Saturday, May 09, 2009

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Today (Saturday the 9th) has been totally restful. I have caught up on my blogging and Sweety has been sleeping and drawing pictures of flowers. We only left the property to eat lunch. But then I remembered that I have failed to tell you about the local chickens.

We were walking down the main drag somewhere near Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville when what should we hear but a rooster crowing from a tree. Sure enough, chickens roam free throughout the city. This is locally controversial because the chickens are nasty and loud. At one time, the city hired a chicken wrangler to trap the little buggers, but today they are protected as part of a county-wide bird sanctuary.

Going to eat Cuban food tonight.

Good night, Ricky. Good night, Lucy.

The Beginning of the End

Well today (Friday the 8th) was much more laid back as will be the rest of our trip. We wanted a hot breakfast so we went to Camille's which was recommended for breakfast. Very tasty, simple, expensive. Then we set out to revisit Hemingway's home so Sweety could pick up some stuff at the gift shop. We then walked several blocks back toward the marina area to buy some more gifts.

We purposely took a route that brought us by one of KW's famous landmarks: the beginning/end of the famous US 1 highway that runs for KW to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border a distance of over 2,000 miles. We drove on it looking for lobster restaurants while we were with D & S in Maine a few years ago. We had to have a picture. I wish I had known when we were in Maine that I would be here and I would have taken a picture of the other end of US 1. Who knew?

We stopped in a fabric store to get some fabric to make a quilt. I sat in a chair and read the local newspaper. Key West (really all of south Florida) is in a drought, so water is rationed. And the school superintendent's wife has been charged with stealing $180,000 while she was in charge of adult education in the district. Same old same old.

By then it was hot so we stopped at a bar for colas and to cool off. Then went to find lunch. Unfortunately I lead us to a spot that had a good recommendation, but it was hot and fishy smelling so we left and went to the closest place we could find that had chairs and food. It turned out to be the Schooner Wharf Bar. It had all the requirements we were looking for including live music from a guy named Mike McCloud with a cute little dog in his guitar case. This was great fun.

After about an hour, we headed back to the B&B, but it was hotter so we had to stop about half way there for ice cream. We made it back just in time for naps.

We forgot to take the camera with us to supper, but we ate at a funky place named Blue Heaven which has chickens and cats running around all over the place. S, you could eat and launch little chickens into the air with your feet at the same time. The history of the place is very interesting including having Ernest Hemingway referee boxing matches in the area that is now the open air dining location. You can read the history here. You'll have to go the the "ABOUT US" link on their home page to get the full history.

Then home to get some rest from all the hot walking. Good night, John Boy.

Sunset Cruise, Aaarrrrrrggghhh!

After our naps we took a taxi to the marina area of KW to board the schooner Liberty Clipper for a sunset dinner cruise in the harbor area. We were fortunate to catch the ship before she is moved to Boston for the summer. This is her last week in KW.

As you can see, there were quite a few passengers, about 60, on board. Do you notice the bricks piled up to make a grill in the background of this picture? Let me see----wooden ship, open charcoal grill---what could go wrong?

The huge sails (the mainsail weighs a ton) were raised by volunteers from the passengers and we were underway! Dinner could not be far away. This is all they could scrape together for food.

Mojo & Sour Orange Slow Roasted Pork
with Caramelized Bermuda Onion Relish

Jamaica Citrus Rubbed Whole Chicken,
served HOT off the Grill, cut & quartered
with Mango Curry Relish

Costa Rican Red Beans and Rice
Rum Glazed Sweet Plantains

Caribbean Fritters
with Conch, Shrimp and White Corn
Served with Havana Cocktail Sauce
& Habanera Key Lime Mustard

Mojito Tropical Fruit Salad
with Fresh Mint, Lime and Bacardi Rum

Southernmost Caesar Salad
with Pineapple, Plum Tomato, Grated
Parmesan & Avocado Citrus Vinaigrette

Basket of Assorted Breads
with Sweet Butter and Olive Tapenade

Delightful Desserts
Ice Tea, Cold Beverages & Coffee
Champagne, Wine & Beer

Sunset at Key West. Very nice.

There is a very brief instant of green flash just as the last edge of the sun disappears behind the ocean. Never saw that before.

Back to port and a long day is over. Goodnight, John Boy.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Six-toed Cats and Other Oddballs

Thursday we devoted the morning to intellectual pursuits such as studying the six-toed cats that roam freely at Ernest Hemingway's old home and playing "Real or Fake" at the Southernmost Beach while we ate lunch. I have lots of pictures of the six-toed cats, but Sweety wouldn't let me take pictures of the beach contest. I can report that there were no losers, but I think it was more of an exhibition than a real contest as there was no wagering.

