Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010 – Day 28 Certified Tourist in Key West Florida, U.S.A.

Today started with a senior’s omelet at Denny’s next door. It was actually quite good and I didn’t eat all the hash browns. Maybe I’ll be skinny by the end of the day and I’ll be able to eat a really big fat dinner?

Before starting out to explore this morning I spent a few minutes surfing the ‘net to see what’s up in Key West. Google had quite a lot as I expected so I chose a couple of places that sounded interesting. It wasn’t easy as there's so many things to see it would take weeks to do it all.

I began with a ride through some of the back alleys where a lot of regular people live. The old houses are to die for; their Caribbean architecture is one that I really like a lot.

After wandering around for most of the morning I was ready for some real touristy stuff so I headed to the Southernmost Point in the U.S.A., the big buoy where everyone has their picture taken. Except if you’re on the road with Charles Kuralt of CBS but that’s another story. Lucky me, I found a parking spot less than a block away and hoofed it on over to do the deal. 

What a mob, who invited all these people anyway? Now I understand why Charles – or maybe it’s Chuck to his friends – decided to go have a drink instead. I elected to pass and settled for a couple of long shots for my scrap book.

Wandering towards the beach area I passed by the Casa Cayo Hueso with their two signs, one promoting the Grand Hotel and the other evidently intended to dispel those ugly rumors about wild parties and 2nd floor ballrooms. Eww…sounds so, uh, wild….

Down at the beach the wind & waves were kicking up a bit and generally keeping the tourists away. They seemed to have all gravitated inland a few blocks to the many attractions there, right where I was headed.

I cut through some more back alleys, had a chat with one of the city’s finest about how big a pain in the patootie tourists in general are, and shot more meaningless pictures. The weather that had started out overcast and unfriendly looking had turned sunny and mild, just right for walking around.

Having no real reason other than Google’s guidance I headed for the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Hey, just listen to how exciting that sounds; it’s what old people do when they get out of the home for a few hours.

I did the deal, paid the going rack rate and climbed the bazillion steps to the top where I shot waaaay too many photos. I counted the steps and I think there are 88 or 89, but can’t say for sure as I may have stumbled a couple of times.

People I meet oft times don’t seem to have much going in the way of a sense of humor. For instance as I was starting up the stairwell in the lighthouse I said to the guy behind me “Hey if you count ‘em and get the number right they’ll give you a prize.” He gave me the dirty look prize.

There's a catwalk that goes all the way around when you reach the top. People who have issues with high places should probably not go there. Or maybe take a paper bag with them if they do. Once you're up there the operators have installed lots of little signs telling you what to look for.
My camera's telephoto feature could be better...

While I was taking more photos there was a sign pointing to Cuba 90 miles away. Turning to another guy next to me and pointing south I said “Look, you can see Castro waving right there.” Mr. Sour Puss grumbled in his best New Jersey accent “I’ll pass on that one.” He was serious...Jeeze…what’s with these people?

At the very tippy-top you can see the light-mirror-thing

I spent a lot of time looking at the view and then descended the umpty-ump not-so-funny-stairs so I could have a look at the museum.
Yes, I'm the lighthouse keeper, may I help you?

No lights were on in the museum, evidently the entire island was having a blackout. One of the grounds maintenance guys was poking around in an equipment shed and I commented that for the price they charge old guys for admission you’d think it would include interior lighting. Finally I meet someone who can laugh.
The price for it was listening to this guy’s life story beginning with his childhood in New Jersey, his brief stint as a cook in the USN, a move to CA and the two years he spent there including his time in San Diego and some other town I can’t remember. Then it was on to Alaska and tales of hitchhiking and getting rides by Indians but not Eskimos…. Huh? The grand finale was the really lengthy tale of getting his eye busted because he was holding his buddy’s 30.06 wrong and the scope got him when he fired it.

Somewhere around the move to Texas…did I leave that one out?...I began edging my way towards the exit and he sort of followed me, still relaying all the misadventures of his life. “Bye bye” I told him and zipped across the street, heading to the Earnest Hemmingway house.

I’m a big fan of Hemmingway though I haven’t read everything he wrote. In fact it took me nearly a year to read For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was in the early 60’s and the book occupied the glove box in my Morris Minor 1000; each day during my brown-bag lunch time I would read a few more pages. After that I read The Old Man and the Sea; still have that one stashed away somewhere. Others I started but don’t recall finishing. Maybe I’m not such a big Hemmingway fan after all?

