Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Postcards From The Beach

Sunrise. A cheap shot because this is how so many mornings start.
 Roots of an upturned tree.
 In color. Not sure which way looks best.
 Rusty doesn't swim but he loves to run. 
 A swamp. In black and white:
In color:
 The beach looking west:




 Looking west:




Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Card Sound Toll

Card Sound will be changing appearance slightly this week. Starting today we are advised work will begin to tear down the old toll booth next to Alabama Jacks restaurant at the Dade- Monroe county line. In the photo below from a few years ago the Bonneville is just inside the Monroe County line looking south at the toll booth. 
The removal of the booth has been planned for some time and I got a last set of not so great pictures on the fly the last time we drove through and paid the dollar toll. The toll was instituted to pay for the bridge over Card Sound but that bridge was long since paid for and the toll lives on. 
 It was a manual toll booth and during the day two people took your money and gave change. The employees at Ocean Reef got a pass to reduce the cost and starting in February this will be an automated Sunpass machine. If it's like Dade County they will send a bill from a photo taken of your vehicle tag in the event you don't have a Sunpass. 
 It should speed up the process of passing through. On holidays and high travel days the line could get quite long. And all you had to do was proffer a dollar bill...even on a motorcycle you paid a full buck. Grr...
 It was a rite of passage for those of us who prefer Card Sound to the high speed tailgating and low speed performance of the 18 Mile Stretch, Highway One from Homestead to Key Largo.
And now those anonymous interchangeable people are gone for good. If their booth doesn't come down completely today the job will be finished tomorrow so Card Sound is out of service while the work gets done.
Hurricane Irma did a number on the already weak canvas at the toll booth and sadly no one saw any reason to clean up. Oh well. Starting in February they say the new Sunpass machine will be here in it's place.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dinner With Susan

I worked an overtime shift Thursday during daylight hours to help out. We have lost another dispatcher to her growing family so she has quit to take  a lower paid job in the city with more family-friendly daytime hours. We are back to being short staffed so I am suddenly working far too much overtime especially as these are the holidays and everyone is taking time off. I know its Christmas time as there are wreaths on Duval Street.
After my shift in daylight hours my wife met me and we went to visit a friend who lives near the cemetery. I did a brilliant job of parking the car up a ridiculously narrow alley and we sat on her back porch occasionally interrupted by low flying airliners landing at the airport. For people elsewhere Hurricane Irma is over and its time to get back to other normal functions of life but around here the storm has had some profound effects. People are continuing to leave the Keys, trash pick up is problematic and community leaders continue to refuse to face the fact that Monroe County was not prepared and is still no prepared to deal with a similar catastrophe. The thing is now we all know that there will be anther storm and we all hope it will be far enough in the future we can pretend to ignore the implications.
 My wife went to the pharmacy in Marathon last week and it was a struggle for her to get out of class in her lunch "hour" to get her meds. She asked why their hours are now so short. No staff was the reply so they open at nine and close at four. That's all they can manage. I've got someone interested in taking my flooded Bonneville off my hands and I will need to get a copy of the title as I can find it at home. I was planning to go to the little DMV office in Big Pine that's open three days a week and is staffed by nice state workers from Marathon. No dice I was told as that office was flooded and won't reopen. I was crushed as now I have to ride 30 miles to Marathon to get my vehicle papers because the DMV in Key West is staffed by the rudest least helpful humans to inhabit these islands. On the bright side the Shell station on Summerland Key reopened this week, three months after the storm.
However it has no roof and I haven't got gas from a pump without a roof in so long it felt very weird standing there in the sunshine pumping gas into the car. However it was nice to see some small return to normality and I am glad to have a gas station two miles from home once again. There is trash still littering the highway as collection ceased for a while as the state had to investigate some contract shenanigans involving friends of the governor and dubious  payment schedules.  
The creepiest thing is a rumor that is going around that explains why the water was cut off for several days after Hurricane Irma. And rumors will fill the space given to them by the absence of official explanations.  It seems that the water was turned off deliberately to prevent the sewage system from backing up and  filling people's homes. The new system involves individuals pumps that macerate the excrement and push it into the sewer system that will eventually filter the sewage into water. These grinder pumps are buried outside the property line and they need electricity to function. Without electricity they don't work and the fear was that pushing sewage and water into them whehile the power was turned off would cause chaos. So we had no water.  
These problems were foreseen when the county put the grinder pumps out to bid and it was rumored at the time that a friend of an Important Person was pushing these pumps to get the contract. It was obvious at the time that burying an electrical pump in land liable to flood was a bad idea and some citizens have organized a law suit to get the grinder pumps exchanged for a simple and effective gravity system. I have no idea of the extent of the problem with grinder pumps but the rumor would seem to have some basis in common sense.
Which leaves us all wondering where we go from here. Key West missed the worst of the storm but Sugarloaf to Marathon the islands got horribly trashed. There are still people living in hotels at Federal expense. Ten million bucks is to be spent restoring a few hundred homes to a bare livable state. FEMA says they have no trailers thanks to all the other disasters that have overtaken the country this year.People are leaving the Keys. And we speculated over dinner that the numbers of working people fleeing will pick up as the rate of restoration to normality continues to lag and possibly slow down.
I have no idea what role climate change plays in all this but if we get a real threat of another major hurricane next summer, whether or not it hits us, the stream of people leaving will become a flood. We seem to be heading toward a tipping point for working people struggling to hold on in the Florida Keys. 2018 may be a very interesting year all round, elections, weather and Irma recovery all included.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Holiday Parade

