Wednesday November 24, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Bahia Honda State Park Silver Palm Trail
Big Pine Key, Florida
Yes I know I’m nearly a week behind but it’s just the story of my life and we’re still here in the Keys anyway so what does it matter? Better late than never. Right? <grin>.
I was asked in my last Key West Post if I would share the link for the Key West Cruise calendars. Sorry I forgot. Here it is in blue. Since I’m not sure how many folks might be interested in it but do not go back to read comments on comments, I thought I’d put it here too.
We are very lucky today as there are no ships docking on the day before Thanksgiving. Although after we spend the day here it appears as though the holiday folks have filled in the spaces that the cruisers left open. We don’t notice much difference in the number of people everywhere. But I understand the numbers are much less than in January and February.
David drops me off at the M&M Laundry in town on White Street. We’ve been scouting laundries and when last week we found M&M which was a) very clean – except for the chicken HA! and b) only $2 a wash rather than the $4 we had seen in other areas of the keys and c) has its own small parking lot, we knew we found a winner. So we bring our laundry with us today and I am elected laundress by a landslide vote of 1.
David goes to the cancer center and returns just in time to help with the folding.
Since we have no family or a potluck of RV friends nearby, David has decided he wants that cheeseburger in Paradise as his Thanksgiving day dinner. And since he has returned about noon to the laundry,which just happens to be connected to Sandy’s Café which Yelp says has a great Cuban sandwich, he declares this will be a Thanksgiving Day lunch. Thanksgiving dinner will be later. In his defense, he splits the sandwich with me.
Fueled up and with clean laundry in the back seat, we decide to bike around the section of town near the Discovery Museum. With a day of no rain, we won’t be going inside yet. On the drive over we pass by another of those typical Key West sights. The Better Than Sex Dessert Restaurant. Wondering what sorts of “desserts” they serve inside this clearly closed at 1:00 in the afternoon ”restaurant”, I later google it. Yup, it’s a restaurant with desserts all right, open from 6pm to midnight. If any of you have been there, I’d love to hear about it. No menu or prices on the website but a few pictures and some innuendo.
The museum is located in an area of town known as Truman Annex. I find this all a bit confusing since there is a museum, a coast guard vessel, a gated housing community, a state park and the winter white house for President Truman all located here.
Biking away from the museum we ride through Truman Annex and turn up some of the side streets to get a feel for this community created from a military base.
The annex got its start in 1845 as part of Fort Zachary Taylor, a U.S. Army installation. The base was eventually taken over in 1947 as the "Fort Zachary Taylor Annex" to Naval Station Key West. New docks were added in 1932 to make it a home base for submarines. The base was mostly decommissioned in 1974 because contemporary nuclear submarines were too large to use the facility. The Navy's primary installation in the area, Naval Air Station Key West, still operates about six miles east of the annex on Boca Chica Key.
The area around Fort Taylor, as well as the fort itself, is now under the control of the State of Florida as Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Much of the annex was sold to private developers who have made it a gated residential community though you can still access The Truman White House. 32.4 acres were transferred to the City of Key West at no cost to be used for green space and to protect a neighborhood known as "Bahama Village" which is home to many citizens of African-Bahamian descent. The remainder continues to be utilized as a military installation and is known as Naval Air Station Key West - Truman Annex. Further reading brought some articles about the sketchy doings of the city fathers with regard to the Bahama Village land.
The ship berthing dock and the Outer Harbor have been retained by the Navy, which dredges the harbor and collects 40 percent of cruise ship docking fees.
The same major developer of The Truman Annex community has also purchased a popular RV resort just east of the 7 mile bridge and will close it, to the dismay of local resident and long time winter residents of the park, and erect another lavish gated community.
The community is very nicely done for those who can afford it. $579,000 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bath condo. $950,000 for a 2 bedroom, 2 bath townhome of 1100 sq ft.
A cool $2,000,000 for 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1700 square feet. Well OK then.
Leaving Truman Annex, which is the most open “gated community” I’ve ever bicycled through, we find ourselves at the beginning of Route 1 North. Mile ZERO.
It’s only a short distance to the Key West Museum of Art & History. This is another place I’d love to visit on a rainy day though the admission of $10 each is a bit of a deterrent. Originally home to the island’s customs office, postal service, and district courts, this beautiful 4 story building was built in 1891 and towered over Mallory’s historic seaport.
As if the building itself isn’t enough to draw your attention, there is a huge fantastic Seward Johnson statue of a twirling couple in full formal evening attire, based on the Renoir painting “A Dance in Bougival”. It’s eye grabbing and draws people to the museum although while we are there, we see lots of folks pose with the statue but see no one actually go inside the museum.
There are several other sculptures outside all apparently donated for display by Seward Johnson.
David has fun with the one to the right of the dancing couple
I half expected her to reach out and slap his hand.
Or his face.
Really delightful statues.
The current exhibitions look interesting but it will have to rain next week if we are to see What a Drag since it ends that Wednesday.
From there we bike around town up and down the small less trafficked streets and end up at the Key West Cemetery. After the fact, we find out there is a map of the cemetery which would have been very helpful and interesting if we had done the smart thing and gone to the Visitor’s Center the first day we came to town.
The Key West Cemetery is a 19-acre cemetery located in the northeast section of the Old Town area of the island, and it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people are buried here, many more than the 30,000 residents who currently live on the island. The cemetery was founded in 1847 following a hurricane the previous year that destroyed the earlier cemetery located near present day Higgs Beach which we go to later in the day.
