The first thing I noticed on my way to Key West last week was that airports in Sacramento and Atlanta no longer have monitors running news networks. Waiting areas were so much nicer without all that noise.
This was my first visit to Key West so I had signed up for two tours in the old part of the island.
On the Conch Train the driver provides a running commentary of the sites we pass, telling the history of old buildings, the styles of architecture of the old homes, and the famous people who lived in them.
I learned that if you build a house in Key West, the roof must be metal to prevent fire from burning the city down like it did in the 1800s.
We learned why the light house is not on the shore, and why the cemetery was moved. They missed one grave which emerged later, so the old cemetery has one grave in the middle of a grass-covered lot.
The train makes three stops and you can get ice cream at each of them. It was hot and sticky. The streets were crowded with tourists walking about in the briefest of outfits.
The second day I visited the Truman White House and realized I don’t know much of anything that happened in that part of our history. I was about three years old when he became president, and I never learned about World War II or Korea in school, because it wasn’t in the history books yet.
I enjoyed the Aquarium which had WPA murals on the walls, as well as fish and other sea creatures. At the Shipwreck Museum, I found all sorts of old baskets around large jars made from whatever natural materials were at hand.
At the shell collector’s convention, which was the reason I was in Key West, I heard presentations about what is being done to protect the reef that runs along the Florida Keys, the longest living reef in U.S. territory. I heard about research on some of the creatures that live on the reef.
In between the presentations, there were silent auctions of gorgeous, incredible shells from a collection that had been donated to fund the club’s endowment which provides scholarships to students of marine biology.
Silent auctions are fun because there is so much beautiful material to bid on, but one has to weigh the beauty with one’s budget. It would be easy to get carried away. I also had to judge what I could get into my luggage. I came home with about a dozen lots, most of which had multiple shells. I easily have 75 new shells for my collection.
I did get on the beach for two hours one morning and found a few common shells, but better ones can only be found while snorkeling. I had hoped to do more beach combing, but most of the shore has a cement sea wall which makes getting in the water difficult for someone who is no longer young.
It was a wonderful trip and a much needed break from my usual daily routine