Friday, November 30, 2012

11/30/2012 We Are So Excited!

(Key Largo, FL)

The four of us have spent the entire day talking about this possible workamping job for next summer.  I can tell you that its looking really good!  We both received emails this morning that said they liked what they read and would like to have a phone interview with us on Sunday evening!

Arlene has even started writing a list of things she needs to take and Jim has the address in his GPS already and his route plotted.  Of course Bob is already working on the route we’ll take and getting a timeline together as to when we’ll leave and how many travel days we’ll need.  It’s all we’re talking about!

Jim has never been away from the east coast so he is extremely excited about this trip if it comes to be.  I can tell you it is not Alaska because I just know some of you are thinking that.

We went to the Mandalay for dinner and it was very good.  It wasn’t crowded at all.  Maybe ten people in the whole place.  It was really a shame because they had a singer, Brenda Starr, that was just lovely and her voice was fantastic!

The Mandalay has been a Key Largo oceanfront landmark since 1947 as a shack, a marina, and then a restaurant.  It has been a vital part of the Upper Keys daily life for both locals and visitors.  Immortalized by artist Harry Sonntag in the 50’s, the Mandalay has hosted ocean side church services, crab races and some of the best music in The Keys.

We invited Brenda to come sit with us on her break and she told us all about herself and how she’s trying hard to really make a name for herself.  We have no doubt she’ll do it!


After dinner we went back to our place and it won’t take two guesses to figure out what we talked about.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

11/29/2012 Something Big in the Works!

(Key Largo, FL)

Bob has web sites that he goes to every day as most of us do.  Some of his sites are ones that advertise workamping jobs.  Today he saw one for next summer that he sent to me.  We talked about it and thought this is something that would be really different for us.  Bob mentioned it casually to Jim and I brought it up to Arlene.  The ad, which was running for the very first day, said to call in the evening which I did.  I got the particulars and the four of us talked some more about it.

Earlier in the day I told Arlene that she had to get her and Jim’s workamping resume written and off she went to do it.  An hour or so later I went to check to see how see was coming along with it and I nearly fell down laughing when I read it.  You would have thought they were applying for top secret jobs with the government.  She was so technical with it in what they had done in their jobs before retirement.  Needless to say I re-wrote it and off it went via email. 

When I sent ours I wrote in our cover letter that we and the Kacey’s come as a pair.  Hire one, you hire the other.  Keep reading in the days to come, I’m not saying what it is until we know for sure if we have it or not!

11/29/2012 African Queen

(Key Largo, FL)

I was sitting at the computer this morning, shortly after I had gotten up.  Something happened to catch my attention out the window.  A white egret was eating.

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A few minutes later I looked out and there were three.

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More activity and I looked again….nine!

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Our little flock turned into fifteen and Bob then told me that they have been outside our door every day.  The fifteen were too spread out to get them all in one picture, but I’m going to try.

Then this caught our eye.

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I have no idea what kind of bird this is but he was fascinating to watch as he stalked his breakfast.  There is a steam right behind our rig and to the right of this bird.  I watched him take one step at a time closer go the water’s edge and he moved ever so slowly which was our clue that he was stalking something.

Sure enough, we were right.  It had been watching something in the water.  Can you see the small crab it has in its mouth?

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Arlene and I had some errands to run, a stop at the store, a run to the bank, a beer run and who knows what else.  They tow a jeep behind their motorhome so with the top off we took to the roads on this warm afternoon.  While we were out we checked out other waterfront restaurants.  There was one we had heard about and saw the sign for it so pulled in.  After we parked and looked around a little bit in the dock area we realized the African Queen was docked here.  Yes, you read that right, African Queen, as in Bogart and Hepburn. 


I had heard it was here in Key Largo.

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What struck me more than anything was the size.  it was much smaller than I thought it would be.

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We heard the guide telling the couple on the boat that everything is original to the boat except the red and white striped canopy and the engine.

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You can take an hour and a half cruise around the canals and even for a short ride in the Atlantic Ocean for $49 per person or even take a dinner cruise for $89 each.  This was something I really wanted to do before we actually arrived here but this Queen of Cheap isn’t springing a hundred big ones for a ride on an old boat.  African Queen or not.

