Jewfish Creek Bridge, The Video

Once upon a time, I made my trip to the Florida Keys.

There is a very stark break between the mainland and the Everglades in Florida City.  Everything simply “Stops”.

You get past that and there are a very few businesses way off in the middle of nowhere.  A cement factory and a quarry come to mind.  A marina is just on the other side of the Monroe county line.  But until you get to Key Largo, there’s practically nothing but grass and nature.

And this one massive scar through the landscape called US1.

Granted it is a scar, but you actually need it there to get to the Keys.

I am sure some people who are more ecologically aware would say that it does not belong there, nor do we in an ecological niche like those beautiful little jewels, but there are also people that would argue that nobody should live below the I-4 line where the land ceases to be land but more like a swamp.

Like I said, I’m not that ecologically aware.  My own feeling is don’t expand it, and contract development in the keys where possible.  But no draconian solutions, please.  They are beautiful and we can enjoy them if we play nice with nature.

Just before you go onto the island that Key Largo is on, there’s one big deep water gap.  A “Cut” so the larger boats can go into or out of the Florida Bay.  That is at what is now the Jewfish Creek bridge.

I realize I am being a small bit imprecise, but grant me that.

Since the old drawbridge was replaced years ago, they built an improved structure and then the bridge we have now.

The bridge itself is kind of minimalistic, maybe a bit stark, and painted in aqua blue, which is befitting of a place as knock down beautiful as the keys.

One of my earlier trips I took a picture and wrote about it.  For some strange reason in all the 8 or more years that I have been writing, that particular article gets read frequently.

What I did was revisit it.  I was down there for my birthday, a few days later.  Knowing that I was going there,  I brought my little video camera for the trip.  Hopefully this video will satisfy the area’s fans.

Hopefully my color commentary won’t offend too much and that my very shaky hand is not too awful.  But for now, I present the video.  For your pleasure or disdain.

Video – A Trip To The Fort Lauderdale Beach, January 28, 2017

Yep, I had the camera on and the phone in hand.  I remembered to hold the thing the “right” way so you don’t get one of those stupid videos with bars on either side.

A trip to the beach.  Full HD.  Me acting goofy with the radio on in background.  The idiot software on youtube says that there’s a copyright in the music so you’ll have to tell me if it causes a problem.

Anyway, if you’re feeling cold and icky, this was my ride home in the Jeep from the burger joint I went to for lunch that day.  Kind of hard to bark at a trip like this and I had a clean ride North on A1A.

 

Now, that whole bit about practicing Spanish at the beach that you hear me laughing at myself with?  You see, since I am learning the language, I listen to very little English Language radio.  I always did like what we Anglos would generically call “salsa” but there are many more genres than just that.   So I put on the one station on the radio in the car, and in the kitchen, and sometimes on the speaker network in the house.   I also watch a minimum of an hour of Spanish Language TV per day but that varies and can be “the whole afternoon”.

I did enjoy the drive anyway, and it was nice to get out of the house and have a burger with a very good friend.

Here’s the drive back.  If you’re hating the weather where you’re at, feel free to watch this.  Aqua Colored Water, Brilliant White Sand, and a whole beach full of people.

On A Good Day, They’re Still A Dog. How Rack Is Afraid of Buddha

I used to take trips with my dog, Lettie.  She was what we call a “Mostly Mc Nab”.  Part McNab Dog, Part Border Collie.  She would curl up on the seat of the car and mind her own business until she thought there was something that needed attention.  Snap my fingers, there she was.

My own philosophy of training a dog is not to treat them like a human, but expect more of them than a dog.  In otherwords: complex behaviors yes, “Sit Up And Beg” no.

One trip from Philadelphia to Florida, Lettie was with me.  She was riding in the Jeep, sometimes top down, sometimes not.  We hit a shower with the roof down and she just looked up at me, judged me silently, and curled back into a DogBall with her tail over her face as if to say “Hey, stupid, pull over and put the roof up!”.

We pulled into the rest stop.  I got the roof up in the drizzle that was now ending, and she hopped out of the car.  I wasn’t too worried, she knew what she wanted.  The light pole at the end of the parking space was calling her.  I left the door open, she climbed up and went back to dog ball.

Next to me was a police cruiser.  I closed the door to the car, and the officer got out with his dog.  There was that same bond that I had with my Lettie.  You just seem to fit together, hand and glove.  We talked about that sort of training and he made his comment.  There are days when dogs don’t get it right because “On a good day, they’re still a dog”.

