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Paradise (written- January 14)
Written By: O.C.fotoguy
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Paradise (written- January 14)
Paradise (written- January 14)
Paradise (written- January 14)
Paradise (written- January 14)
Paradise (written- January 14)
Paradise (written- January 14)

    Summer in the winter months of December and January [in Key West] equals paradise. I’ve been here three weeks. The weather has been as close to perfect as anyone can ask (80˚, 80˚, 80˚ every day), I haven’t been hassled nor had any negatives, and I’ve eaten more shrimp than should be a person’s quota for the year. I’m out, though. Nuts maybe so. I saw on the TV that it’s in the 30s in Phoenix, which is about a hundred miles east of my next month long destination, Cibola National WildLife Preserve. It’ll take me a while to get there, though. I’m not doing anything fast. Slow, slower, all the way down to le’id back, that’s what Key West has done to me! Maybe someday I’ll do the whole winter here, but this year I’m out while I’m on top. I like stopping when things are working and all is well. That brands the memories of what I’m leaving with a big positive note. I don’t want to over play my hand; you need to know when to fold’em and move on.
    Last year I was in Key West for seven weeks, parking my nest (a slide-in camper on a Ford F-150 pick’em truck) was somewhat of a hassle and the fuzznics chased me around and were nasty. This year there was none of that, or maybe staying a shorter period of time has kept me under the radar. Plus, the parking lot behind the County Court House is public legal parking at night and on weekends, so I was there. There’re two RV parks in Stock Island, but the fee is cost prohibitive for me. I stay too long. I’m not on vacation; this is what I call a life style change from loving life in Ocean City in the summer to meandering from one warm place in the winter to another in our country. Plus the RV parks aren’t near the Green Parrot or downtown Key West and I don’t need all their conveniences of electric, water and sewage. I have two solar panels on the roof to give me reddy kilowatts to run my radio and laptop computer, the nest has its own water system, and there’s plenty of public restrooms everywhere. I’d decided on a shorter period of time here; this time I’d concentrate on things that worked last year and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t think I did anything new that wasn’t time tested successful. That’s the ticket to a good time for me, plus I get to hear Ocean City  Musicians there, including Kevin Poole and John LaMere.  
    The newspaper said in the headlines today the hotels and restaurants were packed with more tourists this holiday season than in recent years. They and the local crazies were really acting up on Duval Street with lots of spirit. The Green Parrot (corner of Whitehead & Southard Sts.) had their jam session on Christmas and New Years. The Key West show started early and ended late with Duval Street blocked off to traffic becoming a partying mall of thousands of merrymakers on New Year’s Eve with John La Mere playing at midnight in Willie Ts. I had my usual 1/2$ shrimp at happy hour at Alonzo’s in the Old Towne WaterFront, then the street performers Circus Act (fire jugglers and more, plus a salsa dancer!), sunset, then Scott Kirby at the Smokin’ Tuna, a big dose of watching the partying Duval Street crazies, accented by free samples of fudge at Mattheessens, and on to Schooner Wharf for the dropping of the Wench from the top of the mast of a schooner to the deck and, oh yeah, in there somewhere was a nap.
    Alonzo’s shrimp was a daily delight at HH (the only bar I know where there’s a waiting list for a seat at the bar!), Peep’s at 806 Caroline Street oyster race was not to be missed on Fridays, when they give away up to $500 for a ticket corresponding to the number of the fastest oyster shucked, then choosing the right key that opens the cash box, and Sound Check at the Green Parrot, with terrific bands, lots from New Orleans, performing their blues, jazz, and alternative music at HH on Friday and Sunday.  Midweek I went to Stock Island, the island right before you get to Key West. The Hog Fish Grill is nestled back a street on the docks there. It is hands down the best HH bar in the Key West area with $1.38 16oz. PBR drafts and $5 delicious shrimp and other seafood HH food. I splurged and had their Grilled Medley one evening of lobster, hog fish, shrimp, and other tastiness and even had a whole hog fish another evening. After having my fill at HH and beyond, I could park on the street which is a private road over night with no objection.
    I had a hope in the back of my mind for several years of kayaking around the island of Key West, but I didn’t know the water or the coast line, so I was content to just paddle to Tank (Wisteria) Island, sit on the side away from the cruise ships and tourists of Key West, and relax. This year that thought of going around the island festered, but the wind told me no.
    One day as I was paddling the kayak towards Tank Island, I turned towards the cruise ships for a photo and decided to go on. I turned the south corner off Zachary Taylor State Park, where I thought there might be currents, rocks or who knows what, and was amazed how effortless it was and went almost all the way to Higgs Beach. I was started! The next day I went from there to near the Stock Island Bridge past the whole length of Smather’s Beach.  I got a unique picture of the Southern Most Point in the USA monument from the water and I didn’t have to stand in the line of tourists on the land to do it!
    The next day I went to the Florida Keys Community College, which was just a short distance, but the wind was really kicking directly into me, so I stayed along the mangroves for a wind break. The next day a strong wind met me at sunrise and I’d decided to just paddle another short distance and pull up on U.S. 1 where I could load the kayak on top. As I got there I thought, “Gee, I could go with the wind,” which was blowing hard, 25mph, towards Key West, and pull out at Simonton Street Beach where I usually put in. That was crazy. I had no idea what I’d run into. I knew going under a bridge to Fleming Key could be a short cut, but didn’t know if I could get to it from where I was, or if I could go out around Fleming Key, which is way too far to paddle, but the wind behind me could make it possible. The wind was like a motor on my rear and pushed me, except when I had to cross it to get to my pull out spot, but I made it!   
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
more photos @ picasaweb.google.com/o.c.fotoguy2009
& facebook.com/OCfotoguy
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