Saturday, December 5, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend in the Keys Part 2

We had rented our bikes yesterday, so today we rode around town and checked out a few things..We rode our bikes to the Eco Discovery Center in Key West and explored a bit. There's lots to learn here about the reefs...The center has over 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, and a mock up of Aquarious, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory.  The exhibits show the ecology of the Keys' habitats. You can learn about the seagrass flats, the hard bottom, the coral reef, and deep shelf habitat.  Sparky did not know much about the reefs, as she has never snorkeled nor scuba dived, nor has she lived in a coastal area till now.

There's a theater there, too, where you can watch a short film about the ecosystem of the Florida Keys by Bob Talbot, a famous filmmaker. It was a very beautiful center and very informative. You could easily spend a couple of hours there. AND--it's FREE!
We didn't have much time to stay and learn today, but we'll definitely return on our next visit and soak up more information. Excellent family destination and highly recommended!

We then explored some of the back streets of Key West and found Fort Zachary Taylor Public Beach with the fort nearby. Beautiful public beach, you can get into the park on your bike for 2.50, for cars it was a 4.00 admission. The beach reminded Sparky of Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island...

Lots of shade, lots of picnic benches, trails to walk, yoga classes, it's a beautiful beach area with lots of amenities, even a restaurant that looked nice! We had a cookout there....

Sparky decided we didn't really need paper plates for burgers, how about coffee filters in a pinch? Except she brought salad and dressing which promptly soaked right through. (Silly girl! says E. I tried to tell her maybe we should get some....)

You can even watch cruise ships leaving the Keys right close up and personal in the channel next to the beach! We stayed long enough to watch the sunset....

Our three days passed by way too quickly...Kelly even made time to run a 5K in and around Key West Saturday morning. It was fun getting up early to see her run... The early morning markets hadn't opened up yet.
Kelly and Eldy

Bike riding, the Eco Center, even a little night life....Key West has some WA-A-A-A-Y out there night life....Sparky wishes she had gotten a photo of the 6 1/2ft tall lady, er, guy in drag that almost dragged Eldy off the street and into the bar! Yikes! He couldn't walk fast enough to the opposite side of the street! :-)

We listened to some GREAT music that night at Willie T's....By the way, if you take a pedi cab, which we did just down Duval Street, don't be surprised if one of the drivers drops you off at the same bar we arrived at, which seemed at the time, a random suggestion. Later we figured out, that the pedaling driver actually probably got a tip for dropping us off at that particular bar, as he was wearing a tee shirt from that bar! An astute observation from Sparky's daughter, as Sparky was a little two sheets to the wind by then. :-) Eldo was hanging in there....

What else did we do while in Key West? Sparky ran around after chickens and roosters trying to catch a photo of a beautiful rooster that remained elusive to photographing, Sparky and Sparky, Jr., (that's Kelly, explains E.) climbed the lighthouse, all 88 steps, a small one compared to most, but still beautiful and a great view at the top.

And of course, we biked to the southernmost point on the island. There was a line halfway down the block, so we didn't wait. We did a drive by shoot. (oooohhh, that's bad, frowns E.) First Sparky, then Kelly.....

We heard some great street steel drum music from the reggae "mon"..... :-)
Reggae "Mon"
We watched some dancin' fools have a great time....And if you're there on a Sunday, on Duval Street, a bunch of guys dress up in sundresses just because it's "Sundress Sunday".

We ate at Sloppy Joe's--don't forget the web cam while you are there, go stand in front of the stage, and your friends and family back home can "look you up" on the cam. Wave HI! Then go buy some goofy souvenirs like these painted coconuts.....
Buy a risqué tee....(this one is mild, really...there are FAR FAR worse! )
Try Amigos Tortilla Bar if you crave Mexican food...the corn was AWESOME!

And don't miss, absolutely don't miss eating breakfast at the Blue Heaven, one of the coolest outdoor restaurants we have ever seen...pricey, but amazing atmosphere and excellent food....Tell 'em Sparky and Eldo sent you. :-)

Safe travels....It might be awhile till we meet again and have something to report.....Happy Holidays to you and your family...

