Friday, February 26, 2010

The E Has New Shoes!

IMG_0629 It’s been four years, and my Element finally needs some new tires.  After a couple weeks of research I decided to go for the Goodyear Fortera Triple Treads.

These tires are considered premium SUV tires, but I think that tires are a consumable item where you really get what you pay for.  Rather than purchase discount tires for less than half of the cost and have to replace them in half the duration of these tires.  Not to mention the handling differences.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Hit for all of the Washington Capitals Fans

We have been following men’s hockey more than any other sport during this Olympic season.  This is mostly because of all of the Washington Capitals players who are competing for their respective home countries.  Earlier this afternoon Russia defeated the Czech Republic, and although we were sad to see Tomas Fleishmann’s team loose, we were happy to see Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Semyon Varlomov record the win.

However, what was even more enjoyable than seeing three Capital’s win was watching Alex Ovechkin lay out Jaromir Jager.  Jager was on the Capitals’ roster for a couple season after he left the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Majority owner of the Capitals, Ted Leonsis, has often said that his only regret in life was paying so much money for Jager when he never really played like he wanted to be here.  As a matter of fact, when he left Jager had the reputation of being the most disliked person in the Capitals locker room.

With that little bit of history, I hope you can understand why the hit in the link below from Ovechkin was so enjoyable to watch for all Washington Capitals fans!

Video:  NBC Sports – Olympic Coverage

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What do Caps fans get for Valentine’s Day?

Autographed pictures of our favorite Washington Capitals!  How awesome is this?  We got each other signed pictures of our respective favorite Caps, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Finally Home

After a very uneventful and dry 7 hour drive up the western edge of Virginia, we finally arrive home to see how much snow was in our drive way.  We weren’t surprise to see close to 2 feet of snow remaining, but we were a bit disappointed to see close to 4 feet of snow at the end of our driveway where snow plows had thrown snow from the road.

After nearly two hours of shoveling by Barbie & I, one of our neighbors, and six contractors who were clearing sidewalks we were finally able to free the E!  When it was all done we took some pictures to document our efforts:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On The Ground In Charlotte

After we landed in Charlotte, we were amazed by the lack of snow on the ground.  We had been hearing so many stories about the second and third winter storms of this season to hit the Washington area while we were in Florida, that we expected some of those storms would have hit Charlotte as well.  Charlotte hadn’t seen any snow from those storms that dropped more than 30 inches of snow in northern Virginia.

So, we found a room in a Hilton on Lake Norman (located 20 miles north of Charlotte).  Lake Norman also happens to be right next to Mooresville, which is where most of the NASCAR teams are based out of.  Had it not been for the Daytona races taking place last week we would have spent a few days in Mooresville to visit those shops.

An Pair Of Executive Decisions Are Made

For the last few days we have heard about friends who were flying back to the Washington area and had their flights from Miami or Ft Lauderdale cancelled due to the “Snow-mageddon” storms hitting the mid-Atlantic.  We have been optimistic that our flights would get us home since we were the only people of the 30+ guests at Kevin and Stacey’s wedding to fly into and out of Key West.  However, just as we were getting ready to head to the airport we heard that our flight from Charlotte into Dulles was cancelled.

We decided to stay on the flight to Charlotte and drive home from there, rather than opt for a day-to-day extension of our stay in Key West since that may have kept us there for an additional 3 days.  Our initial plan was to simply start the drive home as soon as we land in Charlotte since we didn’t think we would get much rest there anyway.

However, after waiting for an additional 2 hours in the Key West airport since out plane was delayed getting in we decided to find a hotel once we land and try to get some sleep before taking on the 7 drive home.

Food For A Final Day

Barbie and I both love to find “hole in the wall” restaurants where good food is the focus of the proprietor and ambiance is something that just happens as a result.  This is even more fun in a place like Key West where so many restaurants are trying to give tourists a stereotypical “Island” atmosphere.  We had a chance to find and eat at a few of these places on our trip, and all were fun.  However it wasn’t until our last day that we discovered Lobo’s Grill.  What a find!

Lobo’s had all the characteristics of a “locals only” place:  Cash only; No street presence (we had to walk through two alleys to get to it); Completely outdoors; and Wonderful food!

