Monday, November 30, 2009

A fishing Day at the Key West Beach

I managed to get both fishing poles in my backpack and stuffed the shrimp and squid into my soft cooler bag and started off on the bike.  It is about a 10-15 minute ride down to the beach.  I take Catherine to the end  (2 blocks) to Thomas and go down about 8 blocks to Southard and then turn left to get into Ft. Zachary Taylor Park.  It is the best beach in Key West.  I stop at the entrance and pay my $2.50 fee for the day.  It is another 2-3 blocks to get to the beach.

I park my bike and lock it.You do want to lock your bike everywhere you go.   You see a lot of bikes w/o their front wheel at the bike stations on Duval Street.  I walk down to the beach and look at the water.

The high winds and recent rain have blown up some seaweed on the beach.  People are in the water so it must be warm.  I start to climb the large boulders on the stone jetty.  I usually try to get on the very tip right where the Alantic Ocean meets the Gulf waters.  A family has my favorite spot and a pelican is fishing right beside them.

I decide to try squid today.  I rig up and toss out the bait.  The wind is blowing hard and the line is drifting towards the Gulf. 

I decide not to try to fish two rods today.  The Yellowtail Snappers are hitting the squid as soon as I cast.  They have very hard mouths and you need a sharp hook and a good hook set to get them.  They strip me of the bait several times before I get a the first one. 

Wow!  I tried to hold the fish out to make it look bigger, but this was how big the first fish was.  I throw it back in to grow and keep casting out.  I have a 1 oz. lead sinker on but it is still drifting out to the Gulf.  I managed to catch about 10 of the small Yellowtail Snappers before the family on my favorite rock leaves.  The kid gives me his extra bait as they are leaving tomorrow and Mommy doesn't want to take it back to the hotel room. I sneak down to my favorite rock.

I caught a nice Pompano and a small flounder within a few casts. It was starting to be a nice afternoon. 

One of the Carnival Cruise ships was leaving the port as I was climbing back to the beach.  Most of the cruise ships only port for a few hours and leave to avoid high dockage fees.

I get home and get ready to prepare fish for dinner.

We walk over to the alley where the little old lady runs her husband's home-based fish stand.  We buy one more red snapper for the pot!  We cook it up on the George Foreman and Molly starts making the fish taco sauce.

She is cutting up green pepper, onion, avocado, mango and some salad dressing and seafood seasoning.  We are going to have soft tacos tonight.

The fish came out great and we each had a couple fish tacos and enough left over fish to make Fish Chowder for tomorrow.

We eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and decide to hit the hot tub.  It helps to relax us at the end of the day.  We  have almost all the New York Times finished and I really enjoy the stories in the New York Times Magazine.  Troy (my oldest son from Los Angeles) called and they are getting excited about their visit.   They will be here December 3rd.  They fly into Miami and drive down to the Keys.  We told them to pack light and casual!  We even go to church in T-shirts and shorts and sandles.  The minister had shorts on and a Hawaiian shirt.  Just the way we like it!

Next blog will be the sights/sites of Key West.  We will travel down Duval Street and then go to the Historic Seaport Area. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 27, 2009

What a Feast!

Well, we got the fresh seafood home and Molly started preparing the shrimp by removing the vein.

Next, she put a little olive oil and seafood seasonings on it and popped it into the George Foreman grill to lightly sear them.

Ah, here they are fresh shrimp off the grill and Mango Margaritias.  After our tasty appetizers, we headed out on our bikes.  It was 5:05 pm and Sunset Celebration was starting.  We had a 13 block ride down Whitehead Street.  On the way a Tourest pull right over in front of Joey and hit him!  Luckily, Joey avoided a heavy hit and was able to stay upright.  Wow, a close call.

Arriving at Mallory Square, we parked the bikes and started the tour.  There are many street performers and artist with booths and even food and drink booths.  It was fairly crowded and fun to do people watching.

The guy in the orange shirt was singing Jimmy Buffett tunes badly but his dog would take your $1 bill and take it over to his bag and drop it in.  All the performers are trying to attract your attention.  Some have been here for years and so have a favorite space and really work the audience.

