Florida - Key West

by Kimp 16. March 2016 19:44

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (click here to view)

This trip was from about 5 years ago, when Sam and I visited Key West during Spring Break, but I imagine it hasn't changed much, since then. Key West is kind of a timeless place, the way it was/is, will be for a long time.

New Photo Blog

Most of the reason I haven't written any blog's in a few months, is because I received a one month notice from Goggle, telling me that they were discontinuing their Picasa photo service, that I had been happily using since around 2010. Actually, I didn't receive a notification, I had to probe for one, when it quit working. They are forcing all of their loyal patrons into using their Google Photo's service, which is a severe service downgrade in my opinion. Severely lacking in features.

After putting 1400 hours of my own time into Picasa, I was dropped like I had Leprosy. What a terrible disservice. Myself and several other long time developer's, offered to maintain Picasa for free if they would just put it in the public domain of their choice. Their rresponse was very cold, "We apologize for any inconvenience this transition causes, but we want to assure you that we’re doing this with the aim of providing the best photos experience possible."  My response was that in my opinion, their "Aim" isn't very good right now, so maybe they need to adjust their sight's. Their final word was something to the effect of, "Trust us, it will be much better and full of awesome features in the future." In my opinion, they seemed to be severally lacking in any specifics, such as; What kind of feature's? and About when?

Enough dillydallying around. I decided to write my own, and pay for hosting it myself. It didn't take me long (about 2 hours) to find something that had been around since 2002, was supported by volunteer's dedicated to the cause, already had many more features, already had much higher quality, and was fairly easy to configure, once I learned the two languages it was written in.

Piwigo was started by several developers from the Czech Republic. Funny that 10 guys from the Czech Republic can maintain and enhance a product on their spare time, meanwhile, Goggle's highly talented staff can't afford to support an inferior product that they haven't done much with in several years.

The standard Piwigo mobile phone viewer (theme) is awesome, so I didn't touch that at all. None of their full size monitor viewers (themes) were to my liking, but they had incorporated a system to allow me to make my own, that is very flexible and that I am extremely happy with.

So my new photo blog is at here at http://photoblog.kimpslife.com . 

Now I just need to find the time to recreate the 120 albums that I have/had in Picasa. Picasa sodomized my photos on the upload, so I decided to start from the original photos, instead of try to import the existing once, when they finally give me a way to grab the old one. All I really need is the order and captions from their system.

Google promised to give me a method of accessing all of my photos and caption's and their order by May 1st. It is now May 5th and they haven't, as of yet, made good on that promise. The latest I heard is that they adjusted their deadline to "Soon". I've seen a lot of project schedules, but I've never seen one that had a deadline of soon, nor have I ever seen a good solid time definition of "Soon", but I think is somewhere in between now and eternity. Soon is something that people say when they are hoping you will forget their commitment.

It will probably be analogous with an experience I had about 6 years ago in the Dominican Republic. A local dude asks me if I would like to go, somewhere with him. I said "Sure, when". "Oh, we'll be leaving really soon.". Well, we left about 4 hours later and went to a place that was completely different than where he said we were going.

The Conch Republic

In 1982 the Key West mayor was pissed off at the border patrol check point's on US Highway One. Stating that they were hurting Key West tourism, by extending the drive time in through the keys.

So he seceded Key West from the USA and claimed it the independent nation of "The Conch Republic", with himself as the Prime Minister.

Then one minute later he showed up at the Navy base asking for $1,000,000,000 in foreign aide.

He won that battle, and the Border Patrol check point's were removed from US Highway One.

Scooter Rental

Sam and I rented a scooter. That is definitely the way to go. Nice open air ride, easy to get around anywhere and easy to park. The dude at the rental place started it up for me and he might have told me that I needed to hold the hand brake in to get the starter to work, but I didn't hear that vital point. We got back to the place we were staying fine, but I couldn't get it started later, so we could go to an appointment that I had already made. I decided to walk it back to the place we rented it from, which was about a mile away. But on the way, I thought about trying holding the brake in, and it started. Pretty sweaty and embarrassing, but at least I made the appointment.

Jet Ski Rental

Sam and I rented a jet ski. Sam was too young to drive the rental on his own, so I let him drive ours. The problem is, that there isn't really any place to hold on, when I was on the back, and Sam was too small to hold onto him. Sam also had an affinity for full throttle and very sharp corners. I managed to hold on OK, until we hit the Ocean waves. The Gulf side is fairly smooth and the Ocean side is very rough. Sam threw me off the back, but I had the kill switch wrapped around my wrist, so it shut the jet ski off. The swim back was long and getting back on from the deep water and waves was very difficult. I decided to drive the rest of the way on the Ocean side. Riding a Jet Ski in the Ocean is a very bumpy, yet fun ride.

