The Key to a Good Vacation

How about a trip to Key West?

Vacation still sounds like an idea to escape the existence we find ourselves dealing with lately. As I consider where I might like to go, I thought about my most recent trip to Florida last Winter and thought writing about it sounded like a promising idea.

I’ve written on here about Amelia Island just a few weeks ago, and I previously included Siesta Key. I was familiar with Siesta Key and the Gulf side of Florida, so an opportunity to travel to Key West intrigued me when a friend from high school suggested the opportunity.

Originally a Spanish territory named Cayo Hueso which translates to Bone Key, it was corrupted into Key West by English speakers. Spanish explorers named the island for shipwreck artifacts being collected in the area. Enterprising residents continued the practice and established the city from money made off selling the shipwrecked treasures.

Traveling to Key West is best accomplished by air travel. Since the island is nearly 3 hours from Miami and the mainland, flying to Key West makes much more sense. If you choose to fly be aware to pack light, since the airport has a short runway.

Traveling around the island is a quick tour and can be accomplished in less than an hour. Much of the entertainment along the island is located on one of the main North-South streets on the far end of the island—Duval Street. If you’ve spent time on Bourbon Street, the Gatlinburg Parkway, or Beale Street in Memphis you can imagine the same thing in Key West. The advantage that Duval Street has over these locations is the near perfect weather all year given their tropical climate. Expect to park a few blocks away and walk through the shops and bars at an easy pace.

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Following the compass rose straight South is Cuba

Key West is only 90 miles directly north of Cuba which is one reason Ernest Hemingway built a house on the island. Papa as his friends knew him would spend hours bending his elbow at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West and traveling on a fishing boat to Cuba while writing much of his works. Cuban-style cuisine and cigar shops feature prominently in Key West.

The Island prides itself on a laid-back attitude that both visitors and residents alike enjoy as they spend time on the island. Locals have even considered independence from the mainland and the United States so as not to be bothered by the hustle-and-bustle of America. For a few days in the 1980’s the island became the ‘independent nation’ known as the Conch Republic.

Given the distance from the mainland, the cost of living and food is a little higher but not unreasonable. Since much of the cuisine also includes seafood the cost can also be expected. Fresh & healthy dishes like crab & shrimp sandwiches or ceviche salad are favorites in many restaurants. Of course, eating lighter entrees allows room for Key Lime Pie as well.

For historical buffs, Key West features Ernest Hemingway’s home and the Truman Little White House. Both residences have become museums that offer tours daily. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park also features the remnants of an antebellum fortification to protect American interests in the Keys. A sister fortification near the airport on the Southern edge of the island has converted to an art and history museum. Key West also features 2 botanical gardens that include many local species of flora to explore.

If you’re in Florida, you can’t not go to the beach and Key West features two. One is located as part of Fort Zachary Taylor State park and another is located along the Southern edge of the island. Since the island is situated north-south to the water, waves are infrequent, and the water is shallow much further than other locations in the state. This allows beachgoers to wade and swim further from shore and see through clearer water as they are in the water. For sunsets, most head to Mallory Square on the Northern edge of the island just West of Duval Street.

Have you been to Key West?

Poetry Wednesday 108

Everyone consider “Protests” for today’s original poem

“Protests”

Soon it’s going to be the day that we’re going to throw it back to that ‘76 Summer

Our anger and discontent making this year’s celebration a bummer

Walking right down the middle of main street of their hometowns ready to fight

Tensions building as officers of the law and protesters waiting for the match to light

 

Words aren’t so sweet and simple like candy tossed in a parade

Our homeland has gotten worse, somewhere along the line we’ve strayed

Red, white, and blue people shuffling and stamping their feet

Challenging the traditions and politicians with fists and shouts in the endless heat

 

Rebellion started here in the City of Brotherly Love and announced we should be free

There’s a lot of people saying the enforcers would be better off dead

Neither side wants to give in and admit fault, everyone’s got rocks in their head

Everybody’s talking about the new sounds; funny, but it’s still protests to me

People of all Stripes—stars, clowns, musicians want us to live the Glory Days

You’re going to save us all— Long gone fathers and Rebels born here in the U.S.A.

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Gotta Get Out of This Place

Take a trip to Florida that may be a spot you’ve never visited before.

As the news seemingly doesn’t change from Covid-19 or Racial tension, I’ll admit I’m looking to get away to anywhere away from it all. Looking through Facebook/iCloud moments from last month reminded me of a trip to Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach in Florida a couple of years ago.

When I was presented with the option of traveling to Amelia Island by my parents and friends of the family, I will admit I didn’t know anything about the location. I’ve heard of most of the popular Florida locations and have visited them with the exception of the Panhandle locations. I wasn’t even sure where Amelia Island was when it was suggested. If you’ve never been there, it’s located at the northernmost portion of Florida’s Atlantic coastline just a few miles from Georgia.

Amelia Island’s less-known status is a plus for travelers who aren’t exactly jazzed about crowded beaches, downtown shoppes, and restaurants. The beaches of Amelia Island are also a finer sand than some of the other Atlantic beaches in Daytona, the Space Coast, or otherwise. Additionally, the waves are gentler than those coarse sand beaches also along the Atlantic.