Just don’t expect too much.

On the beach we arrived.  I’d take her out for her march around town.  There was an apartment building there that was rather close to the walkway.  In front of the walkway was a concrete Lion.

Lettie got it wrong.  Fur went up.  Teeth bared.  She started barking at the ornament.  That thing didn’t belong.  I stopped her, got her calmed down, even showed her what she did.  The rest of the walk she acted much more toned down, even submissive, if an Alpha Dog could ever be submissive.

I was thinking about that the other night.  Rack has the same knife edged sharp intelligence as Lettie did.  He’s a pure-blooded McNab Dog.  At least we think he is because he looks like the textbook and acts like one.  We’ll never know because he’s a rescue.

He takes notice of things around town.  He knows where the restaurant is that they come out and fuss over him with cookies, and he knows where the ice cream shop is that he can go to socialize from time to time.  He’s learning which local dogs to avoid, and which businesses have an out of control yapper inside that will lunge at the door.

If your dog lunges out of control, you are not the boss, your dog is.  Train the dog.  You will both be happier.

It usually has those abstracts that all look roughly the same, smudges of color meant to look nice and inoffensive.  You might expect to see that sort of thing in a corridor somewhere.  I don’t really pay the gallery all that much attention.

All of the sudden Rack starts barking like crazy.  Something was out of place.  I looked at him and he was barking at the door.

There was someone looking back at him.  Buddha.

Sitting on a small table by the door was a concrete or resin statuary of Buddha.  About the size of a small child, it sat there serenely watching things go by.  The Thai art tradition, it had a head dress on it and a card next to it announcing the gallery’s services.

Rack did not like this at all.  It was out of place, and it threatened him by looking back at him.

“WOO WOO WOO WOO!”

Rack, stop.

“Grrr, WOO WOO Grrr”

He slowed down to a slow grumble.  His normal fearful self came out.  Leaning about 45 degrees to the ground on his purple leash, the fur on his back was standing as close to straight up as you could get.

It’s OK, boy, lets go.

He scrabbled an arc away from Buddha and we went on his way.

Yep.  On his best day, he’s still a dog.   We’ll have to work on that one.  I bet next time he will become one with the Buddha and approach enlightenment that the statue shall not harm him.

I hope he will.  Silly dog.

Looking Out At The Everglades at 5 MPH

Of all of the activities that are available to people in an industrialized society, this is one of the more pointless ones.

We built a road through one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Everglades.  But true to form, it is not suitable to task so you end up sitting in traffic.

Actually, through all the years and the many trips, maybe even hundreds of trips, that I have taken to the Florida Keys, this was the first time I had been stopped in traffic at this particular spot.

By “this particular spot” I mean the 20 mile long corridor between the end of the mainland at the split for Card Sound Road in Florida City to the beginning of the Florida Keys at Key Largo.

You see, true to form, they widened the road.  But it is still just two lanes for the majority.  One lane up, one lane down.  Any traffic mishap and you’re stuck until someone figures out a way to unstick it.  It used to be exactly one lane down and back.  It’s a road built on an old railroad causeway after all.  Then it gained a shoulder because if it didn’t have one you would have that same road blocked for hours.

The latest iteration was when the roadbed gained an actual barricade down the middle so that people falling asleep in the middle of the night don’t drift over onto opposing traffic.  Improvements in drainage were made as well as the bridges were raised a bit.  This being Florida, they weren’t allowed to say Global Warming or Climate Change because we have a state government infested with Republicans and other climate change deniers, but things were raised nonetheless – “Just Because”.

However, the passing lanes were retained.

Instead of having two lanes down and two back, there are three separate Passing Zones.  Think of it as a place where the absolute best of driving habits come out to play. 

Mom and Dad in their giant motor homes trailing a regular car behind them can’t maintain the speed limit which is theoretically 55 MPH.  They collect quite a few people behind them.  When the road widens for the passing zone, everyone behind the motor home floors it and tries to pass.  When they all reach the end, everyone tries to merge in front of the motor home.  The motor home slows and creates a new tailback behind it.  Each time this happens it gets a little worse.  You end up with a 20 mile section of road that has a permanent traffic problem on the weekends and holidays. 

You never want to drive to Key West on a Friday on a long weekend.

