WARNING! Don’t Swim To CUBA!

Southernmost Pier

You think this pier has enough signs! Six to be exact, it unfortunately detracts from its endless serenity into the horizon… although in a strange way at the same time makes for a good balanced photo!
This is the SOUTHERNMOST PIER in the United States, then again, there’s a southernmost EVERYTHING down here in Key West (a publicity gimmick for sure). Though most of the signs are “No lifeguard on duty” “No diving”, I can’t read the SOUTHERNMOST SIGN IN THE UNITED STATES due to fading and therefore I have a literary license to make up my own :-) “Warning! Don’t Swim To CUBA!”. The Southernmost Buoy claims to be 90 miles from Cuba, if so, this would be your jumping off point if you were actually going to swim there since it would be approximately 89.999 miles to Cuba. The piers real name is “Cates Pier” as noted on the dedication monument marker seen here at the foot of the pier.
To find this is simple, get on Duval Street and head southeast till the road actually ends into the Atlantic Ocean… or as they say “Till your map turns blue”! :-) Oh yeah, this pier is part of what’s commonly called and advertised as “Southernmost Beach”… but I’m here to tell you that may not be true either! I’ll tell you why in a future blog on the beach itself.

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Turtle Kraals? Say What!

Turtle Kraals Slaughter-House Museum

This Turtle Kraals Museum is the former home of Granday Turtle Cannery. This historic slaughter-house can be found on the northwest side of Key West in the area known as Harbor Walk. Oh yeah, the word “Kraals” is Dutch for ‘pens or corral’. It was here that captured green turtles were kept prior to being exported as a delicacy around the world. The first turtle soup cannery opened in Key West in 1849 and Granday soon came to dominate the industry. With his cannery conveniently situated right on the dock, turtles were brought in from the sea, kept in the kraals along the shore and fed until they went to the cannery. The turtle industry flourished in Key West until its end in the early 1970’s due to diminishing numbers of green turtles in the Caribbean.

Today, the green turtle is an endangered species and fights for survival. Green turtles are rare and beautiful creatures to see, and if you’re lucky enough, you might spot one in the waters off Key West. Thanks to conservation measures, wildlife rescue and hatchling program, the green turtle population has substantially increased. You can view photos from the bygone era throughout the museum. The artifacts outside the museum are FREE to view and read about (meat grinder) as seen below. The building is awesome in its own right as you can see from the above photo and is worth a walk around when on Harbor Walk. Having grown up in Key West as a child (prior to 1970), I was fed a steady stream of turtle steaks, turtle soup, turtle kabob, turtle sandwich, turtle filet, fried turtle, grilled turtle, and the Forest Gump list could go on for an hour as he did with his list of shrimp products eaten… and yes… it tastes like chicken! :-)

    

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Welcome to the Florida Keys!

Last Chance Saloon

Last Chance Saloon

At the southern end of Florida City is the imaginary Mile Marker 126.7 which is the unmarked unofficial official beginning to the Florida Keys. :-) It’s here at Last Chance Saloon (notice the sign, it actually says: Inside Toilets & Friendly People Only!) :-) where you’ll make your trips first decision of turning left onto Card Sound Road or going straight on what’s commonly called “The 18 Mile Stretch” of US-1 South.

Card Sound Road is a 25.8 mile toll road and a no brainer when US-1 is backed up, closed or during major holidays. “The 18 Mile Stretch” is always busier and currently under road widening construction in certain areas. Card Sound Road offers: Alabama Jack’s, Panther Crossing sign, Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge, Rock and Roll stones & Dagny Johnson Botanical Park. “The 18 Mile Stretch” has Gilbert’s Resort, the Pirate Ship “Queen Ann’s Revenge II”, Crocodile Crossing sign & Over Manatee Creek. I myself have a rule of thumb of taking US-1 down (always ready to get there) and returning by Card Sound Road. All sites listed above on both roads have been be detailed in past blogs so put that search feature to work! :-)

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Florida Key’s Crocodiles -vs- Everglades’ Alligators

Here’s a blast from the past and STILL one of the most read blogs I’ve ever written! I hope enjoy this retro info! :-)

Most people can’t tell the difference between crocodiles and alligators! I for one have fallen into this trap; on Dec. 21, 2011 I wrongly included both in the blog “A Rare Crocodile Crossing Sign” and will now set the record straight. Here are SOME of the subtle but yet distinctive differences:

