Another Thanksgiving has arrived. This year is the first time that we will be spending it with only each other. Looking back through our pictures, two things became clear, we always seemed to have a good time with friends and family and apparently we did not take many pictures of these events.
We have celebrated this day in many places and ways over the years. We spent a number of years returning to where I grew up to spend the holiday with my parents and siblings. It was also deer season and I spent many a day in the field with my father and brother. While I seem to have more pictures of the deer than the holiday, Anneke has rejected these as potential blog posts.
Some Thanksgivings were spent in motorhomes and in the four years we lived in the Netherlands, we were able to spend the holiday with Anneke’s family . This year we had the option of attending the largest event ever, in the form of a gathering of the entire campground or just us, so either way it is a new first.
We hope that you all are where you wish to be on this day and we wish you all a happy and safe Holiday.
We continue our wanderings around Key West and the lower Keys, taking in the sights and sounds of the area. The Custom House is the one of the oldest government buildings in Key West and is currently serving as the Art Museum with emphasis on local history. One of the featured local artists is Mario Sanchez, who was born on Duvall Street and spent all of his life in Key West. Most of that time was spent chronicling the everyday life in Kew West. His medium was carved wooden boards with vibrant colors. There was also a special exhibit of Seward Johnson, who uses famous icons in other’s works and turns them into impressive sculptures. In fact, for the steadfast reader of this blog, you will have seen his work entitled “unconditional surrender” in a write up of Sarasota, FL.
The sunset on Mallory Square is considered to be one of the highlights of any visit and indeed it was spectacular and the entertainment is part of the charm.
The guide book suggests that a quick tour of the wild life refuge on Big Pine Key that protects among other animals, the endangered Key Deer is worthwhile. Based on the steady warning signs about the deer and the drastically reduced speed limits in the area, there was an expectation that they would be everywhere. Despite our best efforts we did not find one in the refuge, but did see our first alligator of the trip. Later, as we were checking out some of the homes for sale on Big Pine Key, we spotted a Key Deer along the road and just managed to catch her on the fly.
As you drive on HWY 1, you cannot help but notice that Honda Bahia State Park had a great looking campground right on the water and we had to check it out. The park has many attractions including several long beaches that have been highly rated by those who do such things, but unfortunately you need to reserve a campsite as much as eleven months in advance.
We were planning to spend two full weeks in Key West, but we got an offer for a cruise that we could not resist, starting this Sunday. So we will be leaving the motorhome in storage at the base for the duration of the seagoing adventure. As luck would have it, the vessel we are going on was docked at Key West this week.
We are camped at the Naval Air Base, Key West known as Sigsbee Annex. As luck would have it, this facility is located on the Gulf of Mexico with great sunsets and only a few minutes from Downtown and the famous Duval Street and Mallory Square. We will be here for the next week or so. This is only our second visit. We spent just a few days here back in 2004.
This place is made famous by the likes of Harry Truman, Earnest Hemingway, and Jimmy Buffet. You will have to decide which is more important. For us, it is a great place to spend some time in the sun and look back at the history, and of course, enjoy the present.
President Truman spent quite some time here during his presidency and made some important and life changing decisions, like using the atomic bomb on Japan, creating the UN, and firing a famous and difficult General. Hemingway and Buffet left their mark on the place that is still evident today.
It is a well established party town and is proud of its reputation as a haven for those seeking the alternative life style. It also appears to be designed to meet the demands of the mainland tourist.
We have spent our first few days walking Duvall Street and enjoying the comings and goings of our fellow tourists, the weather, visiting the exclusive Sunset Key for lunch and the truly wonderful sunsets in our front window at the campground. We lucked out on our visit to Sunset Key, as we departed the dock we overheard that the island was about to be closed due to a water main failure. When we arrived at the restaurant, they did seem surprised to see us, but never the less seated us and served a wonderful lunch. Since there was no running water, Anneke was provided with Fuji bottled water to flush the toilet and wash her hands. After all, it was a Westin Resort.
We visited the “Little White House” of Harry Truman on what was once part of the Navy base at the tip of Key West and is still known as Truman Annex. President Truman loved it here and spent 175 days of his presidency at the house. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed during the tour of the house, but that notwithstanding, it is well worth the visit.
We are coming to the end of our stay in Miami. One of the great parts of traveling is the chance to visit friends that you have not seen in awhile and meet new ones. As I mentioned previously, we have not been back to Miami since we left in the fall of 2004. On Friday we were able to catch up with Pete Randall, who we have known since we were stationed together in Philadelphia in the early 1990’s. It was good to see him again and hear his latest news.
On Saturday, we were invited to dinner by George Chesney, who was my boss during my contracting stint at NCL, and he also invited Shannon Konermann who worked with us in Miami and later with me in Ohio. Shannon also brought along Peanut. We had a great time and a lot of laughs. It was a fun evening with delicious food. I should note that when I was working for George, several times while I was sitting alone in his office folks dropping by mistook me for George. This started the rumor we were long lost twins. You we will have to be the judge.
George has spent a great deal of time redoing his home in Coral Gables and is rightfully proud of the results. Peanut was apparently not as impressed as the rest of us, as he promptly explored the whole place and decided the best substitute he could find for a doggie WC was the white carpet in the master bedroom. This was taken in stride and he continued to entertain us for the rest of the evening.
Finally, on Sunday evening we were invited to the home of Steve and Roberta Cmar. Steve and I served together in my final two years in the Coast Guard in Rotterdam, NL. The last time we saw each other was over four years ago, when we met in a German shipyard while we were both working for Norwegian Cruise lines. They also have a very lovely home in Coral Gables. They invited another two couples and we ended up in a very lively and fun conversation. The dinner was wonderful and we found many subjects that we shared a common interest in. While we did not resolve all the world’s problems, we at least covered most of them.
On Friday Anneke wanted to visit the Dutch Consulate to check on renewing her passport. We have come to expect dealing with the Dutch bureaucracy to always be difficult. She checked everything she needed and fretted over what baloney they might come up with to give her problems. To her surprise, they accepted all her paperwork, including the dreaded pictures which apparently are rejected the first time more often than not due to various specific and silly requirements. But in the end, they still managed to stir the pot. After all was accepted and ready to be processed, they informed her that due to the Netherlands passport being a highly prized item in the world of illegal immigration, they wanted her two return in two weeks to pick up the passport in person. When she protested, they allowed that they could mail it, but that she would have to pay for the postage and they did not carry the stamp. It had to be the most expensive mail service as this was the only way the government felt safe with handling the passport, but she would have to go get the stamps herself, and mail the stamps back to the office. Luckily we remembered the post office down the road, and just dropped them off. ( not what they suggested) .Even in the high security world of the new US Passport, you can still mail in your renewal and it is returned regular mail. The government includes the postage in the application fee. Here is an area the Feds can crank of the hassle factor to compete with the Netherlands.
Since the Consulate was only a few minutes walk from the condo we lived in while I worked in Miami 4 years ago, we strolled by the building and remembered the great waterfront views we enjoyed for that year. The condo we watched being build across the street is completed, but apparently never completely occupied. The housing crisis in Miami is certainly one of the hardest hit areas in the country.
We also drove to nearby Coconut Grove to see if the sailing club we had joined was still there, as the city was trying to shut it down to gain the property. It has survived and still has a great anchorage for local and transient sailboats. The Coconut Walk area is apparently seeing some hard times with vacant shops and lighter traffic than we have seen in the past. Another sign of the times.