One of the only sea food items that we both like is fried shrimp.  Not any shrimp (peel and eat is everywhere in the Florida Keys), but fried shrimp where the batter is light enough to still taste the shrimp inside.  After nearly a week of looking for some, we were a bit disappointed in that the only fried shrimp we could find was covered in a thick batter that over powered the taste of the shrimp.

And then came Lobo’s Grill with some wonderful fried shrimp that had was some of the best we have ever had.  And, in addition to the shrimp, we were able to get delicious bacon avocado burgers that rivaled any we have ever had before (at some of the lowest prices we have ever seen).

This was an incredible last meal to have in Key West!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Full Day On Duval Street

Today was our last full day in Key West as a group of six friends.  So, we spent most of it having fun on Duval Street.  We enjoyed visiting lots of “tourist trap” type shops as well as some off the beaten path bars and restaurants.  We spent a lot of time at Mallory Square which lies on the north end of Duval Street and open up to the Gulf of Mexico.

While waling around the shops there, we found out that one of the early industries in Key West was that of sea sponge harvesting.  Today there is still a large sea sponge market in Key West and while there I was attacked by the sponge man!

After a long day of walking, and a long night of eating and drinking we stopped at one of Stacey’s favorite bars called Flying Monkey’s Saloon for a few frozen drinks to walk back to our hotel with (no, Key West does not have an open container law).  :-)

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Night At Sloppy Joe’s

The night began with three different plans for dinner (one plan per couple) so that we could all get some good 1on1 time with our respective spouses.  However, we all ended up at the same bar towards the end of the night:  The world famous Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street.

Sloppy Joe’s is known for having cover bands play their stage 365 days a year.  Some are better than others, but all are very entertaining.  When we walked in, I thought this bar looked like a college bar that was full of post-college age patrons.  And in fact after a few drinks and songs being played I realized that my first impression was accurate.  This was a bar full of successful and professional adults who were just letting go of their age to act like they were care free again.  It was quite entertaining.

The band that was playing the week we were in Key West was Rumor Mill.  We all had a blast listening to and watching them perform, especially since every song we heard sounded like it came straight off a Guitar Hero set list.

Mile Marker Zero

We have seen lots of bumper stickers that read nothing by the phrase “Mile Marker 0”.  We are very familiar with the concept of Mile Markers, and what they signify, so we knew that there are many of these around the country.  However, it wasn’t until we came to Key West that we finally understood what those bumper stickers were really indicating:  the end of Florida’s longest highway, A1A.  A1A runs from the point to the right 329 miles north through Jacksonville to the Georgia border.

For many people, this signifies the literal “end of the road”.  That metaphor means different things to different people.  For some it is retirement, for others it is the beginning or end of single or married life.  For us it signified the conscious decision to stop worrying about things that were out of our control.

The Key West Lighthouse

The Key West light house is a brick tower which was originally built in 1848 and was 68-feet tall.  In 1894 twenty additional feet were added to the top of the tower making it visible to sailors with the naked eye for more than 15 miles.  In 1969 the US Coast Guard decommissioned this light house as it was no longer needed to guide ships to Key West Harbor.  It then opened to the public in 1972.

90 Miles To Cuba!

This morning we took a walk down the street to see the Southern Most Point in the Continental US.  This is one of the most photographed points in the country.  On clear nights you can see the lights from Havana here, and a flight from this point to Cuba’s coast is less than a half hour.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Do You Watch The Super Bowl At The Beach?

We hadn’t thought much about watching the Super Bowl when we made our plans to visit Key West.  And as game time approached, we decided that we really didn’t want to watch the game in isolation in our hotel room.  So, we met up with Kevin and Stacey and our friends Sean and Leslie to watch the game on the beach.  The Casa Marina set up two screens to project the game onto for viewing from their beach front bar.

As the sun set, the staff of the hotel pulled heaters out and warm pool towels to ensure that everyone stayed comfortable.  By the end of the game all six of us agreed that this was the best Super Bowl viewing experience that we had ever had.

We Love Hammocks On The Beach!

After getting settled into our room we took a quick walk out to the beach.  We expected to find some warm sand and some nice views, but we were super excited to find hammocks strung between palm trees!  At that moment Barbie and I both realized that we both love hammocks so we quickly found an isolated one and jumped in together.

After an hour or so of swaying with the breeze, soaking up some sun and enjoying one another’s company I realized that our surroundings felt somewhat familiar.  It took us a few minutes to understand where this familiarity was coming from, and then I figured it out…Corona!  It felt like we were literally living in one of those Corona commercials that take place on a beach.  It was awesome.

