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Seeing Key West by Scooter

Thursday February 20, 2014

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It looks as if my prediction of staying on the boat to surf the web only half came true. Since we’ve been here we’ve gotten into an every other day habit, where one day we’ll stroll through town or run errands and the next day we’ll hang out on the boat. Each time we’ve been able to get off the boat it’s been a treat, not just to check out the cool things that Key West has to offer, but to get myself on solid ground that’s not moving beneath me. Not only is there barely any protection from the elements here, we’re only blocked from the Gulf of Mexico by two dinky little islands, but we’ve managed to park ourselves in a spot where all the tour boats and fishing boats like to get up on plane and come right between us and the next boat, rocking us so hard that items on the counter will slide right over the lip and come crashing to the floor. We’ve managed to break one more Corelle coffee mug and get to add it to the items to replenish/replace while we’re here in the states. I have to say though, the sunsets in this spot are spectacular and make it well worth all the rocking and rolling that goes on during the day. While our cockpit faces SW in the evening, I cozy back with a Mexican beer or the last bit of boxed wine in my hand and unwind after a long day of Facebooking. These are some tough times we’re living in..

After having spent the past five days discovering Key West by foot, I was finally able to wrangle that scooter ride that we never ended up taking in Isla Mujeres, and transfer my credits here. From the bank of Matt. While strolling the sights on foot yesterday, we found a little scooter shop all the way at the end of Duval St. that would let us rent a double scooter for $40/day. Getting ourselves back there at 10:00 this morning, after a stop a Starbucks to begin using those gift cards, we signed off on the paperwork and Matt took a test drive through the parking lot before we decided to be the only people here that actually would don helmets, and rode off into the late morning sunrise. Wanting to get as many miles in as possible with wheels under our feet we joked that we should make a break for US 1, seeing how far up the Keys we could make it (does Key Largo sound feasible?) before determining that the outer parts of Key West would actually be good enough for us.

The first stop of the morning was Smathers Beach, a popular spot recommended to us after asking for suggestions of what to do here. It was just a little further than either of us wanted to wander on foot before but we figured if we both really liked it, it might be worth the walk next time. Parking on the side of the road and stepping on to the nearly deserted beach, we were struck by how completely different it was from Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres. We were used to palm trees that lined the whole beach all the way down to the shore, providing some shade and beauty, leading to postcard blue waters while music thumped from little bars and restaurants just behind us. This was just one long strip of sand with some palm trees shielding you from the road, with somewhat murky looking water waiting for you at the shoreline. Putting my snobbery aside for a second, I’m sure this place 1. has a lot of sediment being tossed up at the moment due to all the strong winds we’ve been having lately, leaving the water not quite in it’s best form, and 2. it is actually a very nice beach when you’re not comparing it to the picture perfect one you’ve just come from. But I am.

After that we hopped back on the scooter and aimlessly began driving around, trying to see sights that we hadn’t made it to before. There were just a couple, such as the cemetery and the area by the naval base, but it turns out we had already seen most of the good stuff since it’s all grouped by where the cruise ships are. We had only been on the scooter for an hour and a half before figuring this out, and even though we’d already walked Duval St and it’s surrounding shops before, we parked ourselves to get off and walk them once more. Lunch time was also growing near and we needed to find at least one of the recommended places given to us to eat at. The first stop was by far the most popular suggestion, Blue Heaven for breakfast. Luckily they served it a few hours into lunch time, but unluckily for Matt who hates just about every kind of breakfast food, they hadn’t started their lunch menu yet. Hopping back on the scooter we parked ourselves in front of the Green Parrot and sat ourselves at the bar, ready to get some grub. Just before placing our drink orders we found out this establishment did not actually serve food, and dejected, we walked next door to Charlie Mac’s. Opting to split one of their large baskets featuring a beef brisket, we were instantly transferred back to Mojo’s in St. Augustine where we’ve had some of the most amazing beef brisket in the world. This was no different. Even the sides of macaroni & cheese and cornbread were to die for. Plus it didn’t hurt that we had the owner stopping in for lunch at the table in front of us, and he kept passing back his own plate of brisket for us to nibble off of.

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Since we did have a set of wheels at our disposal and no more sights that we really had to see that day, we put our scooter to good use by making runs out to the grocery store on the other side of the island to stock up Serendipity with things that she’s sorely been missing since Cayman. First was a run to Publix where Georgie was finally able to get good clumping fresh scented litter again, and we loaded ourselves up with about 15 blocks of Cabot cheese that was on special. There was also enough food to get us through the next few days, and back we went to Serendipity to drop off all our goods. Making one more food run, we switched to the Winn Dixie this time, which was having a special on a few of our old favorites, Coke and Kraft macaroni & cheese. And that’s all that we bought there. Coming up to the check out counter with 20 liters of pop and 10 blue boxes of mac & cheese, I assume that the cashier expected the conversation between Matt and I to be somewhere along the lines of “Cleatus, we better git back to the trailer park to watch the grankids so Darlene can get to her shift at Pink Cheetah. Make sure’n sign her form cause she’s a minor.”

By the time we made our multiple runs to the grocery stores it was nearing five o’clock and the scooter needed to make it’s way back to the rental facility. Not having gotten much entertainment in for the day, we slowly strolled Duval St. on the way back, watching all the people that were already pretty intoxicated just as happy hour was beginning. Walking by one of the restaurants that had benches and bars facing the sidewalk, a group of about 4 guys were rating each woman as she walked by. I hadn’t even noticed this until we had already passed and Matt was looking back with a shocked faced to see that I’d only been rated as an 8, but I think I have to agree with the guys on that one. Slightly sweaty with helmet hair? I think I could have done much worse.

Another popular suggestion of things for us to do in Key West was check out the street performers that come out near sunset in Mallory Square. Everyone was just setting up shop as we walked in, the vendors with their food and drinks, and the performers with their shows. Since there wasn’t much else happening at the moment we wandered over to a guy that had a sign for swallowing swords. He did some performances for the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not located there, and also took to the streets at night for extra tips. We watched on, crowded as close to his little line as we could get, as he stuck a sword around two feet long down his throat, did a little spin, and then bended down on one knee. It was a good thing we had just a little bit of cash on us and were able to tip him a dollar for the pleasure of watching. Moments after that show ended we heard calls from just a few feet away, a fire swallower that was trying to gather a crowd. Stepping up to his line, we watched a much longer show as he first did in fact swallow fire for the crowd, and then wrapped himself up in a straight jacket, and then had multiple chains looped and locked to his body. We’d seen shows like that before, and being able to lock my hands together behind my back and bring them up around my head without ever letting go myself, I know that a little bit of knowledge and some flexibility can get you out of that. But the jokes were funny, and most of the other performers were still setting up, so it was worth another dollar out of our pocket.

Our last performance of the day was two young guys, possibly brothers, performing acrobatic feats, almost in a Cirque du Soleil style. We missed the first few minutes to it, but later found out they call themselves The Red Trouser Show and perform all over the US. The show was actually quite long, about 20 minutes, and included things like juggling knives, juggling fire, doing handstands off the other’s palms and other general jumps and flips. Matt was actually brought in for part of the show, where he spent most of it holding a rope and wondering why he was doing this, but for their last feat they climbed a very high ladder that needed support from each corner, and while Matt and three other guys did this, one of the RTS guys placed himself horizontally from the ladder while supporting the other RTS guy who kicked up his legs in the other direction. It looks like their shows are pretty popular across the country, and I can see why. I’d follow them anywhere.

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