Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Key West, Part 3

Conch Train When my sister and I first arrived in Key West, we needed a way to quickly familiarize ourselves with this fascinating little city. Answer? The Conch Train.

The Conch Train? It doesn't look like a conch which is a tropical marine mollusk with a spiral shell that stereotypically is put up to your ear to hear the ocean's roar --- or with a hole in the pointy end, is blown making a trumpet-like sound.

Regardless of the name, the train took us on a narrated tour — just what we needed.

Conch Train Driver We bought our tickets then approached the driver with a couple questions. Before we could ask anything he looked at me and said, "We don't let no shorebirds on this train". My brain spun for a few milliseconds before I realized that he was joking with me about the baseball cap I was wearing — with the logo of the DelMarVa Shorebirds (a birthday gift from my parents). I replied something like, "Do you know the Shorebirds?" Then he broke into a broad smile and told us that he used to live in Salisbury, MD (where my folks live).

His name is John and he was the procurement officer for Salisbury University — and is now retired. He and his wife moved to Key West and after a couple years of retirement, his wife told him to get out of the house and get a job. And he obviously loves his job and spins many a good tale as he drives us tourists around.

Duval Street Sign One of the prominent parts of any tour — guided or self-guided — is Duval Street. This is the main drag where many of the restaurants and shops are located.

Duval Street Here are a couple of street scenes from Duval Street.

Duval Street Yes, there are many of the chain stores and restaurants located here — but also some that are unique and add to the local color.

Harbor House As we toured on the Conch Train, I discovered it was almost impossible to take pictures — the cars on the train just bounced around too much. So I tried to make mental notes when I saw something to come back to. This old brick building was one that I captured mentally then revisited. I believe that there were a couple shops inside but it was the building itself that caught my eye. It reminded me of something from the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Harbor House Railing Especially when you took a closer look at the wrought-iron railings. Ah, I can almost smell the beignets at Cafe du Mond — which makes me think that it is time to revisit the Crescent City. Okay, it's on my list.

La Concha Hotel As we turned a corner, we encountered the La Concha Hotel — one of the tallest building buildings in Key West. It is an historic hotel — built in 1926 — and incidentally, one of the buildings that had fallen into disrepair then was restored to its former glory.

Part of its history is literary in nature — Hemingway stayed here — as did Tennessee Williams. In fact, the latter finished the Pulitzer prize-winning play "A Streetcar Named Desire". I would have loved to take a tour of it too. So many things to see and so little time.


Margaritaville And down the street is Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville — from his famous song of the same name. I have seen several of his Margaritaville restaurants — in Las Vegas and Glendale (where the Cardinals stadium is located) — but this is the original! I looked at the menu and, I'm sorry, but it did not seem like anything special. Maybe one of my readers might educate me as to what I missed.

Cigar Box Stores One of the interesting spots were these small buildings, now occupied by cute little shops. It turns out that these were once home to cigar makers. Although I am not a cigar smoker, I thought perhaps it would have been more interesting to preserve that bit of history — instead of turning them into "just another tourist shop". Oh well.

End of US 1 And here we come to the end — not just the end of today's LAHP but also the end of US Highway 1, which runs from Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border to Key West, Florida. John told us that they have a hard time keeping the END US 1 and BEGIN US 1 signs (found across the street) in place. It seems that tourists want a souvenir — although where you would display such a (stolen) souvenir is beyond me.

To be continued...

 Life is good.

 B. David