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African Queen, the movie, was filmed in 1951.


This boat was built in 1912 and refurbished in 2012 for her centennial birthday.
Oh who knows, I might be sorry if we don’t do this 90 minute cruise.  I’ll give it some serious thought.

Arlene and I found the next restaurant we want to try, a waterfront restaurant called the Mandalay Oceanfront Grill and Tiki.  I think it will prove to be another good time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11/28/2012 Name That Tune!

(Key Largo, FL)

(This is a continuation of 11/28 since that post was so long with pictures)

When you go into the Publix grocery store here in Key Largo there is a long clothesline tied from the door to the large window divider in the center of the store foyer.  Doesn’t matter which door you go in, the clothesline is there.  Rather than a bulletin board, local businesses, clubs, lodges, theater groups, line dancing teachers, who/whatever puts their flyer on the clothesline for all to see.

I saw a flyer for the Lions Club that was having a fundraiser and it was ….called Name That Tune.  I remembered the TV show and thought this would make for a fun evening.
Of course I didn’t have all the details and went back to the store today and the flyer was gone.  I went to the courtesy desk and luckily talked with a young woman whose mother-in-law was the one running the thing.  She called her and gave me the phone.  I told her that I was interested in attending but also would appreciate any written material she may have as I would maybe like to lead one of these myself at some point.  She told me her name and said that she would bring everything with her.

So the four of us were planning on going.  As time got closer Bob wasn’t feeling so well.  Maybe not sick but he’s very tired as he hasn’t been sleeping well.  So the three of us went.

We paid ten dollars each to play and since there was only three of us they had another member join us to make a team of four.

Each time they have this fundraiser they improve the way they do it.  It started out playing songs on an ipod connected to the speaker system and holding up a paddle as way to signify you wanted to answer.

Now the songs are played from computers.

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Scores aren’t kept on a piece of paper anymore by the judge or MC.

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As I said they have done this several times and have really come a long way from holding up paddles as a way of saying I know the answer to hitting a light switch that sits on the table….

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that lights up a red or green light bulb.

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So our team was one of the first ones called to play.  To put it simply, we sucked.  It seems that all the songs that were being played for our team were from the Top 40 in the 90’s.  I finally stood up and asked the computer guy, “Do you see how old I am?  Do you really think I’m of the age that would listen to this music?”  Hey, give me some Motown or some Beatles and I’ll nail it, but NOT this 90’s crap.  You don’t realize just how little the first 20 seconds of a song is either!   We did manage to get a few points but we lost miserably.

Of course we knew ALL the songs that the next group had!

The losing team took it all in stride.

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Another team needed a player and they recruited Jim.  (blue shirt – front table)  He even got this team a few points!

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I have to say, this was a lot of fun!

I could see me taking this to Quail Run, our winter resort or to the Moose in Arizona City where Bob belongs for a fundraiser.  This was just too much fun to sit on.

11/28/2012 Snook’s Tiki Bar

(Key Largo, FL)

This was supposed to be Jim and Arlene’s last night with us as the state park is booked solid.  Arlene had been calling everyday to see if there were any cancellations and had been striking out.  Today she hit a homerun!  There was a cancellation and now they will stay until Saturday.  They were over the moon happy and Bob and I were very glad that she called before someone else snatched that open campsite up.

We decided to go out for dinner tonight and Jim and Arlene said that they saw a sign for Snook’s Tiki Bar so we decided to check it out.  We actually expected to find a small place where we might be able to get burgers or pizza if that.  We were going even if for only drinks to that we were at Snook’s Tiki Bar….for obvious reasons.

There was just a small sign on the Overseas Highway which certainly didn’t give us any indication as to what we would find.  Were we ever in for a surprise!

I was driving The Beast and had to take it slow through the pot hole filled parking lot.  I think we were all thinking dive.

The parking lot was hardly filled but we had to remember that this is still considered off season here.

The sign on the street didn’t say anything about a grand tiki bar.

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We walked around the building from the parking lot and oh what a surprise!