These guys are the southernmost bagpipers.  Since my son, Ryan, is a piper, I always enjoy their music.

You can see a line of artists and their stuff!  They have a lot of art stores in KW and it is fun to see their creations.

This 52 year old guy from Jamacia challenged a young guy to push-ups.  The young guy did 16!  Here is how the street performer did his and he did 22!  They all have a good line of chatter to attract a crowd.

This is what lots of people come to the Square to see.  Many boats are taking tourists out for Sunset Cruises.

Yes, there are a few clouds.  We have had some rain in the early morning and late at night but the sun always comes out in the day.

The Catman of Key West was there with the street cats that he has trained.  He is a French circus performer and now does two 30 minute shows every day and makes a darn good living playing the buffoon with his trained cats.  He is very funny to listen to and watch.  Young and old howl at his antics.  Hope you saw his You-Tube videos I posted last time.

After a nice 10-15  minute bike ride, we arrived back home.  Molly got the water boiling to steam our Spiny Florida lobsters.  This is the before picture.

These guys were ready and we were hungry.  Eating at 7:30 pm, we took our time with these critters.  Since we didn't know how much meat would be on them, we each got two lobsters, after all they were only $5-6 each.  The tails had a very large portion of meat and we were very happy.  Since we all have visited Main, we had previous experience of getting to all the extra meat in the lobsters.  The Florida lobsters do not have large claws but all the joints on the legs are good to explore.

After we finished most of the two lobsters each ( we saved three tails for tomorrow) we went inside.  We started watching TV and got hooked on two episodes of "Hoarders"!  What a program.  I think we all learned a lesson about saving junk

Next day, we went to Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall for a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.  It was nice and the people were friendly.  I made a carrot souffle and Joey made a Rum Cake.  They even had several bottles of wine available at the meal.  Afterwards, a guy from France led the group in some Yoga exercises and some chanting to relax the body.  (Ha, Ha; Ho, Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha, Ho, Ho, Ho).    It was a fun experience. They chant on Monday night for an hour so maybe we will attend.

We stopped at Walgreens to get the special - Ben and Jerry's ice cream for $1.99 a pint.  We all got two!

Tomorrow we hit the beach and relax.  The weather will be in the low 80s!  Joey isn't feeling good, he thinks he will switch to Soy Milk.   We will all try it with Joey.  If he doesn't feel better by tomorrow, we will eat his Ben and Jerry's for him.  He might be allergic to ice cream!  I don't think we can take the chance!  :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life at the Southern Most Spot - Key West

Wow, the days are rolling along.  Monday, we went shopping at Publix  for groceries.  We spent $150 on getting stocked up for our visit.

Fresh Key Lime pie is one of the staples we always get when shopping.  Hold it, Joey did you get into the pie before dinner?

  Then we realized that we didn't have anything for supper!  No problem in Key West!  Molly and Joey took off on their bikes to explore the 'Happy Hour" options for this year and I packed up fishing gear and headed to the Ocean front.  I got there about 3:00 pm and started with some shrimp tossed out on one rod while I use a large surface popper on the other rod.

There were two cruise ships in town today.  They have to pay docking fees to the city to dock here for an afternoon.  You can always tell the visitors as they have on their boat pass and have a map in hand as they scramble around to see everything in Key West in 4-5 hours on foot!

I started having hits on the shrimp so I put the popper away and started catching Yellowtail Snappers.  Most were small and a large white Egrit (sp) bird kept creeping up closer and closer.  I tossed him several small fish and he became my instant fishing buddy.  I know...don't feed the wildlife, but I thought that met those strange souls on Duval Street. I was not keeping fish today but will starting tomorrow for our fish grill and fish chowder.

Getting a call from the kids that they found a bar serving Mango Coladas sent me packing up my fishing gear.  It was 4:15 pm and I headed back to the house (10 minutes), showered (10 minutes), and rode down to the Historical section to Dante's Bar in 10 minutes.

