered windows, a 19th century for of ventilation, even though they look delightfully picturesque:
I saw this visiting van from New Jersey wedged off the street -just!- and admired the versatility that I look forward to enjoying in the not too distant future. Th gasoline model at less than ten miles to the gallon is not indicated for me who loves to drive a lot.
 Rusty enjoyed himself, holding me up every three steps.
What is chaos and confusion to me is a wealth of worthwhile stuff to himself.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Practical Cycling

From October 2010 (so long ago already?) I really like this essay on bikes in Key West.

I start this essay on cycling in Key West with a picture of a man taking his ease in Bayview Park.
His bicycle laden with belongings was just out of the frame. Bicycles in Key West are basic transportation, for workers, professionals, tourists and even the unemployed homeless.I like to photograph the cyclists around town from time to time as a reminder that this town is the eco-delight that promoters of cyclists envision when they stand before city councils and commissions across the land to promote urban cycling. Not as recreation, but as daily transportation. High cost brand name cycles are the rarity rather than the norm around here.Willie Ward Park has some rather pleasant shelters to hang out under as you while away your day waiting for the soup kitchen to open on Flagler Avenue.Tourists use bicycles as a fun break from their daily reality at home. Too bad they can't imagine getting used to cycling when they do get back to their daily grind.I have noticed a different kind of pedi cab rider lately in Key West. It used to be the preserve of East European young men pedaling energetically. Now I am hearing more Americans talking to their passengers as they pedal. Perhaps the world of pedicabs could be promoted as part of the political agenda currently sweeping the land to get Americans into jobs held by immigrants?A bicycle, a basket and Old Town is your oyster.I noticed these three vans (how could I not?) jamming Southard Street at Whitehead. The minivan as billboard. It takes a bicycle to get past these heffalumps blocking the road.When I was between dogs I used to bring my bicycle into town on a bike rack on the car, park the car at work and take off around town on two wheels. A bike rack is a great thing. Now all we have to do is persuade the nutters who run the Lower Keys Bus Shuttle to put bike racks back on the buses. They took them off when they were too successful.A gentle pedal on Georgia Street is a fine way to spend a morning.Cruising the Southernmost Point.
Backwards and forward at Whitehead and South Streets.There is a city commission looking into improving cycling conditions in Key West. Some people want more dedicated bike paths but it seems to me that in Old Town you'd need to make streets one way to accommodate a bike path and I can't see motorists agreeing to that.Riding and not texting. What a concept!
Tricycle, bicycle and shopping cart. Key West's basic means of hauling your crap around.Not riding side by side. These must be well mannered visitors.Hotels and guest houses frequently have bikes for guests to use. The size of the collection at Eden House on Fleming Street always boggles my mind.This deocratif motif left by a former resident:I watched this woman cycling in front of my car southbound on White Street, here seen imperturbable as two other laden cyclists pull out abruptly from Olivia Street in front of her.She stops appropriately at White Street at the red light.Traffic eases and off she goes risking a ticket if police were around to see her.I'll bet she'd have been pissed if she got a ticket for that stunt. Tourists here on Truman checking their directions. Riding on sidewalks is permitted in Florida as long as you a) yield to pedestrians and b) have an audible means of approach (not specified).
For $9 a day one of these beauties could be yours to cruise around town.
Like I said, practical transportation.
Unhappily my forward motion in the car messed up the focus but you get the idea. Helmets (rare in Key West) and swimsuits. Whatever works.Me? I wouldn't mind a Genuine Buddy from the Yamaha shop to get around town. I find a bicycle less useful than a scooter for fast movement across town.Seen on College Road, quite a likely a student pedaling to the...College with the typical backpack.The Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island my be five miles from Duval Street but considering how flat the terrain Key West and Stock Island are ideal cycling territory.