And on to Key West

After spending the night in Key Largo, I walked across the street to the Cuban Café in the early gray drizzle and downed some great coffee and breakfast.

Cafe Cubano

Shortly after, I headed south on Florida Highway 1, across the Keys.


I realized again how absolutely flat Florida is. I swear, the highest point is an overpass.

I drove the length of the Keys, over all forty-two bridges connecting all forty-three islands. However, there are another nearly seventeen hundred not connected by the road.


Most of the Keys have the word “Key” in their names. Of those, all but two have the name of the island first: Plantation Key, Conch Key, Cudjoe Key. The two that have the word “Key” first are Key Largo, at the far northeast, and Key West at the far southwest.

In and out of rain, on and off of bridges. Some bridges were only a quarter mile long or even less but one was seven miles long. Some of the Keys are so narrow I could easily see water on each side of me. They were maybe fifty to sixty feet wide. No room for houses, stores or anything but the highway running down the center.

Others were much larger (relatively), a mile or two wide and several miles long.

Concrete power poles marched through the Gulf waters all the way south, occasionally hopping the road to the Atlantic side.


Gas prices marched with me too, going up almost fifty cents in less than one hundred mile – about half a cent per mile of roadway.

Key Largo today is just a strip of stores, restaurants, and motels. Traffic is heavy all day long. However, once a few miles south of Key Largo, the pace slows and it’s not all commercial. That held true to just north of Key West.

I passed a sea turtle hospital, a dolphin rescue center, a manatee rescue center. The more humans in the Keys, the more wildlife that needs rescuing.

On Deer Key, I decided to stop in at the local library. I turned at the sign but couldn’t spot it. I asked several people where it was but no one knew. All tourists? I surely hope so. It would be horrid to think the locals had no idea where their library was. I stumbled around until I found it myself.

There’s an odd thing about the Lower Keys: roosters. Roosters roam the side roads and the sidewalks and strut about on people’s front porches. I asked many about the roosters but no one could tell me their story, just that people aren’t supposed to feed them – but everyone I spoke to did feed them. Just a little, they all said.

It’s odd to wander about and hear roosters crowing and to run into them repeatedly. And they all look pretty much the same.


Some of the 1700+ islands in the Keys – with no roosters.

I did some research and found the roosters were brought by Cubanos for cock fighting. After it was outlawed, the birds just went wild. There is now a major battle going on between the pro and anti rooster groups. Some want them rounded up and either contained or killed. Others say hey, that’s just the way it is down here. Part of the culture.


I arrived in Key West in the early afternoon. The sign said this:

Welcome to Key West

Paradise USA

Highway 1 split at the entrance to Key West – Highway 1 to the right and A1A to the left. Highway 1 went into town, A1A to the beaches. Guess where I headed first?

At the southernmost point on Key West, I stood in the water and faced Cuba, just ninety miles away. I couldn’t spot it, but on a clear day from a second or third floor, can people see the island? It was particularly interesting to gaze toward Cuba knowing that in just a few weeks it will be legal to travel there.

04-beach toward Cuba

Havana Daydreaming (thanks, Jimmy Buffett!)


I tore myself away from the almost-warm water and headed back to Highway 1 and into the historical district. Parking is at a premium, so I paid to leave my car in a town parking garage and roamed.


Many tourists checking into inns and motels had to do the same, so I saw many dragging their suitcases along the sidewalks.


Beautiful old homes.



Some were still decorated with holiday wreaths or lights, and the remains of Christmas trees lay in the trash in a few spots. How out of place it all looked in the warm (80 degrees) balmy weather!


People rode bikes and scooters. Others sat on their front porches. Roosters roamed.

I ran into one traffic jam comprised of cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, a tiny two-seater electric vehicle, and a man on a bike attached to a small vending cart. And a dog.


One more odd thing: The main road into the historical area is Roosevelt Avenue which closer to downtown becomes Truman Avenue. Most main cross streets also had two names, one going each way off Roosevelt. The most interesting one to me was the one that had Eisenhower Drive going one direction, and in the other direction, the road was named for Cuban revolutionary leader José Martí!

I returned to Key Largo just in time for a fabulous sunset.


And oh, yeah. I got the bumper sticker.


