Sunday, September 27, 2020

Van By The Sea

As picnic plans go I thought it was pretty slick. Take the van go and sit by the ocean, walk the dog, enjoy the breeze and spend a few hours reading and napping. It was my one day off in ten days and I planned on enjoying the view on a lovely sunny day of low humidity and, hard to believe, no rain in the forecast.
Van Life
The text from my boss set me back. Emergency overtime with two people calling out sick. It's that time of year when people like to escape the September heat by taking vacation, so even had I not wanted the extra money I would have had to go in because someone has to be there to answer 911.  I had to leave for work at eleven o'clock so I rushed Rusty downstairs, remembered to unplug the power cord and took off.  
Cudjoe Key
Before hurricane irma wrecked this stretch of waterfront I used to come here every chance I could with a book and a chair and take my ease in the shade. The waterfront isn't very good for swimming as it's rocky and exceeding shallow but the breeze blows straight off the water and on the warmest days its not a bad place to be.
They've rebuilt the bridge supports and the seawall and cleared the bike path and the gumbo limbo trees are growing back. I was surprised to see the state even paid to have the paved access ramp rebuilt after the hurricane tore it up and threw it into the ocean.  So it was the work of a moment to steer the tank down the hill into the gravel and grass.  Rusty hopped out and gave the place the usual once over.
Straits of Florida
However I had a cunning plan. I had previously observed the gravel laid down along the seawall was compressed thoughtfully by some other people and I had walked it with an eye to maneuvering a 21 foot camper van on the track.
Van Life
When Rusty was ready we got back in the van and we drove down the dirt track into the dead end at the end of the seawall. Compared to more experienced truck drivers I worked with many years ago I was not great at backing an 18 wheeler into a loading bay but compared to non professional drivers I have a pretty good grasp of how to go backwards.
Florida Keys Van Life
The Promaster has an excellent (optional) reversing camera which makes it easy and I was confident we could back down if I had miscalculated and the van, all 21 feet of it, couldn't make the turn around. However I backed and frothed a few times, ignoring Rusty's impatience to descend, and got Gannet 2 facing the way we had come.
It's a lumpy track but we took it slowly and aside from some swaying (all cupboards were locked) it was no problem at all and here we are facing the way we had come:
Old Bahia Honda
I released the hound from hell and threw the side door open. 
Florida Van
The hurricane that blew in only increased after I got the back doors open and the cabin became a wind tunnel. Fans, air conditioning and all that were absolutely not necessary. I got my book out and left Rusty to root around outside.
Florida Van Life
It would have been an excellent spot to spend the afternoon and watch the sun set even though most of the view is looking south. A couple of chairs, a table all of which we carry in the basement of the van and we would have been set to have a dinner by the ocean's edge. Not bad.
West Summerland Key
I have 620 days to go until I retire but this is a way and a place to remind myself why I am looking forward to hitting the road.
Promaster 3500 EXT
I am not fond of aphorisms that are thrown out online all the time, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Or "Live your best life" or some other platitude. Portentously stating the obvious. However there is always the exception and I have no idea why I stopped to read this one but it fits with how my wife and Rusty and I are starting to adapt to van life. A little at a time, shifting our perception as we go is how we did it when we moved onto a boat prior to boating away and now we are doing the same as we prepare to go vanning. I found the advice good for life changes putting into words what I have got in the habit of doing over the decades. Its framed for "behaviors" but for me it works for lifestyle changes too!
Slowly the van will start to feel like home if we get this right.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Key West Saturday Morning

