There’s lots of fake news in South Florida

For better or worse, we took a third—and final for Doug—trip down to Key West, slowed only by a sworn peace officer who let Doug off with a warning.

Ahhh, the benefits of clean living.  Doug didn’t even have to flirt with the dude.  Or maybe he mistook us for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and is a big fan.  And yes, the mirror indeed could use a good scrub, but it’s a rental, so nah.

Anyway, this time we were determined to see the stuff that tourists are supposed to see.  Like The Southernmost Everything.  It all starts with the marker for the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.

The locals know a good marketing slogan when they see it, and thus we have the Southernmost Trolley Stop.

And the Southernmost Deli and Groceries.

And the Southernmost Point Guest House By the Beach.

And the Southernmost Lobster Shack, and Southernmost Victorian Inn, and Southernmost Surf Shop, and Southernmost blah blah blah.

The Southernmost Annoying Line For a Silly Attraction was queued up for that famous marker.

Yup.  We stood in it to get the touristy photo with the boys.

Unfortunately, the joke was on us and the other saps waiting around in the heat.  Because Doug is a professional skeptic, he looked on Google Earth.  THIS ISN’T EVEN THE SOUTHERNMOST POINT.  The actual Southernmost Point is at the adjacent naval facility behind a guarded gate, just past the huge Buckminsterfullerene.

Well that’s disappointing.  Next stop, Ernest Hemingway’s house.

Supposedly he wrote some famous books in this house, although after the whole “Southernmost” hoax we don’t much trust the folks around here.  The thing about the cats with 6 toes, however, turned out to be true.  They were everywhere.  Dana photographed lots of them.  This was her favorite.

Fort Zachary Taylor is another one of those vintage forts oozing with cool history that we’ve explored.  There probably weren’t as many Carnival cruise ships back in the day but otherwise it seemed pretty authentic.

Maybe the coolest thing about Fort ZT is the cell where the Union Army stashed Samuel Mudd and others after arresting them for their roles in Abraham Lincoln’s murder, before moving them to Fort Jefferson.  It’s small and humid, but hey, they had a window.

The park attendant later chastised us for using the fort parking lot as, well, a parking lot, but by then we had left the car and walked over to Mel Fisher’s Museum.  On the way we passed the Truman Little White House, where Harry wintered.  We already had reached our waiting-in-line limit, so we settled for pictures.  (Plus we’ve seen both of Franklin Roosevelt’s houses and figured this one couldn’t be much different.)

The most interesting thing was the presidential cornhole set up in the front yard.  We imagine Harry and Bess tossing a few bags, perhaps before retiring to the sitting room for some whiskey-pong.

Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter, most famous for finding the Atocha and then beating down all the money-grubbing government officials who tried to take the $500 million booty.  A bunch of that booty was on display.

Unfortunately the photo was an afterthought—like so many of our photos—and does a pretty poor job of showing the goods.

A final walk through the square that Key West named after our Punkin, and then back to Marathon.

By the way, we saw exactly zero signs proclaiming Key West as the “Grafton of the Southeast,” so maybe they don’t understand clever branding  as well as we thought.

Shannon drove down from Eckerd for an action-packed weekend.  First, she and Doug went diving at Sombrero reef, which is guarded by the Sombrero Light.

The ride out was about 45 minutes of pounding through 4-foot waves in a small center console dive boat, which apparently caused issues for a couple of folks while Doug and Shannon were underwater.  The good news is that all the involuntary chum was gone by the time they got back near the boat, but the fish still were hanging around hoping for more.

The next day Dana and Shannon ran the Key West half marathon.   Doug and the boys provided moral support from the boat and were suitably impressed and proud.

After Shannon left, things slowed back down.  Until the dock started buzzing with the rumor that a sailboat full of supermodels was on its way.  Well well.  That’s worth the hassle of keeping an eye open.  How fast can Lewis and Fred and Blomo and Jimmy and Doug’s other buddies get down here?

As if on cue, a 48-foot Jeanneau pulled in past us.  Hmmm.  The Kelsey Marie is a pretty boat and all, but how many supermodels can fit on a sailboat that size?  But in the parking lot we saw a big coach like the one George Strait used when he played Dusty in that Oscar-snubbed classic Pure Country, so maybe the rumors were valid.

Next morning, two guys moved the sailboat around to a dock about 50 feet away from Misty Pearl.

Then people started lugging equipment over to it.  Alright!  Now we’re on to something!  Wait just a hot second here.  What’s this?  Insert the sound of screeching brakes.  The first model is a guy?  Good thing Doug never called his friends.

Turns out the rumor was sorta kinda true.  Ralph Lauren was shooting some of those ads where the family dresses in the latest Polo outfits and sets sail on the ocean blue, with the wind caressing their hair as they expertly pilot a rather complicated vessel with staggering ease.

So this handsome devil must be the dad.  We’ll get some shots of him while mom and Junior are getting ready.  Ok, here they come.

Ahh yes.  Nothing like the bond between a model mother and her model child.

Damn.  What’s this?  A different dad?  That’ll make life on the seas a tad awkward.

How about some shots of dad #2 working the rigging in his natty sweater from the Spring Collection as he surveys the horizon, perhaps looking for land?*

How about we let the kid control the rudder by himself, with no parental supervision?

What are mom and dad doing down in the master berth anyway?

Of course, the ads probably won’t show all the people crowding around or the fact that the boat was secured to the dock the whole time, but we know the truth.  Heck, it probably wasn’t even a real family.  A real mom would’ve had the kid in school on a Wednesday morning.   More dads and moms hopped on and off but we lost interest because we had a sick dog and a replacement water heater installation and other things.  Then all the dads and the others packed up and left the marina.

Today we drove up to Miami to get Oscar’s toenails trimmed.  We forgot to do that, of course, mostly because we stopped at R.F. Orchids instead.

We both are reading a book called The Orchid Thief, which sort of is ponderous but the story of orchid intrigue is interesting.  R.F. Orchids was the victim of some dirty flower business so we wanted to check out the bromeliads and cattalyas and other orchids we could feel smart about based on our very recent and very rudimentary education.   The orchids were awesome, but we’ve hardly ever met a plant we can’t kill in a matter of weeks and since these particular plants can live a very long time with proper care, we didn’t buy one.

We also stopped at Knaus Berry Farm.   Doug hates amusement parks, but unlike Knotts Berry Farm this place actually is a market and bakery.  We got fresh produce and cinnamon rolls.  Then we did the other chores and ate at Chuy’s and then by the time we were heading home it was too late to go to PetSmart.  Sorry baby dog.

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* Years ago the girls forgot about Father’s Day until Father’s Day and they rushed out to Walmart and found a t-shirt that said “Dad #1.”  Not “Number 1 Dad,” mind you, but instead simply something to distinguish Doug from all their other numbered dads.  Maybe they just wanted to be Ralph Lauren models.

Here’s the video we promised

With Shannon (who drove down from Eckerd to visit), and Dana and Benny—in order of appearance—playing themselves.  (It’s mostly in 4K so may not look right on older devices.  In other words, it’s your crappy computer not Doug’s crappy videography skills.)

As previously mentioned, a local dude named  John Bartus wrote and sang “The Islands of Marathon.”  He also moonlights as the Mayor.

Piddlin’ around in Marathon

Someplace in America, some poor slob wakes up to gray skies.  Takes 30 minutes to layer up against the bitter cold and biting wind.  Another 30 minutes to shovel snow off the driveway.  Assuming the car starts, off for a miserable day at the office/factory/shop.  Same thing every day until about May.  Yup.  Pretty much sucks to be that dude.

However, we also have it tough.  We also wake up to the same scene from our porch everyday.

Plus, sometimes the wind blows.  And the water isn’t always this smooth.  And on a couple of days there were a few more clouds.  And Doug misplaced his sunglasses and the sun seemed really really bright until Dana found them in the cupboard with the dog treats.  And the other night the temperature dropped to 63.  Nobody should cry for us though.  We’re of hardy stock.  We’ll manage through whatever hardships winter boat life in Marathon may throw our way.

We’ve also come to grips with the whole iguana thing.  Iguanas are to Marathon what LCBOs are to Ontario: everyplace you look.  We’ve come to know the family that lives in the tree at the marina entrance.

Dana is about to start naming them.   Speaking of iguanas, we now know where the babies come from.   Our finely-tuned deductive reasoning skills weren’t even necessary.

Our buddy Fred called it retiree porn.

Marathon also has chickens.

We literally crossed the road to get to this chicken.  Then we both giggled.

A couple of days ago we tried Key West again, this time with Charlie and Robin (The Lower Place).  Never made it to the museums and historical sites, but we did eat and walk around.  Waaaaaay too many people in Key West.  Our attempt at a sunset from the famous Mallory Square turned into a photo of other people watching the sunset from the famous Mallory Square.

No worries though.  We’ll probably give it one more shot before we head east/north.

A local on the dock assured us that the Marathon Airport doesn’t prevent droning so Doug has been logging some flight time.  We found a local dude who recorded a song about Marathon so we’ll put some footage to music at some point.  Maybe next post.

The Turtle Hospital is just around the corner from Faro Blanco, and is way cool.  They rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles from around the country.

Hey jackasses.  Stop releasing balloons.  Stop littering.  Recycle your plastic bags or don’t use them.  Anyway, we strongly urge anyone in Marathon to stop by the Turtle Hospital.  The turtles need protection.

Know what doesn’t need protection?  Pigeons.  They’ve just shown up like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, but grosser.  Much grosser.  Faro Blanco should try out those contraptions we found at Queen’s Cove.   Just a few tweaks might do the trick.

Also right around the corner—actually just across the road—lurks danger camouflaged as an innocent retail establishment.

That’s right.  Those money-sucking bastards set up shop right where Doug has to pass daily.  Mostly he’s resisted the siren calls, but that still means stopping by every few days just because (1) it’s a West Marine and (2) it’s only about 500 feet away.  Anyway, we REALLY needed a handheld depth gauge, and fenders for Mini Pearl, and holding tank pods, and a new battery box for Mini Pearl, and some other stuff.

Some of the older neighborhoods around here kind of remind us of older neighborhoods around Phoenix.  But then we see the weird stuff, like Dr. Seuss trees.

We acknowledge that the technical name for this thing probably isn’t Dr. Seuss Tree, but it should be.

Marathon also attracts some weird people.  For example, this morning we heard a 60-something woman say she had never eaten a fresh blueberry.  WHAT?  She was talking to a dude who seemed to be her husband, so there wasn’t much reason to lie.  But that’s insane and borderline unbelievable.

So Marathon has iguanas and chickens and odd foliage and a West Marine and odd people.  What Marathon apparently doesn’t have is a building inspector.  Basically every building around here looks like something Gilligan built.  Without help from the Professor.  Or even Dobie Gillis.

However, the seafood is fresh and delicious, and nothing has fallen on us yet.

One of many good things about lazing around Faro Blanco is we have time to discuss the future.  The question we get asked most is “What are you going to do after the Loop?”  Ok maybe that’s the second-most-asked question we get, right after “What the hell were you thinking when you sold your house and cars and moved on a boat?”  Anyway, ideas are germinating.  One intriguing option is the Downeast Circle.

We should cross our wake in D.C. right about the time Mallory graduates from Georgetown.  From there we’d follow our same basic track up to the Erie Canal, stopping at places we skipped the first time.  Then up to the St. Lawrence, but this time we’d take it all the way past Montréal and Quebec City to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Then around the tinier provinces and down the Atlantic coast back to New York in about September.   For years Doug has been fascinated by the SS MontBlanc explosion in 1917.  This would be a great opportunity to explore that piece of Halifax history.

Or maybe something else will start sounding better.  Coronado?  Greek Islands?  Gila Bend?  We have plenty more time to think about it.

There’s sailboats, and conch shells, and palm trees galore*

Turns out about a week is all we need to settle in to Marathon life.  Marathon is much more like Rocky Point than we expected—without the constant fear of being shot by drug dealers  or kidnapped by federales, of course—which is good and bad.   Anyway, we aren’t going anyplace for a while although we might not make it the full 2 months we had planned.

One thing Marathon has by the bushels is iguanas.  Big stinking iguanas.

They aren’t climbing on Misty Pearl or attacking the boys just yet, but at least we know who to call if we get worried.

Marathon also has cool jellyfish.

We intended to scuba dive while the girls were here but the wind and waves refused to cooperate.  Darn it.

New Year’s Eve we drove down to Key West.*

Apparently the billions of Asian tourists who crowded Banff and Jasper when were were in Alberta a few summers back all decided to meet us here as well.  We didn’t even bother parking the rental car for the famed sunset at Mallory Square.  If we go back, we’ll try to take more pictures.

The girls easily slid into the concept of Looper midnight, which meant we all were asleep well before real midnight.  We missed the music, the silly hats, the fireworks, and the anchor drop, although the anchor still was hanging limply the next morning.

Sadly, the girls had to return to their respective colleges.  That meant the end of family card games.  And the end of hundreds of dog photos in the family text group.  And the end of endless sibling conversations that’ll seem funny 20 years from now:

“Your stuff is oozing on my side.”

“No it isn’t.  Plus, your underwear is on my side.”

“Yeah, but I loaned you my [insert random item of clothing] and you [never returned it or got it dirty or damaged it].”

“That’s a lie.  I never borrowed that.  Or I gave it back.  Unlike you, who stole my hair tie.”

“Shut up.”

“I swear I’m going to punch you.”

Before they left, however, we visited the east side of the Everglades.

That meant more gators, including little tiny ones.

We might’ve been tempted to pick one up but (1) it’s highly illegal and (2) the protective mother was lurking nearby.

And she was a big mother.

Anyway, the park has a bunch of different looks.  We caught some of them.

On Friday we took Mini Pearl out with the crews from Forever Friday and The Lower Place, gambling that getting to lunch here would be much easier than in Everglades City.  The water under the 7-mile Bridge resembled the Columbia River Bar, but we successfully hurdled it on our way to Burdines.

The surprise at Burdines was the restroom made specially for Jo and Meg and Beth and Amy.

We followed up a delicious lunch with a leisurely cruise through the mangroves.  That portion of the day was dampened only by Dana’s semi-well-founded belief that Mini Pearl might run out of gas.  Forever Friday offered up some spare fuel but Doug timed things out perfectly so that we hit empty just as we pulled into someplace with a pump.  That’s some good planning right there, although the always pessimistic Dana calls it luck.

Saturday UPS delivered a big stack of Christmas cards that ordinarily would’ve reached us weeks ago.  It’s always fun to get them, so thanks to everyone who tracked us down.  We did a New Year’s card that hopefully will be out the door in the next week or so.

Mallory—who’s much more competent and artistic when it comes to videos and such than are we—hooked us up with her documentary of the 2 weeks she and Shannon were with us.

We miss them already but may bring them back down for a long weekend sometime soon.  By then the echoes of squabbling should be gone, and we’ll need hundreds more dog photos on our phones.

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* But Jimmy Buffett doesn’t live in Key West anymore.   CAUTION:  Explicit lyrics, courtesy of the great David Allen Coe, who fueded with the son of a son of a sailor over “Divers Do it Deeper,” one of DAC’s dumber songs.