Tag Archives: Key West

How to Render Your Husband Speechless, Again

Originally posted in WWN101 in 2012 this salacious tale seems worth repeating at this stage of our . . . . . our what? Confusion? Clarity? Travels? Decision to settle? Whatever.

After returning from the doctor’s office himself said to me, “The nurse told the doctor, ‘They’ve been right down to Key West and back. I wish I could do that,’ so I said to her you should change places with my wife.”

He sees this as proof enough that we should continue to travel, not settle down.

Of course she’d like to take a road trip to Key West. She’s working full time in wet Washington State.

I’ll bet he didn’t qualify the dream with the drawbacks. Would you give up your home, family and friends and emigrate to another country to satisfy your travel lust?  Would you give up free health care?  Could you survive in a tin box with your other half for years without coming to blows or calling a divorce lawyer?  Would you mind looking like a ragamuffin because your best clothes (probably moldy now) are in storage?

I appreciate the fact that I’ve seen 47 of the 50 states, something most Americans will never do. Of course I feel privileged to have seen most of the top National Parks.

And I hope himself has read this far before he’s blown a gasket and called me an ungrateful cow.

Just to confirm how right he is and how wrong I am – always worth a victory lap in his book – we had a memorable moment with Courtney in the course of our travels. As we approached a gaily decked out espresso hut the NASCAR bunting made me smile at the thought of our day at the Daytona 500.

Jimmy’s big day at the Daytona 500

Better still, after hearing, “I’ll be with you guys in a second,” a dark-haired leggy lovely appeared, dressed – I use that term loosely – in skimpy – that’s being generous – stop-light-yellow shorts and a NASCAR-emblazoned yellow top that had more fabric in the sleeves than the whole of the rest of the outfit.

As my mouth dropped open, she smiled brightly. “What can I get you guys?” I dared not look at Jimmy’s expression. Rather than place our order, what came out of my mouth was, “I like your outfit.”

“Oh, thanks. We were losing business to the bikini baristas so we thought we needed to make a change, but to something tasteful.” I really daren’t look at Jimmy then.  Her navel piercing and cleavage were particularly eye catching. I managed some sort of coffee order for myself, Jimmy stuttered out his tea order and whaddayaknow! the tea bags were on the bottom shelf.  Did I mention that her shorts were very brief?

“I like you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” I gave the concise Baltimore/England answer. “Awesome! Are you guys traveling?” I explained we’d been all around the country. “Awesome! Do you have family here?” I informed her that my brother lived up the road. “Awesome!” And a brother in Tennessee. “Cool!”  And children and grandchildren in England. And a brother-in-law in Wales.  “That is so cool!” And a daughter in Sydney. “That is an awesome excuse to travel.”

Score several points to Jimmy. Although I have to tell you he wasn’t counting points right at that moment.

“What’s with the NASCAR theme?” I asked.

“There’s a racetrack down the road. We thought it would bring in some business.”  Jimmy remained mute despite the motor racing reference, usually a favorite topic.

“Have you ever been to a NASCAR race?” I enquired, as the only one of her two customers capable of conversation.

“No. I’m from a little town called Elma. I’ve never traveled.”

“We went to the Daytona 500 in February.”

“AWESOME!” Well, I just had to agree with her. Had he been capable of the power of speech Jimmy would have agreed with anybody about anything right then.

You can stop looking for a picture of Courtney now. Sorry guys, there isn’t one.

More excitingly, Courtney had a cousin, equally skimpily dressed. We encountered her after our trailer wheel caught fire:

“Yer wus a fur!”

“What?” Jimmy bellowed.

“Yer wus a fur!”

“OUR WHEEL’S ON FIRE!!” I shrieked.

Read more of this post . . . 


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What Happened to Nebraska?

Instead of the balmy east coast summer we’d expected halfway through our second circumnavigation of the U.S. we’d endured gales and torrential rain from Maine to Delaware.

After a serendipitous trip to the grocery store for dinner fixings and wine, we found ourselves marooned within half an hour of our return as rain lashed down and filled in a moat around us at the Cape Cod Seashore.