Habitat: Alligators prefer a freshwater habitat, while crocodiles prefer to live in saltwater or brackish water (saltwater & freshwater mix). Behavior: Alligators try to flee in most times when approached by humans, while crocodiles tend to attack anything that comes across nearby. Crocodiles are ferocious man eaters. Body Coloration: Alligators are mostly blackish or gray, whereas the color of crocodiles is olive-green or brown. Snout Shape: Alligators have a broader ‘U’ shaped snout, whereas the snout shape of crocodiles is narrow and form a V towards the end. Jaw Placement: The jaw placement of an alligator is such that the upper jaw is wider and covers the lower jaw completely. In case of a crocodile, the width of the upper and lower jaw are the same. Hind Legs: In alligators, there is the absence of a noticeable jagged fringe in the hind legs, whereas these fringes are present in the hind legs and feet of crocodiles. Dermal Pressure Receptors (DPRs): DPRs are small, black, sensory pits that help in detecting changes in the water pressure for locating their prey. In alligators, DPRs are present only around the jaw, whereas in crocodiles, these sensory organs are present in nearly every scale of their body. Salt Gland: The crocodiles use these salt glands for excreting excess salt from the body, whereas in alligators, these salt glands are non functional. This is the reason why crocodiles can tolerate saltwater and alligators cannot.

So the next time you visit the Everglades, Florida Keys or even a zoo, try taking note of your new wealth of knowledge in identifying the differences in crocodiles and alligators! Thank you James W. for your insight of the subject and bringing it to my attention!

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Key West’s Secret Beach

Rest Beach Key West

Welcome to one of Key West’s BEST KEPT SECRETS and least used beaches! If you’re into soaking up the sun on a beach with nothing but sand and only a few other worshipers then this is your beach!

In this case the name “Rest Beach” is exactly what you’d end up doing here… RESTING! This is a totally NO frills place to hang out and enjoy the suns rays. There are NO bathrooms, NO food vendors, NO lifeguards, NO picnic tables, NO boat rentals, NO chairs, NO umbrellas, and NO hassles just sand, surf, ocean & sun! This SECRET SOLITUDE is a dream for those wanting to get away from the crowds of tourist flocking to the other Key West Beaches. There’s FREE parking across the street and south of the beach. So what are you waiting for, grab your swimsuit, chair and umbrella and enjoy a day in the sun with little worries of fighting any sort of crowd whatsoever!

Located on the southeastern side of the island exactly to the left of the White Street Pier (seen in the background of the top picture) & just north of the more densely populated Higgs Beach.

         

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Ernest Hemingway Days In Key West

What a hoot! I sure hope some of you have a chance to experience this yearly extravaganza! I had so much fun 3-years ago in Key West during what’s known as Hemingway Days. It’s a six-day celebration culminating in the crowning of this years Ernest Hemingway look-a-like contest at the World Famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Old Town’s Duval Street. Approximately 125 competitors are expected from around the nation to compete in this years contest. Though I wasn’t present for the crowning, I was there for some of the on stage judging along with 1,000′s of spectators spilling into the streets about 15 people deep making it nearly impossible to walk down Key West’s narrow streets.

Seen above is one of the Hemingway hopefuls posing for his publicity photo shoot as onlookers peered on as I did to capture this iconic photo for you.

One of the days highlights was all of the participants walking down the street in a group reenactment of the “Running of the Bulls” down Duval Street on these home-made harmless bulls I captured in a photograph below. I had so much fun seeing the look-a-likes walking and dining around town and on two occasions even asked them to pose for me (as seen below) which they gladly did loving every minute of it.

This was my 2nd time to see this event in 9-years and loved it again! So put this on your list for next year approx. July 16-21, 2015 to attend the festivities on any of the six days. You too will have no trouble spotting several Ernest Hemingway’s around town!

    

    

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Pan Am Headquarters

Pan Am Headquarters

Did you have any idea that the 1st Headquarters of Pan American World Airways better known as Pan Am was in Key West! Unfortunately to History & Aviation buffs there’s NO museum or tours associated with its historic connection to the Airline Industry… believe it or not, it’s now a BAR! :-( The good news about it being a bar is that you can stop in for a beer and consider it your inflight beverage! :-)

The historic building does have a marker noting its heritage hanging on the outside (photo to the left). Pan Am was the principal US international air carrier from the late 1920′s until its collapse on December 4, 1991. Founded in 1927 as a scheduled air mail (contract with the U.S. Postal Service) and passenger service operating between Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba (Flight#1 on Oct. 28, 1927) the airline became a major company credited with many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems. Identified by its blue globe logo and the use of the word “Clipper” in aircraft name, the airline was a cultural icon of the 20th century!

You can find this historic building here in Key West on a corner at 303 Whitehead Street. It’s FREE to drop by for a peek and feel a part of history… but there will be a fee for your inflight beverage!

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