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Old 11-03-2009, 05:34 PM   #281
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We spent the evening with my cousin and his wife last night. For both of us, we're the only people in our family we know except for his kids. We talked about what each of us knew about our quarrelsome family and have no idea where any of them are, if alive. Wally and I go years without seeing each other and then pick up just where we left off. It was great to see him again. They have a new puppy who is incredibly badly behaved and the strange thing is the last time we were there, they had a new puppy who was incredibly badly behaved. Must be a family thing. Even our dogs are strange.

This morning we left Hollywood, Fla., and drove to Sugarloaf Key, 20 miles short of Key West. I-95 ends just after downtown Miami and you end up on US 1 at Coral Gables. There are alternatives—toll roads with high tolls, something Florida is well known for. I avoided them and drove through one town after another for about 20 miles. Poorly timed lights didn't help, then through swampland and a bridge to Key Largo. The toll roads would have probably saved me several minutes, not worth it.

The Overseas Hwy jumps from key to key all the way to KW—around 100 miles. I was stuck in a caravan of dump trucks most of the way, but we still made it faster than I expected but it took 4 hours to go almost 160 miles. Back in the 1920's a railroad was built by a developer—I think his name was Flagler—to develop the area. Fla. was the scene of major land speculation then (and recently) and many people were taken in. In the early '30's, if I recall correctly, a major hurricane went through the keys and destroyed the railroad. Winds were estimated to be 200 mph. One result was the 1948 movie "Key Largo", a Humphrey Bogart classic also with Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Becall, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor; directed by John Huston. A bunch of thugs are holed up in a hotel when the hurricane hits. It's on TV a lot. The actual boat used in the African Queen used to be docked at the Holiday Inn in Largo; don't know if it's still there, but it's really small. The other result of that hurricane was the Overseas Hwy. It has been rebuilt since. The original bridges are still there and people fish off them. They would be a challenge with a widebody trailer. It can be very slow going. The longest bridge is the Seven Mile Bridge.

During Reagan's presidency the feds set up roadblocks on the highway claiming too many drugs were coming to the mainland through the keys. I don't know if they found any drugs, but they caused such monumental traffic jams the keys "seceded" from the US and established the Conch (pron.: Conk) Republic. You can still buy T shirts here saying Conch Republic. The whole things was a failure and the roadblocks came down. A lot of marijuana used to come through KW years before and many wealthy people in KW made their money in those days. Nobody likes to talk about that.

We are at the KOA, $104 with tax/night. I would not usually pay this much, but after driving 3,000 miles, I want to be on the water. They charge for internet here, so when I said it ought to be included at $100 per night, they gave me coupons to use it free. We have a section of beach and can see the Overseas Hwy. They have a number of RV rentals. Several 5th wheeled monsters and 4 Flying Clouds. I'm told they rent the FC's more often than the SOB's. These Airstream rental units are built specially for rental, but the only different thing I could see is they have steel wheels. This is the most Airstreams we've seen except for JC. We saw one the road and a 27' or 28' International yesterday in Hollywood at the CG. We never did see the people. This is an ok KOA CG although the reviews I read weren't so great. There are only 2 of us at the 9 beach sites so it feels pretty roomy; if more were here, they'd seem narrow. They have an open air bar about 150' away, so maybe later we'll check it out.

Tomorrow we go to Key West. This will be our 3rd time there and the thing I remember most is on the main street, Duval, there are more T short stores than I've ever seen in one place. KW is a fun place with scads of restaurants, legendary bars and very interesting people. And, there's a tropical disturbance off Central America—the weather people say it probably won't amount to much, but I'll be watching it.

I always know I'm in Fla. by the color of the roads. They must use a lot of sand in the asphalt so it's a lot lighter in color than the usual black. I think I've noticed that in other places along the coast. So here it's 2 lane grey top.

Gene
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:50 PM   #282
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Key West Suggestions

Gene,

I hope you read this before you depart for KW tomorrow AM......I know that you enjoy good food as much as I do.

Try to have lunch at Bo's Fish Wagon (any local can give you directions). It looks like a dump, but they have the best fish sandwiches on the island. They also have Conch Fritters, etc., but the fish sandwiche is really great.....I plan on having serveral during our Christmas/New Year's adventure.

For dessert.....The Blonde Girafe Key Lime Factory. There are several stores located throughout KW.....the main factory is at: 107 Simonton St.

