TOUR OF THE LITTLE LATITUDES-MOTO KEY WEST- Part 5

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Isn’t this beautiful? Even though I got to bed late, I had to get up early enough to see the sun rise on another day in Key West. I stumbled one block down from my hotel to take this shot, then crawled back into bed for another hour.

After breakfast, I packed up the ST in preperation for my departure at noon. But I still had unfinished business on this unique island. This morning I will delve into history and……….chickens. The morning was cool and refreshing as I sauntered over to the Hemingway House. Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for nine years and penned most of his famous works during that time. His home and grounds are modest and beautiful, and the half-hour guided tours are really entertaining. Here are a few slides of this great American author’s home:

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Everywhere you walk in Key West you will see pictures and drawings of Ernest Hemingway; as he appeared in his 60’s. White hair, trimmed white beard…you’ve probably seen it, it’s a very popular image of him. However, when he lived in Key West, he was a young man in his early 30’s, as this portrait of him that was painted while he lived here shows:

A young Ernest Hemingway-looks like Robert Goulet.

A young Ernest Hemingway-looks like Robert Goulet.

Some other trivia about Ernie. He was a man that liked to hoist a few every night, and his favorite place to do that was Sloppy Joe’s bar. However, it was not the Sloppy Joe’s that tourists made famous on Duval Street. That’s here:

The tourist's Sloppy Joe's

The tourist’s Sloppy Joe’s

The place where Hemingway hoisted more than a few was here; Captain Tony’s, the original Sloppy Joe’s only a few blocks from Hemingway’s house:

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The original Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s hangout.

After numerous shipwrecks on the coral reefs and rocky coastline that make up Key West, the city built a lighthouse that butted right up to Hemingway’s property and bathed his house in light at night. Asked if he was annoyed that the lighthouse was built so close to his property, he replied “No, it actually helps me find my way home after a night at Captain Tony’s.”

Hemingway's home beacon.

Hemingway’s home beacon.

What about the cat’s?

Another bit of…………uniqueness regarding the Hemingway House was the breeding of cats; six-toed cats! Hemingway had an affinity for things strange, and so entered these unique cats to his collection of strange and interesting things. Most of the cats roaming the grounds have six toes, and are descendants of the original six toed cat:

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The photo above shows Hemingway’s two boys. The younger of the two is holding Snowball, the original six-toed cat. All of the sixer’s on the estate today are direct descendants of Snowball.

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This is Rudy, lounging on the bench as our tour group gawks at him. He takes it all in stride. All of the cats on the estate have been named after famous performers in radio, song, and TV. Rudy’s full name is……….Rudolph Valentino!

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Rudy’s front paw. The extra toe on the sixer’s is a thumb, plainly seen on Rudy’s left “hand.” I wonder if they can open doors?

And chickens too!

So, why did the chicken(s) cross the road?

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To get here:

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I kid you not! The chicken photo was taken across the street from Captain Tony’s and they were heading right for the door! And this guy was in the lead and booking it!

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Ah say, ah say, those are some good lookin’ chicken legs ah see thayah at Captain Tony’s.

Key West is loaded with chickens, and they have a sordid history. Back in the 1920’s, cock fighting was a big time sport with the Cuban population. As it grew, the populace and the city father’s cried fowl (pun intended), thus legislating laws that crushed this gambling pursuit. People were arrested and chickens were set free. But what to do with all these birds? Well, Key West was on the verge of becoming a big time tourist destination as Henry Flagler’s railroad inched it’s way south. The city father’s decided to capitalize on this opportunity, and declared the birds “protected”, with stiff fines for anyone harming a chicken. Today, the law still stands, with a $500.00 fine if found guilty of “harrassing” the chickens. Today’s chickens are descendants of those poor birds from the 1920’s, they still roam freely around Old Town Key West and are a big tourist draw. The gamble paid off.

Leaving Hemingway’s house, and walking back towards my hotel, it was time for a final stop to visit a beautiful lady. Time has been good to her, and she has been well cared for. She looks absolutely fabulous for her age. I speak of this beautiful painted lady, the Southernmost House, built in 1896:

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She is now a B & B as well as a museum showcasing life in the late 19th century on Key West.

It’s now time to bid Key West goodbye. Back at my hotel, I change into my riding gear, check out, and sit astride the mighty beaST once more. Good to be on the bike again. A short 110 miles today, back to Key Largo. A great seafood lunch with key lime pie, of course,  in Marathon at The Conch Shack, then a straight shot  to Key Largo for the night. Cruising back over The Seven Mile Bridge northbound is just as exhilerating as going southbound. Remnants of Henry Flagler’s Key West Extension railroad trestles and viaducts from the 1920’s are still standing beside the highway. What a feat of engineering. Amazing. Back at the hotel, it’s a dip in the pool, then a walk down the road to Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for a fantastic seafood meal with a couple of Key West Sunset Ale’s and ………..key lime pie. Highly recommended.

Just over The Seven Mile Bridge is Pigeon Key, where workers were housed building the seven mile extension. It was destroyed in the hurricane of  1910. Today tours re given of the restored workers barracks on the island.

Just over The Seven Mile Bridge is Pigeon Key, where workers were housed building the seven mile extension. It was destroyed in the hurricane of 1910. Today tours are given of the restored workers barracks on the island.

Next up: Naples, never again; Riding into Cajun country?; Amelia’s blues.

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