 It has a pool in the outside bar where you can swim if you order something.  I'll get a picture!  We got our drinks and a dozen raw oysters.  Now it was time for dinner.  Easy choice for our first meal out in Key West.  Our favorite place is El Siboney's.

It is a quiet little Cuban restaurant straight down our street (Catherine) about 5 blocks.  Molly and Joey ordered the 1/2 garlic chicken and I had the Cuban Pulled Pork.  You get a huge plate of yellow rice and black beans, Cuban bread, carmalized onions, and fried Plantain.  We brought back 1/2 of the meal for lunch the next day.
Tuesday AM I headed down to get the Key West Citizen to read.   It was about 7:30 and Joey came over to see the sports page.  We decided to ride around the island for the first time this trip.  We left the house at 7:42.   We have to get in shape!  Our legs needed this workout but our butts were getting sore by mid-way.  OK, first rest stop along the Alantic Ocean near the airport.

Joey started his 'gettin in shape' plan.  I keep track of how many push-ups he does and will be his support coach.  Nice job, Joey.

This is Smathers Beach and it is the longest beach on the Island.  We kept on biking and found our way home at 9:56 am.  An hour for a 8-9 mile ride.  Not too fast but a start to our fitness training.  Did I tell you how much gellato Joey and Molly ate in Italy?

We read the paper and Molly decided that we would go get some fresh lobsters and shrimp for dinner.  We walked about one block to a small side street stand run by an little old white haired Cuban woman.  Her husband get the fresh seafood and she runs her little stand at her house.  We got 6 whole FL lobsters (1 to 1 1/4#@) for $5 each!  $9 for a pound of fresh large shrimp.  It is now 10:30 am and what do we do with them?  Ah heck, put them in my refrigerator, it already smells from the fishing bait in it!

We decide that for $5 per pound, we would each eat two lobsters tonight!  A problem arose when we discovered no big pot in the house.  We solved that problem!  We will cook 3 at a time!

The kids just got word that their bid on a larger Condo in Lafayette. LA  was accepted so they had to rush around to get things signed, notarized, and faxed back to the relator.  Ah well, it is just another day in Paradise.

This is the shot of the living room from the side door of the front half of the house.  I have the larger sitting room and TV.  The stairs leads up to my loft bedroom.

The whole house has the large dark red titles on the floor.  To the left is the bathrrom and a door between the two units.  Molly and Joey had a King size bed on the ground floor and two single beds in the loft.  My son, Troy and Rider, will stay there when they visit in Dec.  So the two units can be closed off or opened up as needed.  It works when there is family renting the whole house.

It is about $3500/month for the whole house but the rent goes up after the holidays in the busy season.  The location is great and fairly quiet.  I want to hit Sunset Celebration tonight before we eat.  You have to see the Catman to appreciate him!

Well, what do you think?  Want to hear more from Key West?    

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Key West!

I packed up my car and managed to get three bikes inside the Explorer.  I hate to have a bike rack on and have to check it every day.

There isn't much room inside now.  I headed off to Middleville on Wednesday afternoon.  Bright and early on Thursday, I headed south.  I took I-69 south to I-24 and over to I-75 and kept cruising.  I drove about 800 miles the first day and stopped near the southern end of TN.  Friday, I was awake early and on the road by 5:00 am.  The GPS was nice around the cities and for directions.

I got down to the FL line and stopped in Jennings to see cousin Mary Jo.  She wasn't home so I left a message and since it was only noon, I kept on cruising.

My plan was to arrive in Key West Saturday afternoon so I wasn't in a hurry.  I took I-75 down towards the middle of the state.  I stopped early to have a nice final ride on Saturday.

Saturday, I got off just before the Turnpike and got on 27 South.  It is a nice road that goes straight down the middle of the state and ends right on A1A south of Miami.

A1A goes right down to KW.  Jimmy Buffett says A1A so I do too!  It is Highway 1. You have about 110 miles of driving down the various Keys until you hit the end of A1A.  Key Largo, Marathon, Lower Keys, Islamorada, Big Pine Key, Cudjoe Key  and then you hit all those bridges.  You keep watching the milepost markers as they are what locals use for directions.  A big sign warns about protecting the tiny Key Deer.  I did my part!