Hemingway and a buddy built the brick fence to keep tourists from coming onto his property after he became a famous literary icon. The bricks were taken from Duval Street in KW which is now the main drag through town. I do not know if they just helped themselves to the bricks or he bought them, but the fence is only slightly more attractive than the proverbial "ugly mud fence" folks in our neck of the woods are always referring to. It leans about six inches from top to bottom toward the street. You can see the quality of the mortar work in the picture.

The six-toed cats came about when Hemingway's two boys befriended a visiting sea captain who had a six-toed cat on board because sailors thought the cats brought good luck. Today, there are 46 cats on the property, all descendants of the original named Snowball. Some kind of genetic abnormality causes the extra toes. Some have even had seven toes. About one out of three cats has the extra toes.

It is hard to get the cats to show their feet to you, but perhaps you can see how wide this guy's front feet are.

Our guide told wonderful stories about Hemingway's life. Hemingway was quite a rascal, to put it gently. One of the best stories involves the beautiful swimming pool in the back yard. His wife at the time wanted a swimming pool, but when Ernest got the bid it was over $20,000 at the height of the Great Depression. The island of Key West is built on solid limestone and the pool would have to be hand dug. He told the contractor to forget it. Hemingway soon went to Europe and took a young female writer with him. When is wife found out about the situation, she called the pool contractor and ordered the pool to be built. Later, when Hemingway's longtime fishing buddy and bar owner, "Sloppy" Joe Russell was moving his bar, Hemingway asked if he could have the urinal from the mens' restroom. He placed it in the back yard next to the swimming pool and filled it with water for the cats to drink from. His wife was appalled and told him to get that thing out of the yard. He told her he would get rid of his pool when she got rid of hers. She had the gardener put spanish tiles around the edge, put a large urn in it and plumb it as a fountain. The cats still drink from the urinal.

I hope you get a chance to learn more about him by visiting his home when you are in Key West. He was always fighting depression, but when Castro took over Cuba in 1959, Hemingway could not deal with the fact that he could no longer fish off the coast of Havana. He also agreed to electro-shock therapy for his depression. This erased a good deal of his memory. He would sit for hours in his office staring at a blank sheet of paper, unable to think of anything to write. He took his own life with a shotgun in 1961.

We then hit the road south to the famous Southernmost Point in the continental United States. This giant marker that looks like some kind of concrete atom bomb is the very distinctive indicator of this location.

We then went to lunch a couple of blocks away at the Southernmost Beach Cafe where Sweety took control of the picture taking machinery so I can't show you the contestants in the "Real of Fake" competition. We do have this picture of the beach taken from our table.

This is the winner of the most decadent key lime pie contest.

After a little shopping, it was back to the B&B for some R&R.

History of the Conch Republic

I told you I would give you a report on the history of the Conch Republic. I did the linking, you do the reading.

It will be especially interesting to Texans who know the history of our founders' fight against the tyranny of an oppressive government.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fish Day

Our first full day out in the Conch Republic turned out to be fish day. Fortunately, we didn't have to do the catching, we just saw and ate fish all day long.

After the FREE breakfast at the lovely Wicker Guest House, we hopped the Old Town Trolley.......

..... for a tour of, well, Old Town Key West. That's as opposed to new town Key West. Duh.

For a mere $58 US, we could ride all day and get on and off at any of the 12 stops along the trolley route. You get a narrated tour of some the historic sites, homes, and public places in KW. Think river ride at Six Flags. For example, arriving at the local cemetery, the tour guide announces, "We are now at the dead center of town!" You get my drift.

When we arrived at the trolley's home base, there is the giant Carnival Cruise Line's ship Holiday parked beside the wharf were we find the usual t-shirt shops and crappy gift stores. So naturally we had to have some cheepo t-shirts and crappy gifts. If you are lucky, you may be the beneficiary of some of this when we get home.

There is also an aquarium which was built during the depression as part of the plan to revitalize the local economy.

Key West has had more than its fair share of disasters over its history, but it was really in bad shape at this time. I would recommend the aquarium if you happen to come here as you get to get peed on by a sea cucumber and touch a real, live shark. Notice how this unknown tourista is enjoying his SHARK!!!! experience.

BTW, you do not come away from the shark experience with smelly fish hands because sharks have skin (think boots), not scales and therefore no stinky fish slime is necessary to protect the shark. FYI, fewer people are killed by shark attacks each year than are killed by falling coconuts. NEVER EVER go near coconut infested waters!

After the aquarium, it was lunch time so we went to the Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant where I had a Cuban Sandwich and Sweety had Crab Cake. Very tasty. On the way back to the trolley stop, we had key lime pie. This makes two days in a row. Key lime pie is to Key West as lobster is to Maine. Keep this word association in mind as it may show up on the SAT Reasoning Test.