Chopper Pilot

I reserved a chopper pilot, who was a dude about my age. Sam and I are sitting in the Airport, around our prearranged meeting with the pilot, when in walks a fairly young lady, calling my name. She looked like she was still in high school, her entire knee was wrapped tightly in an Ace bandage, and she was limping. I thought that was probably the pilot's daughter. She say's, "The pilot had a family emergency and had to leave quickly, so he arranged for me to take his flights." She said she normally flies in Destin Florida, but sometimes fills in for him. I asked her what happened to her knee? "Oh, I was hauling ass on a scooter that I had rented and wrecked it. But it's really not that bad, just a little sore."

To me a little sore is a little spray disinfectant and a small band-aid, not a full, supporting wrap. Well, I happen to know that a helicopter requires foot pedal controls to keep it from spinning around like a top. Besides not being very comfortable with a young pilot's experience, there is also the matter of can't even drive a scooter, being a little reckless, and being physically able to do it safely. I was seriously contemplating backing out, but I think she sensed that, and rushed us out to the chopper.

Turned out she was very skilled, very mature, and any reservations/worries I had, quickly went away once we got in the air. That was an awesome experience for me. She earned my respect, even if she can't drive a scooter worth a dam.

Sunsets

The Sunsets on Key West are very nice. The view from Malloy Square is the picturesque one, with the nice orange color and the sailboat silently cruising trough the reflection on the water. However the picture is much more serene then the place the photographer was standing. Which is kind of like a carnival atmosphere, complete with palm readers, buskers, street performers and lots of people in close contact. Not to mention the many sunset cruise outfits that take off at the same time, which makes the approach to sunset, look more like an approach to a college party.

Overall, I give that experience a solid B.

A local suggested that I view it from the bar atop the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel. Being a local I figured that would be a great place to go. Well, that might be a great place for drinking and talking to a beautiful women during sunset, but for watching the sunset, I would rate it at a C-, if I were felling very generous.

The sun sets there is over top of an Island, plus the elevated view of sunset's are never as nice as the beach views are, and there is also a really ugly building the is just right of center from that vantage point. Some people are just plain, artistically blind.

Brief History

The name Keys comes from the Spanish word cayo meaning "small island".

The British took control of Key West in 1763 and moved all of the Spanish and American Indian's to Cuba.

After the American Revolutionary War, the British maintained control of the Key's. Then in 1783, the British gave it back to Spain. However, by that time, the pirates had taken it over and no Spanish people wanted to return/go back to that region.

In 1822, a US Navy vessel sailed to Key West and planted a large US flag there. Nobody complained about the flag, so it has been US property ever since.

The Army then built a fort there to evict the pirate's, opening that area up to people, who moved there, for fishing and to salvage the many ship wrecks in that area.

For the most part, Key West has been a very race friendly location. In the 1830's blacks started to migrate to Key West and were accepted with open arms.  At a time when Slavery was abundant in many locations in the United States, blacks there were free, they owned several local businesses, and were very active in Key West politics.

In 1860 the US Navy captured three slave ships on their way to Havana and brought about 1400 African refugee's to Key West for health care, before returning them back to Africa. The people of Key West (about 3,000 at that time), quickly built housing, a school, and a hospital to care for them. As well as large donations of clothing and food. About 300 died, probably as a result of the poor conditions on the slave ships, before they could be returned to their rightful home. The dead were given a proper burial and buried on Higgs Beach. Today, a section of Higgs beach, which is believed to have been their burial ground, has been covered with a memorial, marked by a series of pedestals adorned with African Adinkra symbols, and topped with engraved bronze plaques.

Unfortunately, in 1920 the Ku Klux Klan moved into Key West, and suppressed that friendliness for a while. There was a time when Key West had lots of visible African culture. I believe that it would be nice, if some of that returned back into today's Key West mainstream.

Key West Today

One of the most appealing parts for me, is that it looks about like it probably looked for most of the 1900's. There aren't any tall buildings, not much steel, nor cement, and very few chain stores. It's mostly local, small, family owned businesses. Lots of great outdoor and indoor places to eat. Lots of great food. Lots of live entertainment. Family friendly for the most part, full of history, and a welcoming relaxed atmosphere. Anyone can rent a scooter or bicycle,  enjoy the open air ride, easily park it anywhere we want, and just have a great time.