Tourists also appreciate that Amelia Island retains more of Old Florida and Southern Charm. While most Florida beach towns are populated by quick-casual restaurants and $7 tee-shirt factory stores, Amelia Island includes barely any of these offerings.

If you want the now typical Florida attractions, Amelia Island is less than an hour from Jacksonville and its beaches, so you can also visit there easily. We took one day to travel away from Amelia Island and drove through Jacksonville to St. Augustine which is about 90 minutes away.

St. Augustine is of course the oldest European settlement in the United States. We took advantage of exploring the fort established in the city—Castillo de San Marcos. The fort was erected by the Spanish when they established the colony of Florida and was eventually used by Americans during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and both World Wars. St. Augustine also includes a lighthouse just outside of downtown that is well-known in the area.

Amelia Island itself is ringed by US-1/A1A and has a vintage downtown bordering along the Amelia River on the west end of the island and a long stretch of beach and resorts along the east side of the island which borders the Atlantic Ocean. The Amelia River on is spanned by a causeway bridge that joins the island to the mainland of Florida.

We lucked out that our motel was two blocks from a beach access point, so we could easily walk to the beach most days. Rather than exploring the sights like we would usually do on vacation on Florida, we spent more time just enjoying time at the beach while shutting down the noise and distraction of life. That meant more intentionality for my dad and me who function better with noise and distraction.

Other than visiting St. Augustine for a quick tour, we did enjoy one sightseeing opportunity with a CraigCat boat excursion. These boats are two-seater catamaran with a 30HP motor. These boats are steered more by drifting the boat with the throttle rather than a steering wheel. We were able to take the boats out to an island just over the Georgia border where wild horses often roam.

We also enjoyed much of Amelia Island’s seafood during our travels. The island includes a few beach bars along with fine dining options. Most of these locations provide a waterfront view.

As we traveled to Amelia Island, we also took time to spend part of the trip for overnight stops in Asheville, NC. If we had more time for our travel, we likely would have included the Biltmore and the attractions in Asheville as well.

Have you visited Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach or any of the surrounding towns?

Poetry Wednesday 106

Going for “A Sunday Drive” with today’s original poem

“A Sunday Drive”

I’m kind of homesick for country never seen before in these eyes

Best to travel from home on an unclouded day when no storm clouds rise

Got my shades on, the top down and the music turned up to level ten

My hat keeps my head on straight, a breeze blows in and your hair’s blowing in the wind

 

Riding along in my car with no particular place to go

All the best of the countryside in nature is this afternoon’s show

Sunday drives are meant for taking your own sweet time

Over the valleys and the peaks we’ll climb

 

Keeping it on the road with one hand on the wheel, the other holding you, honey

We’ll cruise out to the drive-in ice cream shop for a quick bite

Strawberries on my banana split remind me of the sunset warning of the looming night

Still can’t compare to your eyes looking back at the man you’ve made of me

Got no perfect reason to wander, got no reason to roam.

Light shines as darkness is creeping in, but soon we’ll be safely home

 

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Poetry Wednesday 105

A few lines about “Tennessee” for today’s original poem

“Tennessee”

I was born across the river where the Hoosier hills meet bluegrass country

How I wish we were both settled down in the same place in Tennessee

So easy for us to be lonely and seems like we’re farther and farther

Why couldn’t we be together, why does it seem like each day gets harder

 

I’ll go on loving you, I’d move anywhere to be with you voluntarily

Kinfolk are worried, wish I’d make decisions more warily

Tennessee summer calls me and you as we’re burning up the night until the next morn

Waking up as you brush my arm stickin’ out of my shirt with the sleeves all torn

 

My state of looking for something new leads me away, and in you I’ve found a gem

With you by my side we can start our family here, but we’ll notify our next of kin

Every song I’ve sung, every stiff drink, and every mountain leads me the way of the L&N

Crockett, Jackson, and Polk got our attention, soon we’ll live here like them

My heart’s finally patched up, looking better it’s not even got a bruise

Dreaming of the day we’re sitting in a dive bar in Tullahoma listening to the blues

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Taking a Break

Here’s why my blog posting has been sporadic lately

Thought I’d hop on here after taking yesterday off. If you follow me regularly, you’ve noticed that my #HistoryMonday & #CurrentEventFriday posts are more sporadic lately. I wanted to try and explain that phenomenon and share some reflections I’ve had lately.

No doubt, your social media feeds are filled with new information about Covid-19 and protests about race in addition to the usual distractions. My feed is no different, and as I skim through the feeds my brain is overwhelmed by opinions from all sides and I’m about to have a breakdown. What’s particularly frustrating is that I’m getting upset at posts from friends and other personalities on both sides of the political spectrum. I believe that Black lives have not always mattered and that we have work to do on race relations, but some of the ideas are ridiculous. I also believe that law enforcement is a challenging profession, but reform needs to happen to add accountability for malfeasance and/or bias with certain individuals. As far as the Coronavirus, I’m getting frustrated that the WHO, CDC, and other medical experts are seemingly taking a stab in the dark every other week on how the virus behaves—masks are necessary for healthcare workers, everybody should wear them, only symptomatic folks should wear them. Besides that, lockdowns didn’t happen soon enough, they were necessary, they were harmful, or protests might be safe as the virus is sleeping. Particularly galling is that funerals with hundreds of people for slain black folk are okay but not for your grandmother because…reasons.