Cape Cod Bay, taken from the warmth of the car. Note the heavy sky.
Cape Cod Bay, taken from the warmth of the car. Note the heavy sky.

The de-humidifier, my special spaghetti and meatballs and a bottle of red wine kept us from caring too much.

Summer turned to autumn while we were in England and on our return we just caught the end of the leaf show on a trip through the Smokies; only a few tenacious leaves had clung to the trees for us. The rest made a carpet of gold for our drive from Nashville to North Carolina.

The southeast coast was unbearably humid for two people used to the weather of a northerly latitude on a par with Calgary. Thanksgiving in Fort Lauderdale was uncharacteristically muggy, as were the Keys where one felt wrapped in a warm wet cloth each time we stepped from our cool trailer cocoon.

Views from our idyllic but sweaty campsite:

Evenings ‘round the campfire on Long Key, which we felt were compulsory on our sublime beach front setting, became an endurance test. Covered from head to foot and slathered with insect repellant against the sand flies, we steamed as though in a sauna in the stifling night air.

“I don’t think I can stand this!” himself exclaimed on emerging from the air conditioning in full bug-proof regalia.

“I’ve already lit the fire,” I wined.

“This is ridiculous.”

“Go back in then.”

“No. I’m here now.” The seductive flames were already leaping and I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist sitting and staring at them. Our bodies would slowly warm up, become clammy and acclimatize.

Lighting a campfire in the sultry heat of the Keys was ludicrous, but bites and sweat apart, the night sky, the low rumble of the surf and a backdrop of firelight reflected on the ocean was enchanting. Shooting stars, satellites and one sighting of the Hubble were our entertainment,

“There’s one!”


“There! There!” until the sand flies penetrated our defenses and we dived into the cool depths of the trailer.

From the time it took us to get from Key West to Destin on the Panhandle, the temperature plummeted and in “tropical” Florida the iguanas, torpid with the freeze were dropping out of the trees like they’d been shot. They weren’t dead. Apparently they’d come round and amble off once the weather warmed up.

Gulf coast at Destin, Florida. Looks warm. Wasn't!
Gulf coast at Destin, Florida. Looks warm. Wasn’t!

We shivered through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Tumbleweeds hopped around our fenced in campsite all night at Amarillo, with one giant tumbleweed landing at our door in the morning. Like daft tourists we each posed next to it, shivering, for a photo.

It was at this point that we’d planned to include Nebraska in our tour and see the sandhill cranes at the Rowe Sanctuary on their migration north but atypical cold and snow kept us on a more southerly route.

We were only 500 miles away. Good decision? There was more disagreeable weather to come.

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How Do You Teach a Dog to Surf?

Mallory   Square on the western tip of Key West is the place to take sunset photos and the jetty can be six people deep on a busy night. Photography is guesswork with camera held high or you can just take a nice orangey picture with a stranger’s head in the foreground.

The first night produced the aforementioned head silhouettes. The second night we arrived half an hour before sunset and waited as people queued behind us to take pictures of the backs of our heads.

Sloops, catamarans, trimarans and schooners sailed back and forth on the shimmering sea as the sun descended and the blue sky transformed to peach and violet.

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The sea lost its twinkle as the light faded and the sky intensified to gold, then a deep burnt sienna. Disappointingly, there no clouds to create a dramatic effect.

As the sun touched the horizon, the color was rich but uninteresting until, exactly on cue, a flock of pigeons took off from the shore filling the bold, but plain, sun and sky scene.

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Perfect picture opportunities abound in the Keys.

I took a series of boring photos of geckos,

just because they were there, my camera was in my hand and any wildlife makes my shutter finger twitch. There is ‘G’ on the campfire ring, ‘G’ on the fence, ‘G’ on a post, a close up of ‘G’ showing his lizard skin and long lizard toes and a digital close up of ‘G’ showing his yellow-rimmed black lizard eye. One little ‘g’ ventured onto the picnic table next to me. With my eye to the viewfinder I pressed the shutter button, but when I lowered the camera, he was gone. Missed him. A quick glance at the small camera screen confirmed it.