To Key Largo

Today I left Everglades City early and headed east on the Tamiami Trail. As usual, I noodled around, arriving at Clyde Butcher’s gallery around 10:15.

First, a few of the sights along the way.


Smallest post office in the US.


A sign we don’t see in Arizona!


Another anhinga drying its wings.


A bird I don’t know, but I love the way he could twist his neck.


More alligators!


Hungry bird.


First, let me say this man (Clyde Butcher) is a wonderful photographer. He uses film, shoots in black and white, and mostly photographs the Everglades area. I’ve been looking forward to a visit to his gallery for months. However, I was somewhat disappointed.

I do have to say that when I stepped inside, it was stunningly wonderful. One of his prints, about four by six, hung on the wall facing the door. Four by six. Feet, not inches. Absolutely stunning.

What was disappointing, though, was how little of his work hung in the gallery. Yes, he had many photos. But there was work by other artists and a gift shop containing t-shirts, work by others, and his books, calendars and notecards all in a small space.

Most of his photos, rather than being on the walls, were matted and in bins with price tags. I had expected more gallery and fewer bins. Though the majority of his prints were under $80 or so, prices ran to nearly $900.

A second disappointment was the nature trail behind the gallery. I’d looked forward to it but it was quite small. I could have very easily walked it in about two minutes. Also, I’d expected educational information, but none of the plants were labeled.


Another thing. As I left, I gazed over at the water fountain on the front porch. It had an “out of order” sign on it, so anyone who was thirsty had to purchase water or soda.

Finally, the parking lot bothered me. There were numerous signs telling visitors what not to do and announcing fines levied. No feeding alligators, no parking here or there, no putting trash in the gallery’s dumpster. Now, that information is good and maybe even important, but it made the place feel unwelcoming. I mention this last, but it was the first thing I noticed. To me, it seems the visitor should feel immediately welcomed rather than warned and threatened. It was very off-putting.

Bottom line, though, I loved seeing his work.

On from there, into driving rain that stopped, started, then stopped again for the next hour. South through agricultural land and more off and on rain.



Migrant workers


Sign in the field across from the workers. Too poisonous to touch, but not too poisonous for them to pick and us to eat?

Then across a few bridges to Key Largo.

Key Largo is, of course, the largest of the islands. The name “Key” actually came from the Spanish word “cayo” which means little island. The road from Key Largo to the tip of Key West is about one hundred miles long and has forty-two bridges!

Key Largo is about twenty-four miles long and is often referred to as the Dive Capital of the World because of its beautiful natural reefs (the only coral reefs in North America). In addition, there’s a huge variety of marine life and even sunken ships for divers to explore.

And more signs we don’t see in the desert.


After roaming a bit, I settled into a great lunch at the Key Largo Conch House. It was right on the highway but nestled into trees, making it almost invisible from the road.


Café Cubano, black bean-mango salad, and lobster bisque. Perfect choices all.



As I left the restaurant, I noticed a thank you award from a place called Island Dolphin Care. I asked the waitress about it and she gave me information as well as clear instructions to get there.

Out the door I went, straight to Island Dolphin Care (see a future blog posting for more about this).


After a visit with the dolphins, I settled into my motel where I had to wrestle with the internet before I could get connected. And for some reason, it will give me my email but it won’t let me send a thing.

On the plus side, the room is fine, the bed comfortable. And two doors down is a Cuban Café!

Wander … Wonder … Disaster … Restoration

A day of wander and wonder, of disaster (other people) and near disaster (me).

Kris, Karen, Linda and I spent a leisurely early morning. Later, Linda took the other two women to the airport and I headed off on my second adventure: the Everglades and the Keys.


Me with Karen, Kris, and Linda.

I noodled my way back to Everglades City (truly a town – around 400 full-time residents) and points south. On my way there I stopped in a national park and went up a few roads not on my map.


At the intersection with the highway (HWY 29) to Everglades City, there’s a visitors’ information center next to a sheriff’s department building, each accessible from both highways (41, a north-south highway that goes primarily E-W, and 29 which goes pretty much N-S), so I pulled in, got a little info, and pulled out onto 29, headed north to a birding area.

