Duck Key Fl Oct 25,2011

I was able to sleep in today which I enjoyed very much.  However I had to get dressed right away, as the maintenance man was here bright and early to clean the BBQ so we could use it.  After a leisurely breakfast I started the laundry and put up a post.  It was rather fun to figure out the laundry system here.  This unit is one side of a duplex. I did notice laundry in a closet on the outside of the building.  When I looked in today…all there was, was a dryer.  In talking to the renter on the other side…they have a washer!  So back and forth I went all morning.  Seems like a strange set up…but I did get the job done.

We had a morning visitor and he/she is not afraid of people as I opened the patio door and stepped out to take this photo.  I almost think it decided to pose for me.  We had another visitor this afternoon, but I didn’t see it.  The neighbour had a 2′ iguana on their front grass.  I told her to keep in on her side!  The canal in front is fun to watch.  Depending on the tide the water runs to the west, or east.  Apparently there are tarpaulin (fish) in the canal but I haven’t seen anything……which is OK with me…in case there are other critters lurking about.

The weather was wonderful today with a breeze and a few high clouds.  The temp was 84 so I got out the Kindle and started working on the tan.  Brian snuck out and took this photo.  I debated whether to post it or not….it’s as bad or worse than the “Anne of Green Gables” one.

I think we’ll head to Key West soon. They have a ten day Annual Fantasy Festival going on, so it’s going to be a busy place.  They have dress up parades and contests for people and animals.  I don’t see any events scheduled for Thursday so perhaps we’ll go then.

We are watching Hurrican Rina.  If we knew what she was going to do, we could wait until next week to go to Key West, but for all we know, we may have to leave Dodge before the weekend.  We’re only a few feet above sea level so is there were a storm surge, we’d be under water.  I know I am always looking for an adventure but a hurricane isn’t one I was looking for.  Stay tuned.

Duck Key Oct 26, 2011

I’m writing this from the shade of the Tiki Hut, although I don’t need shade, we’ve been cloudy most of the day. I awoke to the smell of Pillsbury Cinnamon buns baking….you know the day got off to a good start.

 

I spent part of the morning looking for things to do and places to stay once we leave here.  It’s rather frustrating as we are uncertain about Hurricane Rina and how long we are staying. We have the unit rented until the morning of Nov 3.  We only get a refund if a mandatory evacuation occurs.  If we leave early on our own, we are out of pocket.  I really would prefer to stay even if we get a bumpy ride for a few days, but Brian is very hesitant.  Hopefully mother nature will be kind to us.   We went for a ride today to tour around Duck Key.  We were present when a fishing party of six arrived back from their morning fishing.  They hung their catch for photos.  I don’t know what they paid for their outing but this catch wouldn’t have impressed me much. 

We toured around Duck Key today and saw some lavish homes, most of which are vacant.  I can’t imagine how much money it takes to keep one of these homes and use it only a few weeks a year. The maintenance is high as I’ve seen landscapers working in the yards, pool men cleaning pools etc.  Besides the fabulous homes, usually a yacht is sitting tied up outside the home.  Times must be tough for some people as we see lots of businesses closed and buildings falling apart.

In our travels this morning we noticed people like to dress up their mail boxes.  This is the cutest I’ve seen yet.  After a quick lunch we went to Marathon to pick up a few things.  I was able to find a salon as I need to get my nails and hair done.  I have an appointment at 9 a.m. tomorrow, so I guess I’ll have to get out of bed before breakfast.

 Our friend Bob keeps us posted on our little dog Molly.  It seems she is having no

problem training him to her way of things.  She has set his schedule just like she did for us.  We have a little pet here too.  Very friendly little fella who showed up as Brian was cooking dinner.  One quick move and he could have ended up on the Barbie!  Seems he shows up every afternoon.  I would prefer he didn’t!

 

I like to bird watch and was hoping to see a variety of birds but so far, not so much. This fella likes to come and drink from the pool.  You can get just a few feet away and you just get the evil eye look in return. 