After completing the rest of the trolley tour of KW, we climbed the stairs of our little cottage in the palms for a nice nap.

Then it was time to plan the evening's adventure which pretty much meant finding a place to have supper and getting back to watch American Idol. After much walking we wound up right next door to our B&B where we once again found fish. Sweety had hog-nosed trout (aka pork kabobs) and I had the Sizzling Thai Whole Fish. With a free glass of wine. Very tasty.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Welcome to the Conch Republic

We arrived in Key West about 5 p.m. local time. This is definitely a free spirited place. They actually declared their independence from the U.S. sometime ago. I'll have to get back to you with details.
We walked up the main drag doing a little window shopping and getting the lay of the land.

We had nachos and refreshments at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Pretty tasty, and a recorded video concert by the Parrot Head himself was showing on a giant screen. Fun!

Home in time to see Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

That's it. Goodnight, John Boy.

I persuaded Jay to let me add some sometimes. It will surprise no one that I went shopping at Chico's. I had a birthday discount card and the shirt was also on sale. Really cute sunglasses that have reading correction in them were my other purchase. LOTS of tourist stuff
We prowled Duval Street which is like Main street. More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Off to Margaritaville

Heading to Key West, FL via the Kid and George's place in Houston tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing this .................... hot hockey action.

Don't mess with Texas or Miss Conduct (or is that MRS Conduct?)!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Trans Atlantic Crossing - First Day

Sweety found a repositioning cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Galveston, Texas, USA, with stops in Cartagena, Spain, Funchal (on the island of Madeira, a Portuguese province off the coast of North Africa), Santa Cruz (on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Labadee (Haiti), and Cozumel in Mexico. The cost was very reasonable for a 15 night cruise, so we went for it.

We drove to Houston and spent the night at H&G's. The next day, we went to the airport to pick up G who was flying in from New York, had some very good BBQ at Rudy's then back to the airport to fly to Atlanta. After a brief, unpleasant encounter with a jerk on the plane regarding overhead luggage, we had a routine flight. We changed planes and flew all night over the Alps to Milan, Italy. We changed planes again for our flight to Barcelona. Here is the harbor in Barcelona as we approached for landing.

We arrived by bus at the dock and got in line to be inspected. Neither one of us was packing anything illegal.

Here she is, the Voyager of the Seas. She was built in 1999 and, at the time, was the largest cruise ship in the world. She can accommodate 3800 passengers and carries a crew of about 1300. Sweety is posed on the post thingy.

Our stateroom was very nice, located at the very aft of the ship on the port side of deck 7.

Our cabin attendant did a good job and our balcony was used early and often.

We dined at night in this place. It was three decks tall. We were on the bottom of the three, next to the Captain's table. He never asked us to join him. Every night there was live music from musicians on the top level.

We had very good service from our waiter, Laurentius (Laurence, standing at right), and his assistant, Orlando, both from Romania. We had a lot of fun with them and they usually spent several minutes after dinner telling us about themselves, their families, and their homeland. Our table mate was J, from Scotland. She is a world traveler and now our friend. She gave us a book of Scottish words and phrases which we study in hopes of someday traveling to my ancestors' birthplace.

Sometimes before and sometimes after dinner, we usually went to the La Scala Theater for entertainment. It seated 1300 and had all the whistles and bells of the best theaters I have seen. The shows were usually very good. The flamenco dancers got a little boring, but the Spaniards on board seemed to thoroughly enjoy them. I liked the magicians. They were pretty good.

While all this was going on, we set sail for Cartagena.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shout Out

I just wanted to give a shout out to my homies who continue to visit this blog. I know it would be more interesting if I actually posted something new every now and then. So here are some recent pictures.

Just for your entertainment, all of these are pictures of famous locations in a European city that Sweety and I recently visited.

Can you guess which city?

If you know the city, can you identify each specific location by its touristy name?

You can enter your answers in the "Comments" section.

Good luck! And thanks for playing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sassy Helps Out Around the House

After a hard day of sitting in Sweety's lap while helping her sew---

---Sassy helps hold down her end of the couch.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Sassyness

Due to great demand, here are more pictures of the cute little sasquatch.

With Bubster.

Up close and personal.

Blogger is being contrary tonight, not letting me post pictures. I have more pictures to post, but will try again tomorrow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Can This Be Good?

Is it a good thing when you check Site Meter and find that someone from Gostar, Iran, is spending 7:57 minutes reading your blog?

I think so because the person was searching blogs for "dis graphia" instead of nuclear anything.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sassy Daily Update #1

She coughed all night so we took her to Dr. K this a.m. No temperature, but a very red throat, probably from coughing all night. (DUH!)