Hope you enjoy your visit, and stay for the Sunset celebration at Mallory Square.....an unforgettable everyday occurence.

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:04 PM   #283
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Yesterday the almost full moon came up big and yellow and I could see it through the mangrove trees from the dinette window. After helping Barb carry laundry to the machines—she doesn't want me to help otherwise since she appears to think any man will screw up laundry. I don't understand why she washes whites, blacks and colors separately—seems so inefficient. Maybe that has something to do why she tells me to go back to the trailer. So, we now have another two weeks of clean laundry.

We decided to go to the KOA bar and have a drink. We got there at 9:30 and it was closed. One guy left and the TV on the weather channel. Exciting place. They are getting this CG ready for a 4 day 12 Step group meeting. I guess the bar will be closed. Water main broke just before we left for Key West today, but they fixed it.

The drive to town took about 30 minutes and then we drove around refreshing our memories of where things were and looking for the best parking deal. Decided on a $10/day lot on Simonton just south of Green—centrally located. A lot near the harbor was $4/hour and some others were $10 for half a day. Then the the walking started. I remember when I could walk miles and miles with a backpack with terrible boots and be fine. Now I have little girl's feet and concrete sidewalks are much harder than they used to be.

KW needs sidewalk benches. While wives shop endlessly, what are we to do? Other than going to the courthouse to get divorce papers, standing around hurts my back and those poor dogs need a rest. How about air conditioned benches with a TV?

We found a restaurant with a lot of veggie items, some Asian dishes and seafood called the Cafe on Southard just east of Duval. Barb had blackened tuna and said it was excellent. I ordered crusted tofu with veggies on brown rice and is was good except they seemed to use a lot of chili oil. I like hot foods, but about an hour later I realized I had a nuclear reaction going on in my stomach. I had eaten some of Barb's potatoes to put out the fires, but they became fuel for the reactor. So with my little girl feet, high humidity and strange feelings inside, I felt lousy for a couple of hours. I notice everyone wears shorts and T shirts here—I own Colorado clothes and it seems they are not the best for this climate.

We walked south to the Southernmost Point in the US. There's a big concrete thing there that says it's 90 miles to Cuba and everyone takes pictures of it. It's also the end of US 1 (the other end is in northern Maine). There's a hotel nearby that's called Southernmost Hotel and another place called Southernmost Guest House. There are a couple of problems with all this. You can see it is not the southernmost point as the house next to stretches south of it. There are two hotels south of the Southernmost Hotel. And someone told me it was 105 miles to Cuba. I took the obligatory photo of the not so southern Southernmost Point.

Then we took my delicate, hot feet back north and I made it primary that I find chairs, benches or anything I could sit on, preferably inside and air conditioned. Barb seemed to go in every store, though I know it only seemed that way. We walked the 400 miles along the entire length of Duval St. while I felt my legs were dragging behind me and somehow my body was moving forward (nuclear powered perhaps) dragging my legs and feet behind. We stopped somewhere for Barb to have key lime pie (also mandatory in KW) and a had a few bites afraid the nuclear reaction would be intensified, but it seemed to cool it down a bit.

After Barb went to 10,000th store while I rested on another bench at the end of Duval, I started feeling better and we went to Mallory Square to watch the sunset and the buskers who perform there every day. This is also required of tourists and is on the test.

Since there was a bank of clouds on the horizon, we never did see the sun go down, but we know it did. Some of the buskers are quite good and very aggressive about tips. Some are funny too, others make the same jokes and aren't funny. The best one we saw was a guy who juggled fire and knives on a ladder and on a unicycle. Others can do similar tricks, but it's all in the rest of the performance—the patter and the jokes, tired as they may be, it's in the delivery. We struggled back to our truck and drove back to the trailer.

I figured ice cream would end the nuclear reaction and it did. Now I feel fine and Barb is sacked out on the sofa pretending to watch the World Series. We had a wonderful time, and I mean it. Though mandatory we did not go into Sloppy Joe's.

So Chief, we never got to your two culinary suggestions, but just stumbled on things. I'd go back to the Cafe, but not order anything with chili oil. I have no idea where we stopped for key lime pie, but it tasted just about limeless to me. At that point I didn't care so long as it had chairs and A/C.

