summer adventures ’12 part 7: epilogue

Well, I stopped posting for a bit there, but I made it back to CT unscathed and mostly un-sunburned. I’ve been cold! The return to CT’s temperate and low-humidity air was rather surprising. What normally passes for a perfect day now seems a little lack-luster after my travels. Oh well, things will get back to normal soon enough I’m sure.

My last couple days in Key West saw me exploring the island by bicycle, eating delicious food, observing the sunset, and taking lots of photographs. Derek showed me excellent Mexican and Cuban food, both slightly off the tourist path and both tasty. Even though I think that one Cuban meal met my sodium quotient for the rest of the year! The highlight of my final night might have been the great conversations I had while at The Porch, a quieter, funky, local watering hole. What a great vibe, and the group from Ohio State was fun!

My big project so far has been finishing up “The Swamp” by Michael Grunwald. This excellent book traced the history and the politics of the Everglades from the days of the Spanish conquest, through the Seminole wars, up to the present day. It was rather eye-opening to read how extensively the Everglades have deteriorated in the last sixty years, all due to human intervention. Contrasting the sprawl of Homestead and the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan area with the apparent abundance of wildlife in the Everglades, it seems like the book was heavy-handed in environmental dooms day scenarios. However, it is really clear how the wilderness of the glades transitions unnaturally to urban sprawl as soon as you leave the park. If this is environmental decline, a fully functioning Everglades must have been truly awe-inspiring! Nature does find a way to recover, but I believe it is best to leave nature alone and enjoy it on its own terms, not call the Army Corps of Engineers in to resuscitate the environment through more building. I wonder how bad things will need to get for everyone in South Florida to agree to take the steps for real sustainability in the region. Perhaps my country upbringing has biased me towards appreciating nature for nature’s sake. After four days of peaceful contemplation and exploration in the Everglades, re-entering the urban sprawl and four-lane highways, complete with homogeneously boring humanity, was rather shocking. I do hope that the multi-billion Everglades restoration project is able to overcome political hurdles and score a win for nature.

I agree that the National Parks were and continue to be America’s best idea, and I hope the future generations will be able to explore nature in all its grandeur through them. I’ll just have to make it a priority to visit as many of them as I can as soon as I can, before we mess things up too badly. It is interesting that the Blackstone Valley Heritage corridor is being considered for inclusion in the National Parks system as a monument to American industrialisation…a park dedicated to humanity’s ingenuity over nature, and a direct contrast to the other parks’ focus on natural wonders!

summer adventures ’12 part 6: from the Marquesa to the Marquesas and back again


The Marquesa is a small guest house with amazing service and amenities. Water and fresh brewed iced tea by the pools. Room service breakfast that you can have in your room or poolside! Perfectly appointed rooms.

Today I had breakfast in my room in advance of the 8am start of our boating adventure. Grapefruit, coffee, and 2 hard boiled eggs really hit the spot! The guys arrived right on time and we were off! After a quick stop at the market for provisions, we headed for the marina and out to open waters.

The first stop was an old metal shipwreck. We went some time snorkeling and diving around the wreck, always keeping and eye out for sharks (I forget which kind, but apparently it was the bad kind). The water was so warm, making for a great experience. Afterwards we decided to head out to the Marquesa islands. Located about 20mi. from Key West proper, they are a frequent target for Cuban refugees. I took some great photos of escape rafts cobbled together from scrap metal and wood, one powered by an old Chevy truck motor! Derek and I wandered the beach, then headed back to the boat for lunch. Then Derek and I headed out for a brief sail before we had motor back to the marina. This was when we skirted with disaster and a freak gust of wind broke our tiller! Though we were trying to get closer to some nurse sharks (the good, non-people-eating, kind), we had to wait for Eric to come over and “rescue” us. On the journey back the sea was rough, but the sea revealed the full spectrum of colors that this part of the world is known for. All in all, a great day!

I returned to the marquesa, the hotel, intending to go sit by the pool. However, after sitting on the boat for so long, I was ready to get out. I headed out walking, without any real plan. I wandered in the direction of “the southern most point” (not). On the way I passed the Hemingway house, which I will return to to visit when they are open longer (if only to see the cats). Across the street I stopped for a Key lime margarita. Then I ended up by the southernmost point, toon a quick photo, and headed back to the hotel. At this point I was hot and ready to hot the pool.


After swimming and reading for a little over an hour, it was time for a shower and then to head to Mallory square for sunset. Before I left I mentioned that my cold water tap in my sink wasn’t working, then I headed out.

Sunset is the event around here. Apparently. It was actually a little overwhelming. Maybe I just didn’t get enough alone time in the Everglades. But the Bros were out in force. As we’re the families with yelling kids. And street performers. Sunset was really beautiful, and I think I got a few good shots. Afterwards, I wandered back to Hojin Noodle House. Best. Decision. Ever. There was a funny pair of local girls recovering from several days of partying. #keywestliving But the food was top notch. I might have to get back there before I leave. All in all, today was an excellent day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! Though, I know it will begin with me sleeping in!

ADDENDUM: I neglected to mention, my sink was broken. I returned, and there was a note in my room, saying that they couldn’t fix my sink, and they would be back in the morning. The better point, they left me a key for another room so I would have a working sink (in the process of fixing mine, they took it apart, so I get access to another room)! Best. Customer. Service. Ever!

summer adventures ’12 part 5: all the pancakes you can make/eat

That line got me in the door at the Everglades International Hostel. What an incredible place! With a treehouse, a waterfall in the garden, pianos in the gazebo and the Internet room, it had a little something for everyone. I met a ton of cool people…Vanessa and Stephanie from France, the couple from Switzerland, and Larry from Key West, among others. It is the type of place that restores your faith in humanity. Several of the other guests were refugees from the Flamingo campground. Apparently I was the only one of us who actually made it a full night there! I guess that makes me a bad-ass. Oh, and the unlimited pancake mix was pretty killer.

Then it was back in the car for the drive down to Key West. What a gorgeous drive! The weather was perfect. I now have a pretty rocking drivers tan…

By 1:30 or so I was in Key West. I was shown to my perfectly appointed room. Complete with complimentary wine! I met up with Derek for a bike tour of the island. I basically have my bearings and am set to explore!

Travel days are always draining. I headed out for dinner (a burger and a mojito after four days of camp food hit the spot), and then home for reading and an early bedtime. Tomorrow Derek, Eric, and I are going sailing!