Friday, May 02, 2008

Summer Camp in Islamorada

Sea King Charter out of Smuggler's Cove (mm 86 ish? Bay side) is offering a five day summer camp $185. They will teach the kids how to fish (bait, knot tying, etc) and take them fishing every day. Camp opens may 26th.

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday camp Time is 9 to 3:30 - boat leaves at 9:30. One day there is a 6:30 pm to 12:30 am snapper fishing. Wednesday is 8 to 5 boat leaves at 9 am dolphin fishing. Discount for extra weeks. Tshirt bait tackle rods provided. Bring lunch and sunscreen. Lottery for free week. must have B average grades to enter lottery. Call 305 289 0827 for details.

Sounds cool. Age limit 8 to 15 years of age.

Catching up

February 13, 2008. 11:29 am. Mile Marker 124.2 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Man. Woman following scared out of her skin. Both on Bikes.

March 20, 2008. 5:13 pm. Mile Marker 118.3 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Man. 50's Racing bike and matching togs.

March 21, 2008. 9:48 am. Mile Marker 89 Heading North on the North Bound side of US 1. Black Mercedes 500D FL582 9IV Littering.

March 25, 2008. 5:10 pm. Mile Marker 123.0 Heading North on the North Bound side of the stretch. Man. On a bicycle - his other bike is a Harley. Long blond Hell's Angels hair. Bike loaded with bundles. Also, they put up a crocodile crossing sign next six miles except that damned wall stretches for the next ten miles so I have no idea how the crocs are going to cross.

Also - March 26,2008 on the 836 9:38 am passd by a cycle doing 150 mph Plus. Scared the hell out of me.

April 10, 2008. 9:04 am. Mile Marker 121.8 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Man. 60's Fisherman on a well equipped bike. Also, at mm 121.8 SB side. Strawberry stand is set up.

April 26, 2008. 9:10 am. Mile marker 125. Heading South on the South Bound Side of the stretch. Remember the guy on the train in the movie "Ghost"? The crazy ghost who taught Swayze how to move stuff? This critter looked just like that guy.

This weekend is the Taste of Islamorada. Remember Victor? He's going to be there for all you Sand Castle fans.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Getting behind on the critters

February 4, 2008. 10:34 am. Mile Marker 120.2 Heading North on the South Bound side of the stretch. Critter walking a bike wearing a backpack.

February 4, 2008. 10:40 am. Mile Marker 125.5 Standing on the South Bound side of the stretch. Escapee from the Florida City Chilli cook-off. No shirt. Rusty Orange pants. Bright orange sombrero. Head down. Possibly hung over.

February 22, 2008. 11:07 am. Mile Marker 123.2 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Thin octogenarian on fully equipped bike with helmet and camp gear.

February 28, 2008. 8:52 am. Mile Marker 123.2 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Girl hippie with long blonde hair and sky blue ensemble on a bike packed for camping. Alone. Wobbly. Pretty. Swamp critter bait.

March 4, 2008. 8:58 am. Mile Marker 122 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Hemingway on a bike wearing red shirt, castro hat looking tired.

March 4, 2008. 9:01 am. Mile Marker 124 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. African American-ish walking a bike with an over packed bungee trailer of crap. (Follow up showed this one making ten or so miles a day on his way to mm 0)

March 17, 2008. 9:01 am. Mile Marker 119.5 All out brawl on the South bound side. Several pick up trucks and a dump truck pulled off and several men beating the hell out of each other for unknown reasons. Do they need a reason? Probably not. Phoned *FHP and the lady who answered was very nice. She even said, "Oh, dear!" which encouraged me to believe she would, in fact, send someone out to end the badness.

March 19th, 2008 - Around Town

~ Man wearing a t-shirt with the word "Stiffy" on it.
~ Boat named "Up Chuck" in for repair at Robbie's.
~ Free Health Screenings at Walgreens in the "Take Care RV"

It's Spring Break Season in the Keys. Traffic is heavy and for some reason kids in cars frequently roll down their windows and hoot. This seems to annoy the ever loving crap out of the snowbirds.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm just going to live on this blog for a few weeks

First! A current Critter Report:

January 10, 2008. Mile Marker 122.8 (Sure they are all happy until they hit the construction zone at 118) Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Two Critters on bikes wearing no helmets, baseball caps on backwards and orange towels covering their rear ends. Mid 30's. Good old boy bikers. Not a whiff of spandex or silly traffic flag on either of them. Camping gear.

So. As I was heading south to take kid two to school this morning I noticed that Founders park at mm 87 was all wrapped up in event tape with signs that said the HGTV event was about to happen. Kid two said his friends had taken a tour of the house and the "furniture was amazing". We then got into a discussion about the economics of winning such a prize. I explained that you have to pay income tax on the value of the house in addition to all the other expenses that come with property. Once we did the math out loud it became clear that, even if we sold our current house, we would not have enough to pay the taes on the "Dream Home". Nothing is free. But I wouldn't say no to winning it.

Go enter.

It says the give away isn't until March 16 at 9pm ET / 6pm PT. So WTH are they doing this weekend? Inquiring minds want to know. Traffic is going to suck.

Correction on the "Art Under the Oaks" Date is January 19th.

