Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dolphins, Manatees, and Frogs -- Oh My!

When planning our trip to Key West, my Unit and I decided that we should rent mopeds to tool around the city.  Key West itself is only seven square miles, so many people use a variety of bikes and things to get around.  Given my love of motorcycles (but inability to drive them), I thought mopeds would be pretty damn awesome.

We asked our delightful front desk attendant where to rent bikes, where to find the cool places to eat, and where Hemingway's House was, and she gave us the 4-1-1.  Seriously, she was very helpful and even gave us some coupons for some places.

The first day, though, we walked.  We walked to Duval Street, which was already crowded and blaring music at 11 a.m.  We walked around the block to get the lay of the land.  We walked to the wharf to see what there was to see.  We started to walk back to own hotel that evening, glancing at some of the famous houses and B&B's (including places I had wanted to stay, like the Artist House, but it was already booked up).  During our sight-seeing, right after sunset, I realized something was itchy and sharp on my foot.  We stopped in doorway, and I inspected my foot.

Somehow, my pinkie toe was digging into the toe right next to it; so much so, that the pinkie toenail had cut open the neighboring toe.  What the hell?  I was not wearing my usual high heels, just sandals.  Okay, sandals with like a 1/2" platform.

After I took off my sandal and the Key West night air hit my piggies, I realized that more things hurt.  Where the thong of my sandal fit into between my big toe and the rest were giant blisters.  On both feet.  Putting the shoes back on again was like pouring grain alcohol over my feet and then lighting them on fire.  I begged my Unit to even call a taxi cab (it didn't even have to be a pink one), but she pointed out we were only a few more blocks from "home."

As soon as we reached the hotel, we made a mutual decision:  tomorrow we ride!

But then the discussion came of mopeds or bicycles.  The pros and cons are as follows:
  • Pro:  mopeds are infinitely cooler
  • Con:  mopeds are loud
  • Pro:  bicycles make it easier to communicate with each other while riding
  • Pro:  bicycles are cheaper to rent
  • Pro:  mopeds are faster
  • Con:  faster speeds means more likelihood of one of us (read:  "me") hurting ourselves
After much debate, we decided to rent bicycles.  My Unit pointed out that we could rent them for a day and always change to mopeds later if we wanted.  We were going to be in Key West for seven days; we had plenty of time.

Oh, bike-riding!

I was very, very nervous.  I had not ridden a bike (that wasn't stationary) in about two decades.  We immediately came up with a disaster plan:  should one of us fall off, fall down, fall behind, hit something, be hit by something, we were to yell loudly "DOO-DOO DOWN!"

It is legal in Key West to ride your bike on the sidewalk, except on Duval Street (as it's simply too busy); when riding in the streets, one must follow the regular rules of traffic.  We stuck to the sidewalks for that first half hour, with my Unit in the lead.  To watch us was probably like a comedy of errors.

I couldn't seem to steer my bike; I whipped the handle bars back and forth, correcting and overcorrecting.  I swerved and squealed and tried to avoid telephone posts, fences, overgrowth from yards, and, of course, pedestrians.

My Unit took us down lesser-known paths (fewer pedestrians), past a graveyard (not exactly inspiring), and finally down to Key West's (and the United States') Southernmost Point (which isn't even the southernmost point, but let's not split hairs).  After Southernmost Point we found ourselves in a quiet, tree-lined street with wide roads.  We actually started heading back north, putting me in the lead.  My Unit was finally able to see my ride a bike.

First, amid the laughter, she had to take a picture so there was photographic evidence that I was both outside AND on a bike:
Also keep in mind that I have excellent posture.  Okay, maybe not "excellent," but certainly better than average (thanks, Mom!).  So, when riding a bike, I don't hunch over the handlebars.  I sit up straight like a lady should -- shoulders back, tits out.  For some reason, this made my Unit declare that I look like Kermit the Frog when I ride a bike.  You decide:


We rode and rode and rode.  We hit the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor as we did not want to hit the beach covered in Spring Breakers.  It wasn't what either of us expected.  My Unit, for one, thought the waves would have been bigger.  I thought the size was fine, but she's also been to the beaches on Hawaii, and I haven't.  I thought, frankly, it'd be warmer.  You'll notice in the bike picture I'm wearing jeans.  It didn't get above 76 degrees for the entire week we were there.  Very unseasonably cool weather.  I don't get out of jeans or pants until it's at least 80 or 85.  A couple of mornings our redheaded front desk girl was wearing a turtleneck under her uniform shirt.  70-some degrees is cold to the islanders!
So we didn't swim in the ocean, but we did snap another picture to prove that I was actually outside.

 We also stopped for lunch at a restaurant off one of the docks.  I wish I could remember the name so I could tell you not to go there.  Neither the food nor the service was very good.  Thankfully, I was really only interested in one thing:
My Unit's tattoos make an appearance in every one of these pictures.

We stopped at another dock later on during the day.  Here's something I've learned working with animals:  any time there's a group of people crowded around, something interesting is happening.  Lo and behold, there was a small crowd gathered near the edge of the dock.  Naturally, I elbowed my way into their midst so I could see what was happening.

The sea cow!
It was a manatee!  This fisherman was hosing him down.  Here are more not-very-good pictures, all taken with my phone (as my Unit cried, "Don't drop it into the ocean!!")

You can see his wee flippers in this one.
Just to the left of all this was a lone pelican, posing but being completely upstaged by the manatee.  I felt bad for him, so I took his picture, too.
"I'm watching YOU, Mr. Manatee.  Just you wait."
At this point my Unit dragged me away so "other people can see," and so I wouldn't drop my phone into the water.  And then we headed home.  I was getting tired and cranky.  Then I realized we had been biking for over four hours!  That's a big deal for someone who leads a mostly sedentary life.  It was naptime.

But the manatee-sighting had inspired our next big ticket item:  a dolphin tour.  Coming up next:  dolphins swimming, dolphins having sex, and gratuitous food pictures!

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