Tag Archives: Florida

A Visit to Key West

The Queen and her Throne. Key West, Florida

Several weeks ago Kathy & I finally made our journey to Key West. We had talked about going a couple of years ago, but instead decided to upend our lives for a year while we sold a house and bought another one. Last winter we had just moved in, were recovering from the move and our vacation budget was severely depleted. Things are pretty much back to normal for the time being, so when it came time to make our plans for 2015, we decided that this might be a good time to go.

Key West, Florida
Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida

Our original idea was to take a week or two and drive to Key West and back from North Carolina, stopping at a few places in Florida along the way. While we like Florida, the idea of using up a couple of weeks’ vacation time on a drive through Florida just to get to Key West might not be the best use of our time. Especially that early in the year when we have to make our meager allocation of vacation days last for a whole year! So we decided to take the money that it would take to drive there and just fly. We’ll get to see the rest of Florida another time, and as fun as I’m sure it would be to drive out through the Keys along Highway 1, that wasn’t high on my priority list. I’ll gladly wait for another time, and if the opportunity doesn’t arrive that will be OK.

The Southernmost Point, Key West Florida
View from the end of Spangler Street near the Waldorf Astoria resort in Key West, Florida

We’d always heard that Key West can be quite expensive, especially in the winter. But we learned a long time ago that the best time to visit a place was when it was best there, and not necessarily the best time to be away from home. Not being fans of heat and humidity, Kathy & I agreed that regardless of the higher rates in the winter season, that was when we wanted to go. So we did our research and went prepared.

The only time I wished for a longer lens.
Typical bar on Duval Street in Key West, Florida

As luck would have it, we picked a really good time to leave Charlotte, but it also corresponded with a pretty chilly time to be in Key West. The temperature on the day we left Charlotte was in the low 20’s, and the forecast for Key West called for temperatures in the upper 60’s and low 70’s. Not bad. We missed some very cold weather and some snow with lows in the single digits in Charlotte. Awww! The same front that brought the cold to Charlotte also came through southern Florida, and Key West experienced some unusually cold temperatures by their standards. It still felt pretty good to us, and we had one evening where the temperatures were in the low 50s and one day the high was in the low 60’s. We had hoped for it to be a little warmer but were glad we weren’t sweating!

She gets points for using the popup flash. Points deducted.
Remnants of an old wall at the end of Duval Street in Key West, FL

My impression of Key West is that it is pretty much like any other tourist town once you get out of sight of the water. Walking down Duval Street you pass the usual bars, restaurants, junky trinket galleries and T-shirt shops. There are a few really nice shops and galleries, but you have to look for them. Key West even has it’s own Diamonds International, in case you missed something during the last 20 cruise ship ports. During the day, and especially when the cruise ships are in port, it pretty much looks and feels like any other downtown shopping area. After dark is another story, but I usually didn’t carry my camera to dinner so I didn’t come home with any photographic evidence. Suffice it to say that there were sights we don’t usually see in our regular destinations!

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida
Yard Art Obsession, Key West Florida

We managed to do a lot of the usual touristy things while we were in Key West. My friends on Facebook will see that I have proof that Kathy & I visited the Southernmost Point, and we’ve decided that we need to work on getting to the other three points on the compass as well. We toured the Ernest Hemingway House, the Key West Lighthouse, the cemetery, took the Conch Train tour and a bunch of other stuff. The weather turned out to be too nasty for a trip to Dry Tortugas, so if that turns out to be the last National Park on my list of parks to visit I’ll just have to go back and get there. We also didn’t go to Mallory Square for what is supposed to be a nightly sunset celebration. We were pretty much pooped out by that time of the day and still needed energy to walk to dinner, plus the weather was nasty on a couple of the evenings so other than the people watching I don’t think there was much sunset to see.

Something for everyone in Key West, Florida
Around the marina at Key West Bight, Key West, Florida

We stayed at the Lighthouse Court Hotel, one of six properties owned by a group called Historic Key West Inns. It was an excellent place to stay and we would stay there again. I wrote a review of the place in an attempt to win a free return trip, and will publish that as a separate post.

Key West Lighthouse, Key West, Florida

I need to wrap this up so I can get it posted, but suffice it to say that we had a great time, and it was nice to take a vacation that didn’t involve a cruise ship. We have a few more plans in store for the year, but this was a good way to kick things off. A lot of people have told me that Key West is on their “bucket list” and I am glad to say that I have been there.