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Not at all what we expected!  There would be no leaving here and finding somewhere else to eat dinner.

As the sign said, we are bayside.

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We were led to a table by the cabana boy and our drink orders taken.  Cabana boy is not my term but what each waiter, and now that I think about it there were only waiters, had written across the back of their black T-shirts.

There was a long pier and dock for those who arrived by boat.

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We watched the sky change almost by the minute as we sat there and waited for our dinners.

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Our view in the other direction.  We thought we might get rain due to this large cloud but it passed over quickly.

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We just couldn’t keep our eyes off this sunset.

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This pelican came in to perch and sat there for quite awhile.  I moved closer to get the picture and happened to strike up a conversation with a woman sitting at a table near the dock.  I recognized that she sounded like me when she spoke and I had to ask where she was from.  Sure enough, Pennsylvania with a  beach house in Bethany Beach, DE.  Oh this world is sooooo small!

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Let me make this clear right here and now.  Bob is not a martini drinker.  That said, he did partake this night of a martini called Apple Snookie.  He drank it but I don’t think he really enjoyed it.  And since when did martini’s cost twelve bucks????

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Our dinners finally arrived.  I don’t remember what Jim and Arlene got but Bob ordered a fish dish.  Yellow snapper.  He raved about even though it was a challenge since it wasn’t fileted but the whole fish!

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I had lobster tail topped with crab stuffing and a bĂ©arnaise sauce.  I guess I didn’t pay too much attention because they menu said it was Maryland blue claw crabs and I guess I was expecting lumps of crabmeat.  Uh-uh.  it was stuffing…like turkey stuffing,,,with crabmeat in it.  it was very good, just not what I expected.  Perfectly seasoned and cooked mixed veggies and cheesy scalloped potatoes rounded out our dinners.

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Everyone of us enjoyed our dinners.

At one point during the evening Bob and Jim had reason to shake on something.  Now I told you how much alike we are and here’s an example.

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Take note of the little finger that is bent on the hand on the right (Jim) and the ring finger that is bent on the left hand (Bob).   Yep, they both have a finger that is permanently bent.  It does make it somewhat difficult for them to shake hands. 

Our cabana boy took our picture for us.

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Tiki lamps.

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Bob and I hope to come back here one more time before we leave in January.  The meal was so good, the atmosphere just wonderful and the sunset pretty darn nice too.

Good food, great company!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/26-27/2012 A Great Two Days!

(Key Largo, FL)

Our friends Jim and Arlene arrived Monday!  They’ll stay for four days and will move twice within campground to different sites.  Sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.
We have been enjoying our time with them so much.  Arlene and I had a girlfriend day when we went shopping on Monday.  Granted there aren’t many stores here but we made the most of the choices we had.

Bob’s Basement Fridge arrived today.  Poor fella didn’t want to have to come inside to get an adult beverage so we ordered this small fridge from K-Mart.  Its fits very nicely in the basement compartment and keeps that beer very, very cold!
Kenmore 1.8 cu. ft. Compact Refrigerator at Kmart.com
Arlene and I made a run to the local veggie stand.

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See those tomatoes just right of center?  REAL plum tomatoes!  Not forced, hothouse but REAL vine grown ones.  On the right hand side of the picture behind the barrel is another bin of tomatoes.  Nice big tomatoes for slicing and sandwiches.  Again, real tomatoes and not forced,hothouse.  Ones with real tomato flavor.  Oh I am so in heaven!  The young lady assured me that we would have them all winter long.  The prices were really good at this veggie stand so we loaded up.  She had lots of samples out so we tasted the watermelon.  Oh my, just as sweet as could be so that was added to our ever growing pile of fruits and vegetables.

Arlene, one happy camper with her fresh fruit and veggies.

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We spent our evening sitting out as long as we could, until the noseeums and mosquitoes drove us inside.  We never seem to run out of things to talk about with this couple.  Actually, its quite scary that we are so much alike.  We all seem to like the same things, agree on politics, find humor in the same things and truly enjoy each others company.   Arlene even wrote on her FB page that if she and Jim ever had clones it would be Bob and me.  Good people we are glad we met for sure!