The weather will be directing our activities for the next few days, so not sure what we will be doing.  One thing I do know is the over night low is always around 75 F so I won’t be looking for winter clothing!  I can’t beleive how many places have had their first snow.  I am very happy in knowing we’ll be escaping winter for the most part.  Now is only we can escape Rina.  I will close by posting a photo of my dream home.

 Has a little mother in law suite here on the side

 

 

 

Duck Key Oct 27,2011

I have not been able to log onto the internet using the wireless service in our rental.  I have however, been able to log onto a nearby connection but these past two days it has become very unreliable and difficult to log onto.  I finally called the owner and tomorrow they will send out a tech.  I will do up a little post and hope the connection holds.

I made it to the salon in time for my 9 a.m. nail appointment.  The gal was very good and done in record time.  During our time together she regaled me with stories of her experiences with Key West Fantasy Festival which is currently going on this week. It’s a ten day party attended by a large gay component.  Wild parties and activities are the norm.  There are a number of contests…the pet parade contest, celebrity look a like, and a halos and horns pool party & wet T shirt contest.  There are parties galore such as Dungeon of Dark Secrets & Fetishes.  That particular party description is ” Unleash your darkest desires. Dress to thrill:PVC,leather,latex,uniform,period,levi,underwear,vintage,glam,cyber,burlesque,masks etc.”  If that’s not to your liking perhaps “Exposed” may be more appealing….if offers “Everyone is welcome to this clothing optional outdoor hot tub and foam party, plus inside black out/black light dance party.”  This fesival ends on Sunday and is held in Key West.  We decided to pospone our tour until Tuesday.  Apparently the place is wall to wall people on the streets.  For $200 per person you can get into a bar where you can sit and drink all you want and have access to the bathroom, which you don’t have if you stick to the street parties.  If you really want to know more, check out www.fantasyfest.net  I haven’t checked out the site, a simple list of events was enough for me! That and she told me you may often see men wandering around with only a sock on…..read carefully….I said a sock on…like as is one sock placed…..well I’m sure you can figure that one out.  I could just see Brian in that atmosphere.

In addition to getting my nails done, I also got my hair colored and cut.  Again I got a pretty good cut.  My hairdresser has sent along with me, the color formula and product she used, so we were able to get a pretty good match.  I think the hair will last until I get home but I may need to get nails done while I’m in Dallas. 

The weather continues to be warm and humid but cloudy.  Today we had high clouds with occasional sun but I managed to work on the tan and may have a bit of sun burn on the chest.  The day time highs are 83 with humidity about the same and overnight low of 75.  I could get used to this.  Spent the afternoon at poolside talking with the neighbour.  The pool is not heated so I go into up to my knees and that provides enough cooling.  The water itself feels cold.

The above photo on the right is of the canal in front of our rental unit, and as I mentioned in an earilier post, depending on the tides, it flows left to right, or right to left.  Still haven’t figured out which one is tide coming in or out.

Not sure what is on the agenda tomorrow, but likely more touring around….after the cable guy is done.

Duck Key Oct 28,2011

Today was a surprize…mostly sunny with a few high clouds. I took full advantage of the sun and sat out most of the day, however I did finally retreat to the shade for awhile.  What’s the expression “only mad dogs and Englishmen sit out in the hot day sun.”  Not sure which category I fit.  The temp was 85 and the humidity 90.  Talk about a suana! I had to wait for the internet/cable guy, so Brian went to town and bought more grocieries in case we get nailed with the reminents of Rina and have to hunker down for awhile.

As you know we are renting a duplex and the renters on the other side are leaving tomorrow.  We’ll be sad to see them go.  They had an excess of fresh fish, and last evening they brought over two beautifully pan fried fish for our dinner.  This afternoon Fran and I spent the better part of the afternoon chatting ( as we have for the past several days).  That is Fran on the right and Jennifer on the left.  Their hubbies and Jennifer have gone out fishing most days leaving Fran to keep me company.