After six years of coming down here , it seems great to hit the last Key.  "The weather is here, wish you were beautiful" plays on the radio by Jimmy Buffett.  I guess you have to be a fan to understand his songs!

Here is our little 1928 'shotgun style' Conch Cottage house.  It has front and rear apartments and we rent the whole house.  I have to get that Mercedes out of my parking spot.  I unloaded my car and got into the back unit.  The front unit still had a fireman from Chicago in it.  He was nice and left some food for us.  I had a tough time getting the bikes out the front door gate.  I left a note on the car explaining that I really was trying NOT to scratch his car getting in and out!  Hope he takes the hint!

Went to a beach party to raise funds for the Women's Health Clinic.  It was nice to be on the beach with my bare feet in the sand.  They expected 200-300 people and over 900 showed up.  A nice dinner and music on the beach under the stars. Everyone was friendly but I was tired from the long day and was back by 10:00 pm.

As I get back, I found that I had taken the front door key and I couldn't open the back unit where I was to sleep that night.  My cell phone and car keys were inside the locked unit.  How do I get in?  Nope, the windows were locked.  I thought about breaking a window but didn't.  I knocked on the front unit and he was out.  ....but I had a front key!  I got in and found the doors between the units locked from both sides.  Stumped again!  Now what?  I managed to wiggle the first door open and found the other door was only locked with a hook and eye on the inside.  I kicked the door a little bit and the hook and eye popped off!  Safetly in my unit and my crime scene cleaned up, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I guess I could always become a 'break-in' burgler.  As Jimmy always says, "Sometimes you just have to keep your skills up, cause you never know when you will need them". 

The cleaning lady just finished my unit on Sunday afternoon so I moved to the front .   I got the bike out and decided to take a ride and get a few pictures for the blog.

I rode down the two blocks of Duval to the Alantic Ocean.  It rained this morning and my seat is wet on the bike , hence the neat seat cover!  This is a nice little beach close to our house at the very end of Duval.

People covered with lotion and boat drinks! This is relaxin!    I noticed a lot of seaweed washed up after the rain.

People were in the water.  It was 85 and sunny and it was probably cold back home!  Ah, it feels good to know I will be riding my bike every day and enjoying the sunshine. Eat your heart out , Betsy!

I rode over one block to the most photographed spot in KW.  This is the Southern Most Point in the Keys or in the USA.  It says only 30 miles to Cuba!!

Back at the house, I walked the bike to the back.  This is the narrow walkway to back.

Actually, it is at the back looking towards the front of the house.

The grill where we grill our fresh seafood and fish is beside some of our bikes.

You can see our patio table and the hot tub.  I know it isn't a large area but the house and back porch are just right for us.  We have a new Solar Tube shower in the corner for rinsing off after the nightly soak in the hot tub.

This is the famous Duval Street.  We are 50 ft west of Duval Street.  Downtown is straight down about 1 1/2 miles. Lots of shops and interesting sights/sites to behold.  Everyone is friendly and they are all  from up north somewhere.  I have met a few Chonchs who were born here but most people are from up north!

Molly & Joey come in at 8:00 pm so I'll leave you guys.  I'll get some inside shots and some downtown shots up next.  I can't wait for the Sunset Celebration every night at Mallory Square!

Monday, November 16, 2009

PA, Girl Scouts, and the Cabin!

I headed over to PA to visit son and his wife.  It takes about 8 hours to get there.  I stopped to visit my old teaching department at Slippery Rock University.  Only one professor and the secretary was around at 4:00pm.  Oh well, I drove around to see any changes in the last 4 years.

This is the side of the Field House off Keister Road.  A nice Fall day on campus.

I arrived with a friend's trailer and Ryan and I loaded it with oak and hemlock 1" X 12" X 12' pieces.  Ryan bought it rough cut from the Amish and planed it down himself.  It was a heavy load.  We took three loads of stuff from his garage over to the cabin he is re-modeling.

