Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Key West

I heart Cuban coffee.

At first when we got to Key West, I thought this place was tourist hell, and Vlad still says it's the land of bad t-shirts. You know the kind: "I went to Key West and all I got was this (fill in sexually explicit/drunken wisecrack here)." But I knew something was all right about the southernmost city in the United States when I woke up early the first morning, poked my head out of the companionway and heard a rooster crowing from somewhere in the middle of town.

Maybe it's from growing up in Arkansas where I'd tell my parents I was going to go play in the chicken yard and they'd ask me to at least put on shoes, but I really like chickens. What other animal eats your scraps, gives you the main ingredient of an omelet and has the most contended clucking known to the animal kingdom? In fact, Vlad actually surprised me with four baby chicks a few years ago, and we named them The Yolker, Stir Fry, Chicken Little and Dairy Queen. Best chickens ever. Alas, we couldn't take them on the boat (though Vlad did offer to build me a coop on the bow), so I had to transport them in the trunk of my car from San Antonio to my dad's house in the Ozarks on what I dubbed the "Chicken Run." One of them - Dairy Queen, I think - laid an egg in route.

Key West is full of chickens. They roam the streets, roost in trees, and have created quite the controversy among the locals. There are even pro and anti chicken factions among Key West residents, which is both awesome and amusing. I can just see the anti-chicken lobby picketing city hall. I'm not sure how you could dislike something that leads to such excellent answers to the age-old joke "why did the chicken cross the road?" Some people just don't have a sense of humor, I guess. However, I will say that the chickens are not willing photographic subjects. They stick to the shadows and always run from me whenever I approach with anything remotely like a camera.

See what I mean? Stinking chickens!

I've also enjoyed the fact that Key West seceded from the Union in the 80s. Texas likes to talk a big game about this subject, but Key West actually walks the walk. Evidently, in 1982 the United States Border Patrol put up a blockade on the one road leading down into the Keys, and the Key Westers decided that if the U.S. government was going to treat the Keys like a foreign country then they might as well become one. So on April 23, the mayor simultaneously "seceded from the Union, declared war, surrendered and demanded Foreign Aid," according to a brochure on the subject. Thus, the Conch Republic was born, as was the brilliant catch phrase "We seceded where others failed." Take that, Texas.

They even have their own flag, and you can get a passport from the Secretary General of the Conch Republic's office. He drives around in this little car:

We've both really enjoyed our time here. It's a little on the expensive side, but we've liked the opportunity to get boat parts while still in the U.S. and the access to day old, dollar pastries at Croissants de France. Deliciousness. We often start our day by getting a cup of coffee at the Cuban Coffee Queen, which is always hopping, taking a walk around the town, and then working on the boat for several hours. Finally, we end our day by looking at stuff like this:

Isn't Bettie pretty in the sunset?


  1. In Miami I had Cuban coffee for the first time n fell n love w it!

  2. I love chickens. My sister had a pet chicken named Houdini that thought he was a dog. Where you headed to next?

  3. Ha ha ha! Do they call themselves Conchonites, Conchonians, Conchicans, or maybe just Conchs.....

    1. I did some research for ya. They are just Conchs.

  4. That's hilarious! I had no idea Key West was its own country. Trying to figure out how we're going to sail on the east coast and down florida way, when we start out here and plan to go toward south America, then the south pacific. maybe a world tour.