Wed/Thurs November 18 & 19, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Bahia Honda State Park A Bit of Bahia and a Hogfish Sandwich
Big Pine Key, Florida
Driving to Key West is a slightly shorter trip this week. I stay in the car and listen to the Diane Rehm show on the radio with my eyes closed while David goes into the Cancer Clinic.
After David is finished, we drive back to Eaton Street and park in the shade. We take the bikes off and head up town.
If you read my post about the first of our weekly trips to Key West you’ll know that I was sad that the beautiful old Strand Theater had been turned into a drug store. Today we come upon the Tropic and while it isn’t as elaborate and stylish as The Strand it is still in business and even has Marilyn out front standing on a grate.
Double passifiers make me cringe. An ipad for a toddler, really?
We park the bikes in order to walk along the waterfront to the famous Mallory Square.
We walk through a number of restaurants with tables on either side of the walkway. I guess it’s lunchtime or 5:00 somewhere.
I have been checking the cruise ship calendar to find out how many ships are in town when we go. Today it is one, a Disney ship. As we leave the last restaurant, there it is. HUGE with what I can only assume must be at least 1000 people let loose on the streets of Key West today.
Do you recognize the cartoon from which this image on the prow of Mickey was taken?
We have our picnic lunch in Mallory square where there wasn’t much of anything going on this early in the day. I did forget to take a picture of our setting. Too bad since a Rhode Island Red rooster was strutting his stuff just behind us.
We are walking back to Front street when we come upon the Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden. It is the loving work of Ida Baron and Betty Bruce who were vitally concerned with the heritage of the island, the unique citizens who, over time, made it what it is. The Garden was dedicated in 1997 and has some of the most wonderful bronze busts I’ve ever seen. James Mastin is their genius sculptor. Each person’s story is presented below and they are most interesting. We didn’t have time to read all 36 of the men and women who have had the greatest effect on Key West.
Their stories are worth reading but you may have to click the picture to enlarge it if you’d like to.
Of course Ernest Hemingway.
Harry Truman, Henry Flagler, Stephen Mallory and :Lena Johnson are among other names you might recognize.
While we are on the history of Key West. I have David try to hold the Conch Republic of Key West’s flag still so I can photograph it. I just love the story of this flag and must say that I find this spirit very attractive. If it weren’t for the heat, I might love to live in Key West with theses folks. Well and the humidity and the bugs.
Anyway, the city of Key West declared itself a separate and independent nation on April 23, 1982 in a mock ceremony. I cannot tell the story better than they can so here it is from “The Brief History of a Conch Republic”.
The Conch Republic was established by secession of the Florida Keys from the United States of America, on April 23rd, 1982 in response to a United States Border Patrol Blockade setup on highway U.S.1 at Florida City just to the north of the Florida Keys. This heinous act effectively isolated Keys Citizens from the U.S. mainland since the blockade was on our only land artery to and from the mainland. This roadblock portrayed Keys residents as non-U.S. citizens who had to prove their citizenship in order to drive onto the Florida mainland! Hardly an American thing to do!
We protested! A totally American thing to do! Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow along with a few other 'key' Conchs, went to Federal court in Miami to seek an injunction to stop the federal blockade, but to no avail. Upon leaving the Federal Court House , on the court house steps , Mayor Wardlow announced to the world, by way of the assembled TV crews and reporters, that ; "Tomorrow at noon the Florida Keys will secede from the Union!"
At noon, on the day of secession, at Mallory Square in Key West Florida, Mayor Wardlow read the proclamation of secession and proclaimed aloud that the Conch Republic was an independent nation separate from the U.S. and then symbolically began the Conch Republic's Civil Rebellion by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform. After one minute of rebellion, the now, Prime Minister Wardlow turned to the Admiral in charge of the Navy Base at Key West, and surrendered to the Union Forces, and demanded 1 Billion dollars in foreign aid and War Relief to rebuild our nation after the long Federal siege!
The roadblock was removed a few days after the declaration.
At the foot of Duval Street is my hands down favorite building in Key West. Today it is just another of those repetitious tourist clothing stores. The inside looks like any of the other dozens up and down the street. But originally this was the Cuban Bank located in a prime spot in the most important section of the city. The Cubans who helped build this city were cigar makers and when they needed a bank to finance their factories and works, in 1891, with half the population being Cuban, they built their own. The red and yellow brick building, with heavy Spanish influence, was financed by a group of wealthy cigar manufacturers. The carved balcony along the Duval side, with finely detailed column capitals, and the tower on the corner are particularly beautiful.
We pick up our bikes from where we parked them along Duval to head up to Mallory Square. This time we’re headed over to the Truman Annex which was once the military base until a savvy developer bought it and turned it into up town housing.
I see a sign that reminds me of our friends Mike and Terri Young whose blog is entitled Forever Young. Mike doesn’t publish much any more and I’m not sure they read this blog, but if they do, Mike and Terri, this is for you.
And David says Hi!
We bike through the Truman Annex and find the Zachery Taylor State Park which is said to have the best beach in Key West. But that will have to wait for our next visit.
Today we are on our way to the Eco Discovery Museum. Unfortunately for us, it is scheduled to close 30 minutes after we arrive so we only get to watch the wonderful film and get a taste for all the exhibits inside. This is definitely a return to early in the day spot. With the clinic taking up a part of our day in Key West, we have limited time to check out other things. But we do have 8 weeks in total so that’s 8 afternoons.
Love this notice on the door. Do people really try to come in without clothing? Another “so Key West” sign.
As we set off to peddle back to Ruby I stop when I see a huge Coast Guard cutter. I immediately think of Paul Dahl. I know he’s not there but I bet he’d like to see it. I’ve stopped in front of what I later think must have been a HUGE strangler fig taking over the poor palm tree.
This is for you Paul! Did you ever serve on a ship like this?
Some people brake for yard sales and other bumper sticker worthy locations. I brake for bookstores. I try to find at least one independent book store in any town we go to. This is the Key West Island Bookstore.
It’s sweet and cozy and filled with books. And as I can see, they know where most of them are.
I investigate a couple of titles but it’s late in the day and I can’t stay long.
Back on the bikes, we find Ruby parked in front of the wonderfully colored house just where we left her at the corner of Eton and Gecko. You’ve got to love a town with a street named Gecko. When there are no bicycle lanes, Key Westers peddle on the sidewalk. Walkers seem nonplussed about this so when in Rome.
This morning’s sunrise is lovely and again a battle with the clouds.
In the afternoon we take our snorkel gear over to the Gulf side beach called Calusa. We’ve seen people snorkeling around the rocks and since all the trips to Looe Key have been cancelled since we arrived here, we’re trying the from the land possibilities. Looks like a monster from the deep doesn’t he?
We do see fish including several Sargent Major fish but this is the best photograph. The water is pretty turbid as you would expect in a swimming area with people stirring things up.
The sun is starting its descent and we can see that from this spot, there will be no sun dropping into the water, only behind the bridge and trees. Still I thought this picture looking west captured the end of the day.