In other news the Tavernier peacocks have discovered Gerry Droney Landscaping, MM 88.7. Some fruit or tasty tree must be luring them because they make runs across U.S 1 jumping the fence trying to get in before they get shoo'd back to the ocean side. It's pretty funny if it isn't your landscaping they are eating and poo'ing all over. Loud. Someone said there are two albinos in the flock. Kinda cool.

Any day now Office Depot in Key Largo will be open for business. Progress at last, but not in a good way. Yes. Everyone needs office supplies, but there's an Office Depot at the top of the Stretch. Do we really need one in Key Largo?

The Miata is FIXED! Yay me. I miss that little whistling sh^t box.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pulling it back together

I have all these little post-it notes with critter sightings scribbled on them and as I find them I will post them and then throw them out finally. First up is from last year about this time:

January 7, 2007. Mile Marker 124 Heading South on the South Bound side of the stretch. Critter on a bike wearing a helmet, muscle shirt, dolphn shorts. Mid 30's. I guess it was warm out that day but most likely he was a lunatic snow bird who thinks 60 degrees is a warm summer day.

And speaking of snow birds, it is time to welcome them back for another season of crappy driving in the beautiful Florida Keys.

Welcome Winter Visitors! I feel I should remind you of a few things.

Thing One: If your vehicle is not capable of exceeding 45 mph either by it's mechanical foot in the grave or by your own, you are not allowed to take Card Sound. I'm not kidding. The stretch, because of construction, is 45 mph for most of the miles and 35 mph for the rest. That's perfect for you. Card Sound is for people who want to get home. We are not on vacation or a winter sabatical. We are not on the road to enjoy the view -- such as it is. If you can't throw enough hamsters on that wheel to get up to at least 65 mph stay the hell off of Card Sound.

Thing two: If you are handicapped, use the parking spots set aside for you at the bank. Do not sprawl your SUV across two normal parking spots. There are only two in front of the ATM and you can't have them. It's rude. I realize "rude" is a relative term and where you live the rest of the year, that kind of parking is just "situation normal", but in the Keys that is rude parking.

Thing Three: If I see you throwing trash out of your car window I am going to chase your ass down and make you eat it. In past confrontations I have settled for merely tossing it into your open window (or convertible with the top down) and hauling ass away from the scene, but this year ... prepare yourself. You will be eating that tossed trash.

Thing Four: From Mile Marker 108 to Mile Marker 90 US1 is divided with two lanes in each direction. Chances are, you are going to exit the parking lot of the Key Largo Grande or Sun Downers going in the wrong direction, against traffic, and come nose to nose with my little green Miata. I am going to stop, get out and call you a "Fucking moron" and tell you to get off the road until you can drive like a normal person. Take this treatment like a man and don't be a baby about it. You fucked up. Accept it. Be glad you didn't kill someone. Stop driving in the Keys and take cabs from that moment on.

Thing Five: If you plan to operate any kind of water craft, get a boaters license or hire a captain. You can take the test online. Also, If you haven't been diving in a year, get a refresher. The local shops could use the business and it will absolutely save your life. Every person who dies diving because they are out of shape and out of practice makes the Keys look bad. The Keynoter is supposedly adding the ability to comment on articles online soon. You don't need to die and then deal with the humiliation of people calling you an idiot for acting like the Keys are fucking Disney World where everything is safe and sanitized for your protection. Be a responsible adult and get a refesher. Watch the movie Open Water, too. If you are just fine and dandy with the very real possibility of being left for the sharks out in open ocean then by all means get out there and die dive. And, no, I am not going to tell you which dive shops are notorious for abandoning divers in open water. If you don't have the $$ to dive with Quiescence then you take your chances just like everyone else.

Thing Six: There's nothing to do here. Seriously. We are not Miami. We have a couple of entertainments going on over the weekend, I think "Art Under the Oaks" is happening at the church at mm 89.3 bayside January 17th-ish which is where I get all my Brass, Nickle and copper hairbows (Brass Jewelry Maker of Key West usually shows up every year. Biker guy with long hair. Very nice stuff.) Other than that ... if you don't drink, fish or dive there is very little else here for you. The next one of you idiots coming up to me as I am getting gas to ask where the nearest beach is, is going to get maced. You want beaches? Go North.

Thing Seven: If you want to get robbed, buy drugs or just generally put your life in grave danger, stop anywhere in and around mile marker 103 and 104. If you don't? Keep driving. My apologies to anyone who lives up there, but you know it's true.

Thing Eight: Weather? Is an act of god. The locals are not beating the hell out of drums trying to fuck with your stay here. OK. They might be. But you and I know that's BS and doesn't work because I've tried it myself. If you are pissed about the weather being windy, eat it until you perforate an ulcer and die. We don't care if you are pissed about the weather. It's windy in the winter time here. It could be worse. It could be windy and cold.

Thing Nine: What has happened to Key West is not our fault. Don't go there if it makes you sad to see what has happened. You probably can't aford it anyway. Marathon is still pretty cool. Go there.

Thing Ten: This is 100% true. I saw it happen with my own eyes. A woman was ... what is the word when someone keeps asking the same question like they are talking to a two year old over and over again while that person tries to be polite and ignore the questioner at the same time? It escapes me, but ... a lot of the lower paid jobs are worked by immigrants (mostly legal) who DO speak English but sometimes prefer not to because they are calling women like the one I am talking about now a moron and they don't want her to know. They make more money, even after bus fare, by working in the Keys. They work their asses off. We need them. Do not ask them stupid questions like: "Aren't you uncomfortable working here serving mostly white rich people? Don't you wish you could get a job up in Florida City with your own people closer to your family? I think it's shameful that you have to take a dirty bus all those miles South every day just to make a living. Our economy is just awful. What are we coming too? Aren't you uncomfortable working here serving mostly white rich people? You'd probably rather work up in Homestead closer to your people. ...". First of all, rich white people shop at Publix, not Winn Dixie. Second? If you feel the urge to do that to the grocery cart guy at Winn Dixie? Don't. Get your groceries and go back to your rental house or hotel room and enjoy the rest of your stay.

As ya'll do stupid shit that pisses me off, I shall add to this list. In the mean time, have a great time here and try not to get arrested.

More critter reports from the eighteen mile stretch coming.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

1935 News Reel from Road Construction in the Keys

k. this one is creepy because 1935 was the year of the Labor Day Hurricane that wiped out Islamorada. 200 mph winds driving water that destroyed the road you see under construction. They sent the train down to evacuate the workers but it never made it back to the mainland.

Here is a pictorial of the construction and of the damage after the hurricane.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Construction on the Stretch

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Driving the eighteen mile stretch

The explainer

No End in Sight
Driving the eighteen mile stretch
By Cindy Cruciger

I call it the bunny trial. From mile marker 104 at Black water Sound, to Florida City. Monday through Friday, at whatever weird hour I manage to get up and get going, the eighteen mile stretch is waiting.

Here's the first big decision of the morning, caffeine. This breaks up into two splinters. Do I need gas? Yes? Shell station at mile marker 100. No? I sweat it out until the end of the stretch and hit the McDonalds drive through in Florida City. I didn't need gas yesterday and as I saw the signs for Gilbert's "Bikers Welcome" my hands tightened on the wheel a bit because the guy who runs the draw bridge there over Jewfish Creek is certifiable.

The game seems to be played like this - if he's sitting on the bench outside the door to the cage, you're safe. If he's not in plain sight, anything goes. I've seen him drop the gate in 5 seconds flat, smacking the back end of a car full of tourists from where-ever. He got me one morning. I was zoning, no diet coke to start the day, and wham. I saw the gate free-falling and went into a slide. As the bridge went up inches from my front bumper, I was a cell phone lunatic, dialing *fhp and finding out just what a waste of time it is to try to report anything to the Highway Patrol in Florida. If they want you, they'll find you. It never works in reverse. As for the Jewfish creek bridge-man, if you can't see the whites of his eyes on approach, consider yourself fair game.

There's a sign in that same area that amuses me endlessly - Crocodiles next 8 miles. There are always people swimming up and down that eight mile section of road. Not locals of course, they know better. I read somewhere that there are only 200 or so saltwater crocodiles left in South Florida and most of them hang out at the power plant. A few are probably holing out in that eight mile section of salt swamp water. And, while there are numerous nuts willing to wrestle with the alligators, no one is stupid enough to play with a crocodile. Except the tourists and mainlanders. No one ever stops them from swimming there. They ignore No Parking signs and roll out the living room furniture. They light open fires, even though the Keys are a tender-box, and cook god-knows-what. Someone has even placed garbage cans along that section. A nice touch, but you know that anyone who can park in front of a No Parking sign, is not going to be impressed by a No Littering sign. I'm rooting for the crocodiles.

There are two passing zones between Key Largo and Florida City. They are a waste of whatever money it took to pave the extra width in the road. It's a cruel little section of asphalt that even an amateur understands is for torturing the guy behind him. On most days the person in front of you speeds up like Madmax. Their shoulders hunch as they lay on the accelerator. Suddenly that under-powered truck, hauling a boat, dragging it's propeller, is throwing sparks, trying to keep you from passing. The tourists who were busy looking at everything but the road transform into speed demons and will even ride the middle line if their rental car isn't fast enough to stay ahead of you. Crazed. And, if they don't accelerate, it's because the speed patrol is sitting there waiting for you to pass.

So I count marsh bunnies..

The first passing zone is usually littered with cute little bunnies, doing what ever it is bunnies do by the side of the road. What I can't figure out, is that I've seen almost every creature imaginable smushed on that stretch, except bunnies. Something isn't right with that, but I'm not going to camp out and do a study in the swamp to find out what.

Which brings us to the pedestrian traffic on the stretch. Three or four times a week I catch sight of the real residents of the upper keys. The swamp people. Now and again you'll see them walking to Key Largo, stick in hand, looking for all the world like they haven't bathed or shaved in several years. And chances are good they haven't.

They've made camp in the Everglades bridge between civilization and the Conch Republic for almost a century. It's a great place to hide. Very few people are going to come hiking by their little enclave and if they do, no one will ever miss them. And I mean that. The kind of person, non-native, who would stop a car on the stretch and hike into the places where the swamp dwellers go is not a well-adjusted, well-liked individual. Chances are he's pissed off everyone back home because he lacks any kind of sense or he is an outlaw, too desperate to notice the noxious smell, the man-eating mosquitoes and the muck. If they ever make it back from their little jaunt in the swamp, their car has been vandalized by the other swamp residents and ticketed by the elusive Florida Highway Patrol.

Heading south from Florida City to Key largo is also an endless source of fascinating sights. Your first clue that nothing but tourists and lunatic locals drive south to the keys is the tourists in the rental cars, stopped at the top of the stretch. They have a map! There is only one road into and out of the keys once you've passed the turn off for Card Sound. How complex can the map possibly be? Yet, there they sit, arms waving music blaring.

I have a theory. I think the sign at the top of the stretch is confusing. I think that the Card Sound road sign needs to be more specific. If you are not a native, please pay the dollar and take Card Sound road.

Just don't give them a choice. Because as soon as they've passed the turn off and see the first cracks in the stretch and the mud slides on all sides leading into the glades, visions of Deliverance start flashing in their brains and one or the other occupants of the car must stop and take stock.

Is this the road? Should we have turned off?

I don't see anything up ahead. No buildings.

Well. I think you should have turned at that sign.

You didn't SAY anything as we were passing it.

What the hell does that map say anyway? Is this the road?

Then they see the swamp dweller making his monthly trek to Key Largo.

18-Mile Stretch Critter Archives

Screw the lawsuits. Someone has to watch these people. Critter reports are back. Here is what I could recover from the archives. Check in for more recent sightings later. There are people living in the Everglades and every now and then I see them heading down the stretch on foot or on a bike. There are also crazy people who migrate South just for the hell of it. With construction going on endlessly it's gotten even more interesting.

Past Critter Sightings

02/04/02 Heading north and dawdling, a woman at mm 117 wearing red pants and periwinkle parka.

02/05/02 Heading north and hustling, an Arabic man about 30 with an Ezekial beard and Backpack at mm 120 wearing a 70's style tan jumpsuit.

02/09/02 No critters today but a truly spectacular accident at mile marker 116 at 1:45 pm. A black fifth wheel hauling a yuppie trailer jackknifed from the north bound lane over to the south bound lane and into the swamp. Looks totaled to me. No injuries though unless there was a vehicle behind or under it that I couldn't see.

02/11/02 No critters today and no accidents. Sigh. It was a boring drive.

02/17/02 Yesterday there were two very cute cyclists hauling at mm 124. Full biking gear including little lights on the helmets.

Oh, and I watched a van make a U-turn at the Florida City end of the stretch after a brief pause to look at their trusty map. See Tales from the Stretch for more on this odd behavior.

02/20/02 Black male, white corduroy pants, no shirt, red jacket no shoes. Heading south just before the prison entrance

02/22/02 Male of indeterminate race and age loitering by the Brazilian Pepper trees at MM 108 at Lake Surprise. No car in sight. Barefoot. Just staring into the bushes

03/01/02 Bearded Guy about 45 years old, no shirt, green shorts, sandals. Pushing a dolly with duffle bags at mm 106.

03/04/02 African-American man a little after midnight at mm 120. Shorts no short, no shoes, pushing grocery cart.

03/12/02 Today at 4:45 PM at MM 108 North of the Jewfish Creek Bridge and trucking North. A 30 something female with long blond hair wearing red shorts and a white shirt. She is pulling wheeled luggage.

Second critter sighting at MM 93. Stopped by police. Male long nasty dark hair with beard way below belly button. Jeans and Green Military Field jacket. No Vehicle. Pulling Two wheeled shopping carts.

3/19/02 MM120 Young Hispanic man heading South. Jeans with one leg cut off at knee, white tank top, one wooden leg.

03/25/02 It's Spring Break here in the Keys so we expect the critter reports to be interesting.

MM 113 Young man on Bike - expensively equipped with all the bells and whistles heading south.

Two Back Packer at mm 109 heading North. Also expensively equipped.

04/01/02 OK Not technically a critter but seasonal anyway -- spotted a man in white shirt white shorts dragging a full sized cross from the Tavernier Towne Shopping center to Papa Johns Pizza (3 miles?) It's a big cross. Looks kinda weird in front of the pizza place but hey, a guys gotta eat.

An introspective and enlightening Good Friday to all.

05/02/02 There have been reports of ordinary people stopping to camp on the side of the stretch. This may be a new style of extreme camping where the danger of the cars going past at 70 MPH vies with the hell of mosquitoes chewing up your derriere and the survivors of such an adventure can say that they combined the worst conditions of nature with the concrete jungle to experience a millennium camping adventure. I'm just guessing. Anyone want to stop and ask them?

05/13/02 I saw one lone bunny on the stretch yesterday morning. Sigh. there was also an abandoned bike at the midway bridge. No sightings of actual critters.

05/20/2002 Highest one day bunny count is 3.
Last weekend a couple was spotted hitchhiking at the top of the stretch. About two hours later they were at Holiday Ilse -- guess they caught a ride.

05/25/02 Critter season is shifting from the winter critters to the summer critters. Keep an eye out for the knife sharpening guy and people in hospital attire recently released from asylums up north.
Bunny count per day is averaging 3.

06/01/02 One bunny. One sad little bunny and a guy hand lining in the glades at around mm 116. The trash pick up crew did a great job on the stretch. I have seen the mosquito man once or twice. But, other than that, the critters are resting.

6/1/02 3:42 PM: mm 109. Male, blue pants cut off just below knees, white t-shirt, ball cap with t-shirt stuffed under it. Back pack. Canoe paddle on shoulder. On North bound side heading south.

06/12/02 Must be Harley Davidson week. There were gobs of them all over the place this weekend. No actual critters to report.

06/19/02 Crab season has begun. Keep a watch for land crabs defending territory in weird locations. As much fun as it might be to weave and dodge to try and hit one, don't. They have very sharp claws which will pop your tires. You may smush the crab, but it will probably cost you.

Elderly man heading North at MM 110, Tan shirt and shorts, gray beard and hair, looks hispanic. June 19, 2002 4:20 PM. Same guy heading south at mm 124 from Florida City June 20, 2002 10:10 am.

06/26/02 The bunnies are out in huge numbers because of the rains. Their little burrows must be filled with water. I counted 9 coming home from work yesterday.
Strangely enough there have been almost no human critters sighted along the stretch in recent days. Has the Everglades Restoration Project flushed them all out of the swamp? Are they all in Key West? What gives? Anyone? Anyone?

07/05/02 Pirate Biker with Scull & Crossbones headscarf at mm 118. Shorts, White Tank top, no water, backpack or supplies, heading north. He turned into the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City just as the thunderstorm broke at 4:30 PM. Gray ponytail and beard. Ladies and Gentlemen, the summer critter season has officially opened for business.

07/10/02 At 5:45 am today a bunny raced across US 1 on the Stretch at MM 121 and very nearly got tagged by oncoming traffic. I believe it made it across, but it was a close shave. This erratic behavior will require vigilant observation. Normally the Marsh bunnies are content to stay on their side of the road. I suspect a thwarted load of cocaine was dumped into the everglades and munched upon by said bunny, giving it flashbacks of it's humiliating loss to the tortoise years ago prompting it to race recklessly across US 1 in a mad panic. Hopefully it was an isolated incident. Please report all erratic swamp bunny behavior to the editor.

07/18/02 They are cutting the shrubs along the north bound side of the stretch.

07/24/02 Double Sighting: Critter headed South at MM 121. Armenian looking, skinny, Dark Gray pants, shirt and painters cap. Walking. Critter headed North at mm 118 on bike. Blond, thin, no shirt, flowered bathing trunks.

7.29.01 Heading South on South bound side at mm 123.2. G.I. Joe. Buzz cut blond hair. Army fatigue style shorts and brown t-shirt (I'm guessing Haines), back pack and -- of all things - a DayTimer in his hand. 7.29.01 12 noon.

8.21.02 Heading South on South bound side at mm 111. Thin man in Bermuda shorts and button down short sleeved shirt with a turban that vaguely resembled the cute round throw cushions my grandma used to have on her sofa. 8:21:02 3PM.

9.3.02 Hitching South on South bound side at mm 126 in front of Last Chance Saloon. Thin man in early Earth Hugger Attire, Skin tanned to nut brown, long yellow hair in pony tail. 9.3:02 3:30PM.

After Holiday Road Debris
One 18" Blue Lamp shade
Two 5 gal Buckets
Three Boat seat cushions
Several new plastic gallon sized plant pots
One Lawn chair, slightly tweaked
One 4' piece of capped PVC
18 " Resin Table
One blue bed pillow.

It was inevitable. The grass cutting crew found a dead critter the week before last as they were spiffing up the stretch for the holiday traffic. He was apparently 30 to 70'ish, human and missing several teeth. One wonders if they had a more rigorous cutting schedule (i.e. more than twice a year) what would they find before the gators drag it out into the swamp. 9.9.02

9.27.02 Two bunnies. The excitement is killing me. Cute bunnies though.

10.2.02 5:30 am And it's officially the fall critter season! Heading North at mm 125, dark skinned male wearing blue Bermuda shorts and a Panama shirt with -- of all things -- knee high socks and sandals. Very tropical.

10.7.02 9 am What appeared to be a recent Ernest Hemingway look alike eject-ee, riding a bike north in the northbound lane. Red Plaid long sleeved shirt (And yes it's still hot and humid here -- it's always hot and humid here), jeans, bushy white beard and hair. mm 113 1\2.

10.18.02 9 am Critter on old bike wearing tan Bermuda shorts and shit, scraggly blondish hair, heading south on sound bound side of stretch and weaving. Guessing he's about 50 but didn't stop to ask. mm 117

10.29.02 6:30 am Two bunnies at mm 117. Ok. Ok. It's pathetic I know. Do you think I'm enjoying being bored to death every morning on the stretch? You're just going to have to share my pain until things pick up.

11.11.02 Even the freaking bunnies are hiding out. I did see a car launch into the swamp a few days back at mm 122. I called *FHP and here's the scary part, the officer on duty kind of laughed and said, "Again?" And I'm thinking, these guys are getting almost as jaded as I am about the cars launching themselves into the swamp. That can't be good. Nope. Not a good sign at all.

For those of you recoiling in horror because you don't live here and see it every week, the swamp is only about knee deep and -- shudder -- it smells. Bad. Ergo, the worst that can happen is that you get a little wet and you never get that smell out of your SUV. Oh and there're the mosquitoes. That part really sucks. Which is why very few people actually stop to baby sit a car that's gone off into the swamp. I think the tow trucks charge extra.

11.27.02 Shopping cart critter heading South on the North bound side at mm 113. Male. Thirty-ish. Chinos and T-Shirt. Pushing a way over loaded shopping cart in front of him dodging cars.

12.3.02 Yet another shopping cart critter heading South on the South bound side at mm 122. Male. Thirty-ish. Greenish Bermuda shorts and tan shirt. Scraggly brown hair in a pony tail. Pushing a shopping cart in front of him.

12.18.02 Double critter sighting and . . . a fridge. mm 121 African American critter wearing black Bermuda shorts and red sleeveless shirt. Orange hair. 5' 8" 150 lbs. Hitched a ride. Heading south on south bound side. mm 109 back packing critter, about 100 years old. I couldn't tell what the heck he was wearing. Heading south on the south bound side. mm 114? Refrigerator. And it's in a bad spot too. The swamp critters are usually a bit farther north or south. They will never be able to drag that thing back to their lair.

1.06.03 mm 113 Heading north on north bound side, bike critter. 40 to 70ish. Recliner bike. long grayish hair and beard. Bundled for cold weather. 9:05 am

mm 115.8 Young man (18ish) tall, slender, Caucasian, black stocking cap, oxford shirt, chinos. Looked like he had just been dropped off by a truck trailering a tractor headed north. Kid-critter was heading south in the north bound lane.

1.14.03 mm 118 Heading north on north bound side, bike critter. 30-ish. Ten Speed. He had so much stuff loaded onto the back of his bike he looked like those farmers in the Andes. He was struggling to stay upright. Seriously. Did you see the episode of the Amazing Race where they were given a choice of paddling a weird looking little thimble boat or riding a way overloaded bike and most of them chose the bike? Did you laugh when Flo fell over and spent the rest of the episode whining to Zack that "She just couldn't go on." I kept hoping she would utter the phrase, "Just shoot me." And then I was hoping someone would. I mean they were in the back end of the world, what's one less game show contestant to a country like that? Anyway, this critter's bike was almost that overloaded. 4 PM

Also of note: The FHP is set up with a bug smasher plane and about ten patrol cars pulling vehicles over for speeding. Do NOT speed on the stretch.

The "Yearly Dead" count sign at the top of the stretch is pegged at 15. That's last years number. I am guessing they won't set it back to zero. Zero isn't intimidating enough. Or perhaps zero is just taunting drivers to attempt being the first death of the year on the stretch and the sign Gods don't want that potential lawsuit on their plate right now. Anyway. Keep a watch. See if they adjust it. I'm throwing my dollar in for this weekend being the first death - Friday morning at mm 109. Anyone wanting in on the "Guess the day and location of the first Stretch Death of 2003" bet can email me. I'll put you down on the calendar.

For those of you still looking for a reason to sue me - these are cyber dollars. You know, like monopoly money. Fake. Losers.

1.21.03 9 am Critter Clutter sighted at the Tavernier McDonalds. An overloaded bike next to a baby buggy, also loaded with hefty bags full of stuff. Sleeping bag, clothes, etc. Critter was probably catching a snack inside.
2.9.03 9 am We have a strange looking critter hanging out between mm 88 to 92. About six feet tall, wild brown hair which is only partially tamed my a cotton hat. He's wearing army fatigue pants and a dirty white t-shirt. He reads the paper while sitting on the side walk in front of the church next to the high school and then walks up to Winn Dixie and back and that pretty much covers his day.

They are trimming the bushes on the stretch. Why? I have no idea. One month to bunny season.

April 2, 2003 8:51 am Walking S. on South bound side. Hispanic critter wearing brown pants, blue windbreaker and classic Castro hat. He had a back sack which puts him slightly above the average critter. mm 126.

May 26, 2003 I haven't been keeping up with the critter report lately and I am feeling guilt. In my defense, I have the worst flu in the history of human disease and I�m barely driving, much less observing. But, drugs are a wonderful thing and I am an avid believer in better living through modern chemistry so after a week of chemical therapy I feel a little better. Better enough to share the sites of last week anyway.

The critter of the week has to be the gentleman at mm 121 who, with a full compliment of luggage, sat there at that post all day. I saw him there in the morning as I was heading into Miami and again in a wicked rainstorm that afternoon on my way home. I called *FHP, naturally, to have someone check on him. For all I know he could be doing some kind of 40 day and 40 nights religious retreat thing, but there has to be a better place than mm121 in the middle of the freaking swamp. He looked so miserable there in the rain.

Another critter was backpacking south on the southbound side. He looked pretty decently tricked out with gear so I'm guessing he wasn't swamp camping, although you just never can tell.

What I haven't seen are any women critters in a long time. I'm not sure what that means. It could mean that women have better sense than to walk up the eighteen mile stretch in the middle of a summer day where the mosquitoes are so thick you can cut through the swarms with a knife. But I'm not that optimistic

June 10, 2003

There has been a tragic lack of critters of late on the stretch and the bunnies are one pathetically thin herd this year. I saw a raccoon walking along at 9 am just after the south passing zone on the N. bound side. An African American college kid wearing a white Oxford Shirt and light colored slacks was riding his bike North against the South bound traffic at mm 126. No gear. And I have to mention that bikes are supposed to ride in the direction of the traffic not against.

I may start listing the numerous traffic accidents I am privileged to see every day on my long commute. You would be amazed.

June 21, 2003

Actually, this is for the week. It's been a busy week. South bound on the North bound side at mm 114.5, Woman, thirty-ish, orange shorts, white t-shirt jogging at 7:53 pm. Technically, she should be classified more as "Critter Bait" than "Critter". A few days later, heading North on the North bound side. An emaciated Hemingway look-alike candidate on an old bike with an American flag waving behind it. He had everything but the kitchen sink loaded up for the trip. Cute nylon trailer behind him.

July 23, 2003

There have been no critters sighted on the stretch in recent weeks. Our local mm 90 critter with the wild frizzy blond hair, Castro Hat and light colored, thin cotton slacks and shirt was seen hitch-hiking all the way up at mm 102 heading north. Dare we hope he was on his way North out of the Keys finally? If he caught a ride then we'll never know for sure.

A herd of Peacocks raced across the road this morning at mm 87. Very cute.

August 1, 2003

African American? Difficult to say. 5' 10". 180 lbs wearing maroon long sleeved shirt and khaki green pants. Heading South on the South bound side at mm108.

Also of interest, Nature photographer dodging traffic with tripod and camera at mm 125. 8 am.

August 6, 2003

Man in his 40's on red girl's bike. White T-Shirt. Backpack. Heading South on the South bound side at mm121.

September 10, 2003

Same as Aug 6: Man in his 40's on red girl's bike. White T-Shirt. No Backpack this time. Heading South on the South bound side at mm124. He's about 5' 10", 160 lbs brown, short hair. He had his shirt off and wrapped around his neck. 11:29 am. I spotted two swamp bunnies on the second passing zone shoulder.

September 26, 2003

ZZ Top Shopping cart critter spotted a few days ago heading South on the South bound side at mm 13.5.

October 7, 2003

Hitchhiking critter at the entrance to the Kid Prison. About 6' 2" 230 lbs. Greasy black shoulder length hair. White t-shirt under khaki button down and khaki pants. 5:15 am

November 3, 2003

mm 124.5 on South bound side, sitting on his butt hitchhiking, Male, thirty-ish, black hair and beard, Tie Died shirt, 8:30 am.

OK and a rant. The winter critters are here again and they are panhandling in Florida City looking to get south to the Keys. Do not give them money or a freaking ride south dammit.

November 12, 2003

Pathetically enough, I had to consult the computer clock to see what day it is.

mm 120 South bound lane heading south on a bike, no backpack. Bleached blond, spike haired man in his 20's, about 6' 2", green tank top. 8:25 am

mm 123.2 What is probably the spike kid's Dad wearing an unfortunate white ball cap and matching white shirt, heading south on the southbound side of the street on a bike. 8:28 am.

There was a beautiful flock of Storks with the black and white wings out on the west side if the road near Lake Surprise yesterday morning. The winter birds are arriving daily. Should be Turkey Vulture season as well soon.

December 4, 2003

The knife sharpener bike guy is back in town! I wrote down the particulars of the sighting and then lost them. But - he had only made it a few miles south on the stretch in the time it took me to go and come back from work - eleven hours or so. He was just sitting there with his forearms resting on the handle bars staring at traffic about halfway south. Another biker passed him going south. Knife Sharpener man was gone the next morning so maybe someone gave him a lift.

There have been quite a few critters on the stretch all heading south but I have been slacking on reporting them. I'll try to do better from here on out.

December 23, 2003

Hispanic male, 5' 6" heading south on south bound side. 8:30am. Bike. Stripping off his clothes at the little bridge. Verrry scruffy looking.

January 29, 2004

Critter Season has been interesting this week. I've been tracking one man, about 6' tall and loaded down with duffle bags - I counted six? - making slow time. He camped in the swamp at least one night and was last seen entering Key Largo yesterday afternoon.

Another was hitchhiking at mm 126 S on the South bound side. Slightly handicapped - stiff legged walk. A little worse for the wear in the hygiene and wardrobe department - plus it was raining slightly.

I'm going to add a little opinion here so cover your eyes if you don't want to hear it. When Key West outlawed the critter killing of chickens for BBQ on Smather's Homeless Beach, the chicken population exploded and now people are homeless AND hungry. They are paying the Chicken man $18K to relocate the birds. It's probably - no, definitely - costing more to feed the homeless (Most of whom are gainfully employed BTW). Lift the freaking Critter BBQ moratorium. Problem solved.

February 5, 2004

1.29.04 Racing Bike Critter mm 125 heading North on North bound side. Fully geared up. 4:33 PM

2.4.04 Casual bike critter mm118 heading North on North bound side. Maroon shirt, black shorts. 8:44 am. Looked like a frat kid.

March 11, 2004

2.24.04 4:03 PM Heading South on Southbound side of the stretch, mm 121 White Shirt, Khaki shorts, duffle bags.

2.25.04 Critter Bait jogging. Probably staying on a boat at the Marina mm 113 8:29 AM Blond, Heading North on Northbound side, Orange outfit.

March 31, 2004

3.29.04 5:01 PM Fire on the N. Bound side about 1/4 of a mile into the swamp. I freaking HATE fire season. Swamp fire smell is the worst.

3.31.04 Big brown fluffy bunny at mm 117 at 8:44 am N. Bound side munching grass. I haven't seen the swamp bunnies for months. Must be Easter Season.

April 14, 2004

4.1.04 8:40 AM Headed South on the North bound side of the little bridge. Black bike, panama shirt and Jeans. mid 30's. Male. mm 117

4.6.04 12:20 PM Heading North on the North bound side. Critter looking just like Jim Croce riding a bike. mm 124.

April 21, 2004

4.16.04 8:32 AM Heading N. North bound side mm 109 Small white fluffy dog smushed in front of Gilberts. What is wrong with these dog owners? Leashes people! Squids.

4.14.04 12:20 PM Death count sign moved up from five to six (Newspaper says it's actually seven but Oh well.) This also blows my theory that they are only updating it quarterly. We now know that it's completely random - much like the law enforcement on the stretch. mm 126.

4.15.04 8:18 AM Heading South on North bound side on a bike. Baseball cap, sachel, kind of a rough yuppie looking guy. mm 108.9

May 11, 2004

I have been falling down on the critter report lately - please forgive me.

4.20.04 9:29 am mm 125 Heading South on South bound side - Bike Critter with a HUGE backpack, Buzz cut WHITE hair - really weird.

5.10.04 A double critter sighting. MM121 7:40 am Heading North on North bound side. Guy with huge afro but bald on top pushing a 3-wheel shopping cart. MM 120 Wearing Dessert camouflage cut off at knees, no shirt.

Critters everywhere!

Final Death count for ’05 18 – which I think is incorrect but WTH do I know.

1.19.06 8:42 AM mm 126 Heading South on the South bound side. 100 year old trucker, skinny with white beard.

1.27.06 ?? AM mm 113.3 Heading South on the South bound side. German helmet, Mustache, White T-shirt, Back pack, 40-ish – Smiling.

2.8.06 10:39 AM mm 117.3 Heading North on the North bound side. Blue blanket critter, black pants, brown hair, 40’s.

2.8.06 10:45 AM mm 123 Heading North on the North bound side. Bike, blanket roll, BB cap, Khaki, mid 30’s, short brown hair.

2.17.06 8:31 AM mm 121.7 Heading South on the South bound side. African-Hispanic, Dark Clothes, thin, short wiry hair in his 60’s, gray beard and mustache – seen him before. He lives there at that spot in the passing zone.

3.3.06 9:26 AM mm 111.2 Heading North on the North bound side. Two Rasta Jamaicans on bicycles.

RV's in Hell

1.6.06 9:04 AM mm 108 An El Monte Rental RV (800) 367-3687 (Hey, I'm a full service road scum reporter) License J47-RIJ Tioga PULLED out from the 76 station inches from my front bumper and then crawled from 0 to 20 mph in just under fifteen minutes. May you blow a tire on I-75 in Ft. Meyers during rush hour, dude. The rest of you know what I mean.

The Haunted section of the Stretch across from the Kid prison is for sale. The buyer should know that highway ghosts? Not so nice. Most of them were victims of RV drivers like the one above and, trust me when I tell you this, they are still pissed off. Hell - I'M still pissed off.

1.9.06 was a bad day. I found a dead rat in the outside doggie water bucket.

1.9.06 8:36 AM mm 118.4 Stopped on the South Bound Side. Critter with a shopping cart sporting a "Wide Load" sign and loaded with stuff I'm sure he realy needs, stopped and staring at the swamp. Does he not know mosquitos are sucking him dry of blood? How can he not notice that? Anyway, 35-ish, Brown, curly hair, white t-shirt, picking up more garbage to add to the shopping cart.

1.9.06 8:42 am mm 122.8 heading South on the South Bound Side. Yeah. Banner Day. Smok'n hot critter in his 20's, back pack slung on one side, jeans and a kerchief on his head in piratical fashion.

1.12.06 8:27 am mm 115.7 Heading North on the South Bound Side. This one was interesting. He had created a backpack from garbage bags and packing tape with loops for his shoulders and everything. All that tape and plastic loaded with god-only-knows what and no shirt to protect his skin. Khaki pants. About 20 years old. Military haircut and ripped.

1.12.06 Wide Load critter update. The cart is there but no critter. I'm guessing the croc he was watching finally got bored and ate him. That or the mosquitos finally sucked him dry. It happens.

New Year's Day in the Upper Keys

This morning we went to Doc's Diner, bayside at Mile Marker 99 for breakfast. It used to be Ganims (25 years) and when they sold it the optometrist next door bought the place. Great place to get a decent breakfast for two for under $20. Angel Puff went off with her friends for the night last night. Treasured Offspring number two went off with his friends for the night last night. Dave and I have the place to ourselves (plus a dog, three cats and two birds).

Doc's Diner
Skip the Key Largo Waffle House - head another mile or so down the road to Doc's Diner. Doc's Diner is where the locals go for great food. At what was formerly a local institution, Ganim's Kountry Kitchen, local legend Dr. James "Doc" Boilini serves up the best casual cuisine in the Upper Keys. The rice ball appetizer is amazing, and the bread pudding is the best you'll ever taste. I've dined with Dr. Boilini and his family several times, and every time it's been a treat, whether with an intimate gathering of friends, or at the local Oktoberfest Italian food booth. You're sure to have a great casual culinary experience at Doc's Diner!

99696 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo FL 33037

For the rest of the day I am working. Computer geeks never rest.

Happy New Year!