Escape to Key West – Part 2

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since I was in the Keys. I guess time goes fast when you’re having fun. It seems that every time I get ready to write about the rest of the trip, something else pops up. Although I started writing this a week ago Monday, I finally forced myself to finish up.

Key Largo – My time in Key Largo was cut short. Little Bastard Alberto was churning up in the Yucatan. While it wasn’t a complete loss… I did get one afternoon of SCUBA diving in. Little Bastard Alberto made diving any more a bad idea. Sgt Pepper and I did spend an evening at Sharkey’s foot tappin’ (claw tappin’) to a good old-fashioned rock-n-roll band. Then it was on down the road.

One of the things I wanted to see was how much damage remained from last fall’s Big Bitch Irma. Mostly I discovered how fickle she was. Most of the area seems to have been untouched… at least that’s what it looked like. Maybe it has been fixed up. But starting about mile marker 85 there were places that were destroyed.

Most houses or businesses were in great shape. But then it was bizarre. In between the perfect condition places something would be utterly devastated… with no chance of repair. Then drive along for miles with no apparent damage, and then BAM… another place all smashed up. For the most part, there was only a little damage remaining.

With Alberto brewing, it was raining on and off. Sgt Pepper is easily scared by such stuff, so rather than seeing much along the way we only stopped at the Sunset Grille. The Sunset Grille is right at the southern end of Marathon. I think there used to be a man-made beach there, but if there was, it was completely eroded away. Otherwise, everything else there, including the pool and patio, were in great shape.

We only stopped for a bite to eat. I had a Cuban… I’m driving so no booze for me. But Sgt Pepper on the other hand had two Tiki Parrots. Really… that’s a booze drink they serve there. I don’t know what’s in it, but after two, Sgt Pepper needed me to carry him to the car. Then it was on down the road. Next stop… Bone Island

Barrrrrark… Are we there yet?… Barrrrrark

Key West – Thanks to Little Bastard Alberto, it rained almost the whole time on Cayo Hueso. Cayo Hueso is the original Spanish name of Key West. It was a heavy rain most of the time with a little bit of wind. But I wasn’t about to let the rain spoil my fun.

I took a look around to see how Bone Island is doing after last fall’s Big Bitch Irma. As it turns out, there is very little damage remaining that I could see.

All of my favorite places for liquid refreshments were fine. I suspect some may have had new coats of paint. In any case, everything was bright and shiny. I took a couple of pics to show you what I mean:

A "La Te Da Cosmo"... mmmmm-mmmmm good

A “La Te Da Cosmo”… mmmmm-mmmmm good

 

The best Painkillers this side of the island of Jost Van Dyke

The best Painkillers this side of the island of Jost Van Dyke

There was one exception… a t-shirt shop on the corner of Green and Whitehead was almost destroyed. It used to be the “Tropical Corner”. This was the first T-shirt shop most cruise ship passengers would come to as they walked into Key West. The place right next door was where they sold tickets for the “hop on – hop off” bus. It’s gone. The following pic shows the before and the after of the stores.

Hard to believe this is the same place... but it is. Before Big Bitch Irma... and after.

Hard to believe this is the same place… but it is. Before Big Bitch Irma… and after.

I’m going to leave out all the debauchery along Duval Street. You’ll just have to buy the book when it comes out. I do want to tell you about one special place. I was making my way to some of my old haunts… with Sgt Pepper on my shoulder. He was suffering a bit of a hangover from the two Tiki Parrots yesterday afternoon and was being kinda quiet.

I was peddling my bicycle on my way along Elisabeth street from Caroline, going to Amelia and then over to Duval. (Actually, I was headed over to visit folks… and a “painkiller” at the Rum Bar.) Suddenly Sgt Pepper went berserk.

“Barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark, , barrrrrark, barrrrrark, barrrrrark.

When I was finally able to calm him down a little bit and asked, “What’s wrong?”

He answered, “Barrrrrark, Nancy Forrester’s barrrrrark”

He flew off my shoulder… he never does that… and landed on a sign at 518 Elisabeth Street. It was a sign for Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden.Now I knew about the “Garden of Eden”… the roof-top place on top of the Bull & Whistle. So I wondered what Sgt. Pepper was getting me into.

Well, I have to tell you… Nancy Forrester’s garden is way better than the one on the top of the Bull & Whistle. Nancy’s garden is in her backyard. It’s a place where she rescues parrots. It’s small and way underfunded, but she is currently caring for 23 unwanted parrots. She relies entirely on donations. (More about donations in a minute.)

I couldn’t believe it…. nobody wanted these parrots. They were beautiful!. Nancy spent a lot of time telling us about what she does there. Of course, I already knew that a parrot is a lifelong friend, partner, and companion. It takes commitment to have a parrot. A parrot can live to be 100 years old. So if you want a parrot, it is indeed a lifelong commitment.

While we were there, Nancy introduced us to two of the parrots she is caring for. First was Mr. Peaches… an astonishing Moluccan Cockatoo. Mr. Peaches would sing and dance, but maybe most amazing is that he would play games on visitors smartphones. Really! He learned to use his tongue on the screen to play games. These Cockatoos are an endangered species, and Nancy wants to do what she can.

Mr. Peaches lovin' the music.

Mr. Peaches lovin’ the music.

 

Next up was “Batman”… a magnificent McCaw He was a bit of a talker. He and Sgt. Pepper carried on quite a conversation. I have no clue what they were talking about since I don’t speak parrot. But knowing Sgt. Pepper, he was getting information on all the hot chicks in the area.

Batman spreading his wings.

Batman spreading his wings.

You can tell Nancy is passionate about what she does. She welcomes visitors to her garden and will spend as much time talking about her passion as you would like. Her garden (and her kindness) are one of those little-known places in Key West everyone should visit.

Don’t be shy. There’s just a little path along the side of her house that leads to her “Garden.” If you weren’t looking for it… or had Sgt. Pepper with you… you almost would miss it. From the front, it looks like many of the houses in Key West. But the path does lead to the garden and Nancy welcomes everyone.

She asks for a 10 dollar per person (or per parrot) donation. It was worth way more than the $10 bucks. As soon as I got home, I sent her some more to help out. You can donate with a credit card or Paypal. With the weather the way it was, she hasn’t been getting many visitors and needs to care for a lot of birds.

It was a great way to spend the late morning. Sgt. Pepper and I sat there sort of playing with all the parrots… feeding them some banana chips… talking with them… and listening to Nancy tell about the parrots. Even Sgt. Pepper learned stuff.

We were there for at least two hours. It was sprinkling on and off most of the time. I would have stayed longer, but it started raining harder, so we left.

I spent the rest of the day doing Key West stuff… visiting old haunts, and having liquid refreshments. But my time at Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden is one of my best Key West memories ever. Anyone visiting Key West owes it to themselves to visit and spend some time there.

Visit Nancy’s website or her facebook page.

Click here for Nancy’s facebook page

Click here for Nancy’s web site.

The trip to the Keys was way too short, and I spent too much time hunkered down due to all the rain from Little Bastard Alberto. There were no sunsets… no walk-abouts (or crawls) down Duval… and none of the adventures I hoped for.

So… another trip is in order. SOON.

“Barrrrrark, When are we going back… when are we going back?  barrrrrark”

Read part 1 – Escape to Key West – Part 1

 

 

Escape to Key West

I’m in serious need of an escape. And Key West is the perfect place to escape to. They are accepting of anyone and anything. I’m pretty sure you could march butt naked down Duval Street with a bottle of Patron, drinking shots and with a boom box blasting out LMFAO’s Shot, Shot, Shot… shot, shot – Shot, Shot, Shot… shot, shot, EVERYBODY”… and no one would bat an eye.

 

So that’s the first thing I’m gunna do when I get there. Well… except for the naked part… and ok… maybe not down the middle of Duval. But the Patron Tequila and the shots are on… along with a few of my other favorites.

You may think that because I live in the Northernmost Caribbean (Northwest Florida on Kokomo Island,) it would be easy to get to Key West. After all, it’s Florida… just a hop, skip and a jump. But you would be wrong. It’s not so easy.

First, I have to get off Kokomo Island. The mail boat only comes once a month, and since Jimmy Buffett quit flying his Albatross, he won’t come to pick me up anymore. So I have to pack the magic bus with everything I own to have enough stuff to make the arduous journey. And don’t forget… SCUBA gear… enough stuff to almost sink the magic bus.