While I might normally agree or ‘like’ posts from friends, family, or other posters on posts that may have political undertones, I’m trying to maintain more radio silence and avoid reacting or commenting publicly. I may add a quip on Twitter since it doesn’t affect my vocation as negatively as if I posted on Facebook. This isn’t to say that I don’t have internal comments and reactions, I just don’t share them publicly. Plus, there’s enough arguing and commenting from everybody else that my voice would get lost.

Many times, I’ll fast Facebook during Lent, and that’s healthy for the 40 days I’m off the site. I probably should fast other social media during that time too. With the hatefulness and insanity on social media, I’m about ready for 2nd Lent so I could get off social media for a while. Even public pages for businesses and organizations have quite a few hateful and terrible comments. As I read comments on a post from NASCAR recently, the racist and mean comments about how a young boy sang the National Anthem were shocking and infuriating.  Unfortunately, since I’m not fasting social media and I see all the crap on it, my brain isn’t in the mood to process writing about history, social issues, and current events. Besides, there’s enough history (or is it histrionics?) and current events going on in your feed, that you can get your fix from others besides myself.

Luckily, my creative side is not as affected by the social media outrage and I can still do my Poetry Wednesday posts. I may also try to put together some travel guides for the next few weeks since that’s generally a positive post and if you’re like me, going on vacation sounds great right about now. Hopefully, social media and the outrage culture that’s dominating the news cycle right now will calm down or my brain gets a reset from vacation that my usual posting for Mondays and Fridays will be back soon. Stay tuned!

Is your brain struggling to function lately?

Poetry Wednesday 104

It’s “June” and that seems like a good title and topic for today’s original poem

“June”

Strawberries with cream and shortcake but the days are long

Thought May and spring weather was going to last, but I was wrong

Streetlights come on even later, even after dinner

June’s warming temperature looks to be a winner

 

We sang for the rain to leave as the ground was at risk of flood

Happy for summer eves when cooling gentle rains calm the pressure of my blood

Believe I’ll get to relax and take this month as I get away somewhere this summer.

Dreary and depressed much of the winter and spring, both a bummer

 

Heading for the nearest water, cooling my toes in the creek

Lemon yellow sun beats down on the pool below

Whatever isn’t covered up will soon cause tan skin to show

Took time to go for a drive Sunday morning last week

Stole some early sunshine, getting ready for a healthy dose of it in June

Brightened by the changing weather, bright as the moon

 

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Current Event Friday #104

3…2…1… Blastoff? Here’s to hoping

Give me some space! Now to many of us that may sound like an encouragement to promote social distancing, but for thousands of science-minded folks, it’s a hopeful statement for today’s #CurrentEventFriday set to happen this weekend.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Astronauts to Space Station from ...
Launch America, a joint mission was scheduled for May 27, 2020 from Kennedy Space Center but was rescheduled due to weather

For the first time in over a decade, NASA will be launching a space vehicle to the ISS crewed by astronauts. The journey is a joint effort between the space agency and SpaceX, a company connected to Elon Musk and the Tesla company.

The mission nicknamed Dragon will be led by astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Given the hiatus of launching astronauts to the ISS from Florida, many gathered Wednesday for the scheduled launch near Cape Canaveral and online, including Pres. Trump. Anticipating a new era, NASA & SpaceX were excited for the acclaim they were receiving for the launch. Yet, the weather in Florida was less than cooperative and the launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for Saturday at 3:22 P.M. EDT.

The NOAA Hurricane Center shows a tropical system forming SE of Bermuda that may reach Florida later this weekend 

Saturday’s launch is still questionable as there is a tropical depression just off the coast of Florida that will linger for the next few days. If the launch on Saturday is scrubbed, the mission will launch 24 hours later on Sunday.

Most astrophiles are excited and hopeful that this launch will happen and that it may lead to further missions that include manned missions to Mars or a possible return to the Moon. As the Space Age unfolded in the 1960’s, we were already expected to have established several colonies on the Moon, and yet we have only conducted studies and research on the lunar orb as well as Mars. Much of the same anticipation and excitement for the Apollo missions seem to have surrounded the Launch America mission between NASA & SpaceX. Added to this is Pres. Trump’s newly created military branch, Space Force we’re likely to see a new Space Age. I for one, look forward to what this might include. If SpaceX can do better at innovating their space vehicles, affordable public travel to space will be a goal for many. Elon Musk has already shown that through his funding and encouragement, the electric car market has made Tesla vehicles comparable to hybrid and conventional petrochemical cars.

Are you excited for a Second Space Age?