Coconut Times - Ocean City Maryland
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Written By: OC Fotoguy
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    I awakened knowing the task at hand, but not knowing where the day’s events would carry me.  I had made camping reservations for the next couple days at Mitchell’s Landing and going to Shark Valley.  Many of the birds rarely seen by the tourists are there right by a National Park Service parking lot!
    I examined the underside of the wheel housing that had gotten clobbered when the tire shed its tread.  I couldn’t see any major damage; the tire was still fully inflated, but was treadless.  I walked back to where the tread was lost and retrieved the underside of the fender that had torn loose, so I could reinstall it later.  When I got back to the truck I popped the hubcaps off and got the wrench.  I couldn’t budge any of the lug nuts, so I called AAA.  That guy couldn't get them loose either.  He was much bigger than me, had a pipe that he put on the wrench to give additional leverage, and he strained and groaned.  It didn’t help!  He was willing to try to get my truck and nest on his truck..  The cable pulled it up onto the bed of his Jerr-Dan truck, and carried me to a garage near Naples.  I should've taken a picture of that operation with my nest perched up there!
    They had an air wrench that got the nuts off.  The guy said the nuts had been tightened at the wrong torque setting.  Since I was close to Marco Island I overnighted there, ate a delicious wet burrito at Nacho Mama’s, took a relaxing walk on the beach, and enjoyed HH.  The next day I went to MegaMart thinking they’d sell the type of tire I wanted.  They didn’t, but recommended a speed shop that did.  I drove there, saw a lot of customized cars, and was skeptical.  I asked if they could sell me the type of Michelin Tire I wanted and install it.  They could, but not til late that afternoon.  I left, thought they’d be my plan B, and looked for a Michelin Dealer.  Had no luck and went back.  Their air compressor that powers all of their equipment had broken down, but they said they’d do it anyhow.  It was a hot sunny day on December 19th and a big burly guy got sweaty grimy dirty, taking the treadless tire off the rim, putting the new on the rim, and installing the tire on my truck.  He did it good naturedly, too!  I requested he not tighten the lug nuts too tight, because I needed to be able to take them off to change a tire, probably nowhere.  I didn’t even have him replace the spare - he’d done enough - it goes up under the bed of the pickup truck.  I could do that.
    It was HH time by then, so I went back to Marco Island.  The "idiot" light that came on when the tire tread came loose was still on after I got the new tire.  I asked the guy to check for other damage; he didn’t see any.  At happy hour someone told me if I disconnect the battery the idiot light would reset.  I did that, the light didn’t come on when I started the engine; I hope the light stays out. 
    The next morning I was off to the Keys.  I’d always wanted to check out the Alabama Jacks, so that was the first stop.  It’s located on Card Sound Road right before the toll bridge.  It has a legacy including where movies have been made.  I’d heard they serve steamed Blue Crabs and I wanted some.  I found it to be a little touristy with some locals, and with a friendly staff.  They close at 8pm, so after I ate I took a relaxing walk over the toll bridge, moved my nest to the far end of the parking lot and turned in for the night.
    The next day I was off to Le’id Back Land starting with Islamorada and kayaking.  I paddled the Mangrove Tunnel near Robby’s, MM 80, at the other end of the bridges where the infamous Papa Joes Bar and Restaurant once was.  The show is the bottom critters.  I’ve seen spider crabs, an occasional blue crab, mangrove snappers, star fish, sea snails, jellyfish-like critters the locals call cassiopeias (more photos @, a crocodile several years ago, and sometimes nurse sharks at the end.  Almost all the cassiopeias, fish and bottom critters were killed by a cold wave that hit the Keys in January 2008.  I’m always looking forward to seeing if they have recovered like before.  Wow!
    Then it was time for HH at the Lor E Lei (MM82), good acoustic music, and sunset, where I’ve seen some spectacular ones across Florida Bay.  The next morning I never miss sunrise across the street at the Moorings, scenic resort, right on the Gulf of Mexico - the locals call it the ocean.  The light show can be spellbindingly beautiful, especially when the tide is low enough for flocks of water birds to feed backlit by the first light of the sun.
    I thought my tire troubles were behind me, but as I moved my truck closer to my sunrise spot, I noticed my headlights were very dim, and then I checked the back lights.  I had none.  Not good. I knew the wire bundle was damaged, so after sunrise I went to the local car shop, Mikes Auto, MM 83.  The guy meticulously checked each tiny wire in the bundle, found the bad one, and fixed it.  He could’ve just ordered a new bundle, which would’ve cost plenty, but he has pride in fixing stuff, not just replacing items and hoping they work.  I’m On the downslide and loving it.  Ask me about a free photo.
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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