There are many things to complain about life in key West and it is a litany all too familiar to anyone who claims acquaintance with the Southernmost City. Prices are too high. Well of course they are when there is so little land to occupy. There are too many bums. To that query one has to ask would you rather be homeless in a snowdrift or spend a sunny winter's day on the bandstand at Higgs Beach?
Key West
Parking. Don't get me started. Everyone complains about parking everywhere all the time. When I worked night shift callers would get on the administrative line to the police department to call out parking control at three in the morning to ticket a car in a residential spot without a parking sticker. At three in the morning parking issues are still high on the list of irritants.
Key West
Wild Chickens. Most people profess to love them, and they are a tourist attraction but personally I prefer native birds like ibis which are clean quiet and dignified. You have to give credit to chickens on the streets, as they are strong family units and they stick together. Rusty hates them and will turn back or cross the street if he spots a chicken or a rooster defending their family.  Cockfights still go on in the shadows as they are and should be entirely illegal. That's what's happening when you see people trapping roosters and hauling them off to burn their combs and strap spikes to their ankles and set them to killing each other. Not at all nice in our gentrifying town even if as some claim it is a cultural thing. Some chickens, some culture, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.
Duval Street
Leaf Blowers and Mopeds. Basically when you live in a city of 23,000 with millions of visitors and an enthusiastic part time population of millionaires eager to prove themselves as artistic Bohemians you live in a place where noise and silence compete vigorously. 
Carolina Dog
Traffic. In an effort to defeat traffic the city has imposed a twenty mile an hour speed limit making everyone a criminal. Overcoming the car culture  is not, as you can tell , going very well. I'm very supportive of the idea of making Duval Street a car free zone but the fanatics on Facebook pissed me off when they used (and use) my picture to illustrate their position without so much as a by your leave. When I pointed out the bad manners they ignored me. I don't have strong feelings about copyright especially as I don't have an army of lawyers to back me up, nor do I make any money from anything I do here but you'd think they could extend the courtesy especially as I point out I am fine with reproducing my pictures if you give me credit. Not a chance from that lot so their car free efforts leave me cold as much as I'd like to see Duval become a pedestrian zone. 
Key West Dive Shop
Young People. I have heard good and bad about growing up in Key West, as I know quite a few people who have done just that. Like any life experience the passage through childhood is colored by the world around you, and happy families seem to have produced, not surprisingly, happy young Conchs. This is a town that worships youth sports perhaps because the competition is so far away but young baseball's routinely (before Covid) traveled to Miami and up and down the Keys taking on all comers without mercy. Parents have been known to get over. enthusiastic at Little League and the performance of adult coaches is scrutinized with all the intensity of major league statistics. The Citizen has, I am told, superb youth sports coverage. The other side of the ease and freedom of growing up in Key West is the claustrophobia. Being allowed to roam free on the island also meant that everyone knew where you were and what mish=chief you were getting up to. Getting your girlfriend pregnant when neither of you was an adult got some stares in the aisles of Publix, I'm told. The attention he said wasn't unwelcome, making him a stronger young man than I would have been. Adults in this town carry over attitudes about young people who struggle to break out driving too fast, being stupid on the water and testing the limits as young people will, only around here there isn't much room and that makes being wild even mildly wild, a difficult thing to get away with.
Key West
Drinking. I am not a very good drinker as alcohol knocks me out. I don't fish and I am not fond of bars two reasons why I walk the mangroves with my dog and plan an ambulatory retirement making tracks up and down the country. I got a call the other day about a man walking around Truman Avenue wrapped in a sheet. Oh I said before I could stop myself, just another day in Key West. Luckily she thought that was funny and we remarked on the fact that perhaps he didn't know Fantasy Fest was canceled this year. The truth about his situation was rather more prosaic: he had vomited copiously on his pants, presumably after a night hard at work not fishing but doing the other thing. While his pants were very properly getting washed and dried all he had to wear was a sheet so he draped himself in his toga until the evidence of last night's excess was washed away.  We joke about drinking but the effects of going beyond your limits are not always spectacularly cultural either. It is a lifestyle that will keep on clashing with gentrification.
Legal Rum
My plan is to cherish as much weirdness and stupidity and cheerfulness as there is on offer for as long as it is on offer. It's easy for me as I live 23 miles away with lots of room to park my cars, no ambulatory drunks, not much noise, few young people and my own canal to swim in on my afternoons off. I just get to walk among the irritations and problems that plague residents of Old Town and upset some of them. It's all good as they will keep on telling us. And let me tell you while I have your attention how much that stupid phrase  "it's all good" annoys me....blah ....blah....blah..there should be a law....(walks. away ranting to anyone that will listen)....(lights. fade....) (blessed silence). 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Still Life

From an evening walk. 

Gratuitous Rusty picture once we got home. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020


I am not a birder, or as they were once known bird watcher, but I have come to appreciate the active life of birds. Lately I have seen quite a few around my camera lens. So here they are, seen hither and yon.

Catching birds in flight is quite complicated without a fast lens and a fair bit of skill.
I watch them standing on the seashore and wonder what they are thinking. 
This one was easier with plenty of sunlight.
Hunting for dinner:

Gratuitous Rusty photo to end, on the trail waiting for the damned photographer to catch up. As usual.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach between the pier and the Martello Tower was empty so I sat at a picnic table and soaked up the sun. White Street Pier was busy and I was content to watch the pier through 400 mm of telephoto. It used to be called solitude and now we call it social distancing.
Key West
So much to see as you stroll White Street Pier. They call it the Edward B Knight Pier after a developer in town who died recently but locally it's just the "White Street Pier" because it juts out like an extension of White Street. 
Key West
A radiant sunny selfie:
Key West
Exercising to the beat.
Key West
The brick wall of the West Martello tower which houses the garden club. It was built along with the tower by the airport as part of Key West's coastal defenses along this uninhabited southern shoreline but the only time either tower came under fire it was friendly. The soldiers at Fort Zachary used the West Martello  for target practice which explains why it's collapsed. The East Martello Tower at the airport is pristine and in use as an excellent history museum.
Key West
It was a a beautiful day to be on the water and I was disappointed I had no time to enjoy myself.
Florida Keys

Key West
I don't think Rusty would be quite so amenable to being held over that nasty dangerous stuff like the dog below. 
The citywide outdoor mask ordinance has been lifted for the moment but masks must be carried and worn outside when social distancing isn't possible. 
Other than coconut palms I was alone.
Key West

A gratuitous Rusty photo to end, taken at Old Bahia Honda because he wasn't with me at Higgs Beach.
Key West