When I downloaded the pics to the laptop Leaping Lizards! there he was in full stretch – legs thrust back and tail up for balance – halfway between the picnic table and the fence.Gecko, Long Key FL On our way to visit a wildlife reserve, we pulled off the road to stretch our legs and admire a wide expanse of water with its birdlife. It was windy but the water was calm, just right for a novice windsurfer. Dazed from the heat I didn’t realize at first that the tentative windsurfer had a passenger.

The board sailed smoothly out to sea, the ‘captain’ tacked ever so carefully edging his way around the mast and then sailed smoothly back to shore. The little guy at the front of the board, no wait, he has four legs, I thought. It was a dog – a black Labrador! He stood stiffly balanced on the ‘bow’ and as the sail filled with the wind bringing the board up to speed after the tack, his tongue lolled out and flapped pinkly in the wind. He was having a whale of a time. You would think this is one tall tale too far without the photographs.

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Capturing these photos takes no particular talent, just a camera to hand with the lens cap off. Cute and crazy photo ops are everywhere in tropical Florida. And if I’d been quick enough I would now have evidence to prove why the chicken crossed the road.

Of the thousands of photos on my hard drive, that is the one I really wished I’d taken.

Oh, and how do you teach a dog to surf? I have absolutely no idea.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

“I’ve never seen a chicken cross the road before.”

Sitting at an outdoor margarita bar and lulled by tequila and palm fronds floating in a warm tropical breeze, I wasn’t expecting one of the great mysteries of the universe to be solved before my eyes, much less be given the opportunity to capture it on film, or in megapixels, or however you express it these days.

As I looked up, a rooster escorted his missus across a busy (or what passes for busy in Key West) intersection while traffic screeched to a halt in all four directions. The perfect picture opportunity passed so quickly I didn’t even have time to reach for the camera case.

“So he did want to get to the other side.” And I’d only had one drink. Or was it two?

Thus was our Florida Keys experience typified in one small incident. The tornado watch and hearing tales of alligator-swallowing pythons on our way south weren’t the half of it. Driving off the southern tip of mainland Florida onto Key Largo begins a journey into never never land.

Abundant wildlife appears to pose for elegant and humorous photographs alike. Photos of laughing gators,091216Keys3 151 a pelican at the helm of a speedboat,

a flying spider (his fine web disguised by the bright blue sky),Flying spider, Florida Keys a snowy egret waiting patiently for a haircut as he poses on a barber’s chair,Snowy egret on barber chair, Florida Keysa great egret waiting patiently for lunch standing on a railing outside his favorite restaurant. Click to enlarge pics. He’s in all three:

“And he’s real picky,” I heard the waitress say. “He likes shrimp. He won’t eat clams or anything fried.”

We watched a pelican swallow a whole crab but it wouldn’t go down his gullet. He ucked it up a couple of times and attempted to re-swallow it, but without success. The outline of the hapless crab shows clearly in the photograph in a bulge in his neck.

A cormorant, balanced on a stake with his wings held out to dry, dropped his head at the last moment as I snapped, looking shy as though I’d caught him just stepping out of the shower.

Great egrets stalking their dinner are bathed in evening sunlight, turning their feathers flamingo pink.Egret, sunset, Florida KeysWhite ibises flocked in a dead tree at sunset formed a brown and gold sculpture.Ibises, sunset, Florida KeysThe bald eagle, perched in a distant cell phone tower next to its nest, waited for me to go back to the trailer and read my camera instruction book so I could return and zoom in on it digitally.

Even sea life was considerate enough to swim into shallow water to be photographed clearly from above – blue fin crabs in attack posture,

and brightly colored fish – Parrot Fish, Long Key. Floridaas the photographer is too squeamish to swim amongst them.

Not wishing to sound too much of a sissy, Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish – beautiful cobalt blue bubbles of stingPortuguese man o' war, Florida Keys – were prevalent as I tiptoed through the shallow water with my camera in hand.

Come back soon! There’s more!

N.B. If you recognize that restaurant please allow me some artistic license. It’s on the Gulf coast, not in the Keys.

