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Road Trip Key West, flowers, and points north

Key West post Irma ….

There are a few empty shops on Duval, which you usually don’t see…there are some signs “closed for repairs from hurricane damage”….and a lot of the shade is gone… but Key West is every bit as beautiful as ever.




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My friend Deb met me there and we stayed at the Almond Tree Inn. Our room and the grounds were beautiful, and the location perfect. It’s a half block off of Duval on the quiet end of the street.

This year they started a free Duval Loop bus that circles every 15 minutes and we rode it twice a day. When ever I go to Key West I always want to walk all the streets in Old Town so being able to catch a ride back was great.

My favorite thing is to take photos of the architecture and flowers. One of these days I’ll do some paintings of some of my favorite spots.

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Chickens and roosters still abound.

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We even went to Sunset at Mallory Square, the first time in 33 years I’ve done that.

kwwThe cat man is still there  (thank you youtube for the video) – don’t know if he is the same one from years ago but he if he is he’s crazier than ever!

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Ate lunch at Blue Heaven after Deb left. NO I did not eat this Key Lime Pie with the giant meringue – the folks sitting next to me at the bar did! You can eat with the chickens running around your feet outside or inside without at Blue Heaven.

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We found some fabulous artwork in the galleries and visited with some friends.

We ran into NC artist, musician, and friend Mike Rooney at Bo’s. He was teaching a painting workshop at Dog Tired Gallery the next day and getting ready for a show at Gallery on Greene later in the month, he’s also teaching at The Studios of Key West.

kw rooneyWe stopped to see boat builder, painter, wood worker, and all around artist and friend Tommy Avery (originally from Bridgeton) in his studio on Stock Island. This is one of his paintings of the Green Parrot.

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We had lunch with another friend who lives here, which made us feel like we really belonged in this slice of heaven.

After seeing paintings by David Scott Meier, the creator of the famous painting “Nice Hat”….

Nice Hat…we tracked him down in his studio on Simonton.

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Turns out it was a fluke he was there since he is moving his studio up state to Deland, after being in KW for many years. We had a great conversation about his work, what he’s up to, where he’s been, and who he is currently studying with.

I didn’t meet her but was greatly inspired by paintings by Joan Becker. I had never seen her work before. LOVE it!!
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Other work I liked were the totems by Key West Pottery potter and sculptor Adam Russell.

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Just for fun we went to see Randy Roberts at La Te Da. He put on a great show, (no lip syncing)  and at the end he sings in his own male voice. He was great.

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No we did not go to the Garden of Eden but like a town where you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you are not hurting anyone else.

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As epitomized in the official philosophy of Key West.
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I don’t know why but I love directional signs (other signs too) and always have to take photos of them.


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The thing I noticed most that was different was the lack of shade, Irma took out a lot of the canopy, but the flowers are still beautiful!

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They now have two flamingos (I don’t know how to tell whether this is Rhett or Scarlett) at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory along with an amazing number of butterflies!



This guy was scooping up minnows to go fishing with.

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And as always the sunsets are Spectacular.

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I would have never thought to go to the  St. Augustine Alligator Farm but heard from my friend Judy that there is an amazing bird rookery there so had to stop to see it. I’ve gotten so many great bird photos this trip I may have to paint some, if I do I will post them in this blog. And by the way they have hundreds of alligators!!






Stopped to see my friend and artist Justine in Brunswick, GA. She’s an amazing sculptor, one of the most creative people I know. She is currently doing a lot of pieces inspired by Klimt.

This sculpture is Golden Girl.

Home again home again to get some new work done before the Studio tour May 5 & 6 I have so many ideas now I don’t know where to start!

Next trip Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxomberg, Bruge…. but should have some posts about my art before then!

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Road Trip Apalach to Key West Orchids Birds and other stuff

Just before I left Apalachicola I found this mermaid carved out of a cypress trunk, I love it! It’s in the Botanical Garden adjacent to the Orman House.

kw mermaidOn my way south I made a few stops….

First was the bottle house in Carabelle.

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Then I visited with friends in North Ft. Myers. We visited Babcock Ranch Preserve, a 67,000 acre parcel of undeveloped land where you can see birds, bears, alligators, fox, and all kinds of animals.

Selby Gardens had a show called Warhol, Flowers in the Factory. The gardens and orchids were beautiful and the art interesting.



Just south of Sarasota at Venice is a bird rookery. We were thrilled to see parents feeding babies!





While I am not an avid birdwatcher I do love them and used to paint them a lot. This may inspire me to paint some more.

I took these photos at Six Mile Cypress Slough.

We watched this mother Limpkin feeding her young, and heard her smashing the snail on something to get the meat out.


limp9limp3limp4limp5limp6limp7limp8One interesting thing about this preserve is the driving force to save it was students.

In 1976 a group of Lee County students known as “the Monday Group” studied the role of forested wetland in Florida’s ecology and became alarmed at how fast these environmental treasures were disappearing to private interests. Knowing that Six-Mile Cypress Slough was under imminent threat from logging in the channeling away of its water, the Monday Group launched a daring campaign to save it for future generations.

Lee County voters responded overwhelmingly by increasing their own taxes to purchase and convert the Slough into a preserve. Much effort was needed throughout the 1980s to protect the Six-Mile Cypress watershed from the results of outside development. These efforts culminated in 1991 with Lee County Parks & Recreation opening the Preserve’s boardwalk and facilities to visitors.

Today, Parks & Recreation remain challenged with balancing the needs of water conservation and wildlife management with the recreational needs of the public. As part of that, a growing cadre of volunteer naturalists educates the Preserve’s many visitors as to the interrelationships of water, wildlife, plants, and man-fanning the flames of that torch set by Lee County students some two decades earlier. The Interpretive Center at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve had its grand opening April 18, 2008. The 11,000 square foot building is the first public, certified Green Building in Lee County. It has been built under the nationally recognized “Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” or LEED certification system.

I drove across the Tamiami Trail and saw hundreds of egrets – got no photos of them but did get this bird, an immature white ibis.


I also counted over 50 alligators along the road, I finally stopped and got a couple photos of them, yikes!

o18o19I grow orchids and wanted to add to my collection so visited RF Orchids in Homestead. At 11 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday they give free tours of the botanical garden they have adjacent to the grounds, it’s actually the yard of the owners home. It was a highlight. of that part of my trip.

One of my favorite things in the world to do is drive down the Keys.

Michael and I lived in the Keys for a while between moving from Aspen to New Bern. I always said the Keys and Aspen were a lot alike in the respect that there is one way in and one way out. They were both isolated and you could get cabin fever.

And they are both incredibly beautiful.

Michael went to the Keys every winter (before me) for a month or two when he was farming and it was there that he proposed to me in 1983, so the Keys hold a special place in my heart.  Consequently I was hesitant about seeing the damage done by Irma. I had heard from friends that Big Pine (where we lived in 1988) and adjacent Keys were devastated, and I had seen a video of Key West where the water was a foot deep at Sloppy Joes.

kw big pine 1The middle Keys were pretty depressing. I’ve heard there were a lot of little tornadoes around the eye, there would be a lot of damage in one place, and right next to it things were ok. All the trees on Big Pine are beat up, there are boats and all kinds stuff in the canals and mangrove and it seems every house on the island sustained some damage and many were destroyed. I didn’t take any photos there because it was so sad. I started see damage in about Tavernier and it went all the way to Big Coppitt, about 70 miles.

I was in Key West for a day in January while on my Havana cruise, I had a long conversation with the bar tender in Sloppy Joes and he said they were so thankful for the cruise ships since the hurricane because for a long time tourists couldn’t get there and their businesses really suffered. He spoke about the problem of workers, that drove in to work from the middle keys,  had no place to live, so many left leaving a shortage of workers.

Because of that visit I knew things were pretty much back to normal in Key West but I didn’t know how the beautiful 120 mile drive from Card Sound to Key West would be. The drive crosses 42 bridges, the shortest being about 38 feet and the longest almost 7 miles. In 1981 when Michael was down there a truck struck the propane tank on the swing span of the 7 mile bridge causing an explosion which closed the bridge for a while to auto traffic and closed it for a year to marine traffic, so he was “stuck” staying a while longer, poor boy!


This is a section of the old Flagler railroad bridge that is still standing. When Michael started going to the Keys in the 1970s he drove on the road that was on the top of the railroad bridge. I would not have liked to do that at all.

Since the campground on the the small key where we decided to get married was totally destroyed (it covered the entire key) by Irma and they have it all blocked off so you can’t enter I decided this would be a nice place to put some of Michaels ashes, he loved it in the Keys.

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