If it does happen to clear, it will happen again. Either a food truck, a motor home, or just some fool from the Midwest who is driving just a little too slow for everyone’s liking will start it over.

My own personal favorite are those large trucks full of food going to refuel the restaurants.  The trucks are typically governed and under orders not to “maintain traffic speed”, which is good and correct, but the cars stuck behind them will drive like fools anyway to get past them.

Since the entire road from Florida City to Key West is 125 miles, everyone everywhere tries to keep in front of those trucks.  All the food comes in on the same trucks.

So you end up checking the GPS for traffic information, see that the road is lined in red or dark red, and decide whether to head to the Keys or not.

When you get there and look out your window you see scenes of natural beauty unlike anywhere else.  You’ll still be stuck, but it is still a beautiful scene.

Celebrating Craig’s Birthday by the Sea

There has to be a reason, a good one, to drive 100 miles.

Actually it was drive 100 miles, get stuck in traffic for a solid hour at a walking pace, see some beautiful scenery, and finally end up slightly lost.

Yes, we had GPS.  But we had been there before.  We also knew where we were going, but like the saying goes “Not all who wander are lost”.

While I’m dropping the old hackneyed sayings, sometimes the journey is the destination.

Plus I really do like going for a ride in the car.

Next time, we bring Rack, I promise.

You see, Craig came down.  He’s a great friend.  We have known each other for years now, probably safe to say decades.  Knowing he’s from up North, way up North actually, and had never been South of Orlando before, I had to get him to touch toes to the Keys.

I know of a great restaurant down there.  We all do if we go there enough, so I’ll save its name.   Why am I not telling you?  Take me there and I will, but it was crowded enough.  It sits just on the South side of the key, on the water, in a cove.  Ok, so I have described about half of the restaurants in the Keys, from Key West to Key Largo and every place in between, haven’t I?

Good.

You’re looking at the view I had for lunch on Sunday.  I purposely put my arm on the railing, in the sun.  Just the right one.  I wanted a little bit of tan.   I can still see one arm darker than the other a couple days later, and I wasn’t looking to sit on a beach. 

We sat there, I had my Fish and Chips (Mahi Mahi, actually), and a bottle of some rather excellent beer, and some incredible conversation with Craig, Kevin, the waitress, and some of the surrounding tables.  There was, typical to the Keys, plenty of things to watch that were natural.  Just below us were some small fish, and a fish I kept calling a Grouper.  It could have been a Grouper, but might not have been.  That doesn’t matter, it would have made a great meal for two from the size of it. 

The children around us were thankfully well behaved, and I have no doubt that the waitress would have followed the instructions of the sign on the bar “Loose or Unattended Children will be fed to the Tarpon”.

Keep your kids quiet, and at your table.  No matter how much you love them, others will find them annoying.

But we sat there taking in a 2 hour lunch watching the boats come in.  This was one of those places that while you’re enjoying the jazz brunch, debating whether the singer is lip synching or not, and having fun telling R-Rated stories to the waitress, time goes on around you.  I’m not the kind of person who is used to sitting tight for a meal, I tend to be one of the first to finish and one of the first to want to leave.  But for once I was content to sit there and watch the little boats come by. 

Lucky dogs on that one there.  There were two.  One stayed with the owners, the other got bored and went back to the boat and curled up under the shade.  I’m with the dog, it would have been a great place to kick your feet up and watch things go by, slowly, at the Keys pace.

Having finished our main course, the waitress brought Craig a slice of Key Lime pie, and another waitress and the Jazz Singer to sing him a happy birthday while he sat there under the umbrella, smiling away.

You have to admit, if you’re going to take two hours to get to lunch, sit in a 20 mile backup, and have lunch by the water, this was a great way to do it.

So, Craig, if you’re looking for something to do on your next birthday, I know a great restaurant, by the water, with an amazing waitress, good food, interesting lip syncing or singing (we’re not completely sure), and an entertaining view.

We’d like to have you back.  Besides, it gives me an excuse to take a good friend to a jewel that I won’t readily tell people where it is.

Shamrocks In The Sun

When someone goes away, you try to keep contact.

Then if they’re gone long enough you try to have a bit of fun with it.

In this case, I started getting texts while I was out back.  Rack was boring holes through my soul with those brown puppy eyes of his.

Doggy Telepathy:  “I want out.  I want out.  I want out.”

I’m thinking somethings up… Maybe I should ask Rack what he wants?

” Show me boy, show me what you want”.