From the 2009 Holiday Parade this picture, to remind me of one of my favorite parades in Key West:

The holiday parade is a reminder that some corners of Key West actually represents a small town where real people live out lives that involve normal stuff.  I am  child free so most of that  Key West stuff passes me by but I do enjoy the Christmas parade and it's  cheerful selection of floats  put on by utility companies, local businesses, schools car clubs and so forth. This year  a friend who participated said it was one of the biggest and best organized he's seen  so I feel extra good about having to miss it!

Naturally I have worked the past several years the night of the parade so perhaps I tell myself it isn't as much fun as I remember. No actually it probably is and I used to consider the thrown tootsie rolls as a bonus. 
Like every other employer in the Lower Keys these days we are short staffed so overtime is abundant and free time isn't. But the parade was bad timing this year. For me.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fix A Flat

This diary entry is for me. A milestone in my many years of riding. I finally got a flat and fixed it at home using one of those plug kits that I've heard so much about and that I carry on my Vespas. The only requirement is that the tire not have an inner tube, as my late lamented Bonneville did, the motorcycle that got wrecked by Hurricane Irma.
I checked the tire pressure on both Vespas Wednesday and they were fine. Yesterday afternoon I moved the bikes to wash them. I spray them with S100 and rinse it off and they get a very satisfying shiny look with no elbow grease at all.  Except this time I felt the back end of the orange Vespa wobbling all over the place. I knew what that meant and sure enough I found a piece of metal in the tire. When I pulled it out I could hear air hissing, the last of the forty one pounds pressure leaking away...
So here I was finally face to face with that idea that I could"fix a flat" by the side of the road if necessary.  I pulled the kit out from under the seat and faced my demons. The instructions were brilliantly clear with little color photos to explain each step and a complete bag of tools to do the job. How hard could this be? Yet I still had the niggling feeling at the back of my mind that somehow I would fail, like stopping a  dripping faucet, a job I can never quite accomplish. 
It's a pretty slick package sold for about fifty bucks as I recall by the ever helpful Aerostich company out of Minnesota, the giant motorcycle gear shipping store. They test the products they sell and this one was brilliant because it seems to work.
Rusty was keeping guard for me. Or something. He likes sitting in the driveway watching the world go by.
The plug gets inserted after you ream out the hole and to get it in you use these screwed together tools. It's actually very slick and relatively easy. The Allen tool twists the inner core which pushes the rubber mushroom into the hole through the insertion tool pressed into the tire's surface (below). The mushroom expands inside the tire and presses back against the inner surface sealing the hole. It took me two goes to get it right but there are lots of little mushrooms in the bag. They say you should only use mushroom plugs that have lubrication on them. So the first failed attempt I threw away.
Once the plug is screwed into the hole you retrieve the insertion plug and leave the rubber stem sticking out of what was the hole.
 And there is the stem sticking out of the hole on my second attempt. If I were roadside I'd then use a couple of CO2 cartridges that also come with the kit to re-inflate the tire.  As it was I was at home so I used my handy dandy (Aerostich) pump to get the tire to full pressure. I used the supplied blade to cut the stem off AFTER inflation and that was that.
 A quick test ride up Highway One with a check for leaks using the sputum on the finger method and all seemed well. The little soft rubber mushroom plug looks like this. Terribly phallic I know but it actually seems to work. Amazing.
Whether or not you can treat a plug as a permanent repair is a subject for debate and you can figure out how that goes. From my perspective the hole was small and in the right place (not the wall of the tire) and I have only a thousand or maybe  a little more miles left on the rear tire so if the plug holds, (and why won't it?) I shall ride on it. The good thing about tubeless tires is they usually leak slowly when they get a puncture. I am still quite amazed this half hour operation worked as well as it did. And now I know what I'm doing it is quite the confidence booster.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tropical Bohemia