It has been so humid today we’ve had to use air conditioning and when we go out, Brian’s glasses fog up and so did my camera lens when I went to take the girl’s photo.  

For the most part we have eaten in, but thought if the forecast of three days of rain holds true, perhaps we should go out this evening while it was still nice.  We went to a place called Annette’s.  We have seen the glossy magazine ads and not wanting to feel out of place, phoned ahead to ask about dress code.  The response was, if you have a top and bottom on, you can eat here. When we arrived we realized we were almost over dressed.  The well worn waitresses wore ill fitting short shorts or short skirts complete with grey dirty T shirts.  I had the Lobster Mac & Cheese and it wasn’t bad.  Brian had the sliders which according to the menu were “favorites.”  They arrived way under cooked and didn’t get any better once they were cooked.  Definately a pass.  I ordered Key Lime pie to go. 

Upon leaving the restaurant, it started to rain a bit.  Duck Key is 19 km down the road from Marathon so by the time we arrived back here, it was raining prettty good.  They don’t have rain shutters so we got a little wet coming in.  We didn’t leave an outside light on so finding the hole for the key in the dark was fun. At first the lighting was high in the clouds, but within minutes of returning here, the lightening got intense and close.  I was worried we may lose power, so opted to run out to the car to retrieve our flashlight.  I stayed close to the house and did OK until I had to make a mad dash to the car.  All I can say is I looked like a contestant in the wet T shirt contest when I got back in.  I was soaked through and through.  It’s been a long time since I experienced such a down pour.

The rain continues off and on as I write.  I have taken a break to share the Key Lime Pie.  If you go to Annette’s in Marathon Florida….skip dinner and go straight for dessert.  It was very strongly flavoured of lime and was very yummy.

Key Largo Oct 29,2011

We awoke to an unexpected treat today.  High cloud and mostly sunny. We decided to take advantage of the fine day and set out to see the sights.  Our friend Bob had suggested we stop in at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo.  The boat the “African Queen,” used in the filming of the movie of the same name, was on display and we should stop in for a viewing. For those of you old enough to remember the movie, it starred Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Having seen the movie, I never thought the old bucket survived the movie, yet according to the information given, she continued to be used by the British East Africa Railway until 1968 to shuttle passengers and cargo across Lake Albert between Belgian Congo and Uganda. She has been around the world twice and you can rent it for “a nostalgic experience.”

We had a light lunch at the hotel then board MV Key Largo Princess for a trip to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park. The Princess is a large glass bottom boat with a capacity of 120 people.  Today we were 1 of 8 with three crew members. I was surprized they sailed with so few passengers.

Anyone who has travelled with Brian would know we arrived almost an hour early for our scheduled departure.  We were prepared to enjoy the sunshine while we waited but mother nature had other ideas. Out of no where, came rain clouds that opened up and let loose a torrential downpour.  Those caught in the open were soaked within seconds.  We were able to find a canopy like the folks across in this photo.  For 45 minutes it would come and go. As if by magic, we board the boat, the clouds moved away and we had a grand sailing.

The crew explained the air conditioning on the lower deck( where the viewing / glass bottom) is located, wasn’t working and we would be more comfortable up top.  As we approached the reef the swells were getting high and we had a bumpy ride, but the cool breeze helped me keep my cookies. ( I get sea sick easy).  Once we arrived at the reef we were invited to the lower viewing area which was like a sauna and the boat rocking side to side. I figured I’d soon be in trouble.  The guide pointed out the various fish and coral.  The angel fish were very beautiful.  In hopes of snatching a few photos I leaned into the viewing area and very soon became quite ill. 

