Still Life with Gators

. . . or more importantly, still ALIVE in spite of gators and interstate travel in Florida. We left Key West Friday morning and made our way along the Overseas Highway, marveling yet again at the amazing shades of blue on both the Atlantic side and the Gulf side. We had hoped to stop again at Bahia Honda State Park, but the line of cars was out to the highway and we had a long way to go. Instead we stopped on the side of the road for a few quick snaps.

Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park

Our goal was to avoid the freeway as much as possible this time—been there, done that and YIKES—so instead we headed up 41 and across the Everglades. In a canal at the side of the road, we spotted alligators just hanging out enjoying the sunshine. Super cool. I’ve never seen gators in the wild, so loved it, especially from the safety of our car! But of course, that’s not how you get good photos, so we pulled off at a visitors’ center and found these . . .

Double Trouble
Double Trouble — Don’t remember them being this blue.

. . . and this guy . . .

Still Water with Gator
Still Water with Gator

Super scary when they stared at me, so I was grateful for the fence! This Great Blue Heron seemed relaxed . . .

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

. . . right there, next to the gators. But we weren’t there very long, so not sure how dinner time goes!

We spent Friday night in Naples, and although no Key West-style sunset from our hotel, we were able to enjoy the sun lighting up the clouds . . . Clouds at Sunset -- Naples. . . then continued north in the morning. We were supposed to stop for lunch with some cousins in Fort Myers, but somehow got our signals crossed, so David took me instead out to see Sanibel, famous in Bridge family lore as the site of a maddening family photo session, with teens on mopeds, so you can imagine how easy that was to manage. Like herding cats. Here’s David on the beach . . .

David on the beach, Sanibel Island
David on Sanibel Island — 43 years since the last visit

Then we decided to risk I-75 to drive the remaining two hours up to St. Pete Beach, and the angry, reckless drivers were still out in full force, but we made it. The condo itself is a little disappointing, and the beach in spots is thronged with spring-breakers, but dwelling on the negatives would be insane. A short walk has us back to shell-seeking and admiring the blues, so we are NOT suffering, I know. Makes me think of this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ∼Philippians 4:8

So here’s a little admirable loveliness for you . . .

St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach
Shells on St. Pete Beach
Shells on St. Pete Beach
St Pete Beach Blues
St Pete Beach Blues

Photogenic, no? I promise to keep sending you the warmest, most colorful photos I can to help you through the final weeks of winter!

End of the Road

We’ve said goodbye to Key West, former home of Hemingway and his enviable studio . . .

Ernest Hemingway's Studio
Ernest Hemingway’s Studio

. . . where works like For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Green Hills of Africa, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro, among others, were written. The day I visited, there was the loveliest breeze coming through the windows and rustling the palms outside . . .

Hemingway House on Key West
Hemingway House on Key West

Hemingway seems to haunt the place a bit. I can’t even count the number of look-alikes I encountered during our sojourn. Here’s one conveniently posed by the sign, in case you didn’t catch the resemblance.

Hemingway Look-Alike
Hemingway Look-Alike
Louie's Backyard and the Dog Beach
Louie’s Backyard and the Dog Beach

Goodbye also to Louie’s Backyard, an excellent restaurant next to the dog beach. Our favorite is the small plates restaurant upstairs, where the Prosecco is cold, the chef is world class and where we twice lucked into a balcony table with a view of the sea looking like this. →

And no more Mallory Square Sunset Celebrations where the performers hope for tips, the artisans hope for sales . . .

Mallory Square Artist
Mallory Square Artist

. . . the sunset sailors fill their sails . . .Sunset Sails. . . and the vacationers fill their drinks . . .

Mallory Square Coconut Drink at Sunset
Mallory Square coconut drink while waiting for sunset

But aside from these usual tourist events, I don’t know where else we’ll see things like this . . .

Fort Zachary Taylor Civil War Battle Reinactment
Fort Zachary Taylor — Preparing for a Civil War Battle Reinactment

. . . or this . . .

Iguanas in the Cemetery
Iguanas in the Cemetery
End of Route 1
David at the end of Route 1

But all that is now in the past. We made it to the end of Route 1, and since Key West was meant to be the end of our original year of adventure, leaving Key West really is the beginning of the road home.

We will actually be in Florida for two more weeks, which we realize is a very good thing, since FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, this winter has been UNBELIEVABLE. Bon courage! It seriously does have to give way to spring eventually.

So you’d think it would be no big deal, but there is an odd feeling of something ending. At the same time, though, some new things are beginning and other good things will be resuming, so in this season of change, we remain grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and the friends we’ve made both in France and here in the states.

We love you all. Thanks for sharing our journey with us. We’re not done yet!

Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle. ∼Anna Quindlen

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. ∼John Steinbeck

Happy trails!

Uniquely Key West

First, I know many of you are still suffering from this seemingly endless winter, so here’s a gift of warmth and color to help you cope. If you’re really desperate, remember you can click on any shot to enlarge it and really soak it in. Enjoy . . .

Hope you feel a little better and warmer after a little color therapy! Now that you’re fortified . . . .

I can’t leave Key West without mentioning the notorious weirdness. Before we even left Colorado, we were told by a few people that Key West was too “weird” and we wouldn’t like it. But, well, weirdly, we’ve enjoyed it. Now we’re down to less than a week left here before heading north to St. Petersburg (still Florida), so I thought I’d better share a few of the unique things we’ve seen here.

The naysayers weren’t exactly wrong. People do seem to delight in being a little different.

Standard Duval Street style sight
Standard type of Duval Street sight

And some of the transportation is unusually artsy . . .Fish Fund Truck

And there’s actually a rooftop bar that is “Clothing Optional” – we’ve skipped that, so no photos!

There are t-shirts here that say, “Key West: Where the weird go pro.” That seems to be true.

Spiderman on Duval Street
Spiderman on Duval Street
Juggler at Nightly Sunset Celebration,  Malory Square
Juggler at Nightly Sunset Celebration, Malory Square

Some who are only posing in odd attire have a sign asking for a tip if you take a picture. Didn’t cross the street to see if Spiderman had a sign, but he did not appear to be playing.

This top-hatted juggler is at least trying to entertain for his tips. He involves volunteers and has a relatively engaging spiel that draws a crowd every night.

Southernmost PointActually, though, unusually-dressed people can be found anywhere from time to time, so there are probably only a few things completely unique to Key West, like the fact of its being the southernmost point in the continental USA. There are non-stop lines of people wanting their pictures taken next to this. →

Side note: The other evening at Malory Square, a young Asian woman came up to us and said, “Excuse me? Is that Cuba?” pointing to the little island 500 yards across the water. I think her English was good enough to understand us when we explained that Cuba is close, but not THAT close. You can’t actually see it from Key West. It’s also not north of here. In case your geography’s a little rusty, Cuba is 90 miles south of the Southernmost Point marker, not to mention the fact that it’s slightly larger than 27-acre Sunset Key you can see from Malory Square.

Some unique and interesting things here don’t even qualify as weird at all. Key West is the place to find much of the treasure recovered from the 1622 wreck of the Spanish ship Atocha by Mel Fisher and his crew, as well as other shipwreck treasure.

So it’s not all weird, and even some of the weird is fun.

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutually satisfying weirdness–and call it love–true love. ∼Robert Fulghum (probably not Dr. Seuss, as some say)Frost QuoteWishing you the very best wherever your road takes you!