Our Room at Casa Marina

This afternoon we arrived in Key West for the second half of our Florida vacation.  We checked into our room at the Casa Marina not long after noon, with no expectations.  Boy were we blown away!  These pictures were taken from the private balcony in our room.  The property is u-shaped and encloses a private beach.  Our room was close to dead center of the property and it had beautiful views all day long.


Friday, February 5, 2010

The Wedding Rehearsal

This afternoon was Kevin and Stacey’s wedding rehearsal.  So, while Barbie was rehearing her bride’s maid duties I decided to take some pictures of the activities with the beach in the background.

Pelicans and Tarpon at Robbie’s

While having lunch we were speaking to some locals about the best places to take pictures of local wild life.  One of the most intriguing places we heard about was described as a charter finishing pier named “Robbie’s”.  When we got there, we found a small pier where charter boats indeed left from.  However, most of the traffic there was from people like us..people that had no intention of going out on a boat, but rather just wanted to see what was just on the pier.

What we found on this pier was a swarm of tarpon in the water that were being fed bait by tourists, and a flock of pelicans that were attracted to the potential of scraps that he tarpon may miss.  Admittedly, initially this doesn’t sound that interesting, but we spent more than an hour there and could have spent much more time there.


What Do You Do When…

So, we were out shopping this morning, and when we left the store we came back to our car to find a rooster standing in front of the driver’s side door.  At first, we just laughed and put our stuff in the trunk before I saw the black spur on this particular rooster’s left leg.

I immediately had thoughts of cock fighting and how I hoped that this rooster wasn’t going to attack me because I resembled some human that may have been unkind to it.  Barbie and I wondered if it would charge at me if I walked toward it to open the door, or how long it would sit there if we tried to wait it out.  Then it just walked away and we began to laugh about how we were so concerned about the same species as what the kids at the Coconut Cove were burying up to it’s neck in the sand.

World Wide Sportsman Loves Dogs!

This morning we were shopping for a sweater for Barbie to wear since Kevin & Stacey’s wedding rehearsal is tonight and it is outdoors with temperatures expected to drop into the 60’s.  While at the World Wide Sportsman we not only found a sweater, but we discovered one of the nicest outdoor supply stores we had ever seen.  This store was actually so nice that it may have been one of the nicest and cleanest stores in all of the Florida Keys.

The best part about this store was that they are dog lovers.  Not just dog lovers, but they love dog owners.  Check out the sign ad “doggy carts” that they have outside of their doors.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parrots, Sunsets & Beautiful Colors

Tonight we joined Kevin & Stacy and Kevin’s family for dinner at the Islamorada Fish Company.  As soon as we parked the car, we were immediately taken by the beautiful colors in the sky as the sun was setting.  These pictures have not had the color altered at all:

As we were enjoying the sunset we saw some beautiful parrots and macaws that were equally colorful.  The trainer of these birds told us that they have all appeared in national TV commercials over the past several years.

Coconut Cove, Chicken & Children

We have had several friends visit the Florida Keys and come back to tell us stories about chickens running loose like stray dogs.  So, when we first saw a group of 4 chickens run across the parking lot at The Coconut Cove it was funny, but not very surprising.

The Coconut Cove Resort is a small family owned property.  The family that owns it actually lives on the premises.  This family includes three children the oldest of which may be 5 years old.  So, what was surprising to us both was when we saw the children of the property owners playing with the chickens like pets.  They would play with the chickens the same way we would play with dogs or cats.

So, to say that is one thing, but we actually saw these kids playing with a chicken in the sand.  Well, playing doesn’t do justice to what I saw.  I saw these kids bury one of the chickens in the sand with nothing but it’s head and feet sticking out.  I felt bad for the chicken, yet I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw it.

Exploring Islamorada


We joined Kevin and Stacey along with 6 other friends and family members for breakfast in an Islamorada landmark: Bob’s Bunz.  Bob’s has a nice mixture of bakery staples like fresh breads as well as savory meals like breakfast burritos and eggs benedict.

Since Kevin and Stacey are getting their wedding cake from Bob’s everyone was excited to get a taste preview of Bob’s baked goods as we left.

After breakfast we decided to stop at the water to see some kite surfers who were taking advantage of the breeze at Whale Harbor.