Monday, December 20, 1999

Florida 1999 - Key West

Key West is a very interesting island. It is bigger then I thought it would be, it has a Sears, Kmart, and other stores that you expect in a city. There were hundreds of hotels. The highest point on the island is 8 feet so riding bikes anywhere is easy. Most people rides bikes or scooters. Scooters outnumber cars 3 to 1. There are only 22,000 people that live on the island but there were at least that many tourist every day that we were there too. It is very easy to tell a local from a tourist. The locals are very friendly. Everyone that we talked to that lived there had just come down for a vacation and didn’t leave. Locals will always say good morning to you, it gets infectious after a while. If in doubt if someone was a local- say good morning/afternoon/evening- if they respond they are either a local or have traveled there enough times that they might as well be one. Now the reason why this works so well is the usual tourist that visits Key West. Yuppies in the worst way- This is a major port for cruise ships. I swear if I see anymore golf or sailing patterns on clothing I’m going to get sick. It spooked me out how all the women looked different in the same way- Hillary Clinton multiplied by thousands, then as they get older- Mrs. Howell- I swear they type casted her well for Gilligan’s island. As for the men, well the college guys all looked like clones of Rob Lowe that just received their Dad’s Lexus when he got a new one, and every single one of them had this aloof look in their eyes when looking at any local, or talking with a shop keeper.
The beaches are very nice, and interesting. The one that we stayed at the most, Higgs Beach, I found was known as bum beach because there was park across the street Bums would sleep in then tan all day at the beach. Now these people usually were not homeless in the sense of poor destitute people. They were in Key West by choice- great year round weather, and they all had an interesting story. It made it convenient for us since there was an outside shower, and bathrooms there. We used this beach for a testing place to kayak and snorkel. Just snorkeling around this beach I saw a lot of sponges, fish, and even a sting ray, this is in the place roped off for swimmers. I don’t think I will ever be able to walk in the ocean again without wondering what I am stepping on. Florida was always humid; everything was always damp. Hanging things out to dry after we went snorkeling would only get them to a damp state. Windows were always fogging up, and this was in the dry winter season.

While in Key West we slept in our cars at "House boat row". This was a stretch of highway that ran along the water that boats could pull up to for 90 days tax free. The only problem with these houses is that a hurricane would come through and sink the house. Since the water was very shallow (3 feet) people would still live in these half sunken houses because it is free to live there. These people were not poor because on two of the houses that were dipping into the water had satellite dishes. It was a good place to park because no one would bother you and it was OK to park all night. The only problem is that about after the fifth night there- sleeping in you car gets old, and for some reason we were eaten alive that night by "no-see-ums". These bugs are terrible, I’m not going to lie this was probably the worst part of the trip. Even when they were biting, I would look down and could not see what was biting me. After this happened we decided that we had spent enough time on Key west and decided to go see the coral at the state park Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortogus islands.
Mallory square and Duvall street are the two main touristy attractions.
The best way to get things off the top of the car was to use the back tire as a stepping stool.  This made for some very strange looks from people walking by.
Of course we all had to get our pictures at the southern most point of the US. (well except all those other islands, but we'll let Key West have it's one thing of fame.) The problem with this memorial is that it is in an interception in the road so tourists and traffic really had a problem of getting into each others way.

The Sunset festival
This is a Key West tradition that happens every night there is not a hurricane. At sunset street vendors and performers gather and celebrate the setting of the sun. Now this is not as good of a sunset as is seen from other islands because there is another island blocking the way, but hey it is an excuse to party. There was a man with a 15-foot unicycle, a tightrope walker, and escape artists chained upside down.

    D. was made symbol man in one of the shows. Wacking that thing any chance possible, being the only good part of this dog show.
    L. got pulled out of the crowd for this act. The man is jumping through a hoop that was touching both of his shoulders.
New Years Ev

    Now I must admit that being down in the Keys I didn’t want to get stranded there. So on New Years Eve I filled up the gas tank and gas can. (as well as a lot of other people there.) We still had tons of food left over that we had not taken with us to the fort, and lots of water that we did not use yet. We parked our cars and walked to the main drag- Duvall Street. We were headed for Sloppy Joe’s bar. This bar was the one started by Ernest Hemmingway and had a giant 6-foot conch shell dropping as compared to the ball in New York. We wondered around looking for an all you can eat seafood place that one of the beach bums had told us about.

   We found it and they had over inflated their prices like a lot of the other stores there, so we found a small Sushi house that was all you can eat. I had never had sushi before so this seemed like a good last meal of the century to have. This was the first time I had ever had caviar, conch, or eel. It all tasted okay, but I do not think I was convinced that the sushi fad was worth more then a one time experience. (I know there are plenty that have and will disagree with me.) By this time (10PM) the crowd turned into more of a concert style form. I had to push my way through the drunken people. Going to the bathroom became an hour ordeal. We had all brought our little radios that were meant for when we were kayaking but saved us many a time that night with how often we were separated. We settled on an alley out of the way of getting smashed by the crowd but where we could still see the conch shell. In front of us there was an old building where people were climbing up onto the roof. We were sure it was going to collapse but never did.

    Just watching the people around us was interesting. People would have to wade through the crowd to buy drinks. On their way out of the crowd they would have to hold them above their head usually spilling out half the contents from getting pushed around so much. I just found it amusing to look at the sea of statue of liberty like people holding the ever-precious beer. The clock struck midnight, the conch sell dropped, everyone cheered, and I kissed my wife and the firework show started. Now there was 2 firework shows going, one at each end of the island. We could see one but hear both so it made for quite a show. L. said it was the best display she had ever seen. On our way back there was a TV going at one of the open air bars there are so many of in Key West so we saw nothing was going wrong so we continued to walk. We passed a pay phone and called my Dad and L.'s Mom to tell them that the year 2000 was cool so far. I've always been on the West Coast so I've never been able to be the one calling someone being in the New Year before him or her. The only Y2K glitch we noticed was the next day when we had breakfast at Burger King and the receipt still said 12-31-99.

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