Back at the intersection, I stopped for a blinking red light as did both the woman across the highway from me heading south and the person on 41 heading west. The woman across the highway began to cross HWY 41 and BLAM!!!

The cars running along Highway 41 have a blinking yellow light, not a red light, so although the person headed west had indeed stopped – causing me and apparently the woman heading south to feel it was a four-way stop – it was actually only a stop for those heading north and south.

The woman heading south was in the eastbound lane when she got slammed into. She shot a little further forward, stopping when she was right next to me. And then her car tipped sideways onto two wheels – my direction.



My second thought was CRAP!!! SHE’S GOING TO LAND ON ME!!!

I froze. But there was nowhere I could go anyway. I was stuck there with her huge Suburban tilted at nearly a 30 degree angle. If it toppled my way, it would land on half my car – the half I sat in.

For a very, very long second or two, the Suburban just balanced on those two wheels. Then, thankfully, the car went back the other direction and landed on all fours.

Traffic immediately moved over and I hightailed it back to the sheriff’s office. No one answered when I pounded on the door, so I dialed 9-1-1. Eventually a uniformed man slugged his way to the door while I was on with the 9-1-1- operator. “Big wreck!” I shouted at him, gesturing toward the intersection. A few minutes later, from the back of the offices came a sheriff’s SUV that shot over to the wreck site.

I gave my name and phone number to the 9-1-1 dispatcher then walked over to the wreck.

The woman who was hit (and whose legal fault the accident was) seemed okay and she said she was fine, but I gave her a long hug and encouraged her to get checked out. I also gave the deputy my name and contact information. Then I got out of the way.

That’s about when all the terror hit me. I climbed shakily into my little, tiny, squishable rental and just sat until I felt I could safely maneuver. I went back to the intersection from 41 east and headed north onto 29, trying to block it all out of my mind.

And I was moderately successful due to the wonderful place I headed.

Deep, deep swampy area. Palms, and mangroves. Bay and holly. Pale, pinkish sea lavender and yellow St. John’s wort. Great blue herons with their six-foot-plus wingspan and great white ones. Egrets both snowy and great. Anhinga and ibis. All soothing to the soul after what could have been for me a serious, serious injury.






It took me three hours of wandering in car and on foot to feel I could head back past that intersection to get to my hotel. But return I did, just as the gray day turned to drizzle and the clay-sand road turned to muck.

I checked in at my motel and immediately headed further south to shoreline and sunset.


Back to my motel for a glass of wine and feelings of fragility. A deep sense of gratefulness that I had been spared. Concerns for those in the accident. I never saw the occupants (I have a vague recollection of two in the front seat) of the car that slammed into the other. Their car was totaled, I’m sure. The woman I met was young. She will heal. But what of the others?

No one from the sheriff’s department ever called me.

I had a restless night’s sleep.

Airboat Tour

Today was the day! The four of us headed out early (for us) and drove to Everglades City which is not actually a city but a small town. We went to Everglades City Ariboat Tours and spent a bunch of money each on what was (for me) a once-in-a-lifetime event: into the Everglades on an airboat.

It was downright chilly and still partly cloudy when we left, so we bundled up well. We bought our tickets and sat in the newly-emerged sun to await our tour.


Karen and Kris enjoy the sun.

Just to our right was a young woman from the Netherlands, Elsa, who was not exactly bundled up. In fact, she wore a sleeveless dress.

When it was our turn to climb aboard a boat, Josh, the airboat captain, settled us in.


Captain Josh

I realized I was warm enough now that the sun was out so I passed Elsa the jacket I’d borrowed from Karen. We all put on our headphones (airboats are noisy)


and off we went, into the mangroves.



Pelican – in a tree???

Josh told us there were four kinds of mangrove trees, two that grew in the salty to brackish water and two that were freshwater varieties. The kind we mostly saw, the ones with the long, long roots hanging into the water, was the red mangrove, a non-native species.

6-mangrove roots

  • 6a-roots

We saw some birds but were a little disappointed not to see any alligators.

It turns out it was the wrong season for alligators. They don’t like the brackish waters, so they only come to the area during the rainy season when fresh waters run off through the mangroves.

6c-Josh again

Captain Josh explains about alligators.


Our group, with Elsa.

However, Josh suggested we go up the road about ten miles and turn north. He thought we’d have success up there. We bid goodbye to Elsa (who referred to us as “the Golden Girls” and we considered tossing her overboard because of that). We headed to the alligator area.

Success indeed!



We saw perhaps eight alligators, including a big old boy that must have been ten feet long. We stood along the edge of the road about ten feet from him and took photos.

7b-big alligator

The Big Boy

Afterward we stopped to read a sign that told us how fast alligators move and to stay at least fifteen feet away. We were glad the old boy wasn’t hungry.

7c-alligator warning

8-anhinga drying

Anhinga drying its wings

After we’d had our fill of birds and beasts, we headed to lunch. With the help of Linda’s GPS, we briefly got lost but finally made our way to Camillia’s, right on the waterfront back in Everglades City.


Entrance to Camillia’s

We all had local fare – shrimp, grouper, clams. My sautéed clams were delish and the hush puppies were the best I’ve ever had. Sorry. No photos. We dove into our food and I didn’t even think of taking a picture.

Then, home for a walk on the beach on the gorgeous soft, white sands of Marco Island. I picked up a few shells (like I need any more – I bring some home every time I go to Kino). It was warm enough to walk barefoot in the water.

Home, rest and a light dinner of ice cream and wine.


Another perfect day.

Lazy Day with Girlfriends

It was a lazy day with girlfriends. Girlfriends? GIRL friends? We are all in our (late) 60s. But that is what we are and have been for many, many years. Did I mention I met Karen when we were both three years old?

Friday was a day of no plans. I’d sworn to myself I’d write a post for each day, but there is so little to say for today!

We had lunch out, wandered a few shops that were far too expensive for me, and roamed the beach a bit at sunset. I even got a nap which is something very rare for me.


A sand sculpture at the Marriott. We had lunch in one of their restaurants.

K-K-E at lunch

Kris, Karen and me – lunch at a beach restaurant.

L-E -KaA

Linda, me and Karen after (too much) lunch


Conch chowder and sweet potato fries!



And of course, there was a lot of chatting and reminiscing. A true day of memories. Sometimes one of us would mention something and the other three would laugh or jump into the story. At other times, one of us would mention something and the other three would stare at her blankly. But we found that the four of us together could come up with so many memories and stories! Far more than any one, two, or even three of us could.

The day of memories was followed by a light dinner, a glass of wine.

Now, Karen said this post was a bit boring, so I do have to add we also met a mermaid.


Linda and Kris meet the mermaid.

Tune in tomorrow – we’re taking an airboat ride!

Miami to Marco Island

I got up around seven and wandered into the cafe at my motel for cafe Cubano. What a way to start the day!

cafe Cubano

Sorry, I cannot remember her name. She was lovely!

At nine I was out front of the hotel awaiting the van back to the airport where I picked up my car.


Then back to the motel to load up and hit the road. Out the drive then to the highway. A nice person waved me right onto the street.

Then I stopped. We all stopped. Traffic was a disaster. Due to roadwork, I got stuck on the highway for fifteen or twenty minutes during which time I moved about a mile. Maybe less.

Eventually I was able to get onto a southbound road on the western edge of the airport, hoping it would take me to Florida 41, the Tamiami Trail. I sailed along for about a mile and then it curved east – back to the airport!

I scrambled off on an eastbound road which took me onto a tollway. Yikes! I was able to slide back off before having to pay a toll, but the road was one way north, away from 41.

More maneuvers and finally I was heading back south and made it to 41, turning west.

Down the road I went. It was busy, full of traffic, but eventually the road narrowed and became one lane each way. Little traffic. A canal ran along the north side, my side, and I kept my eyes open for wildlife.


Mostly it was birds: egrets, great blue herons, and many more I didn’t recognize.

I spotted people fishing all along the canal, and in some spots, photographers. I pulled over where they were and sometimes other places as well. Once I was moving along slowly and saw a flash of bright pink. I knew what it was: a roseated spoonbill.


I pulled over quickly but it was hard to get a shot. I drove a bit further and saw another area heavy with birds, plus one of the photographers I’d already run into.