This is the cabin Ryan lived in while studying for his MA in History.  It only has one bedroom, but he has plans for an addition during the summer.  He is excited to have his own first house and has been designing all the changes needed.  He will do 95% of the work himself.

The planks are laid out on the carpet and will be stained and cut.  I asked about the carpet and Ryan said, "It is coming out and hardwood floors are going down next". So we cut and stained right on top of the carpet.

This is the before picture of the cabin's living room ceiling with a beam down the middle.  We then cut the 12' boards to fit and used a clear varnish.

Since his wife, Leslie, is pregnant and due in January, we didn't want her beathing the fumes.  That meant we really could make a mess inside the house and then just clean it up afterwards. The one wall is barn siding.

You can see the two sides have been finished.  Ryan decided to slide the panels in place and not nail them down.  Wife would inspect after we had it roughly in place.

Handling 12' planks that are 12" wide is tough for one person.  As you try to saw to size, the blade get pinched.  We finally got our system down and were really moving.  We started at 8 am and worked until 6 pm and finished it in two days  That is, we finished the baby's room, the living room and the kitchen. Next, it was time for the inspection by the Boss!  Wife came over and looked for a long time at our work. She liked the wood grain, she liked the natural stain, but she didn't like that some of the boards were still rough.  "How am I going to clean it?"    Suggestion taken and Ryan said he could take the boards down and sand them smooth and re-stain in one day now that the work was all cut and sized.  We Stauffers like to rush right along and it helps to have the Boss inspect every so often.

Last week, Ryan found three little kittens in the middle of the road that someone had dropped off. He built a kitten box by the front door. He already has two cats so no more cats.

 He has fed them and they are now healthy so I took pictures for listing them on Craig's List.  Free kittens, anyone? 

This is fluffy and she/he followed us all around as we worked. I'm not good on checking sex of little kittens.  They all look the same to me!

This is yellow cat.  Gee, every cat is different from that litter.  Does that mean three fathers?

This one reminded me of my pet cat when I was a young boy.  It arrived one day in our yard and I wanted to keep it.  I didn't know that my father took it for a ride and let it off about one mile from our house.  Two days later, the cat returned and became part of the family.

On Saturday, Ryan had to give a History, Geography and Geology of PA lesson to 45 Girl Scouts from 3rd grade to 8th grade.  This is part of his job at the Heritage School of Butler County Community College.  He works there as a full-time Blacksmith instructor and teaches in between.  It was great to be there to see my son present to the girls.  He had active learning stages set up and kept the girls going from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm.  I really like how he had them make name tags from a wood cut from a tree limb  Then he had them find out how old the wood was by counting the rings.  Then they had to go over to a large tree that was cut into several stumps and count those rings and identy where they would be if the tree was planted on their birthdate.

Then they laid out a rope in the shape of PA and had to identy where major towns, the capitol, and rivers were located.  They first did it on an handout and this was the reinforcing lesson.

For Geology, they had to identy three different types of rocks and  sort them out  from a pile that was given them.  I noticed the girls checking out the stones in the driveway after lunch.

I was very proud of his teaching.  Usually he is teaching adults in blacksmithing or how to play the bagpipes, but he loves to share his education in other areas with students. I think the girls liked his lessons, two girls came up and asked for his autograph! 

Ryan is teach a Venture Crew (High School scout progam for guys and girls) on Mondays.  They raised $2000 and bought an old Case Farm Tractor.  They have it all torn down and are re-building the engine.  The students do all the work and Ryan just supervises.  They will donate it to the program and it will haul the Hay Waggon they re-stored last spring. Someone donated a small lightweight airplane that crashed and that is their next project.  Boy, I wished I would have had a chance like that in High School.

Another 8 hour drive and I am now back in Michigan.  I leave Thursday for a month and a half in Key West.  Hopefully, I will post some stories from Key West.  I miss Jimmy Buffett and those frozen Mango Daiquiris!

Stay tuned!