Friday, November 23, 2012

11/23/2012 Thanksgiving Dinner - Part 2

(Key Largo, FL)

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As nice as dinner was yesterday and as much as we enjoyed the company, it just wasn’t our Thanksgiving.  Or as Bob would say, it wasn’t your Thanksgiving dinner Snookie.  He would be right.  it wasn’t the things we’re used to having for dinner.

I did buy a turkey this past Monday and today Bob deep fried it.  I made all the trimmings we usually have and we enjoyed Thanksgiving all over again.  Of course we’ll have leftovers tomorrow and by Sunday won’t even want so much as a turkey sandwich.  At least Bob won’t, I’m always up for a turkey sandwich.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

11/22/2012 Happy Thanksgiving

(Key Largo, FL)
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This Thanksgiving Day Bob and I are thankful that we have been so welcomed into the group of volunteers here in John Pennekamp State Park.  This is just one of the many, many things we have to be thankful for.
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At four p.m. twelve of us gathered at Doug and Wanda’s place and everyone brought a dish or two and we ate like there was no tomorrow. 

Once again we amid good cooks!  Oh my gosh, what a great dinner we had.

I have to admit, it still seems strange after all this time to be sitting down at a picnic table, everyone in shorts and t-shirts and eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

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We had a very pleasant time with our new friends and look forward to at least two more holidays with all of them.

Bob and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11/20/2012 The Signs of John Pennekamp

(Key Largo, FL)

I shared this sign with you in an earlier post and want to give you the background on it.

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The picture on the sign was created by renowned marine life artist Pasta Pantaleo and donated to the park.  The donation of his time and talent was made because of the artists belief that we all should do something that benefits our environment.

Panataleo , born in Italy  spent his childhood in Brooklyn, NY and then settled in the Florida Keys. It was a long time before he realized that his natural artistic ability could be combined with his love of marine life with amazing results.  The underwater scene on the park sign is an excellent example of the results of that combination.

Pantaleo is particularly fond of snorkeling and diving the Pennekamp reefs and has painted many images of what he sees underwater.  The image on the sign was inspired by a a dive he was enjoying one fall day, when the pictured marine life swam by.  A school of yellowtail snapper swimming by a hawksbill sea turtle and elkhorn coral are what’s featured in this painting.  Pantaleo felt this image represented this park perfectly.

Working from underwater photographs, he and friends made several dives and took many pictures to get just the right photographs.  These photos were used to recreate the scene he saw that autumn day.
The artist is active in marine conservation causes and is a member and executive officer of the Coastal Conservation Association.

Now there was another sign we saw that we were very pleased to see!

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Oh yeah, I think I’ll find lots of stuff to share you these next two months.

Monday, November 19, 2012

11/19/2012 We Start Work

(Key Largo, FL)

Our first day of work.  John Pennekamp State Park requires that we put in 20 hours per week per couple.  Four days a week, five hours a day.  We put in anywhere from 2.5 to 3 actual hours everyday.  Our work week runs from Sunday to Wednesday.  (9:15 to 11:30 or 12)

Four couples share this job.  Two teams if you will.  We work with Mike and Joan who hail from southern New Jersey.  We start with the guys using a leaf blower to clear the sidewalks of leaves and twigs that have fallen.  In the meantime the laundry area, two washing machines, two dryers, a sink and counter have to be wiped down and lint traps cleaned if needed.  From there we move to the bathrooms where the guys hose everything in sight down and we follow behind and spray a disinfectant from a sprayer one would see in a garden, the one with the pump handle.  The guys hose everything down again and we come behind and squeegee the floors and set fans out to help with the drying.  Mirrors are cleaned and toilet paper checked and replaced as necessary.

This first day was pretty rough because Bob and I were tripping over each other and I had done the mirrors and then I walked in on him doing them again.  We have to work out a schedule on who is doing what and when. 

Then the four of us sit outside for a half hour talking and let the fans dry the floors.  We go in every 10 minutes or so and reposition them.  

We put everything away and go to the even smaller restroom and repeat the process there. 