Skid marks in my Florida room as he ran to the back door.  He probably wanted to visit his other family on the other side of the wormhole behind the shed.  I grabbed the phone, checked that the front door was closed, and let him out back.

Yes, really, the door sometimes opens on its own.  It could be me, or it could be Rack’s wormhole family, but I do need to make special effort to keep the door locked.  If it is locked, it won’t open on its own.

Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betel…!

Don’t say it three times.  House guest from hell would arrive.

The texts began. 

“Its cold”

Yes, you are in Douglas, Isle of Man, UK.  It isn’t summer yet.  Summer is scheduled for August 13th from 11:43am to 4:27pm and it may indeed hit 70F.

“I know.  Rack is enjoying it.”  Picture sent of Rack watching over the swimming pool in full sunlight.  The light making diffraction patterns in his jet black fur shining in deep blues, vibrant reds, and …

“You’re mean.  It’s beautiful there, I miss it!”.

I was walking to the back of the yard.  The pool water was a wee bit low.  May as well give it a hot foot and raise the level a bit.

“I thought you might enjoy a little sunshine.  Everything there looked so cold and grey.  It is the UK you know.  Lovely people, fascinating culture, I’d love to visit some day, just not in the middle of the coldest week of the year”

I get back a single word “Shaddap”.

I send back the picture of the shamrocks.   They’re Wood-Sorrel.  It grows as a weed in my turf in the back yard.  Technically it’s Oxalis.  They grow little tubers, just like the potatoes that are sprouting in the kitchen, and can be cooked or eaten raw.   The tubers are sweet, and edible.  Although they do contain Oxalic Acid, so do many of your foods, and as long as your Wood Sorrel is cleaned well, the risk is considered minimal.

But I will let someone else try first.

Yes, I am channeling some of those oddball survivalists.  You know the guys who say “Every part of the pine tree is edible” – and I pipe up telling them to go to the lumber yard and eat a plank.  But Pignolas are simply the seeds of a pine tree, and every pine tree has seeds that are edible.

Blah blah blah.

The sun caught the pink flowers just so, five minutes later it would be dark.   The mosquito sunning itself on the top flower realized that she might be able to find her own meal and started after my feet first.

Snap off a few more shots, and go away from the little flowers.  Rack was returning from a visit from the wormhole family and tearing up the turf while running circles around the bougainvillea, coleus, and big palm trees in the yard.

“I know you didn’t choose to go to Douglas in this time of year.  Maybe some other time.  It does look like a pretty place.  Bring a Parka.”

I’m getting a lecture of a street that is called “Athol” street in the central business district.  I read the word rudely, and realize it is his favorite new word.  Probably named after some oddball British Admiral that conquered some obscure island somewhere.

Every picture he sends me has a splat from a passing sea bird.  It now becomes The Isle of Poop.  Douglas, Isle of Poop.  Not nice of me but there is rather a lot of it, and that is a part of being near the ocean.

It’s time to go back in.  The mosquito is zooming in for the kill.  My right hand was getting attention as I try for one last picture of the Wood-Sorrel Shamrocky thing.  Pretty flowers.  I look at the display on the camera and back to the flowers.  They’re in shade now.

“I’ll see you later, I have to go to the pub.”
“Try the Fish and Chips.  Proper British Fish and Chips served in a proper British Pub!”

Maybe not.  He hates fish, loves the chips, and there’s no way I can suggest that.  Maybe some fried wood sorrel chips.  I won’t tell him what they are!

“Enjoy dinner and stay warm!”

57 Miles For A Watermelon?

I wasn’t thinking of produce that day. 

It actually was something new.  We were going to a “hamfest and flea market” down in Coral Gables.  That of course set off a chain of events because of what I call “Suburban Inertia”.

Inertia is the physics maxim that those bodies at rest tend to stay at rest, those bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by external forces.

Yes, Science Content.  You expected anything less from me?

Suburban Inertia is the theory that once you move your body into the car and get going, you may as well keep going until you get all your errands done, or run out of interest.

Cash, Time, Interest, Need for a Rest Stop… all that qualifies.

We got out of the house at 7ish.  About a quarter after 7 if I misremember right.  Got into the big blue beast because my Jeep eats gas and I hardly ever drive it.

No, really.  I was asked by a neighbor if it worked since I use it so infrequently.  Yes, I do, and Yes, I still enjoy driving it.