Key West Lighthouse, Key West, Florida

March 2015 Wallpaper

Remnants of an old wall at the end of Duval Street in Key West, FL
Remnants of an old wall at the end of Duval Street in Key West, FL

I said I wasn’t (necessarily) going to do a monthly wallpaper, but I keep remembering to do one so here is the third for the year.  No promises going forward!

Kathy & I got away to Key West for a few days recently and I’m still working on the photos.  I’ll have a few stories to share along with some pictures over the next few weeks.

Why I Do It

Many Tanks

We all have something we do to pay the bills.  For most of us that’s a job.  And besides the obvious reasons, like needing to make the house payment and pay for food, our jobs have things about them that sometimes make them worth getting up in the morning.  For me, one of the advantages is when a customer appreciates my work and takes the time to say so.

Window Reflections

Most of my time at work is what I call “widget based.”  We have certain goals – The Company calls them production goals although we don’t actually produce anything – and the jobs or tasks we do have a certain number of points assigned to them.  Every month our success (or lack thereof) is determined by how many of these widgets we do.


Of course I’ve been doing this kind of work a lot longer than most of the people I work with, and I remember a time when our primary focus was taking care of our customers, no matter what we needed to do or how long it took.  The Company says it still cares, and I suppose at the most basic level it still does.  But my job, and The Company’s method for determining how well I do it, is based on the number of widgets I do.  We don’t measure customer satisfaction, with me or anyone else.

Faucet and Awning

Sometimes though, while I’m sitting at my desk trying to figure out how squeeze out a few more widgets in order to earn enough points to keep my job, I get e-mails like this one from a customer who I made happy:

Hello Tom,

I received the renewal documents for the (loan).  We have both signed and I will be mailing them back today in the self-addressed envelope.

Thank you for believing and trusting in our company.  I did want to update you on the (balances) of these loans.  As of Friday, I paid off the remaining balance on the credit card and I also paid down $70,000 on the line we are now renewing.  Just wanted you to know.

Have a great week!

Thanks again,

So in this whole crazy world of business, even though I might not get any points from The Company for happy customers, I can still get points from the customers.  And I think that makes for good Karma.  And plenty of reason to go back tomorrow!

Palm Shadow

Something A Little Different

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

Most of my nature photography friends headed off to the mountains this weekend in search of fall color.  Based on early reports and a few “brag” photos I’ve seen online, fall is in full swing in the High Country.  Kathy & I headed a little different direction this year – actually a complete 180-degree direction – and opted for warmer climes, and for a good reason.  We headed to Amelia Island, Florida, primarily to attend the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, but also because October is a great time to visit Amelia Island.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

While the photographers up on the Blue Ridge Parkway were more than likely looking at morning low temperatures in the 30’s, we were walking around in shorts and sandals enjoying comfortable upper-70s with little humidity and mostly clear skies.  That in itself was a clear change of pace for us, and as far as I’m concerned (and Kathy agrees!) was a welcome change.  Fall is not necessarily all about fall color, and more and more I’m finding that colder weather isn’t necessarily my first choice.  Plus, what that heck?  A little change is good!

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

I don’t have any photos from the jazz festival itself because photography wasn’t permitted, but we enjoyed the music of a number of big name musicians, capped off by the jazz of David Benoit on Friday night and the sounds of Spyro Gyra on Saturday night.  The festival itself is pretty new, and even with these big name acts there were only about 400 people in attendance each night, so that made the who experience very pleasant.  That made the trip worthwhile even without all of the other things we were able to do.  We met up with some friends that live there and had a nice lunch with them, we ate some good food and drank some nice wine.  We had a nice relaxing time and even managed to get in a little photography.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

The main town on Amelia Island is Fernandina Beach.  We stayed right in town and could walk just about everywhere except the festival itself, which was a 20-minute drive but we only went there in the evenings.  The rest of our time was spent walking around town and the city marina.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

Fernandina Beach is a vibrant little town, with a number of interesting shops and some excellent restaurants.  We didn’t get to investigate the restaurants as much as we would typically do because of the concerts, but we did get to try several places and look forward to a chance to go back.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

This coming weekend we are doing something a little more traditional and heading up north to Roanoke, Virginia.  But we’re hoping to enjoy the town of Roanoke, the farmer’s market there and in general the sights and sounds of the area, mixed in with a little fall color.  Again, something a little out of the normal routine for us, but still something with a fall flavor.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

So yes, I’ll be putting the warm weather clothes away for a while.  At least until January, when it might just be time to head someplace warm again!

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida