Outstanding In Their Field

Outstanding in their field Stng Head-WEB

Would you consider a temperature of 68 degrees to be a cold wave? Did you know that meteorologists do not calculate a wind chill for temperatures above 50 degrees? Well, I guess they have never ridden a motorcycle on a cool summer night, or visited the Florida Keys in December.

When my wife and I landed in Key West Tuesday afternoon, December 5th, the locals apologized for the cold weather. It was 72 degrees, but very windy. My wife and I donned layers with long sleeves and set out to enjoy the beauty of the island paradise that Jimmy Buffet fans crave. Thankfully, the Keys are full of lots of historical and aquatic points of interest, since I had no interest in hoisting a drink and claiming, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

There were visits to the Zachary Taylor State Park and pre-Civil War fort, the Truman Little White House and the Coast Guard cutter Ingham. There was the Hemingway home and the 150-plus year-old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Duval Street.

There were visits to Marathon, Mile Marker 0, the southernmost point in the continental US, Bahia Honda Beach, Smathers Beach and Big Pine Key to see the Key deer and eat at the famous No Name Pub.

On our 3rd day in the Keys, the temperature climbed above 75, and the wind died down to below 25 mph, allowing water activities to be enjoyed. We enjoyed a kayak tour of a mangrove forest several miles offshore in the clear Gulf waters.

The catamaran then took us almost 6 miles offshore to a sandbar that was in only 2-3 feet of water. Here we practiced our body board surfing and saw jellyfish. The trip to the Florida Keys also produced my first time on a PWC, personal watercraft, also called jet ski or wave runner. Our guide for our 1.5-hour trip around Key West was part Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and Evil Knievel. I learned that full throttle on a jet ski is 46 mph, and thankfully, I did not find out what it feels like to fall off and hit the water at that speed.

I must return so I can visit the Dry Tortugas, the turtle hospital and dolphin adventure in Marathon. Also, I did not find any evidence of livestock or crop farming other than the lobster pot buoys I saw in the ocean; I will be more diligent to locate some agriculture when I return.

Near the end of my visit, I learned that the Zachary Taylor State Park Beach is usually the calmest and clearest water for snorkeling.

Some things I do not truly understand: Much of the economic success of Key West tourism revolves around drinking and buying souvenirs. The islands are very susceptible to hurricanes, yet modest homes sell for over a million dollars. Most of the entire Florida Key chain is less than 10’ above sea level and experiences a hurricane every 6 years. I could only imagine the massive expense of money for labor and materials to rebuild after each severe weather event so the tourists could return. Even though the locals cursed the cold, every air conditioner was still running and giving me chills, and many outdoor patios were running their fans.

As a matter of fact, even though we set the A/C in our room to 72, we returned several times to find the thermostat set to a chilly 64 degrees.

My first day back at work was 33 degrees with a stiff wind, a true wind chill. No more salt water on my lips and no more seafood and key lime pie on the menu.

I can come up with a few positives to being back home. I was able to have a knife once again in my pocket and not wonder if there would be one more Atlantic hurricane yet this year.

 

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