We were heading to the University of Miami main campus in Coral Gables to hit a quarterly Hamfest and Flea Market.  I figured it would be fun, if nothing else, to go there and look for electronic fiddly bits.

Fiddly Bits is a serious technical term for small items that are necessary for life.  The little things that go together to make life itself possible.  You know, that one screw that fell out of the bottom of the case you were fixing and now the door hangs crooked?  It ticks you off to no end because you can’t find the little thing because it rolled under the refrigerator after you kneeled on it when you got on the floor to find it in the first place?  It stuck to your jeans and bounced off and rolled under there and you can’t be bothered to go after it because you’ll have to move the pantry and clean the damn thing?

Yeah that kind of fiddly bit.

I was actually hoping to find some “bell” wire to make an antenna and figured something calling itself a hamfest would be chock full of “cool stuff” as well as fiddly bits.

I was thinking of maybe the 1990s.  That sort of flea market was massive back then where you could go and buy one part and walk through hundreds of tables entertaining yourself with the question “What the heck is that thing” and getting back an idea that convinced you that you needed it to repair that old tool sitting in the shed so you really can get that chore off the honey-do list that’s been there since the turn of the millennium.

Come on, we all have one or two of those chores!

The hamfest was modest.  Fun but modest.  Only about 20 tables.  It did have a vendor with Vacuum Tubes, so I’ll go again.  After all, Dad’s Radio could use a tune up!

We were through in under 15 minutes.  Walked through again a third time and decided to go.  I didn’t exactly want to go back so I suggested that we go down to “That scruffy farmer’s market down near Homestead” and poke around.

Redland’s Farmer’s Market.  Homestead, Florida.

After getting the “Are You Nuts” look, we started heading back to the main road.  By the time we got there, I heard from the Driver’s Seat “Yeah that would be fun, lets go look around for that place”.

Mind you, we had stumbled across it once on the way to the upper keys.  It was an insane crush of people then and we thought it would be fun to wander around it just because.

When we got there it was just as much of a crush of people on a Saturday morning.  It also felt like home.

I used to entertain myself going to this exact sort of place all over South Jersey and later in Pennsylvania.  They’re all a little rough around the edges, but you can find things you can’t find anywhere else.

Apparently “real” seeded watermelons are one of those things.  I mean, really?  All season I could only find those vile tasteless un-seeded watermelons.  For years I couldn’t find a “Real Watermelon”.  The deep pink to red flesh that tasted sweet and eventually would drip down your chin or your arm with a sticky watery juice.  

The un-seeded varieties didn’t taste like that.   May as well eat the rinds.  Blah.  Can’t have seeds?  Too damn bad because you never ate the real thing.

It’s a Jersey Tradition around the Fourth of July to stand in the backyard eating a wedge of watermelon and ending up with the seeds trying to take root in the garden because one of the kids spit them there.

Kids being anyone, even adults.

Everyone enjoyed them because they were good.  Not that over priced basketball sized thing that they sell now.  These would take up the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator and promise goodness.

That was the first thing I saw – a monster watermelon.  So I mentally made a mark in my mental checklist to stop back and grab one when we went exploring.

Never really found anything else I needed.  Wanted, yes, but needed?  Nope.

Heading back to the fruit stand I grabbed the largest watermelon and immediately was warned “They have seeds!”.

Yes, that’s the point! That’s how you want them!

I also grabbed a couple oranges, apples, a large sweet potato, and a few lemons and really REALLY looked forward to that watermelon.

Getting home I checked calorie count and figured a “candy bar” ration of calories would be 24 ounces of the thing. 

Yes, A Bowl Full turned into a “Salad Bowl” full of a pound and a half of Watermelon.

Frankly, for an ex-Jersey Boy like me, that’s par for the course.

And BOY did I enjoy that.  The wall of sweet, the juice stuck in my Movember Beard, the seeds to discretely spit out into the bowl.  It all put a big smile on my face.

Then I realized.  Movember, er, November.  We’re way out of season.  Where would I get another?  How far was that again?

Checking the map… 57 miles.

Yes, we drove 57 miles for a Watermelon and some other assorted fruit and veg because I just couldn’t find it in any of the “normal” places.

Would I do it again?  Sure.  Just not every damn week.  After all, there has to be somewhere closer I can get them.

I know of this little fruit stand on Dixie Highway up in Oakland Park…

I’m already plotting a trip out for next weekend when the Suburban Inertia strikes!