That’s the reason you only have this sole photo of a jelly fish.  The rest of the trip I spent outside praying for a cool breeze and the ability to keep my lunch.  I not only lost lunch, but breakfast too!  The staff came to my aid ( and one other lady…thank goodness it wasn’t just me) with a glass of ice.  I grabbed the ice and rubbed it on my head, neck, face and arms and that did help the situation. While I enjoyed most of the trip, I was glad to get back onto land.

Once again as we sailed through the canals to get to open water we passed many beautiful properties complete with a nice boat parked in the front.

As we drove back to Duck Key, you could see heavy clouds in the distance.  Once again we are experiencing heavy rain and a noisy thunderous evening.  If it is going to be sunny at day and rainy at night….I’m okay with that.  Hopefully will have some time in the sun to continue to work on the tan tomorrow.  All in all, it was another great day.

Late Entry:  The great day just got even better.  The unit’s owner and friends are here this weekend.  They just dropped off for our enjoyment…two fresh lobster tails.  How good is that?

 

 

Duck Key Oct 30,2011

This will be a short post as we had a very quiet day doing some housekeeping duties (laundry) and pretty much just sat reading and enjoying the day. Brian spent the day catching up on football while I sat out in the occasion sun but mostly cloudy day, by the pool and read. On occasion people pass by on the canal as seen here. Other than that it’s extremely quiet.  We are expecting the other side of this duplex to be occupied some time today but so far no one has shown up.

We spent some time planning the next leg of our trip.  We have about 1600 miles between here and Dallas and about 16 days to spend getting there.  We will spend a couple of nights in Naples, and plan to visit Busch Gardens in Tampa.  We expect to spend three days in and around New Orleans and take some tours in each of these places.  Some of the tours are pricey but we both agree we will regret not taking every opportunity now while we are here. 

Who knows what the future holds so we are going to go for it!

Driving trip to Key West Oct 31,2011

We drove to Key West today for something to do and to check out where to park and how to catch the tour/s we may be interested in.  Let me tell you…the biggest problem will be finding a place to park. I did find a few spots but they were well away from the “tourist” areas.  We did find a spot near “Higgs Beach” pictured here….so we parked and took in the view from the pier.

We drove all around Key West “Old” part and nary a parking spot to be found.  We did find a sign offering free parking outside the city and it looks like the “Hop On / Hop Off Trolley” may provide transportation from Stock Island to their Key West terminal. I have tried phoning for more information but they aren’t reachable…..lovely.  We will persist and do the drive again tomorrow and hope for the best.

We did find the most “Southern Point” in the USA.  To the left of this shot is a line of 100 people, waiting in line to get their photo taken like the fella seated.  Don’t know if there was a charge, I just snapped this freebie from the car.  We did see some beautiful historic homes and buildings and do hope we can find a way to see this part of Key West, and of course stay until sunset to snap photos of the remarkable sunsets they have in this area.  Tomorrow, unlike the mostly cloudy day today, is supposed mostly sunny, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

I a very glad we took the tour of Flagler College when in St Augustine.  It was on that tour we learned of “Flagler’s Folly” to build a rail line from Jacksonville to Key West Florida. During our drive to Key West today, part of Flagler’s original bridges flank the current bridges.  When he built the bridges it would appear he did not consider the height of boats/ships that may wish to pass under, and I rather think they would have had to sail all way around the rail line to get to waters on the other side.  In 1935 a savage Hurricane level 5 destroyed much of the line and the rail line was later converted to a two way road.  Thirty years ago a new highway and bridge system was developed.  On occasion you will see where gaps in the old road have been created to allow boats to pass through.

Double click on the photo on the left to see a part of the “Seven Mile” bridge.  It’s amazing to see what man can build but more amazing to see what they created in the late 1890s.  All of the materials, supplies for the bridges and rail lines, including housing and food for the men building the rail line had to be shipped in.

After all the sacrifices to build the structure, part of it is now derelict and allowed to rust and steel railings crumble.  This photo is taken from the new road and the concrete wall you see is the new bridge safety rail.

During the drive we saw vast areas of mangroves.  I had always thought they were land extending plants.  They grow in salt water, some able to absorb just fresh water and others absorb salt water, expelling the salt through their leaves.  They are however not land extending plants.  They are however coastal protection plants.  During hurricanes or windy conditions, they help break up the waves, therefore preventing errosion to the coastline. In addition they shelter many species of fish, turtle and birds and provide a nutrient rich environment. Florida has lost miles of mangroves and they are doing what they can to preserve and protect the remaining areas.

In line with the comment “To serve and protect” I would like to share something I have heard several times during our trip in the US.  Today at lunch a young man, his wife and child came in to eat at TGI Fridays.  He had on a military type T shirt ad the waitress asked if he was in the sevices.  He indicated he had been in the past. A short discussion followed and as she left the table she said ” Thank you for your service to our country.” As I said, this is not the first time I have heard this in recent weeks.  I’m a baby boomer and can’t help but compare this to the reception received by the Vietnam veterans upon return to the US.  They were on occasion spit upon and no one acknowledged them or their contribution.  Most of them were drafted not vounteers like they are today and fought in conditions too awful to think about.  I am so glad the American people have come around, and no matter the cause, pause to say thanks to those willing to give their life for others. We in Canada need to do the same.

In closing I have one more road sign for you.  We have passed a Key Lime Pie factory.  Today we saw one of their billboard signs.

“Fight Scurvy

Eat Key Lime Pie”

I’m certainly willing to do what I can to stay free of scurvy!

Key West Fl Nov 1, 2011

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed today with sensory overload.  We saw and did so much, I’m still spinning.  We got up at 630 in order to get an early start and perhaps a parking spot.  We stopped and had breakfast at I Hop then continued on to Key West. We found a Trolley stop just off of Highway 1 that offers free parking.  We pulled in and bought our tickets. The lady was not clear and we bought Train tickets.  As the shuttle bus was taking us to stop 1, the bus driver indicated that the train goes around once and once you have completed the loop, you are done.  We wanted the Hop On Hop Off ability so he enouraged us to plead our case and hope they would exchange the tickets…especially as they were the same company.  We had to purchase Trolley tickets and were told they would refund the other…but the refund receipt would be at the place we bought the original tickets, miles away.  How dumb is that.  Anyway we set out and did the complete 90 minute tour. We passed the Key Lime Pie man as above. They claim to have the best Key Lime pie and will send you some.  They take a slice of pie, coat it in chocolate, freeze then ship it. I think I prefer my pie straight up…no chocolate.

The sunsets on the Keys are said to be wonderful and not to be missed.  This ship will take you out for a two hour trip.  Right beside this ship is a bar that opens at 7 a.m.daily.  We passed it at 930 and it was half full.  What a way to start a day.

After the first go round we decided which stops we wanted to do and which tours / sites we may wish to see. We stopped at the Crowne Plaza La Conche hotel, the tallest building in Key West.  The height restriction is now 35′, La Concha is 6 stories.  At no charge you can ride the elevator to the roof top and see the panaramic view.  The entire city is laid out before you and the sights are breath taking.  As it was getting closer to noon we set out to find a spot for lunch.  Everywhere we went we saw Jimmy Buffet’s home, recording studio and we found his restaurant ” Margaritaville.” The trolley driver highly recommended the cheese burger, which Brian ordered while I stuck to an appetizer of crab cakes.  Stick to the cheeseburger!  After lunch I stopped in at the attached gift shop.  I was keen to get a T shirt however upon examination of a sleeveless top, fabric the consistency of tissue paper and the cost of 23.95, I decided I could live without it.