Regardless of that I’d like to own his house. Well, maybe not HIS house, all those damn tourists would get on my nerves, maybe a house like his house. Where my house is now. You see? Let’s move on. Once past the gate guard/ticket seller I immediately chose the wrong way in. I realized this as there were no other people around anywhere; then suddenly there was an entire herd of them coming right at me and at the head of the line there was a woman with very good lung power. An unhappy woman.

Flattening myself up against the wall I waited as the herd went by. Herself halted them and while doing her best to make certain even the farthest person in the rear would hear her enlightening dissertation, gave me THE LOOK. Somehow I knew I needed to vacate, probably due to my many years of exposure to THE LOOK from innumerous members of the fair sex. I staged left while she and her charges continued on in the right direction. My progress went fairly well; for the most part I had no one at all to compete with while I shot more ridiculous photos.

It always feels weird looking a a dead guy's stuff
So there was this mirror in the garden..
As I was attempting to leave the house an entire new flock of glassy-eyed old people and their grandchildren descended upon the entrance door. The very one I was hoping to use as my escape route. Large people by the score were pushing and shoving to gain admittance while I was again swimming upstream. For a moment I thought I was lost and might have to do the tour all over when a skinny little kid made the crucial error of confronting me while his Granny looked the other way. I said to him “Get outta my way kid” and gave him my Jack Palance look. He backed away and nearly toppled Granny over.

Even the neighbors have nice houses

Outside again I collected Green Girl and rolled out to find a lunch place. One of the things I wanted to sample while here was the local Key Lime Pie and as luck would have it, I ran across one of the Key Lime Pie Factory places. I'm not so sure about the "factory" word, sort of gives one the impression of a large machine stomping out pies doesn't it? Anyway I wanted to have a slice and there was even public parking across the street. Inside the little establishment I immediately noticed a lack of tables, not even so much as a bar stool and counter. The showcase was full of pie slices and whole pies and boxed pies, the works, but nowhere to sit and eat one.

I asked the gal running the place – she and I were the sole occupants – about the eating arrangements, not wanting a take-out. She looked around with raised eyebrows and said “Well, I suppose you could eat one here but I just opened up and these are all frozen.” Actually I thought, I could eat one standing outside in the alley but that wasn’t what I envisioned for my Key Lime Pie experience in Key West, freaking Florida. “Uh, no thanks Ma’m, I’ll just look for a sit-down restaurant; maybe one with the thawed-out variety.” She bobbed her head up and down and I did the exit thing.

I decided to go back to the motel and see what I might come up with in the way of eating establishment ideas so that’s what I did. Along the way I shot one last silly photo, this time of a small marina I’d spotted in the morning. I like boats a lot and if I lived in Key West that little marina would be where I’d want to park my boat. Right after my lotto money arrived.

Back at the motel I finished off the remains of my sweet tea jug and then instead of researching eating options I took a nap. A fairly long nap at that which caused the housekeeping people a bit of unease as they tried to open the double-locked door.

Nap time was over and I could hear my dinner bell clanging away. I’d decided to have a run at one of the restaurants recommended by Stickyfrog, a scooter buddy who lives in Florida so off I went to the Hogfish Bar & Grill located on nearby Stock Island. This is one of those times when having a GPS made all the difference in the world. It’s a popular place frequented by locals as well as tourists but it’s location would be challenging on a bike outfitted with folding maps.
Dinner companions - Izzat what they call the cat's ass?

I arrived with plenty of daylight left and the place was about half full. The service was great, the food even better, and the ambiance reminded me of all the things I love best about the Caribbean. Open air restaurants are an invitation for soft tropical breezes to cool you and can’t be beat for setting a relaxed dining mood. I ordered the Grouper Vera Cruz dinner with Sweet Iced Tea followed by Key Lime Pie.

What a special treat this place was, the perfect end to a perfect day. Thanks for the suggestion Stickyfrog!


  1. I love the lighthouse and Hemingway's house too. Did you see the multi pawed cats at Hemingway house? Glad you liked Hogfish and glad they are still doing well!

  2. I looked for the 6-toed kitties but none would hold still for close examination. They were everywhere, even at the lightkeeper's house.

    Overall this was one of the best days on the ride, couldn't ask for more. Thanks again for telling me about Hogfish Bar & Grill, it was super.

  3. Great cyber journalism Larry ........ photos, descriptions, etc. Keep up the reporting.
    Look forward to you getting close and hope you are well and happy.
    How about some "critical analysis" of your ride? All the technical shit a few of us care about?