Love, Sparky and Eldo     (Jeannie and Eldy)

Thanksgiving in the Keys? Why Not?

Sparky's daughter, Kelly, had the wonderful idea of getting together in the Keys for Thanksgiving this year. She wanted to get out of the cold, Sparky was thinking of getting INTO the cold, but the Keys? That's a no brainer...Keys-- or sleet and possible snow? Even Sparky will take the Keys over a dreary, bleak winter day. :-) Since Kelly is in the military, we were able to stay at a VERY reasonable price of 75.00 a night over the Thanksgiving holiday at the naval air base located there.

Sparky was excited to be on the drive to the Keys. She knew we were going to stop at the Oasis Center in the Everglades on the way down. It's in the Big Cypress National Preserve right on highway 41 heading south..It's always FULL of alligators. (And bear with us, Sparky just HAS to post these multiple photos of gators, explains E.) More to come on our way back home... :-)

There are BIG gators here in the drainage ditch right in front of the center. And, although you are NOT supposed to check out the drainage ditch/swamp Everglades area to the right of the driveway entrance to the Oasis Center, there are ALWAYS more big gators much closer and on about the same viewing plane as they are just beyond the guard rail from the road, Part of the guard rail has additional fencing to keep the gators away from the drive in entrance, but that fencing extends just a couple of yards. After that, a gator could easily come up the bank and right into the road (where Sparky was standing, says an exasperated E.)

Sparky counted TEN big fat gators today, with a ton of egrets and herons eating just beyond them to the right of the Oasis Center and seven inside the observation area of the boardwalk. Gators don't normally eat birds, they prefer something more along the lines of fish, but we have seen them chomp a duck. Sparky spotted this gator with a feather right on his snout, which made her think he had decided to eat a bird lunch today, not long before we got there!

Nice boardwalk and you can see lots of things besides gators...Sparky spotted this green heron below the boardwalk, as she was walking. The tail feathers were GORGEOUS! We hardly ever see this particular type of heron.

And here's a sign of the times.....Sparky finds this drone trend to be disturbing in more ways than one.

Back to our accommodations...The Navy has several locations around Key West, but we stayed in a little mobile home parked in a row of multiple mobile homes in one area of the base called the Trumbo Point. The one we stayed at was spartan but nicely furnished 2 bedroom (double beds), one small bath, with bed linens and all the basics for family living. No patio, no outdoor furniture or grill, but we did just fine.

The roosters woke us up every morning. EVERY morning. Bright and early. :-)

For Thanksgiving Day, our first day there, we had arrived late. We ate at the VFW post, which was advertising Thanksgiving Dinner for 19.95, a bargain in Key West! Kelly is like her mom, sometimes very non traditional...We had the prime rib! Eldo had the advertised special, turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing.

The next day we headed to the bike shop to pick up our rental bikes for the weekend. Nice big coaster style bikes, pedal brakes, no gears, and a basket on the front. You don't see road bikes in Key West. Come to think of it, Sparky doesn't think she saw a road bike there all weekend! You just see big fat tire bikes suitable for biking on crushed rock paths and sandy roads. Everybody is taking their time riding around which was fine with Sparky, as there was LOTS of road traffic. The bike rental places are all over the place but we rented from a bike shop called Sunshine Scooters just across the bridge on N. Roosevelt Road which was just a short drive from our place where we were staying. The rental was very reasonable, 12.00 a day, or 50.00 for a week. They also rent electric cars and scooters as well, natch!

If you want to bike around Key West, that's not a problem, but the bike paths sharing the road with cars seemed to be inconsistent. Sometimes a nice wide marked bike lane was visible, other streets you just shared with cars. It was a very slow pace all around town. If you wanted to be able to do some more serious riding, you'll have to ride elsewhere! Sparky saw a headline on a newspaper stand that said, "Key West #1 in Bike Accidents" or something similar to that which made her a little nervous. But, we rode anyway.... It was fun! Nobody is in a hurry, so that helps. It's the island way.....

And with that, we'll wrap up our visit today and have more for you tomorrow...