To protect from future flooding, the 19-acre cemetery was located on Solares Hill, the highest natural elevation in Key West. The interred are divided among parcels that reflect the cultural diversity that continues to characterize the city of Key West. The cemetery contains a historic Catholic section, Jewish section, the USS Maine Plot dedicated in 1900, and the Los Martires de Cuba, a memorial for those who fought in the 1868 Cuban revolution. In addition to these defined areas, African Americans, Cubans and Americans, rich and poor, are interred throughout.
We pretty much just wander around and without the map were unable to determine which sections were for whom or to find the Cuban memorial. However, we find the cemetery very interesting and much different than others we have been to. In-ground and crypt style graves range from simple concrete boxes filled with soil to elaborate monuments. Plot enclosures of wrought iron, wood, or concrete are often used to mark family plots.
As you might imagine, many of the graves are above the ground and there are quite a few mausoleums, some with pictures of the deceased.
This mausoleum is unique in the entire cemetery being brick and built like a house The family must be potters for there are hand written comments in pottery in several locations about the grandfather buried here.
There are street signs to help you navigate if you know the location of a plot or have that map we didn’t know about.
The Masons have their own section.
Someone is clearly keeping up the maintenance of this nice white picket fence. Most of the wrought iron enclosures are quite rusty and in need of some care.
This family plot has an entire brick yard and the pets are buried inside with the members of the Otto family.
Some of the resting places are no longer well cared for. Quite a few are these cement boxes with the body I assume buried in the dirt inside. In this family plot, one member’s spot, marked by a rectangle of stones, is fading away into the ground.
The oldest we find is from the War of 1812. Either Mr. Romer’s bones were not lost in the hurricane and were moved here or at least his marker from the older cemetery near Higgs Beach was moved.
Lots of beads drape the monument to Norm Taylor “Captain Outrageous”. I suspect he must have lived life large.
A giant conch shell seems appropriate for the “Secretary General” of the Republic. He must have known Captain Courageous and I’m guessing they “had fun” together. Both of these markers seem very “Key West” to us.
We have walked around the cemetery to this point but are getting tired and take to the bikes to look for the USS Maine memorial. Along the way we find the grounds keeper busy training her help.
The USS Maine Memorial is large and filled with known and many many unknown soldier markers.
As we go to leave, we come upon the caretaker moving from monument to monument and doing some little rituals on the stones.
After finishing his work on these two stones, he moves along to the next as we leave to visit the Key West beaches.
The beaches collectively are called the Key West Marine Park. Some of them are public and others are privately located behind waterfront gated resorts. The darker orange is public, the lighter private.
The trick to finding the beaches for us is to bike along South Street and take every right hand turn that looks like it goes into the water. I have no idea where the public parks their cars to use the smaller beaches. The only beach I see with a parking lot is Higgs.
The first one we come to is South Beach. It’s the only public beach I’ve ever seen where very nice chaise lounge chairs are provided or perhaps rented to beach comers. But boy these beaches are small. This one is about 50 yards and runs between one of the gated beach front properties and a pier. David described it as an “in town” beach for those used to having close neighbors. HA!
Heading back to South Street I notice the Christmas Decorations are already up on the day before Thanksgiving. We haven’t been here after dark yet so I don’t know if these “gas lights” trimmed with wreaths all over the “Old Town” area really work. I suspect they must although I doubt they are actually gas. They are certainly festive. A tad early in my mind, but festive.
And speaking of festive, I showed a picture of this totally Key West RV in my first post on Key West when I saw if from the Conch Train. Today we bike by it and I get a closer look.
The paint is holding up very well if it is actually 22 years old.
I think the dog beach probably is the smallest beach I have ever seen and I wonder what it might be like if more than one dog were enjoying it. In memory of a beloved pet, tennis balls for throwing are provided and you are asked to return them so some other happy dog may enjoy chasing them.
We stop by two other small beaches as well but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own trip to Key West. Our last beach is Higgs Beach, the biggest free public beach in town as I understand it. I’ll let you know the fact of that when I see the Zachery Taylor State Park Beach. Although with an entry fee it is a bit different in terms of “public”. Higgs, so far, would certainly be my beach of choice if I were a Key Wester. The original Key West Cemetery was located somewhere near here.
As you can see, the shadows are long, sunset is near. We try to decide whether we can wait to eat until after the sunset at Mallory Square but I don’t want to rush over there just in time to see it go down and then rush off to dinner. I have heard over and over what an experience it is. I want to be there early and take in all the craziness I’ve heard about so we postpone sunset at Mallory for another week and peddle across town to David’s Thanksgiving cheeseburger place of choice.
And here we are at Grunt’s Bar located in the little house behind the tree with Garbo’s Grille in the backyard.
Garbo’s Grille is a food cart. It is VERY popular. We learned it had been featured on the Food Network within the past 6 months.
Here is David’s over doers burger complete with cheese and bacon. Heart attack on a bun. Don’t let his cardiologist see this.
He sure is enjoying it wouldn’t you say??
It’s nearly dark by the time we leave and we have to bike back across town since Ruby is parked at the museum which is on the water near the beaches.
Key West definitely lights up at night. Maybe that’s why Better Than Sex doesn’t even open until 6pm.
The lighthouse is lit and so is the Coast Guard – makes me think of Paul!
Ruby is waiting under the full moon. She takes us and our bikes safely home after a fun Early Thanksgiving.
And we are thankful for all of it, all of you and that the light is still shining for us despite some pretty dark looking spots.