Sunday, January 14, 2018

Marathon Cycle

Before you become entirely distracted allow me immediately to clarify that there is nothing Olympic about this particular cycling chronicle.  It is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a vacation cycle in Marathon on the Florida Keys where we're currently sojourning.  The bicylce I rode was a Sun Bicycle.  The first Sun Bicycle I owned was a used one from Blue Coast bicycle rentals on Daytona Beach Shores.  I paid $80 for it last October and it has - knock on wood - been a faithful companion since. Today at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Marathon I rented another (shown in the photo above).  My commitment to the product has only been strengthened - balloon tires, high handle bars, efficient single-gear, fenders and a fat-ass seat!  Absolutely perfect in every way!  I ordered the bicycle at the front desk of the lobby after breakfast.  The staff wheeled it into the lobby moments later.  It was reminiscent of valet service! They did everything but open the door for me!

Since I am never certain whether any experience I have is the product solely of the particular event - or whether it is a conglomerate of any number of propitious circumstances and sentiments (and maybe even pain killers) - leading up to the enactment, I shall account the day from the beginning rather than merely starting from the point I set off on my bicycle ride around ten o'clock this morning.  As far as I can tell in retrospect everything contrived to create what has been a very agreeable adventure.  If there were gods to whom one could render thanks I would hasten to do so.

Happily I got out of bed before eight o'clock this morning.  Whenever I remain in bed past nine o'clock I find the day gets away from me too rapidly and always afterwards with a sense of loss and regret.  After a restoring Starbucks coffee (made in the suite) and the morning ablutions we descended to the lobby to investigate whether we might repeat the matutinal repast with the same success as last evening's simple dinner.  We were not disappointed.  In fact we were decidedly pumped! I began with a large bowl of fresh strawberries.  Though it sounds gushy to say so, they were exceptional, not too big, sweet and ripe!  Then followed my usual protein concoction, bacon, sausage patties, omelette and cheddar cheese. Admittedly it took some effort to order this à la carte because it wasn't strictly speaking an item listed on the menu; and, the order-staff were Spanish with a limited command of English.  However in the end the food proved nonpareil and the staff were beyond friendly and caring.  We perched at one of the larger raised tables in the lounge, seated in the high-chairs.  At the other end of the same table were three athletic young men who we guessed by their accent were speaking Dutch.  They had the Aryan appearance of the Nordic race.  At least one of them sported a large wrist watch which made me wonder what make it was and what in particular were its complications.

After leaving the hotel on my bike I headed south.  There was a reasonably wide sidewalk until I reached one of the long bridges which connect the archipelago.  There the path narrowed to a mere shoulder of the road and I avoided it because the passing traffic was too close for comfort.

I retraced my route and went south of the hotel.  Along the main road were a collection of boutigues catering mostly to fishing, scuba diving, nautical clothing and casual restaurants.  There was a rescue, rehab and release centre dedicated to sea turtles. More than once I heard the crowing of roosters (which appear in the Keys to enjoy the same repute of cows in India).  I also smelled the recognizable wafts of marsh gasses peculiar to sea-level habitats on the east coast. There were smaller roads leading from the main road to the nearby coast.  One of the roads led to a yacht club; another to a fishery; another to a trailer park; another to an upscale residential enclave.  Naturally there was a place of worship reminiscent of an adobe structure one might expect to see in Mexico.

When I regained the hotel I abandoned the bicycle and resorted to the corded hammock by the sea.  There I lay in the blazing midday sun for about an hour. When I began to feel the tell-tale tingling of the sun I withdrew to the suite for a coffee and a telephone chat with my friend Jill in Canada.  We succeeded as always to enjoy a prolonged gab together before dismissing ourselves to attend to Matters of State (which in my case is utter pretence but which for her is legitmate artistic endeavour).

Since the day began with a good breakfast I may as well report that we ended with a good dinner.  We ate at a place called "Porky's Bayside" which is a short walk from the hotel.  I had seen it on my bicycle ride this morning.

Porky's Bayside Restaurant and Marina

We are known for our good food and friendly island atmosphere. Our unique location has hosted famous Keys visitors and celebrities since the 1950's, including such notables as Ernest Hemmingway, Jimmy Hoffa and Elizabeth Taylor.
Originally known as "Bill Thompson's Villas and Marina", it was the place to be. We know that it still is!

As with so many places on the Florida Keys many of the staff are Spanish speaking, likely from Cuba or Mexico.  Our Spanish-speaking server this evening paid us the ultimate compliment of talking me out of a full order of ribs and suggesting instead a half-order.  He was right!  In addition he was attentive to our every need throughout the meal and was obviously doing his very best to look after us.  It is this kind of experience which makes it so disheartening to hear those who sow the seeds of dissent among the general American population by referring to these immigrants in unsavoury terms.  It also ignores the larger moral, philosophical and practical business lesson that learning to get along with one's new neighbours is not only personally improving but also calculated by definition to encourage growth and progress.  Meanwhile a sizeable segment of the American public is mistakenly consuming a diet of anger, fear and hatred which robs them of any possibility of meaningful development not only because it keeps them unhealthily insulated but also because it limits their possibilities.  To pretend that isolationism and insulation somehow contributes to worldliness and expansion is an axiomatic error of judgement.

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