Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Key West and Other Bits

I don't really know what I expected from Key West. I guess I thought of it as a place with soft beaches and aqua waters washing over delicate seashells, quaint little cottages painted coral or turquoise or lemony yellow with sandy yards and swaying coconut palms towering over the hammocks slung between them; small mom and pop stores selling cigars or produce or meats or various sundries; a slowness of pace and quietness of spirit where you could stroll along tranquil, shaded lanes.

Key West does have nice beaches and aqua water, but I guess I forgot that places like that are tourist traps, plain and simple. There were so many cars, so many people—college kids still on break, a cruise ship that disgorged, en masse, it's voyagers onto the streets; and, the site seeing trolleys and trains whose guides maneuvered the narrow streets dodging pedestrians, poorly parked cars and delivery trucks. I'm glad we took the drive down and saw it for ourselves but, nonetheless, the image in my mind was dashed with the reality of modern culture and souvenir shops. I have no idea why I didn't foresee this happening—why my mind chose to imagine an ideal instead of what I know is the way of it. But, to be honest with myself, I am also one of those tourists who drove my car into this once charming, artsy and quirky beach town seeking abundant and cheap parking and, regrettably, an experience that no longer exists.

I was hoping to visit Ernest Hemingway's house and, although the line to get in wasn't too, too long, I looked beyond the walls, saw all the people milling around the grounds and the balcony and I just couldn't muster up the desire to pay the fee just to get my steamy, hot body that close to other steamy, hot bodies (Rob says he didn't think the humidity was all that bad in The Keys but, oh, if the breeze stops…). I may look back and realize that I should've just done it while I could, but I intend to go back someday because, the fact of the matter is, surprisingly, I really like the Florida Keys.

Besides visiting Key West, there were several activities in which I wanted to partake: Jet Ski in turquoise waters, soak up the sun on a beach and swim in the salty water, kayak the Gulf of Mexico and visit the Dolphin Research Center. Of all these things, we did one on our last day in The Keys and that was to visit the Dolphin Research Center. Rob had a cold for part of the stay and the weather was either too windy or too rainy the rest of the time. I don't get all worked up in disappointment, I just consider it as another reason to go back there in the future.

I was thrilled with the Dolphin Research Center. They allow visitors to get pretty darn close to the dolphins—so close, in fact, that you can tell they are looking you right in the eye. They work with the dolphins several times a day, teaching them what appears to be typical tricks but is actually meant to learn more of the dolphins' capabilities. If you are willing to pay more (much more), you can choose one of several types of dolphin encounters. The Dolphin Encounter lets you swim with them; for a lesser fee you can stand on a submerged platform and interact with the dolphins that way; you can be trainer for a day or researcher for a day; and one that is wonderful for children is painting with a dolphin—a T-shirt is placed over a board and while holding it, a dolphin paints it with a paintbrush in it's mouth. Besides the fun the public can have there, they do good work.

One of the fun and funny things that occurred while we were in The Keys was the evening we went to dinner at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, which is located in Marathon below the start of the Seven Mile Bridge. The Sunset Grille is a place with lots of seating outside overlooking the gulf with sunset views (hence the name), sandy areas where drinks may be had while lounging in Adirondack chairs and chaise longues, and a pool in which to swim while waiting for dinner to arrive or to occupy the kids, and a grass-roof covered bar. 

As we were finishing our meal, a young couple was walking by with their pitbull puppy and, if you know me, I had to meet this sweet dog. We were making small talk with the couple and Rob asked where they were from, to which the young lady replied she was from New Jersey. I am a native Californian but my dad was transferred by Chevron to New Jersey when I was 13 and I graduated high school and had my children there. Our conversation went as follows:

"Really? What part of New Jersey are you from?" I asked.

"Oh," she said, with body language and facial expressions that meant I would never know the place, "Monmouth County. The Jersey shore."

I kept my face completely neutral and casually replied, "So, what part of Monmouth County?"

This young lady, instead of telling me, say, Long Branch or Little Silver or Red Bank, replies, "Exit 105."

Exit 105?! Now, when a person is asked from where they hail, it is appropriate to give a general vicinity as a start. Her first response was reasonable, such as when we are asked that question, we state that we are from the San Francisco Bay Area. If people are somewhat familiar with the place they typically ask for a more specific area until they reach the point of unfamiliarity. But to be given an exit number? Who does that?

So I replied, "Oh, Eatontown!"

The poor girl's jaw nearly hit the concrete patio. I suppose she thought I might stop with 'Exit 105' and drop the subject. As she stood there with her mouth gaping, I asked, "where did you go to high school?"

She said, "Shore Regional."

I said, "Rumson-Fair Haven Regional."

She said, "No kidding! They kicked our ass in soccer!"

I said, "GO BULLDOGS!"

You know, they didn't even have soccer when I went to high school. Small world, though.

I wish to thank everyone who takes the time to read about our travels. I hope you continue to do so. I invite you to leave comments and feedback, especially if you like a particular photograph. If you are not Google + members, you may have to leave comments as 'anonymous' but please 'sign' your name(s) in your message so I know who you are. And if you are RVers, please remind me where we met. I value all of you. Thanks, again.

Our home in the Florida Keys. Best RV park yet.
We stopped in to see this small air museum because Rob remembers being on an Ozark Airline flight as a child.
It just so happens that this particular plane flew Grace Kelly back in the 60s, in the seat that dons her photograph,

The pool at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

Folks enjoying the sunset on the dock at the Sunset Grille.

Going, going…

The view from our table showing the beginning of the Seven Mile Bridge.

The pool after sunset.

On our way to Key West on the Seven Mile Bridge.

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas added a few thousand people to the streets.

Jet Skis! Someday…

The Southernmost Point of the continental US. So many people.

The restaurant where we had lunch in Key West is located next to Ernest Hemingway's house. Six-Toed Cat refers to the cats that Hemingway kept who have produced generation after generation of six-toed cats.

How could I not take a photo of this handsome guy. He was begging for scraps from diners.

Soaking up the afternoon sun.

This pelican let me get within a foot and showed no fear of my camera.

Rob making friends.

Seagulls resting on the cruise ship's lines.

Caught him with his eyes open. I kept disturbing his nap.

This guy at the Dolphin Research Center was very interested in my clucking. He kept looking for the new girl.

It can be disconcerting to be looked at straight in the eye by these beautiful creatures.

This one's name is Rainbow. He's a gentle giant. The center's website has a photo called Double Rainbow. Rainbow is in the air and there is a rainbow in the sky behind him.

Tails. You win!

Going fast! This pair had yellow markings to identify them as mother and child.

Showing off.

Joie de vie!

I'm sexy and I know it.

What a handsome fellow.

In the Mangroves.

Doesn't she look like a dragon?

A spot of color.

Hanging out across from the Tiki Hut.


  1. Linda, I love your stories and ALL your pictures. Makes me feel like I'm with you! Please give Brother my love and you too!

  2. I too love your stories and pictures. Keep them coming.

  3. It is all so very interesting what a lifetime adventure the two of you are on. Enjoying the stories and pictures can't wait to meet you both.. If you want a total different way of life visit Maine ! This is Gods country ! Cousin Lisa!!

  4. another great blog update... but you may have spared me from ever going to see the Keys?!

    1. Oh, Alex, I do not want to spare you from going to The Keys. I say GO! One must choose their time carefully to visit Key West, yes. Go when college kids are in school and try to find out (if possible), if a cruise ship is due in for the day—if not, then it is probably a more enjoyable experience. It is beautiful there, very tropical. Plan to have plenty of insect repellent, though. I had daydreams of living there and jet skiing and kayaking my days away.

    2. Hi Linda & Rob. Great to see this link of your journey. I have a sister in Venice FL who will be visited when we finally get settled. We are finally in our new house in Emmett, ID, the weather is foggy and the photo ops are delightful with the "Poganip" growing on itself. Our RV is still in AZ, until we finish the pad here for its parking place. Our office is chaos, but we are finally back on line..same email, same neglected blog. Hopefully soon I'll catch up and finish the last travel books. Stay in touch and keep the shiny side up. Smith Robinson

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