Ummmm… about the magic bus. I can’t tell you much about it or the genie letting me use it will take it back. Let’s just say, that it will get me across the expanse of water from Kokomo Island to the mainland. Once there, it turns into sort of a modern version of a 60’s hippie VW bus.

MagicBus2

That’s all the magic I’m allowed to use. After that, I have to drive it down the highways and byways just like any other vehicle. It does have other magical properties, but I’m not allowed to use it except in emergencies. One day I’m going to find out what that red button in the middle of the dash does.

So… after crossing the great channel I’ve still got about 700 miles to go to get to Key West. I hear you… you’re screaming, SEVEN HUNDRED MILES!… But you’re already in Florida… how can it be that far?” Well believe me, it is. And that last 100 miles is down a two-lane road. The lookie-loos driving that road are going so sloooooow. It seems like they are always going along at 20 mph trying to find turn off to “No Name Key”… or to the “Square Grouper Bar and Grille.” There’s no way you can make good time down that road… the “Overseas Highway.”

But I always have a plan for that last 100 miles. I take a separate day for that part. I stop in Key Largo and spend a day or two there. Key Largo is the SCUBA capital of the world. This may be the only tourist area in the world that has more SCUBA diver operations than T-shirt shops.

I spend a day or two or three in Key Largo SCUBA diving. That way I can have breakfast at Bogie’s… “Here’s looking at you kid.” I also have a mahi-mahi fish dinner at Mrs. Macs in Key Largo.

After my time in Key Largo, I spend a whole day driving that 100 miles down the Overseas Highway… U.S. 1. I go to No Name Key… have a slice of pizza at the No Name Bar… and stop in at the Square Grouper.

By the way… this and all the places I’ll be stopping at are all part of an upcoming book, “Travels With a Naked Parrot.” I’m making this trip with a parrot. His name is Sergeant Pepper. You’ll recognize him and me because I go almost everywhere with him. He’s perched on my shoulder most of the time.

So off I go on a week-long trip to Key Weird. I hear it already:

“Barrrrak, Are we there yet… Barrrrrak.

Read more about the trip at: Escape to Key West – Part 2

 

 

The Mother Road – Part 1

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

A little while ago I teased ya’ll with a bit about the adventures I was starting on late this spring. Then I disappeared off the face of the earth, and the blog till I ended up in Key West a few of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve “had my head down” writing the first draft a new book from inspiration I got while in Key West… “Key West With a bit of Rum, A Shot of Tequila, and A Grain of Salt” (working title). While working on that I’ve ignored the blog and “Travels With a Naked Parrot.” Well, this starts back in the beginning of the adventure when I spent a little time on route 66… with a Naked Parrot. I hope you like it. Most of the pics are on my facebook page.


As I was driving into town… trying not to smooth out all the folks just walking down the middle of the street… I heard from the peanut gallery:

Barraaaakkk – Look at that ass! Look at that Ass! – Barraaaakkk

At first I thought Sgt Pepper was talking about a guy wandering into the street without looking. But instead, a little ways into the town there was a four legged animal just walking along the street. I turned and sternly said to Sgt. Pepper, “That’s a burro.”  I laughed to myself and under my breath said, “that guy’s the ass”.

I thought… hummm, “burro” is Spanish, so what is the translation. With the help of “Uncle Google” I found out that burro translates to “ass”. So the guy wandering into the street was indeed a burro.

The town I was driving into was Oatman¸ Arizona. I first passed through here by accident. I was on a trek to Wally-World in Florida. I hear ya… why in the world would I go all the way to Florida when there’s a Wally-World close by in La-La Land. Well, let’s just say for now that I was on a quest. I played “destiny road” on the CD player as we headed out each morning of the trek… really, I did.

Anyway, on that earlier trek I sorta got lost. I missed the sign pointing to Kingman, Arizona via the main road. So, a few miles later down the road, on the Arizona side of the Colorado river, I finally came to a sign that pointed to Kingman. It didn’t take long till I knew this was not the way I intended. But since the sign did show this was a road to Kingman I kept going.

The area looked very interesting. But since I didn’t have time to explore anything I just drove on trying to make good time to Wally-World. At that time I said to myself, “someday I’ll come back here and check it out.” This was that trip I promised myself I would make.

Signs all along the way proclaimed the road was, “Historic Route 66”… the “Mother Road”. It’s a two-lane road that winds away from the Colorado River. It heads off into the nothingness of the Arizona desert and up into the Black mountains. One of my favorite characters from movies, Capt’n Barbosa, would have said, “Arrrrggggghhhh, they be more like foot-hills.”

IMG_3152

It isn’t a bad drive but you can’t make good time. The farther you go, the more twisty it gets. If you make this trip, don’t be in a rush. Pull over and look back toward the river. It’s an amazing view and pictures just don’t do it justice. As you get close to Oatman the road gets a even more twisty. For the last couple of miles you can only do about 35 or 40 MPH. I wasn’t in a hurry so I was only doing maybe only 30 MPH.

There are lots of stories about Oatman. Perhaps they are more in the realm of “lore.” If I were to do a lot of digging I could find out the real truth. But that’s the lure of the town. The stuff could be true, and I choose to believe everything the town folk say… even if the aim is to attract tourists.

Even the town’s name¸ Oatman, evokes a bit of a mystique. Olive Oatman was captured by Indians when she was 14 years old. Stories tell of her years with the Indians. After five years she was she was released. One story is that here release was near the current site of the town. According to some, she lived in the town of Oatman till she married and moved to Texas.

The Olive Oatman Saloon

The Olive Oatman Saloon

A little before you get to town you start to see signs of the town’s mining heritage. To the side of the road you can see “tailings” from various mines in the area. Starting in the early 1900s and until World War II, Oatman was a mining town… GOLD! For a while it was a “boom town”. One of the signs in town proclaims that the area produced 1.8 million ounces of gold.  At today’s prices, that would be a couple of BILLION dollars.

“Route 66” goes right through the middle of the town. Of course Route 66 doesn’t even exist any more. But don’t tell that to the town-folk. Every store, mercantile, emporium and tourist trap has some kind of sign exhorting the town’s heritage of a Route 66 stop. Indeed, Route 66 kept the town alive after the gold mines closed. The town became a stop along the route. Eateries, hotels, shops and gas stations were kept in business by “mother road” travelers.

IMG_3158

The Oatman “hotel” proudly proclaims that Clark Gable and Carol Lombard stayed there on their way west during their honeymoon.  I have something of a romantic view of what it must have been like during the glory days of Route 66. Folks traveling west were on an adventure. I vaguely remember the adventure it was when my parents moved from Georgia to California and we traveled portions of Route 66 to get there.

Unfortunately, today the Oatman Hotel is not a hotel. I would love to have stayed there to imagine what it might have been like to sit down to dinner next to Gable and Lombard. Of course today it’s a grande tourista trap. But who cares. There is a coffee shop. Go in and check the place out. For just a minute you can pretend to be a famous actor from the past.

The Oatman Hotel


 

My favorite... of course. *smiley face*

My favorite… of course. *smiley face*

When the highway bypassed Oatman… and Route 66 was “decommissioned”, it became virtually a ghost town. Today it’s only the tourists that keep the place alive. There are shops and trinket vendors in every little place in town. The owners have come up with a lot of clever names to pull in the visitors. “The Bucktooth Burro”, “Fast Fanny’s Place” (my favorite), “The Classy Ass”, “Jackass Ron’s”, and “The Nugget Corral” are just a few of the most clever names for the tourist traps.

They even have daily gunfights in the streets… right on time at 11:15 and 3:30. I don’t think they ever really had gun fights in the town, but it’s just another way to entertain the tourists and keep the town alive.

Gun fights and bed races

Gun fights and bed races

The biggest draw is the wild burros that wander into town each day. After the gold “petered out”… and the miners went off to mine copper for the war effort… the miners just released their burros into the Arizona desert. The burros that wander into town today are decedents of the ones the miners released.

I started on a walk-about down Route 66 when:

Barraaaakkk – Where do the burros go at night?  – Barraaaakkk

Before I could answer one of the old timers working on setting up his trinket stand answered with a perfectly straight face, “Wherever they want to go”… and then went back to his work.

That made me ponder… where they really go. Do they really just wander off into the hills?… or does the local tourist bureau have them herded to a nearby coral so they will still be here for the next day’s tourists. I considered hanging around to really find out. But I decided to take the old timer’s word for it.

Barraaaakkk Watch Look out!!! Watch yur step  – Barraaaakkk.

Ah yes… the Oatman two-step. You see, those burros really do “go” wherever they want to. That means Route 66 through the middle of Oatman… and the only street of consequence… is peppered with “road apples” from the burros. So indeed, watch yur step.

Look-out. You'll be doing the Oatman 2 step

Look-out. You’ll be doing the Oatman 2 step

I stopped in at a t-shirt shop just before I left town. The last thing I ever need is another t-shirt. But I couldn’t help myself. This shop had shirts that were not like all of the ones I’ve collected over the years… they were for Route 66. So I had to have one. Ummmmm, make that three.

Stopped in for a Route 66 T-Shirt

Stopped in for a Route 66 T-Shirt

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Next up, The Mother Road – Part 2.

Travels With a Naked Parrot

Spring Break

I haven’t posted anything here for quite a while. You see, it’s been a long cold winter and I’ve been hunkered down trying not to freeze to death. Yeah… I hear ya. I’ve been in a nice warm house, so it’s not really like I would freeze to death… and it’s not really hunkerin’ down. It’s just that with the short, dark, dismal, cold days I don’t go off on many adventures. And it’s mostly adventures I write about. Ok… there was that short six day cruise in early January, but since that was a Pacific cruise, that hardly counts. I didn’t even go in the water.

But finally… FINALLY!!! It’s Spring Break!

The good thing about not being in college… or any school… is that I can take spring break anytime I want. I don’t care how old you are, everyone deserves a spring break. For several years, I went to the Northernmost Caribbean and participated in the happy times. The good thing then was that I got to be there for all of the spring break weeks. Starting around the end of February and going till the first week or so of April, the Northernmost Caribbean fills up with “Spring Break.” And I got to be there for all the weeks.

Yes… some years I had to go to work at a regular day-job. Just the same, the days got warmer… the water got warmer… and each year those luscious mounds of white sand got more luscious. I would go to the beach both week-end days for sure, and I would often go dip my toes in the water after work once Daylight Savings Time kicked in.

And now that I’ve traded in my “day-job” for writing, I can go anytime I want. I can stay as long as I want. Of course, there are still deadlines so I tend to cram all the stuff I can in before spring comes along. I work long days and nights… kinda hunkering down while it’s cold and wintry. Then when spring breaks I’m a little ahead of the game. I can spend as much time getting a fresh sunburn and having as many frozen concoctions to help me hang on as I want.

The last couple of years have been a bit different. I sit here today, far from the Northernmost Caribbean, daydreamin’ and wishin’ I was there. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on the Internet looking at inviting pics of tropical places. What makes it worse is that the weather has turned “nice” where I am… and I’m not in one of those inviting tropical places. So, instead of working on one of the books I am in the middle of writing, I started dreamin-n-schemin on the months ahead.

First, I’ve already booked a quickie. No… not that kind of quickie. I’ve booked a four day cruise out of Long Beach going to Catalina Island, and Ensenada. OK, it’s not the Caribbean, but this year, it’s the best I’m going to do for now.

Then in May sometime, I’m finally heading for the Northernmost Caribbean. But I’m not going directly there. For some time I’ve been working on a book titled, “Travels With a Naked Parrot”. (That was the first working title but then, aren’t all parrots naked… so maybe it will be “Travels With Sergeant Pepper.”)

“Travels With a Naked Parrot” was inspired by a John Steinbeck book I read as a teenager… “Travels Charlie”. Steinbeck pulled a travel trailer behind his car and went all around the United States. It was a sort of  a “discover America” journey. He took his dog, “Charlie” along with him; thus the title. After reading “Travels With Charlie”, I thought that someday I could make a trip like that and write about it. By the way… a lot of folks now believe that Steinbeck, being the novelist he was, sat in his travel trailer and made up most of the book.

So… this year as I make my way to the Northernmost Caribbean, I’m going to make a bunch of stops along the way. I’ll be taking my time getting there doing research. No, I’m not trying to “discover America”. Instead, I’m going to go to all the places that I’ve said, “One of these days I’m going to go there.” Well this year, I’m really going to go there.

I’ll be taking my parrot, Sergeant Pepper, with me. I’ll share some of my “Travels with a Naked Parrot” with you here on the blog. I’m going to keep kind of a journal and I’ll be posting stuff here. Of course, you’ll have to wait till I finish the book to get it all. Just the same, I hope you can have fun with me along the way.

Next Stop – The Colorado River