# 41 February 2012 Marathon and Key West, FL

I know I say this every month but it seems that our time here is more than flying.  When we're in the Keys we think that family and friends feel we've just "dropped out".  We've infrequently been in contact with them so they probably imagine we've joined the old Haight-Ashbury crowd.  It appears that the Keys is where that crowd from the rock and roll lifestyle of the 60's has "retired"! 
This peddler was hawking everything possible for a dog wardrobe. 
The thought did occur to me to buy several truck loads of the "outfits" above and hang them on most of the yapping canines that we encounter.

 Marathon dock mates, Bill and Patt, spend every February in Key West.  They graciously entertained us on their motor yacht for several days and this is just one of the tranquil scenes.

...and more photo opps....
 The Official Southernmost Point

 The sign above is difficult to read but it says "Southernmost Broken Cleat" which is that irregular object lower left.  Everything in Key West claims to be the "Southernmost" whatever--house, bar, stop sign---so this ragged cleat has that distinction.
South Beach, Key West
Key West bougainvilleas

Elegant and historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Key West
Strolling down a Key West street

Another "Southernmost".

Historic sculpture garden
A Pile of Turtles

Dessert at Latitudes, Sunset Key
Bill and Patt and Bill and I took the Sunset Key Shuttle from Key West's Westin Marina for lunch at Latitudes on Sunset Key.  There are large granite rocks visible on the key's south shore that were brought from NC by train to Miami, trucked to Fort Zachary Taylor and then barged to their present location.  Sunset Key was once known as Tank Island because of military fuel tanks that were placed there.  in the early 90's, the island changed hands, tanks dismantled, cut into strips, cleaned, crimped, and barged to an artificial reef site in 200' of water south of Key West. 

Sunset Key's development then began.  Homes and home sites range from $1,700,000 to more than $6 million. 

                       Our view of the Gulf of Mexico during our lunch at Latitudes
Island services include a great beachfront restaurant and bar called Latitudes.  The restaurant offers an upscale, yet casual, setting with indoor and alfresco dining overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The atmosphere is casual elegance giving us the feeling of being on an isolated Caribbean island and we enjoyed a unique dining experience here.

When in the Keys, make this a "must see" in Key West.  It's fairly new and very well executed.  We were guided by colorful marine artwork depicting the deep sea, coral reef, and mangrove shoreline that decorates the outside wall of the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. This interactive center occupies over 6000 SF of exhibits and a mock-up of Aquarius, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory. A good part of an afternoon was spent there as we took a journey into the world of the native plants and animals of the Keys, both on land and underwater. When we left there we had an increased awareness and appreciation of the need to conserve and protect our ecosystem. We explored exhibits interpreting the ecology of Keys' habitats, from the upland pinelands through the hardwood hammock and beach dunes. From there, we traveled down to the mangrove shoreline, where we entered the sea to learn about the seagrass flats, hardbottom, coral reef, and deep-shelf communities. At the Center’s theater, we caught a short film on the diverse ecosystem of the Keys, "Reflections of the Florida Keys".

We enjoyed the Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit, which includes a 2,500-gallon reef tank with living corals and tropical fish, a live Reef Cam, and other displays that highlight the coral reef environment.

A walk through the Aquarius exhibit offers glimpses of the beautiful marine life at the reef and shows how scientists live beneath the sea during research expeditions. The Center is sponsored and operated by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, the National Wildlife Refuges of the Florida Keys, and Eastern National. Admission to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is free.

Chickens roam everywhere in Key West

The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum has been on our bucket list for a long time and this trip to Key West provided the time to make a visit.  It gets its name from the founder, Mel Fisher, and contains an extensive collection of artifacts from 17th century shipwrecks.

Entry to Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
This would make a fashion statement!!

Mallory Square is a plaza located at the center of Old Town on Key West's waterfront.  It's the location of the "Sunset Celebration", which is considered one of the main tourist attractions of the city, involving hundreds of tourists who arrive each night to view the sunset.  The celebration includes arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers and food carts and begins 2 hours before sunset every single day of the year.  Key West had its beginning along this deep harbor waterfront--the wrecking schooners, the frigates and warships of the USN, the Cuban cigar makers tobacco warehouses, ship's chandlers and government offices.

Sunset from Mallory Square and the conclusion of a memorable visit.

Back home in Marathon and the resumption of our projects.  The cashier couldn't find a bar code for the puppy at Home Depot.

Yet another day in paradise and the 29th day of February.  If I weren't married to Bill Bender, I think that today, to him, I'd propose!

Until March 31, we wish for you a warm springtime!

Bill and Laura
Marathon, FL


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