Tomorrow we start north taking the Tamiami Trail across the Everglades, just north of the NP. No tolls on that road. We thought of staying somewhere else in the keys, but we'll see plenty of coastline for days to come. Then up the west coast and I figure we'll get to somewhere from Sarasota to St. Pete. From St. Pete through Clearwater and north for a while, US 19 can be a traffic nightmare, but the drive after that is pleasant. We'll go through Chiefland where Chief should live. It's about 3+ days to NOLA where we plan on spending a couple days. Gotta stock up on VooDoo supplies.

I'll have to load photos next.

Gene
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:33 PM   #284
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I hope I have enough bandwidth here to do this.

1. Our parking spot at the Sugarloaf Key KOA. Coconut palms on one side, mangrove trees on the other.
2. Two rental FC's at the KOA.
3. Wrought iron detail of the steps and a gate on the left of old Key West City Hall.
4. Old City Hall. Lots of power lines and transformers in Key West obstructing photos.
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:47 PM   #285
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More photos:

1. Sloppy Joe's bar, just down Greene from the old City Hall at the corner of Duval.
2. Looking south on Duval.
3. KW Women's Club—this house is typical of the more expensive buildings. We saw an old, run down house of about this size with a small lot for sale for $3,800,000.
4. Spanish influenced commercial building reminding me of a lot of buildings in California. Modern bland building to the left.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:03 PM   #286
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1. The old house not painted for decades with profusion of flowers next door on a side street. The guy who owns the commercial propery next door said that house has looked exactly the same for at least 40 years with the porch leaning.
2. Large well kept house south end of town.
3. "Southernmost".
4. Residential neighborhood in expensive area.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:21 PM   #287
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1. Strand theater, now a Walgreens. There a white rectangle above the marque which is a board. Behind it appears more detail and I don't know what the board is doing there.
2. Street scene at Clinton Market.
3. Entrance to Mallory Square. The guy in blue is not sentient.
4. This kid had 6 balls in the air at a time—at this moment 4 are in the air and 2 are passing through his hands.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:36 PM   #288
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Awesome report and pictures, Gene. I haven't been there since before it was the Conch Republic, but things look pretty much the same on Duval Street. I hitchhiked down there in the 70's during the summer. I mostly recall how quiet it was, the heat, mosquitoes, and Hemmingway's six toed cats.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:38 PM   #289
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1. This fortune teller was eating a foot long sub when I tried to take his photo—it just looked perfect, "swami taking break"—but as soon as he saw me with the camera, he put the sub down and resumed looking official. I never saw anyone hire his services.
2. Juggling 2 knives and a float while balanced on an unsupported ladder. Later he juggled torches on a unicycle and I have no idea why I didn't take a picture of that.
2. This is Silverman. He stands there motionless with a wrench in one hand. When someone puts money in the bucket he goes through robotic motions, sometimes picking up the oil can hanging on the bike frame, and does weird things with the wrench and the oil can, but never actually touches the bike, then suddenly stops and waits for more money. His hands, head and bike are all painted silver.
4. Old and new forms of travel—sailboat moving out of harbor with plane in sky above it; just at sunset.
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:09 PM   #290
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Thanks for the photos, Gene, well done.

Looks like the keys still have a lot of that Hemmingway-esque charm, especially the building that has been unpainted since his time...
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:58 PM   #291
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Hi, great stories and pictures. I guess we will have to take our Safari to Florida sometime. I'll have to find out when the weather is good there since we don't travel in wind, rain, snow, hot, or cold conditions. Also $104.00 per night camping is on the high side for us poor people. I thought $55.00 per night along the California coast was high. If I have to, I have to; I can't take it with me. [money to heaven]
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:06 AM   #292
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Great pics and wonderful storytelling.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:28 AM   #293
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
2. This is Silverman. He stands there motionless with a wrench in one hand. When someone puts money in the bucket he goes through robotic motions, sometimes picking up the oil can hanging on the bike frame, and does weird things with the wrench and the oil can, but never actually touches the bike, then suddenly stops and waits for more money. His hands, head and bike are all painted silver.
Great reporting Gene, That guy has a bright future in RV repair . Give my best to the Barbster and keep the stories coming.
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Old 11-05-2009, 11:00 AM   #294
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Gene, if you have time - while in the Chiefland area, visit Manatee Springs. And if you can, visit Cedar Key - it is another of the "end of the earth" kind of places that I'm sure you will enjoy.

We stayed at a cg called Yellow Jacket - it is on the opposite bank of the Suwannee River from Manatee Springs State Park.

Pat
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