I got out of the car, glanced at the canal, and there he was. A big old alligator.


He was on the other side of the canal which was maybe sixteen feet across. On my side of the canal was a steep incline about four feet high so I felt secure in stopping to get a photo of the gator.

I took one then squatted down to get a closeup of just his eyes. Through my viewfinder, I watched those eyes sink just underwater and move my direction. I, perhaps pretty wisely, chose to move along at a rapid pace and head for the birds just east of me.

I never saw the gator again though I watched awhile, hoping he’d pop up and go after a bird (sorry, birds). But alas, he didn’t show himself again.

I was starving because I hadn’t had breakfast, so I stopped in at a small restaurant operated by the Miccosukee tribe. They had dishes on their menu that don’t exist in Arizona!


West past Clyde Butcher’s gallery (which I’ll visit Monday) and a few small towns and parks and walking loops and finally to the northern entrance to Marco Island, my destination.

I reached the island and called Linda. She gave me directions to the condo and when I arrived, she, Karen, and Kris were standing alongside the road waiting for me.

And this was the purpose of the trip: reunion.


Karen, me, Linda and Kris

Four of us, childhood friends, decided to skip our high school reunion and get together here, just the four of us. We chose the spot because A) it was available, and B) one of the women owned it and we could use it for free. As in no cost! Just travel expense and food.

Did I mention this is a lovely condo with a balcony looking out over the Gulf of Mexico? I am one happy woman this evening!



And so the reunion began. Stories and laughter. Patio time and sunset. Dinner and wine.

I am one contented woman this evening.

To Miami

It was a long day, but the end was lovely.

Alfredo and I were out the door early and got me to the Tucson airport around ten after six. Long line to check in, then some sitting around waiting to board the plane. Luckily I had some burritos Alfredo had made up for me, so I was able to munch away while I waited.

Shortly after departing Tucson, there came an announcement over the PA: Is there a doctor aboard? If so, please come to the rear of the plane.

Crap. Heart attack? Stroke? Is the person okay? Then: Would we be turning around?

A little while later: The man is going to be fine. However, we’re not going to be serving snacks or drinks for awhile, just water. We’ll serve when we’re able to.

Water. Long wait. Finally, less than an hour out of Atlanta, we got drinks and snacks.

Finally, Atlanta.


As we touched down, another announcement: Please remain in your seats. We need to leave passage for the EMTs.

The man is not so fine?

A short time later: The EMTs aren’t here yet, so you may go ahead and deboard the plane.

A little while later: Please clear the aisle! The EMTs are here! They’ll be taking the patient out the back door, so as soon as they pass, you may resume deboarding.

Finally, the EMTs cleared, we deboarded, and then I dashed from terminal E to terminal B. I had no more than sat down than they announced my plane to Miami was boarding.

It was such a big plane we boarded in the center! So although I was in aisle 24, I was quite near the exit.

Less than two hours later, Miami.


In the time it took to get off the plane and get to my luggage, I heard perhaps a dozen different languages. Everyone I spoke to had an accent, from the familiar Spanish (though the speakers were not Mexican) to lilting Jamaican, to guttural European tongues, perhaps German or Hungarian.

Got luggage. Called for the shuttle to Days Inn. Waited. Waited some more. Waited even more. Then a little more.

Eventually, the shuttle came and the drive apologized profusely for being so late. Traffic, he told me. And it was so.

We left the airport and hit near gridlock. I knew I didn’t like cities!

But the driver persevered, and within fifteen minutes I was checking in at Days Inn.


Claimed my room, changed my clothes (I was HOT in the sweater I’d put on in Tucson!!), and headed out for something to eat.

I found a little Honduran restaurant just two blocks away where I order a Honduran beer by the name of Salva Vida. Roughly translated, it means “saves lives.”

A lifesaver, for sure, after a long day.

I ordered a sort of Honduran taco grande – a big taco. A thick flour tortilla stuffed with carne (beef), white cheese, and crema which is a sort of thin sour cream type thing. It was called a baleada. The young Honduran waitress was delighted that I liked it.


This humongous “appetizer” cost only $4.50 and I got absolutely stuffed.

So, a good ending (baleada and beer) after a long day. Couldn’t be better.