Do I wake up grumpy? No, I let him sleep.

One thing to consider in the small space we called home is that endearing personality quirks turn into monsters. Yes, mine too. Some days I couldn’t even stand myself. As well as turning from amiable to irritable at the drop of a pile of tee shirts, the inconsistency of our day-to-day lives made me lazy.

What’s the point of starting something – like making that necklace I’d bought a clasp for weeks previously – that not only had to be put down when we travelled but put away and stuffed in the dark recesses of a locker where it’s very existence quickly faded from my tiny mind. When I cleaned out the overflowing locker weeks later I came across the unfinished string of beads as well as other treasures.

“Ooo. Look what I found.”

“What’s that?” himself asked with an edge of disgust in his voice.

Damn. I didn’t mean for him to see that. I’d hidden it from him in there. “It’s my Key West Coke bottle,” I replied a little deflated.

“You’re kidding aren’t you?”

“No. Look. It’s got Key West in raised letters on the bottom. I’m sure it’s collectible.”

“In your world. It’s just junk. Throw it away.”

With my back to him, I rewrapped it in a plastic bag and hid it again with my coveted collection of unremarkable stones from all over the States.

Our haphazard and disrupted schedule depended on the weather, how well we slept (trains, rain, cold, diesel engines, motorcycles, jets, flies, drunks – all making an impact) therefore what time we managed to fall out of bed, who was ready to go first, who was more desperate to get going, how far the next campsite was, whether we loved it or hated it when we get there and how much or little we were speaking to each other when we got there, but it mostly depended on doing everything together and agreeing on everything we did. The only absolute constant in our day was a glass of wine at 6:00 and even that was dragged forward to 5:30. We managed to agree on that.

Our little trailer that seemed so perfect when we bought it is cramped and wherever we stand or sit we’re in each other’s way.

Our styles of accomplishment are different. Jimmy completes one task in one place, focuses, moves on to the next. Methodical. Male. I flit from one thing to the next, juggling several activities – cooking, while running back and forth to the laundromat, while keeping an eye on the TV, while checking emails and ignoring the acrid smell coming from the oven and putting the laundry away. Multi-tasking. Female.

All the while, wherever Jimmy settles to complete whatever task he is concentrating on is just where I need to be – the locker under his bum, the drawer behind his knee, the fridge he’s leaning on in a vain effort to stay out of reach of my flailing arms as I kick a cupboard shut, stir a saucepan with my left hand and reach for the fridge with my right.

Then there is the bathroom. As teeny as it is and as much as I complain about it, I would like to lay claim to it exclusively.

“Are you ever coming out of there?” himself pleads.

“I’ve only just got in here.”

“Rubbish. You’ve been in there for half an hour.”

“No I haven’t. I’ve just come back from the washing machine. You could have got in there then.”

“I wasn’t ready to go in there then.”

“Well, tough. You’ve missed your slot.”

“I need to get in there! NOW!”

“OK. OK. OK.  I’ll just get my make-up box together and come out. You could have just asked me nicely in the first place instead of picking a fight.”

“I didn’t pick a fight. You did.”

“No I didn’t. You did.”

“No I didn’t.”

Petty. Petty. Petty. A nonsensical argument that wouldn’t have happened in a bigger living space.

The only time we are in complete harmony is when we are asleep and insomnia wrecks that a lot of the time.

You can't tell me that nice little green vintage Coke bottle doesn't just MAKE my flower-herb garden/beach/Christmas/bird bath display.
You can’t tell me that nice little green vintage Coke bottle doesn’t just MAKE my flower-herb garden/beach/Christmas/bird bath display.

BTW: I’m the morning grump.

A Brush With the Law

In my own little world as I often am when a passenger (most particularly just before we get lost) I was jolted out of my reverie by a loud obscenity from Jimmy and by the car (towing the trailer) swerving viciously towards some bollards marking out narrow lanes in road works. Being America, they were not just little cones, but beer-keg-like bollards. When I checked my door mirror, I saw three orange blinking monsters catapulting towards the work crew. Ping, ping, ping they went, like tiddlywinks.

