It’s day 1 and we’ve been in Key West… or should I say we’ve been in “Key Weird”. This is one of my favorite places on earth. Mostly because it’s a little “off center”. Hummmm… make that a lot off center. That’s probably why I like it most. Most places are “regular” places… where regular people live and work. Key Weird has very few of those kinds of people… few of those kinds of jobs. I think that folks in Key West are actually they way people are intended to be… the true nature of the way people are. They are not tied down with the rules of “regular people”. No one judges you in Key Weird so you can be just who you are. If you ran naked down the middle of Duval Street at high noon, no one would think much of it. In fact, during Fantasy Fest, lots of people do just that.
Key Weird is almost 100 percent dependent upon tourism. There is some US Navy that remains but that certainly doesn’t drive their economy. And it really isn’t cruise ships either. Cruise ships are a very small part of the tourism business. Yes, a few thousand cruise ship tourists come ashore most days and they spend bucks on trinkets, t-shirts, a few tours, and a few beers. However, it’s the land-based tourists that spend the most money by quite a margin. The land-based folks spend on same stuff the cruise ship tourists do, but they also spend on their meals, and hotels for the day. And at night the booze is more free-flowing in town than it is on the cruise ship.
I’m not sure why cruise ships even stop here. Most ships pull in around 8:00 AM and it’s “All Aboard” by 3:30. But… Key Weird is geared toward night time activities. The majority of live entertainment starts after 3:00 PM. Just the same, cruise folks seem to like it. There is a ton of stuff to do other than visit all the bars… if you know where to go.
Today I spent a some of my time finishing off some research for my next book. Most of it is finished but I had to go a couple of places to check out facts and to take some pictures. So… I rented a scooter and took Bloody Mary on three of the Kokomo Man’s tours. (No I don’t really give tours, but I’ve thought about it.)
I started out by going down to the end of Duval… the Gulf of Mexico end. Bloody Mary dipped her toes in the Gulf of Mexico and then we started on “KokomoMan’s Bar Crawl”. I went along pointing out each of the bars with a history… there’s lots of them. Of course since I was on the scooter, I couldn’t have any booze. Bloody Mary on the other hand, could have all she wanted. She seemed to enjoy all the places. But, by the time we made it to Margaritaville she was “done for”. I guess you can’t have a drink in all 36 bars on Duval Street after all.
We went on down to the other end of Duval at the “Southernmost Beach”. Bloody Mary staggered over to the water’s edge and stuck her toes in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s just one of those silly things you can do in Key West… stick your toes in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean on the same day. (Ok… she really wasn’t staggering, but I get to tease her just the same.)
(For those that don’t know… Bloody Mary chose that nick-name for herself because that’s her favorite morning drink when she’s on a cruise.)
I went on to the KokomoMan’s full bicycle tour to be sure I had it all right. (Yeah… I was cheatin’ because I was on a scooter, but I was trying to get in more stuff.) I took the long way around the island and went to a lot of the out of the way places… places cruise folks don’t usually make it to like Smathers Beach or the East Marinaro Fort. Smather’s Beach is my favorite beach on Key West. Bloody Mary and I went for a little stroll along the beach.
We took a bunch of the standard cheesy pics all over Key West… you know… at the Southernmost Everything including the fake Southernmost Point… the “not really” Southernmost beach… and with the Southernmost Key West Chickens. Of course who can go to Key West without taking a picture standing out in front of Capt’n Tony’s, Sloppy Joes, and Margaritaville.
Bloody Mary ummmm… went back to the ship and I took the scooter back to turn it in. I still had a couple of hours so I continued my tour around town, visited a few old friends and made some new ones. One of the guys I met is Danny Rodriguez of the Rodriguez Cigar Factory. Danny has resumed his Cuban Grandfather’s tradition of hand rolling cigars. He is very proud of his heritage and of the quality of his product. Cigar aficionados should pay him a visit.
I went down to the Schooner Wharf Bar… one of the great old time Key West Bars. I spent a little time there listening to Michael McCloud… he starts at noon. Now that I was on foot, I had a frozen concoction to help me hang on. The whole area around the Wharf has quite a history. I always just love to walk around there and along Caroline Street. I spent a little time just meandering around and then went to my favorite Key Lime Pie Shoppe for a piece of Key Lime Pie (duh). It’s Key’s Law that if you are in the Keys, you must have Key Lime Pie or you will be sent to Conch prison.
Then it was back to the ship and the Red Frog Pub where I’m writing this. But now I’m really hungry and just have to have a Ferengi burger. I know Ferengi’s are really bad for you. They’ve got tons of cholesterol and other stuff that will give you a heart attack after you’ve eaten just three… and they’ve got tons of other stuff that will require you to spend your next vacation in the gym since you will be a Goodyear Blimp look-alike. But I don’t care… they have addictive properties and I can’t resist them.
So… it’s time to head for a Ferengi burger… or two… or three. Tomorrow’s a sea day and I’ll tell ya’ll all about the ship.