Wednesday, May 29, 2013

One Last Thing

"Dry Tortugas."  That was usually one of the answers whenever we would ask anyone about must-dos in Key West.  It took 4 years, but we finally pulled the trigger and booked a ferry ride on The Yankee Freedom on Memorial Day a few days ago.  All I can say is, they were right!

Pulling up to Fort Jefferson

Since not everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of South Florida, just a quick little 411 on the Dry Tortugas:  They're seven little islands about 70 miles west of Key West, and are part of the National Park Service.  You can only get there by ferry or sea plane.  That right there makes it sort of alluring, don't you think? 

Mandatory "Stand in Front of the Sign" Photo-op. - I'm compelled

Fort Jefferson is on Garden Key, and that's where the ferry takes visitors to tour the fort, camp, hike around the island, relax on the beach, or swim & snorkel in the unbelievably clear, blue water surrounding the island.  And honestly, the snorkeling was the best part!

I've snorkeled several times before, but this time was so memorable.  At one point, hubby and I were swimming inside an enormous school of silver fish, each about the size of your foot.  (I guess I should clarify. - The size of your foot if you wear a size six!)  All the fish were zig-zagging around in the same general direction, and we were completely enveloped inside the massive school.  They were all around, darting and flashing everywhere we looked.  At one point I drifted to the outskirts, and it was just a huge, undulating wall of silver glinting in the sunlight.  It felt like I was swimming in a giant salt water fish tank.  Which I guess we were.

All along the outer wall of the fort's mote were Discovery Channel worthy coral and sea life.  Purple fan coral, parrot fish, brain coral, vibrant yellow and blue fish I learned are called damselfish, and so many other species of coral and fish that I couldn't even begin to name.  We saw one fish that was about half the size of me. - Which is about two and a half feet long.  (not a barracuda, thankfully!)  I don't know about you, but being in the water with anything that is almost as big or bigger than me is a little nerve wracking.  I was good, though. - I didn't freak out like I normally would.  Like the time we had the boat anchored & I realized I was in the water only a few feet away from a manatee, and had a full on freak out.  Hubby tried to make light of it and tell me the manatee wouldn't hurt me even if I had lettuce in my pocket.  Whatever. - Wild animals are unpredictable!  Even if they are nicknamed sea cows.  Yes, yes.  Ridiculous, thy name is Peg. 

Bush Key Rookery in the background
So, back to the Dry Tortugas.  Aside from the snorkeling, we also walked around inside and on top of the fort, which had spectacular views of the water.  I'm not a huge history buff, so I was more intrigued by the rookery on Bush Key, which we could see from the fort.  It was closed for nesting protection, so we couldn't get any closer, but seeing that many birds all in one spot was awe-inspiring.  I kind of have a thing for birds.  We were able to see lots of frigate birds, terns, and of course pelicans. - Which are one of my favorites.  Somehow they manage to be regal and goofy at the same time.  Like me.   :)

Truly Spectacular Views

What a terrific "one last thing" we got to squeeze in before we leave.  And now, it's really time to say goodbye to Key West.  Sigh.
One of my favorite Florida shore birds

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adiós, Worldly Possessions!

It’s been a little unexpected around here lately. – Since the movers decided to not show up on the day they were scheduled to come and pack, load and transport our household goods. That’s what they call all your worldly possessions in the military – “Household Goods.”  And if they’re gettin’ fancy, just HHG.  You can always count on them to make up an acronym.  They have whole manuals dedicated to decoding them.  But, I digress.  
Cheety doesn't know what to make of 
all the activity. - Just that it's very 
Anyway, somebody along the way dropped the ball on when the movers were scheduled to come, so we had to re-schedule them for the following week after they were originally supposed to come.  Which actually worked out better, since we were in no way ready for them to converge on the house and start doing their thing.  And our total lack of preparation has nothing at all to do with the fact that my main priority the weekend before was lying by the pool and drinking beers.  Somehow doing any of the 500 things that needed to be done to get ready wasn’t as important.  Eh, it happens.  

So, here we are.  We got an extra week with all our things, and now we’ll only have to house camp for 1 week instead of 2.  Sounds good to me - everyone wins.  It took me a little while to get to that point, though.  At first I was completely irritated and genuinely pissed off that it wasn’t going as planned.  I’m better now.  Let’s hear it for forced flexibility when one of your default traits is being rigid.

Hubby With Gene, one of our impressively efficient movers & a Tower o' Boxes in the kitchen

So at the moment, I'm sitting on the tiny island free of chaos that is our couch. (With a very concerned Pugbull by my side.) They're wrapping and packing today, and loading should start tomorrow.  That's good, because that means I don't have to get up yet.  And so it begins.