Jimmy had had to make a split second decision to either let “some stupid woman in a white car” hit us or to rearrange the construction site. Fascinated with the incredible trajectory of the bollards, I didn’t notice at first the damage to our awning. But when I saw the awning struts sticking out from the trailer like compound fractures, I shouted “You’ve got to stop!!”

“We can’t!!”

“We’ve got to! We’ve got to!  The awning is broken and swinging around!!”


“Here! Here!”

“I can’t stop here!”

“Yes you can! Yes you can!” I was beginning to sound like Dave Letterman with his annoying habit of repeating himself. “It’s OK here! It’s OK here!” I insisted, trying to browbeat Jimmy into pulling off the highway anywhere as he couldn’t see the dire state of our awning in his mirrors.

It was still furled up in place, near the roof of the trailer but the struts at either end had been snapped off at the bottom and were dangling from the top. The whole thing looked perilously close to crashing to the ground. The struts would then get tangled in the trailer wheels causing the trailer to jackknife or catapult or become javelins bounding along the roadway or the whole thing could sail away causing an interstate pile-up.

White knuckles gripping the wheel, Jimmy eased gingerly onto the shoulder of an on ramp of Interstate 95.

We could go no further, particularly on a road full of truckers and crazy Florida drivers who didn’t appreciate the danger of road works whilst wrapped in large pieces of speeding metal.

A State Trooper pulled up as we were standing beside our trailer, shell-shocked and scratching our heads. I was prompted to ponder the question Jimmy had posed a few days before; Do our license plates run out at the beginning of November or the end of November? Isn’t it funny how we feel guilty as soon as a policeman is in view?

The Trooper was big and imposing. His biceps bulged tightly in the sleeves of his neatly pressed tan shirt. He was so tall that if he had lifted his arm out to the horizontal I could have walked under it with inches to spare above my head. His children wouldn’t need outdoor play equipment. They could use their sturdily built father as a climbing frame. I pictured a tot swinging from his biceps or sliding down his broad back. No, he wouldn’t have children. He looked too mean.

An impending scene of degradation and disgrace, vis-à-vis so many movies we’ve all seen, loomed in my mind. The Trooper squinted at the license plate on the car and scribbled something on his little spiral pad (just like the ones they all use in the movies) and slid it meaningfully into his shirt pocket. I waited for it. He strode menacingly up to Jimmy, engaged eye contact and paused while we quaked.

I was convinced it was against the law to stop where we had and I scanned the trooper’s belt for handcuffs. If our trailer was confiscated would they junk it? All our worldly goods were on it.

Are Florida jails air-conditioned? How will I sleep? What is the diet like? I can’t manage on stodgy food.

Jimmy and I stood like two naughty children waiting for the punishment that we knew we deserved.

“You folks having some trouble?” he asked kindly.

To our immense relief after our babbling explanations  he produced some plastic ties from his car, secured the wayward awning struts to the body of the trailer and informed us that there was an RV dealer just five miles down the road.

The expensive new awning, casting no shade whatsoever to sit in.
The expensive new awning, casting no shade whatsoever to sit in. And see? I didn’t fabricate that map. Remember the map? There it is. Right there on the side of the trailer.

And so ends this sorry tale of great anxiety, vast expense and no one to blame – she got away.

There is a happy ending though. Adjacent to the RV dealer was an outlet mall and in the two hours it took to replace our awning, we used the free time productively. Jimmy purchased all my birthday presents, a matter that had been preying on his mind for some time.

That's us, under the left Coca-Cola, maroon stripe on awning, bed slide hanging out over the Atlantic, gulf of Mexico in background. Photo taken at Bahia Honda Key.
That’s us, under the left Coca-Cola, maroon stripe on awning, bed slide hanging out over the Atlantic, Highway 1 and the Gulf of Mexico in the background. Photo taken at a skinny little part of Bahia Honda Key.

What’s your worst uh-oh moment on the road?

We made to Key West - no thanks to I95 and "that stupid woman."
We made it – no thanks to I-95 and “that stupid woman.” Photo taken at Mallory Square, Key West.