After this is done Bob and I are responsible for 24 of the 47 campsites for tidying them up after a camper leaves.  Now, if no one leaves on that particular day, we don’t do anything.  We are not to go on any site which has campers on it.  If a site is empty Bob cleans out the grill of charcoal ash if there is any and I walk around the site with a set of “pickers” and a bucket to pick up any trash left behind.

Most of the campers who come here are here for a reason.  A lot of them are divers and use the campground to put their RV’s or campers on are only here at night time.  The rest of the campers are seniors who are touring Florida during the winter months.  We don’t see kids, or haven’t as yet.

Bob and I have to help several campers at the gate.  Sometimes they can’t reach the number pad to put in the code and have to get out and walk around the truck or RV to put it in.  Some of the older folks don’t move too fast and by the time they walk around the RV and get settled back in the gate is back down.  We go out when we see this and have them back up a little to clear the “eye” of the gate thingamajig and we put the code in for them.  Doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally.

We’ve had campers come up to us over the weekend and ask us questions to which we knew no answers because we just don’t know anything yet.  Time, it will just take time.

So that’s what we do with our mornings four days a week.

This would not be my first choice for a workamping job and I've already told Bob I won't do this again but I can do just about anything for 2 months if it gets me a free stay in the Florida Keys.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

11/17-18/2012 Just Hangin’ Out

(Key Largo, FL)

We didn’t do much of anything this weekend. Talked with the other camp hosts and the campers in  our area and finished up some setting up things we had to do.

Below find a picture of kapok tree.  I didn’t take this picture, I found it online but no reference as to who took it for me to give credit.  This picture was taken in Florida but I’m not sure where.



There is kapok tree in Key West and I was too close to it to get the whole tree in and since we saw it at the end of the first day and my feet were killing me, well, I wasn’t walking the half block away to take the picture of the whole tree.  This IS, after all, why Al Gore invented the Internet, so that when I need pictures I didn’t get I can find them online.

The kapok tree is also known the as the Silkcotton Tree and can grow as much as 130 feet or more.

It was the sacred tree of the Mayan people who believed that the souls of the dead climbed a mythical kapok whose branches reached to heaven.  This is not surprising because a kapok tree can grow as much as 10 feet in a year.

What’s most notable about this tree is the tree trunk and root system.  It has large buttresses at the bottom that grow outward as the tree grows upward.

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Most commercial kapok trees come from the Island of Java in Indonesia.  It is used to make furniture, stuffing, insulation and is found inside of some life jackets.  Kapok oil is made from the seeds of the tree and is used to make soap.

The wood is soft and called bentang in Africa.  It is used for making dugout canoes, carvings and caskets.

Now you know all about the kapok tree.

Friday, November 16, 2012

11/16/2012 Orientation

(Key Largo, FL)

We met with the Volunteer Coordinator, Elena, this morning at nine for our Orientation.
We learned all about the park, filled out lots of paperwork, watched some videos on the computer and received certificates for the training should we ever work another Florida state park.

Elena took us on a tour of the park for which I did not have my camera.  I’ll have to go back and take lots of pictures.

There is one thing they do here that we think all parks or privately owned campgrounds should do.  They gave us a local phone book for the Yellow Pages and a loose leaf binder with the brochures of all the local attractions and menus for the local restaurants.  Also a  list of local doctors, vets, churches with times, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores,,,,just everything you could need or want.

After the three hour orientation was over we spent the rest of the day getting our place set up for an extended stay.  Bob got our chairs out and set up the grill while I did inside things like take the rubberized matting out between the dishes and bowls and got out our things that make it home for us.  We did all this in between visits to Facebook and Scrabble games and a couple hands of poker.  We’re in no rush, we have the weekend off.

We think we’re gonna like it here!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15/2012 We Move to Key Largo

(Key Largo, FL)

We bid farewell to Key West and Sigsbee Naval Station FamCamp.  It’s the only way we could have stayed so long in Key West, Florida.

We had a two drive north on US 1. locally known as the Overseas Highway.  Thankfully, the trip was uneventful.

The scenery on the way north?  Spectacular!

I wanna live here!