Bedroom Anarchy

He has to be thinking, "Well, my bed USED to be here."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

House Camping

So, it’s upon us.  The movers will be here on Tuesday, and they’ll start packing and wrapping every single thing we own.  I’m not kidding.  They literally wrap everything.   I’ve told this story over and over, but it’s worth repeating because it’s just absurd.  During our last move - I mean bubble wrap fest 2009 - the guy who was tackling our kitchen decided that the dirty dish that was in the sink – which included a little bit of leftover Thai noodles from lunch – was something he needed to wrap up and pack.  Including the noodles.  Without taking a moment to think, hmmm, maybe I should ask them if they want to wash it before I pack it up.  Let’s just say I had a little surprise when we were unpacking the kitchen a few weeks later.   Really, who packs dirty dishes?   

Despite that little tid-bit, the movers are a major perk of the military move.  You don’t have to worry about packing or transporting anything.  They come and do it all.  They supply all the boxes and packing material, they bring the truck, they pack every last item, hoof all your crap out to the truck, load it, and they transport it to your next destination.  It no doubt takes some of the stress and irritation out of moving, so I guess I can give a pass to any dirty dishes that might get swooped up, wrapped and packed away.   Actually, I think I’ll just make sure all the dishes are clean before they even get here!

Needles to say, job number one for this weekend will be deciding what we don’t want the movers to pack and setting it aside.  Which will be a little bit more challenging than in the past, because we’ll be driving for pretty much the entire month of June.  Yes, we’re driving from Key West, FL to Homer, Alaska. - And then taking a ferry from Homer to Kodiak Island.  No, we haven’t lost our minds.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  It’s going to be a once in a lifetime trip and I can’t wait to see what we stumble across on the journey.  Like moose! (and Lord knows what else when we get into the real deal Canadian wilderness)  I’ll definitely share some pictures of all the non-standard wildlife we’re bound to see on the drive.  We’re also planning on a bunch of pit-stops all along the way to visit with friends and family before we disappear into the great white north.  I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again.

But, the month of travel means we have to think a little bit more about what we need to hold back for the road trip and traveling all that time.  Like Clorox wipes.  (yes, that's actually one of the first things I thought of. - Cleaning supplies)  You think I’m not going to Clorox wipe every last hotel room remote we come into contact with?  Just do a little google search.  You’ll see.  It’s beyond icky.  

Aside from my germaphobe tendencies, we also need to account for the last two weeks we’ll be here in our house in Key West.  Hence, the name of this post.  We’ll pretty much just have our clothes/toiletries, an air mattress, a laptop, and some camping cookware to hold us over until we hit the road.  I’ve finally convinced myself that we don’t need a full place setting for both of us and that paper plates and bowls are the way to go for a couple of weeks.  What?  I like dishes.  ;)  It’ll be like a really long picnic.  But, I have to hold back at least one wine glass.  If I don’t have to drink wine from a plastic cup, I definitely don’t want to!  Priorities.  So, now is about the time I need to get off this couch and get my act together.  

Cheety's ready for the movers to come.  :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

So Long, Key West!

Yes, yes.  It’s a totally original idea to start a blog.  How unique!  No one else is doing that at all!  I’ve actually been thinking about it for a while, and I finally decided what topics I’ll ramble about for whoever decides it might be worthwhile to skim through my nonsense.  

Mostly I’ll write about the adventures of moving around to different types of locations being a Coast Guard spouse, over-sharing stories and pictures of our best-est boy – our dog Cheety, (who, as you’ll see, has quite the personality), reading-related subjects and book reviews, crafty projects and home decorating, and any other whim I deem worthwhile.  I know – it’s good that I’ve really focused in on a specific topic.  

Since my husband and I are on the verge of a pretty substantial lifestyle change with our next tour assignment, (Key West, FL to Kodiak Island, Alaska!), I thought now would be a good time to finally get started.  I certainly need the push to have more of a writing routine.  

One of the many beautiful sunsets we saw in Key West

I’ve been a Coastie wife for about 4 years, and Lord knows I was reluctant toward the whole concept of moving around so often when the idea was first on my radar.  My husband and I have been together for 10 years, and we were at the same air station for 6 of them before any talk of moving around together and getting hitched was even discussed.  

Turns out, I’ve done a total 180 and I’ve not only drunk the Kool-Aid, I actually start to get restless after being in one place for more than a few years.  Funny how much my attitude toward the lifestyle has changed from when I first entertained the idea of living like a nomad to now.  Let’s just say I’ve evolved.  Not to mention I've learned quite a few acronyms...PCS being the most meaningful.  Permanent Change of Station.