Rusty walking and leading me along the fences and past the architecture of Key West. This is my life with my energetic young dingo:
There used to be a food truck here and I miss the South African one from many years ago. That was replaced by a  pizza truck and now they are digging a hole. Who knows what's next but probably not a food truck. Restaurants never did much go for trucks when they were popular downtown.
Walking past a truck loaded with belongings I saw a big fat book about Bob Dylan's music. Perfect I thought, some poor deluded hippy coming to Key West to find the spiritual nexus replaced by million dollar conch cottages... The times they are a'changin'
 Oh and don't do like the locals do while you're here either. Tow fees are expensive:
 It baffles me how there are still places like this in a town where the cost of dirt is appallingly high:
 And across the street the expansive public housing complex:
This is the Whitehead Street side across the street from that gigantic tourist attraction known as the Hemingway House:
And there is  a church up the road which I struggle to contain in my viewfinder so huge is the structure: 
When I pass by the Cornish Chapel on Whitehead Street I spare a thought for it's founding benefactor Sandy Cornish who has a fascinating entry in Wikipedia, and herewith an excerpt:

Cornish was born a slave in Maryland in 1793. In 1839, his master hired him out to a railroad-building project in Port Leon in Florida's Panhandle The position allowed him to earn money for himself, and after nine years of work at $600 a year, he was able to purchase his own freedom and that of his wife Lillah. However, the papers showing him to be free were destroyed in a fire. Lacking proof of his emancipation, he was seized by slave traders, but managed to break free. The next day he gathered a crowd of onlookers in Port Leon. He loudly proclaimed that, having purchased his freedom once, he would not return to slavery under any circumstances. He then deliberately maimed himself, stabbing himself in the leg, slashing the muscles of one ankle, and cutting off a finger of his left hand, which he proceeded to sew back on with a needle and thread. These injuries made him worthless as a slave and thus immune to recapture. Friends took him home in a wheelbarrow, and he eventually recovered his health.


Apparently he made his way with his wife to Key West in 1850 where they bought a  farm and made an actual fortune selling vegetables. Because he was a decent sort he ploughed lots of money back into the community that he now called home. Hence the massive "chapel" in his name.

After Hurricane Irma word got around that the big tree at Eaton and Simonton (above) came down. I was afraid to come down and check but it's still here, a bit pruned perhaps as it doesn't seem as dark underneath.
Some things don't change too much in Key West. A few stalwarts hold out against gentrification but one can't say they really add a lot to the city's lost bohemian air: