Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010-07 Marathon Florida


Marathon, Key West, Big Pine Key Florida

Perception.  How each person sees things through their own lens.

I’ve already mentioned that the keys are a special place for me.  But I was thinking, what makes the keys special to me and how is that different from other places I’ve been.

I guess it goes back to my childhood, growing up in Northern Michigan.  Where we would have 10 feet of snow in front of our house by mid winter.  My fantasies and dreams of living where there were palm trees, sunshine and water started way back then.  Watching the Lucile Ball show and the rhythm of Rickie Ricardo’s Cuban band added that tropical spice and rumba beat to my dreams.

I of course I made it to Florida in my early 20’s and remained in the Orlando area for over 30 years.  But it wasn’t until I made my first trip to the keys that I felt I’d come home.

I’ve been coming down here off and on for over 30 years now.  I have friends that say they’ll make it down here one day, but it’s not their dream and I doubt they’d ever make it here.

It’s a special chain of islands or keys that swing down off the coastal tip of Florida, eventually heading west, making Key West the last island in the chain.  A1A being the concrete ribbon connecting all the islands.  Imagine when Flagler first built his railroad through Fla and into the keys, even with a barge that brought the trains across the gulf of Mexico to Cuba.  Hurricanes destroyed the train line and the roadway was put over the original rail line.  You can even see the old rails, as they were used to build the railings along the new roadway.

The keys are not a perfect Shangri-La by any means.  I couldn’t afford to live hear what with Rv sites going for $1,200 to $2,200 a month in season.  Purchasing a lot would start at around $100K.

The summers are excruciatingly hot and humid.  Many locals don’t move around swiftly during the summer months.  Construction workers are hard to find and usually only show up when they want to and often can’t be found after they’ve headed out to a local pub for lunch.

Everything costs more in the keys.  From gas, to water, to laundry which I mentioned last week at $4 for a small top loading washer and $2 to dry.

But then you have the continually good seafood throughout the year.  Snapper, grouper, tuna, dolphin and Florida lobster.

I’m continually mesmerized by the colors in the shallow Atlantic and Gulf waters.  The small islands that dot the waters with their palms trees swaying in the breeze.  Boaters stopping along their sandy shores for a break or lunch.  Fishermen bobbing along near the bridge piling to fish.

The sky somehow seems bluer and the air feels cleaner.  Yet the never ending traffic along the only highway through the keys can become tiring very quickly.

Could I live down here full time.  Probably not, nor would I want to.  It’s magical to me and will always be a part of who I am.  But that’s it isn’t it.  It’s just a part of me.  The other parts enjoy the mountains and the desert.  The wild rugged streams and rivers along the Rockies.  Places yet to be explored and discovered.  Places that make life an adventure.

So I’ll hold those magical places dear to my heart and discover new ones along the way.  And while here in the keys, I’ll ride my bike up and down the bike paths along A1A, visit with friends for long evening dinners out on concrete docks overlooking the watery canals filled with every type of fishing boat imaginable including sail boats.  Staying out late, watching a full golden moon rise over the black calm waters of the gulf.  Stars so bright you’d think you could touch them.

Driving home into the evening, the moon shining its light across the water, creating a silvery reflection on the dark Atlantic side that follows me all the way back to my camper at the Coastguard in Marathon.

The keys have to be experienced.

For all you folks who are just tired of eating the same stuff over and over.  I created Doug’s Simple Green Salad the other night and it went over very well.

1 bag of chopped hearts of romaine
3 or 4 stalks of celery, each stalk sliced into three long sections, then finely chopped
½ box of frozen baby peas, green giant (thawed)
2 or 3 thin slices of onion, then cut in half

A good ranch dressing (I usually get the jar from the chilled produce section) approx. two globs.

Mix all ingredients.  Mystery writer Diane Mott recommends tossing 40 times to ensure fully blended.   

I think you’ll enjoy this simple and easy salad.

From the keys to your home, Island life, just down the road.

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