She got a shot of antibiotics, some cough suppressant pills and some antibiotic pills. So we will be taking pills for 10 days.

No coughing in the last few hours, but lots of sleeping, so maybe the cough supressant is really a sleeping pill. Oops, just as I finished this sentence, I hear coughing. Oh well.

She didn't offer to eat the dry food we bought for her, so we bought her some canned Iams and she gobbled it down.

Best of all, Bubba continues to be a gentleman. If he gets too pushy, she growls at him, and when he backs off, she licks his face. Very cute.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Meet Miss Sassy

We have a new member of the family! We adopted this cute little lady from the Humane Society today. We took her to Dr K. and she is healthy except for fleas. She has been very sweet and more importantly, Bubba has not taken a bite out of her. She is smart enough to keep her distance from him. She is a purebred Pomeranian about 3 years old (they think) and we can't tell if she is spayed. She weighs a whopping 5.2 pounds (1/11th of Bubba).

She can jump into Sweety's lap on the couch and both are happy.

We bought her a small crate and her own little food and water bowls.

So far things are good. We'll let you know.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Chompin' Bubba

Sweety is trying to lead Bubba astray by teaching him about the vices of life. Here we see him chomping on a stogie. However, it is better that he chomp a cigar rather than a mailman.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Adjust Your Own Golf Cart Brakes! Who Knew?

(It has come to my attention that many other folks need to adjust their golf cart brakes and this blog comes up on the first Google page for "golf cart brakes". Therefore, in order to promote the general welfare of amateur golf cart brake adjusters throughout the world, I updated this page with pictures and additional, hopefully more useful information. The new stuff is in italics. Also, my legal department told me to tell you to please be advised that I am a retired math teacher, not a mechanic, and you will have to use your own good judgment if you decide to adjust your own golf cart brakes. Be sure to work safely so you don't miss any time on the golf course. And don't sue ME if YOU screw up! Also, see the excellent comment below posted by "krosati" sometime in 2011. It sounds like he knows what he is talking about. Thanks for his very helpful addition.)

The brakes on my golf cart (a 1991 Club Car that was refurbished at some point and that I bought in 2005) had gotten to the point that I was not sure I could stop in less than the length of a well struck pitching wedge. So I googled "adjust golf cart brakes" and came across a site that said if you don't know what you are doing, don't even think about trying to adjust your golf cart brakes. It then went on to describe terrible things that can happen, or that have happened, to amateur brake adjusters. For some reason that I don't understand, I can't link you to that site. (This site says that most modern carts have self-adjusting brakes, but since mine is a '91 model, it does not have s-a brakes. Check out this article and your cart to determine which type you have.)

So I assumed this was all talking directly to me and that I just might as well call the golf cart repair guy to come pick up my cart ($25) and adjust the brakes. Since I got the cart used, I wasn't even sure if the brake pads were any good. I was expecting another $200 for brake pads. This is the price we pay for having our own cart, right?

Well I mentioned this to my traveling friend, Doug. I think I've said before that Doug can build or fix anything. He has built hot rods for years. And even more amazing is that what Doug doesn't know, his brother, Ernie, does know.He said just bring it by (he lives down the street) and he would adjust the brakes. He asked if I heard metal-on-metal sounds when I braked, and I had not heard that. He said I probably didn't need pads if I didn't hear that grinding sound.

So, after he jacked up the rear end of the cart, he removed the wheels. He just pulled off the brake drum which let us look at the brake pads. They were in great condition, still plenty of pad left. After he slipped the drum back in place, he went under the cart and removed (by pulling straight away from the wheel) a rubber boot that covers a 7 mm adjusting screw/stud on the top, back side of the wheel.

He turned this screw so that it moved towards the outside of the cart (or INTO the wheel). This screw pushes outward on some wedge shaped pieces that in turn push the brake pads away from the center of the wheel hub and closer to the drum. He turned the wheel by hand to feel when the pads contacted the drum. When he felt resistance, he turned the screw back just a little so that no resistance is felt. He replaced the rubber boot over the screw and we were finished with one side of the cart.

Here is what it looks like when all is taken apart including the 13/16 deep socket wrench used to remove the wheel.He repeated this on the other rear wheel/brake, lowered the cart off the jack, and I tested the brakes. It was great.

Now the brake pedal does not go all the way to the floor. All is well and I no longer fear for my life when going down hill.

This really was easy. I can do this myself next time. These pictures were taken about a year after the first adjustment. I did it all myself this time. I had to buy a small 2-ton floor jack at Harbor Freight for $19, and I used an adjustable wrench to turn the adjusting screw/stud because I didn't have a socket that fit the stud.

So, what have we learned here? Call Doug and DON'T TRUST THE INTERNET!