So, we’ve lived in Key West for the last four years, and it's PCS time, so we received the next set of orders.  Sadly, our pseudo-Caribbean existence will be over, and we’ll be moving on to our next adventure soon.  Instead of a goodbye love letter to Key West, this is my goodbye “love list.”  If you’ve made it this far and are still reading, I should probably warn you that this first post is kind of on the long side.  Cause there’s just so much to miss!
My Love List to Key West

1.     Ohhhh, the MUSIC!!  I’ll so very much miss the 5:30 sound check and Sunday Jazz at my all-time favorite spot for live music, The Green Parrot.  They’ve had some truly fantastic, unforgettable shows:  The Revivalists, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Honey Island Swamp Band, The Red Elvises, and so many others!  And of course, I can’t leave out the slew of talented, entertaining local musicians who play live so often all around town:  Scott Kirby, Jeff Clark, Lance Taylor & the Accidentals, Michael McCloud, The Pianimal Barry Cuda…and many, many others.  I’ll MISS you.

Hubby at our favorite music spot

2.     Ohhhh, the FOOD!!  I can’t pretend I won’t miss all the fresh, local, delicious, and easily accessible seafood, particularly the Stone Crab Claws and FL spiny lobster.  (Especially since they won’t be available where we’re going)  Sure, I’ll have plenty of salmon and king crab, but it won’t be the same!

Hubby's Curry Butter Grilled Lobster Tails

3.     And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few favorite dishes from some of the restaurants we go to regularly that I just know I can’t recreate: The fried balls of cabbage and potato love and best hot wings (and mac and cheese, for that matter) on the island at the only Irish pub I ever go to – Finnegan’s Wake.  The enormous bowl of garlic & wine infused mussels at that absolutely unique vegetarian place I’ve been to more times than I can count – The Café.  The hands down best breakfast I’ve EVER had - the lobster benedict at that twenty-plus year old, quintessential Key West breakfast with the roosters joint – Blue Heaven.  The fish tacos at that unassuming little lunch truck that I recommend to anyone who asks – Garbo’s.  The delicious Indian-style salad at the fresh, organic food and smoothie mart right in my neighborhood – Help Yourself…and there are oh-so-many more.  I could write a whole list JUST about the food and memorable restaurants.

4.     Ohhh, the ART & ENTERTAINMENT!  Since the first time I walked in, I’ve loved The Tropic, the independent, art-deco theater downtown that’s always showing unique and interesting films.   And The Studios of Key West - that one of a kind historic building that houses such a talented variety of artists, exhibits, and garden sculpture.  It’s been so nice living somewhere that has such easily accessible, non-stuffy artsy-type things to do.  And, can't forget those fun and novel pubs & bars we've frequented over the years:  2 Cents, The Porch, Schooner Wharf, Grunts, Smokin' Tuna, Rum Barrel...I'll stop before I reveal too much of my bar-fly nature.
5.  Riding my bike anywhere I need to go – that unbeatable a lifestyle where driving a car is optional is unique and ideal.

6.  The most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen – I especially loved watching it at a somewhat hidden little resort bar overlooking the water, The Tiki Bar at The Galleon.

7. Kayaking with our dog, Cheety, in the mangroves and getting out on the water on our sailboat, or on kayaks and paddle boards as often as we could.

Somewhere off Boca Chica

8.     Christmas in Key West, especially the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

2012 Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. - My favorite event during Christmas in Key West

9.  Only in KW characters, like Red Hat man.  A quick description of Red Hat Man is totally necessary.  He’s a peppy and flamboyant older gentleman who jogs in the early morning. – He’s always shirtless with red running shorts and a big, floppy red hat and will wave and say good morning to anyone who looks his way.  He’s fantastic.  (I loved catching a glimpse of him on my way to work in the morning. – Always put a smile on my face). And of course, Hound Dog Man, who would sing Elvis to me whenever he saw me walking Cheety in the quiet, pre-sunrise hours.  Quiet until he started singing, “You ain’t nuthin but a hound dog…” 

10.  The Hibiscus plants, Bougainvillea, Poinciana, and Frangipani trees when they’re in full bloom

Poinciana around the corner from our was enormous and gorgeous in the spring time

11.     I mentioned it briefly before, but it’s worth mentioning again…living right down the block from a kick a$$ Irish Pub with a great beer selection, unforgettable food, and best St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Key West!  

12.  Hens and roosters roaming the streets, and posing for photos if you took any interest whatsoever in them. – Especially the post office roosters.  They were the professionals.

Post Office rooster

13.  The occasional drink and fabulous view from yet another quintessential Key West haunt down by the historic and opulent Casa Marina, The Afterdeck at Louie’s Backyard

14.  Witnessing “the wobbles” – i.e.:  Tourists who come down on vacation and get on a bicycle for the first time in about 15 years, and they can barely maintain any semblance of stability.  Slow speeds are particularly entertaining.  But, they’re having a fun time and all have a grin on their faces that couldn’t possibly be wider.  Love it.

15.  And then there are those little things that make Key West what it is. - Like almost every time I take our dog for a walk, I’m greeted by anyone we pass with a hello, good morning, or good evening.  Always makes me appreciate living in such a friendly town.  And as I might have mentioned, I’ll miss it.

So long, Key West.  It’s been a fun ride on this wacky little island.  Now, on to the next!