Banjo, Don’t Step on That!

I’ve written here earlier that we’re on a small key that’s been developed almost entirely into our RV park. Our trailer is about where the circle is.

There’s a bit of wild land on the other side of the highway that we can walk to under the bridge (see my clever hand-drawn arrow).

It’s weird that we’re kind of marooned here. Those bike paths directly beside the highway are closed right now—they need a lot of repair or full replacement. So, if you’re walking, you’re limited to the park or the bit of wild land.

And that wild land is basically a lagoon of dead coral that shrinks and expands with the tide. We walk out there several times a day, poking around the bits of former life that wash up: sponges, pieces of coral, sea grass, conch shells.

It’s a quiet place. A few people wander there, too, and one guy sits and smokes a joint when he thinks he’s alone, but everyone keeps kinda quiet. Like we all know that this spot, as the only place we can walk away from the RVs, is a little sacred.

Banjo and the Ocean

While I walk Banjo in the mornings up by the highway away from the morning Parade of Dogs, Tracy takes her in the afternoons under the bridge to the coral beach. Some days she sniffs in the scrubby brush by the lagoon and pounces on invisible critters, probably tiny, fast lizards, and some days she walks in the water a bit.

A couple of days ago I went with them thinking I would snorkel, but damned if the water isn’t cold. I’ll try again with my wetsuit, but in the meantime I just walked in water up to my waist, on the dead coral and the sand, avoiding the sea grass and anything that looked alive.

The tide pulls the sand into sandbars where grass grows in big underwater swaths (or water moves around the sandbars and becomes currents?), and it’s interesting to wander through mazes of dips in the sand and banks of coral and rivers of grasses.

So, this day when I went out with Tracy, he and I took turns holding Banjo’s leash near the shore so the other person could wander out far in the water, looking for conch and fish.

Banjo watches carefully when I walk out, but, when Tracy walks out, she’s gonna follow him, and she doesn’t care how cold she’s gotten or tired she is of watching where she puts her feet. She just plows through the water to stick close to him.

And that was the day we saw bright pufferfish, with stripes and with leopard spots, and two kinds of sharks. These two nurse sharks, above, were hiding end to end under a rock, and we so wanted to get close to see them better tucked up under there, but Banjo was close, as well, and wasn’t watching where she put her feet.

This bonnethead shark (relative of a hammerhead) swam so close to us so we could admire it for a full minute. It wasn’t pale grey or even white; it was iridescent, like opal. Gorgeous.

On the other side of the bridge, the RV park isn’t completely devoid of wildlife: this little dude ran across the road in front of the trailer a few days ago, pausing long enough for me to hop out with my phone and grab this shot. He was on his way to the beach, smart guy.

I’m looking forward to wandering around the dead coral beach more, watching for what’s hidden and for what swims by.

Tourist Breweries

In our careful deliberations about where to go off our key—we’ve been looking for a place that satisfies my desire to explore but also keeps us safely away from people—we chose the smaller of the two microbreweries on Islamorada Key, about an hour north,

This is Tracy’s reaction.

The beer tasted okay, but the choices were geared to tourists (of course), and we felt like we had just stepped off a cruise ship and were being presented with what the natives thought we’d expect to experience.

Have you read David Foster Wallace’s title story in his collection, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again? He’s hired to go on a cruise and write about it, and he nails how forced fun can make you despise your surroundings. All those smiling people packed in like sardines, the huge buffets you eat at night after night, the seemingly endless lineup of group activities with exclamation marks after their titles.

I’m rambling here: I’ve never been on a cruise, nor have I felt the despair that David felt when faced with the inability to have fun when all these neons signs saying HAVE FUN are pointing right at you.

But we did feel that way just a little at this touristy brewery.

The surprise was seeing a sticker from a musician we enjoy from Baltimore! I texted him immediately (as I do), and he said, yeah, he’d played there several times and wants to come back. I’d recommend he do so after we’re all vaccinated.

Banjo very much enjoyed her day out. She watched the trees for iguanas.

And she dug around in the sand for bits of snacks left by folks who’d visited the food truck (we did, too, and we scored good tacos).

She even got to say hi to an entire family from New Jersey who sat near us. Probably a little too near, though.

Paradise You’re Scared Of

It’s a very strange vibe to be here during the pandemic. You get these unending vistas of bright water all around, and the calm sound of palm leaves rustling in the wind, very much like gentle rain. (“Susurration” is my new favorite word.) You feel like you should be at peace. And you are, when no one is around.

But most of the time, everyone is around. The RV in front of us is from Utah, beside is Michigan. I’ve seen California, South Dakota (those must be full-timers because that’s a place like Texas that makes it easy for you to establish residency), and Iowa is right across from us. In other words, the whole country is here with us.

And the RVs come and go, morning noon and night. I feel like I’m in an RV whirlpool, with a new flow in and out as I swirl around somewhere in the middle. And the cars, trucks, and RVs on the one highway that connects the keys are in their own constant flow, down and up the keys, up and down.

So, we’ll stick to walking under the bridge, looking for sharks and sponges. Once this wind dies down some, Tracy will kayak more (I’ve decided to sell mine and downgrade; more on that later). And we’ll ride our bikes (on the highway, carefully) to the state park the next key over and snorkel there with wet suits.

Key West … yeah, maybe on our bikes. We’ll see.

Warmer days with less wind are on their way here, so I plan on doing this quite a lot, but with a bathing suit on.

You guys stay safe, please.

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