Henry Flagler

Henry Flagler was the brains behind the Standard Oil Company. In the 1860's, The Oil industry was started in North Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Oil derricks were prevalent in that area, and crude oil was plentiful. Henry Flagler worked for this step brother, who owned a grain store in Bellevue Ohio. Henry was a "Commission Merchant" (a company person who buy's product's from Commission Agent's and sell's them to other companies on commission). He often worked with a "Commission Agent" (person who goes to farms and buys farm products to sell them to Commission Merchents) named John D. Rockefeller. John thought that the crude oil business was highly risky, but that oil refining would be very low risk. John started the oil refining business in Cleveland and a few year's later, in need of financial support to expand it, asked Henry to partner with him. Henry asked his step brother to invest and he did, on the condition that Henry represent his financial interest, and that they be given a 25% share of Standard Oil.

Henry's first wife was ill and her physician suggested that they visit Florida to help her illness. She died shortly after their visit, but Henry became very interested in Florida. At that time, Florida was not very accessible. Henry decided to step down to be Vice President of Standard Oil, and start the Florida railroad and hotel businesses.

In 1905 Key West was Florida's most populated city. It has always been near the main shipping lane for ships going into and out of the Gulf of Mexico. As the southern most deep water port in the US, when the Panama Canal was being created, Henry decided it would be very profitable to extend his railway to Key West. Making it the main rail line for shipping products into and out of that port, bringing in huge profits from the additional anticipated shipping business.

Extending the railway was thought to be a very risky endeavor. In addition to the expensive engineering challenges, there was the constant threat of hurricanes wiping them out. Once called "Flager's Folly", after the extentions completion in 1912, it was called "the eight wonder of the world". 

Henry died in 1913, and a massive hurricane caused severe damage to the Key West extension in 1935. By then, ship's were being made that had much longer cruising distance's, allowing them to bypass Key West and dock on the East Coast, closer to their markets. The railway went bankrupt and sold the bridges to the State of Florida, who extended US Highway One on them.

Ragnar Relay Race

Ragnar Relay Races are 200 mile (350 km) long relay foot races, that are considered the best relay races in the United States. One of the 17 that are run each year, starts in Miami Florida every February, and ends in Key West Florida, two days later.

However, the 2016 race was cancelled due to issues securing the necessary permits to allow running it on the roads.

There are two divisions, regular and ultra. Regular consists of a team of 12 runner's each running 3 stages of the relay and ultra consists of 6 runners each running 6 legs. Legs vary from 3 to 12 miles in length. This format allows teams to create a strategy, based on their current runners strengths.

Naval Air Station

The actual Naval Air Station is on one of the Island's (Keys), East of Key West, but part of it is also on Key West. That station is used by all of the military forces for combat air training, because they can take off and quickly be in an area over the Ocean, where they can practice combat techniques and maneuvers.

Coast Guard

There is a good sized Coast Guard Station on Key West. The Coast Guard's main mission is to protect US Waters from threats such as terrorism and smuggling. Their secondary mission is marine law enforcement, sea rescue and fighting illegal immigration. In times of war, some of their functions may be military. The Navy's mission is and has always been military.

Heminway's House

The house that Ernest Hemingway owned on Key West is now a museum. A lover of cat's he willed his house as a museum as long as the cat's could roam free there.

It's even more beautiful now, then it was when he lived there. Today the Island has fresh water creation and storage facilities. In Hemingway's time, fresh water was very sparse and not much grew on Key west as a result.No grass, no scrubs, just a few trees and brown everything else. In 1938, Earnest had envisioned a nice pool at his house, but he was called away as a correspondent during the Spanish-American War, so he left his wive Pauline in charge of the pool project. The pool had to be hand dug in solid coral and a well had to be dug for down to the salt water table underneath to fill it. Earnest came home and saw the final bill, which was about $325,000 in 2016 money. Supposedly he threw a penny in the flagstone patio being put around it and proclaimed, "Well, you might as well have my last cent too, cause you already spent everything else we had." 

Now it is fresh water, but when it was salt water, it took three days to fill the pool, and it had to be drained after about three days, so they could spend two days scrapping all of the Algee off of the bottom and refill it.

Rooster's

There are many wild rooster's roaming around Key West. Nobody is positive of where they came from, and the tourist's seem to like them, but the local wealthy people don't care for being woke up at 5 A.M. everyday, listening to the brawling at all hours, and watching them protect their domain, which might be one of the local's expensive yards..

Photo Blog (click here to view)

Thank you for reading, I'll see you next time.

Craig

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