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I think we were in Marathon when we saw this mural painted on this building.

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Before we knew it we were at the entrance of John Pennekamp State Park, where we’ll be for the next two months.
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Another sign at the entrance.
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We got checked in at the Ranger Station and were greeted warmly.  After squaring all the paperwork we headed to the campground itself.  Our site is the first one you come to as you pass through the gate which lifts up when you put the code in.  We don’t know if this is a good thing or not time will tell.

We were barely into our site when our fellow camp hosts started arriving to welcome us.  This is good!  This is very good!

I can tell you it didn’t take long for me to find out we are in the land of noseeums.  This is not good.  Not good at all.  These little suckers have a bite like you wouldn’t believe.

It didn’t take us long to get the basics set up at all.

I made a run to the local grocery store to pick up milk and rolls for the steak sandwiches we had for dinner.  I hate the thought of having to learn a new grocery store all over again.  This one is Publix and is very close by.  Winn Dixie is down the road so I’ll have two stores to shop sales with.

So here we are until January 15th.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14/2012 Back to Old Town

(Key West, FL)

Our time is drawing to an end for this trip to Key West so we wanted to get back to Old Town one more time.

We parked in the same parking lot as the last time we were here and it was even less crowded than before.  I didn’t take notice of this sign before.

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Trust me, Hemingway has done EVERYTHING here.  he’s eaten in more restaurants, slept in more hotels, visited more stores, even the new ones!

Back in the 1890’s Key West was the cigar making capital of the world.  There were 200 cigar rolling factories and more than 2000 cigar rollers.  Combined they made more than one million cigars a year.  A skilled cigar roller could roll 300 cigars a day – or – 90,000 a year.  Until the turn of the 20th century Key West was the wealthiest city in Florida, all due to cigar making.  Even today, you are just as likely to see a cigar shop as you are a T-shirt shop.  Some cigar rollers are set up in booths and you can watch them roll.

We’re going to spend more time on the most famous street in Key West.

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We decided to get lunch out of the way first.  Today’s choice was Sloppy Joe’s.  Yep, you guessed it, Hemmingway’s been here.

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Standing on the corner waiting to cross we were accosted, (yes, accosted!) by a guy with a bird.

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Next thing I know I’ve got a parrot on my shoulder and he’s taken my camera from me.

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He snapped picture after picture and then put the bird on Bob’s shoulder but the parrot had his own idea.

Parrothead?

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And the parrot owner kept on snapping away.

Then we both got into the picture.

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The parrot owner takes back his bird, looks at Bob and says, “Ten and ten, twenty dollars.”  Well, Bob had already started reaching into his pocket because we knew we were going to give him something but we were thinking more along the lines of ten dollars.  Well, the folded bills took out had a twenty on top and the parrot owner picked up on that right away.  We walked away and I said to Bob, “What just happened to us?”  As it turns out Bob didn’t have anything less than a twenty anyway.

So we made it into the Sloppy Joe’s and sat down to listen to the music and eat lunch.  Fish and chips for Bob and steamed shrimp for me.

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Sloppy Joe’s is a Key West tradition.  it’s been in business since 1937 and Hemmingway really did hang out here.  Really.

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After checking out the shops on Duval Street and stopping in at a few more bars along the way, it was really hot today, we finished up at world famous Mallory Square.

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There’s lot of shops…

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A few museums….

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An aquarium.  This young lady asked me if I wanted to hold the alligator.  After looking at the Band-Aids on her fingers I politely declined.

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The ships dock here…..

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And lots of street performers give their shows here.  You may see anything from a young fellow balancing himself precariously on one hand…

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….to someone juggling fire while on a very tall unicycle.
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And you’ll even see a guitar player wearing swim flippers.

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But the big draw to Mallory Square has to be the sunsets.

It wasn’t the best one I’ve seen because a bank of clouds settled just above the horizon this day.

Its quite the party atmosphere with drinks being served, a steel drum being played…

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and then of course the sunset.

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I have so many more pictures and things to write of about Key West.  Too much for two posts so I’ll revisit this in the week’s ahead.  When I have not much going on I’ll share more then.