We hopped on the trolly again for the next stop…. the Ernest Hemmingway museum, which was Brian’s choice.  After paying $12.50 each we were in. The first thing we noticed were the cats.  They have 47 cats all decendents of “Snowball” Hemmingway’s six toed cat.  The photo below is a fountain for the cats.  The tile on the bottom is trying to hide the fact, that it is a urinal purchased by Hemmingway from the old Sloppy Joe’s bar ( likely a favorite haunt of his.)  In addition to the tile, his wife tried to make it look better by adding this imported spanish urn.  The house itself, is made of stone harvested from the sight the house sits on and it’s walls are 18 inches thick, so it has survived anything mother nature and Ernest could throw at it.  The house was built for a cost of $8,000.  On one occasion when Ernest was away for a long period, his wife thought she would surprise him with a swimming pool.  Now remember the property was solid rock, so the pool cost $20,000.  Upon his return, he was indeed surprized and gave his wife a penny from his pocket and told her “Well you might as well have my last penny.” That penny is imbedded into a walk by the pool.

We noticed a drop in the amount of  people wandering around “Old Town” Key West today.  The Fantasyfest people were gone and so were the guests from two cruise ships in harbour yesterday. We decided to “hop off” and get this photo of Brian at the most southern point of continental US. To get there we walked by the most southern “bar” “hotel” and “house”.  Everyone seems to want their 15 minutes of fame.

I am finding it difficult to pick photos to put into the post……I only have 74 to chose from. 

The old homes cannot be destroyed and must be restored to their original facade, as a result they have over 3000 houses with a national “historic home” designation. This home pictured on the right is called a “shot gun house.”  The front and back door are straight across from each other allowing ventilation for the home. The reason for the name they say is when both doors are open it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun. 

Our friend Bob told us we mustn’t miss a Keys sunset.  We have had very few days without cloud at sunset, so today was a good chance to try to capture it.  So Bob this one’s for you!

 Those of you who know me, know I love flowers and nature.  I’m going to post a couple more photos you may like. These were taken in the garden at the Hemmingway home.

 

Monarch butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Flowering shrub   unknown to writer

 

 Another Key West landmark home.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a long day and there is so much more I could have put into this post.  Perhaps I should just leave it to my readers to come to this part of the world to experience yourself.

Good Night Irene

Happy 70th Birthday to Brian Nov 2, 2011

Our last day in the Keys. We leave early tomorrow morning to head to Naples,Fl.  Today was spent doing laundry and generally getting things in order to leave.  We had to book our hotel, and plan the next leg of our road trip.  Today is also Brian’s 70th birthday.  Happy Birthday Brian!  He got a mushy card and dinner at the Outback Restaurant in Islamorada.

I haven’t any photos from today so will insert a few from yesterday.  The photo above right is taken in Key West and is the oldest home in Key West. Built in 1648 I believe.  There is no natural occuring wood in the Keys so these old homes were made of wood from ship wrecks.  They didn’t use nails, but wooden dowels for nails.  The attic was designed to allow wind to pass through as well. As a result in a big storm the house tends to sway and move and therefore have survived the hurricanes.

You can’t help but notice the chickens freely roaming the streets of Key West.  When cock fighting was banned, they simply let the birds go and they continue to survive and thrive as seen in this photo above.

We finally got a clear day with a breeze so I spent some time sitting out reading by the pool.  Like this cat at Hemmingway House, I may have had a mid day snooze as well.  I must say so far I’m enjoying my retirement and Bob tells me my first Canada Pension cheque is waiting for me at home. 

We’re heading to Naples Florida and will try to take in the Everglades either as we pass through or will take a tour.  To date we have not been able to find any Manatee but Naples has two places offering tours…..one to see them in the wild and the other are captured.  I really don’t care how I see them, I just want to see a live one.  Hopefully in the next few days I’ll be able to post a photo of one.

We’ll be heading out on the Overseas Hwy as seen on the photo left.  From Homestead to Key West, you cross over 42 bridges, the longest being the “Seven Mile Bridge” which is actually 6.89 miles in length.  It’s quite a drive however the road is narrow so the driver needs to concentrate so you don’t stray and go for a dip.