Friday, May 26, 2006


Ken Louder, my room mate for the past five days, departed at an ungodly hour. I on the other half have a more leisurely departure; however I hadn’t discovered this until late last night when I finally took a minute to check my itinerary. Not really the wiser here just a lucky break derived from unconscious planning. Watching Ken roll out of bed around four, I liked my schedule better.

Having been denied breakfast at Sandy's all week, I rent an island pedal pusher and head to White Street for another cup of Cuban coffee and a breakfast sandwich. There are plenty of fancier eateries in town, but this meal and its ambiance can't be duplicated just anywhere.

For the first time since my arrival there is no urgency or real purpose to my morning. I ride at a pace that's suitable to the islands lazier side of life, slow and easy. Arriving at Sandy's the typical breakfast crowd is still lingering at the outdoor counter enjoying the mornings cooler air over a cup of sweet sustenance. Since discovering this virtual hole in the wall, not much has changed. However, there is a noticeable decline in the number of chickens and rooster scrambling about.

Upon my first visit to Key West the islands resident roosters and chickens were running randomly about, by some, in obnoxious numbers. Those numbers since have dwindled considerably. These beautiful wild fowl have been as much a part of Key West as local haunts such as Sandy’s and The Schooner Warf. It would appear that in an effort to make Key West more appealing for irritable tourists, the powers that be have set out to aggressively reduce their numbers. With the onslaught of the Asian Bird Flu I'm afraid their days are numbered. This issue has become such a national crisis that it even made the Salt Lake news just prior to my arrival. Personally I think there are more important matters worth focusing on and if you don’t like the chickens stay home.

A brown paper bag appears on the counter as my name is called. Six bucks later, I place the bag in the bike’s basket and head to the beach that fronts the island’s southern shore. Like every destination in Key West, whether by bike or auto, it’s only a short distance. Unlike my home state where I frequently ride, it’s also nice and flat. Given the bucket of bolts I’ve rented that’s a really good thing.

Pedaling down the waterfront at 8:00am isn’t exactly the best time for rubbernecking the white sands of Key West. Most visitors are still sleeping it off. Only a smattering of locals are up early enough to enjoy these pleasant hours. Other than a few wayward bodies still catching some shut-eye from a late night of wandering the streets, I have the beach to my self. Much like our other days, there’s barely a ripple on the water as I nestle under a solitary palm. Grabbing my first sip of coffee before unwrapping my sandwich I can think of no better setting to enjoy my meal.

There isn’t an angler when confronted by water that soon doesn’t develop a drifting eye. With the absence of any scantily glad ladies, there is little to distract my gaze. The brilliant mosaic of colors reminds me of the many bonefish flats I have fished over the past twenty years. I soon find myself prying the horizon for tails, but given the daily traffic here I don’t really expect to find anything. The water in the distance plays with my eyes as flashes of silver temporarily grab my attention, yet it appears to be more wishful thinking than anything else.

My mind and eyes continue to wander when off in the distance the placid waters erupt. Whatever it was, it was definitely not a bonefish. I more intently pry the waters surface for verification of what I saw. Then the unmistaken slow roll and silver flash of a tarpon catches my eye, then another and yet another. As our Captain said earlier, “that’s one big wad of happy tarpon”. How fitting!

For the next hour this pod of unmolested tarpon leisurely mingles on the flats edge. Like the beach their waters are quiet. As I put the finishing touches to my coffee, the last of the lazy rollers disappears continuing their journey after a morning’s brief reprieve. I follow suit and continue atop my pedal pusher for a quiet lap around the island. All is still calm, a stark contrast from how it will appear later in the day. The same goes for those tarpon.

For many reasons this was one of my best trips to the Keys. My time spent on the beach with a few happy rollers, but a fitting good bye. As much as I’d like the next twelve month to pass quickly to again be chasing these giants, trout fishing season still lies ahead. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, time will pass.

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