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Day Twelve: Key West

Posted on March 19th, 2012

Dave!The forecast was for overcast skies and eventual rain. Key West got blue skies and sunshine. I celebrated my good fortune by getting another sunburn and eating key lime pie.

I also did a number of touristy things because I felt kind of touristy. The last time I was here I didn't feel like doing anything, so I guess it all balances out in the end.

First stop? The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. I had such a good time when I visited the one in Australia that I couldn't pass it up. This one was smaller, but just as nice. And it had birds in it. Overall a very, very cool experience...

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

Bird!

Bird!

Moth!

Then I was of to the Key West Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keeper Quarters Museum where I confronted my fear of heights to climb the 88 steps to the top...

Lighthouse

Lighthouse View

Then I decided to give Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville a chance to redeem themselves after the awful, awful experience I had in Grand Caymans. It was just as delicious and great an experience as I've had at other Margaritavilles I've been to, so I was happy again...

Margaritaville Key West

Then a stop at the Oldest House in Key West...

Oldest House in Key West

Then a visit to President Truman's Little White House...

Truman's Little White House

Then a world-famous Conch Train Tour...

Conch Train Tour

Then a stop at The Ernest Hemmingway House and Museum. I had been here before, but love all the cats (some of which are six-toed!), so I had to stop again...

Hemmingway House

Hemmingway Study

Hemmingway Cat!

Hemmingway Cat!

But most all the houses in Key West are special in some way... even if they never belonged to somebody famous...

Key West Homes

Then off to the Key West Aquarium...

Key West Aquarium

And the Highway 1 Mile 0 marker...

Mile 0 Key West

Then it was time for a refreshing Stewart's Key Lime soda!

Stewarts Key Lime

And the historic Southernmost House Inn... supposedly the second-most photographed house in the USA after the White House...

Southernmost House

And then I wandered around Southernmost Point... went back to see a few more butterflies... then dropped by my hotel to put my feet up and blog a bit. Not bad for seven hours in Key West!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Something Orange...

Drawing Challenge 19

The official fruit of Florida... ORANGES!!

   

Day Eleven: Key West

Posted on March 18th, 2012

Dave!When I booked my cruise, I found that flying home today would have cost an arm and a leg. And since I would rather spend an arm and a leg seeing cool stuff than trapped in a metal tube, I decided to extend my vacation a few days so the airfare would be cheaper.

The problem is that Ft. Lauderdale is the #1 destination for Spring Break that's going on now, and I really didn't want to be caught up in that craziness as I attempt to take a vacation from my vacation. So I decided to get as far from Ft. Lauderdale as possible... Key West. I haven't been here in ages, so why not? sure it's a long drive, but it's a nice drive too...

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

And boy was it a stunningly beautiful day to be in Key West...

Downtown Key West

Strand Theater Key West

Until I found out that Key West is the #2 destination for Spring Break that's going on now...

Slopy Joe's Bar in Key West

Oh well. Key West is absolute magic no matter what's going on, so I really don't have much choice but to enjoy it. And speaking of magic...

Disney Magic Docked in Key West

In a wild coincidence, the Disney Magic was in port... the same ship I cruised with in The Mediterranean back in 2010!

From there it was time to visit one of my most favorite Hard Rock Cafes on the planet. It's an amazing property that's built into a grand old house and crammed full of great memorabilia the way a Hard Rock should be...

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Hard Rock Cafe Key West

And don't forget a slice of delicious Key Lime Pie...

Key Lime Pie in Key West

Then back down South to watch the sunset...

Southernmost Point Marker

Key West Sunset

Ships Sailing in a Key West Sunset

Key West Sunset

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, that's for sure!

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Just a Doodle...

Drawing Challenge 18

After spending a week in the Caribbean, I guess I have pirates on the brain! Kind of tough to draw it on my MacBook's trackpad though.

   

Day Ten: At Sea

Posted on March 17th, 2012

Dave!Wah!

The last day of a cruise is usually a "Sea Day" so that everybody can pack their suitcases, settle their onboard account, arrange their disembarkation transportation, and have one last chance to stuff their faces with all the food they can get their hands on.

Aft View from Island Princess

For me, 10-14 days is about the right length for a cruise. Any shorter and you barely have time to unpack, get used to the ship, and start relaxing. Any longer and you start to go insane over the idea of being trapped on a boat one more day. And that's where I'm at right now. I see these cruise itineraries of 30 and 45 days (and up!) and just don't know how people do it. Maybe if I had a larger cabin with a shower that was bigger than a bread box I'd feel different, but I doubt it. And so I've started to mentally prepare myself for dealing with the reality of post-cruise life. And when you've been living in an "unreality" bubble for ten days, that's not an easy thing to do.

For anybody who is interested in all the gory details, I've put the particulars of my Panama Canal cruise onboard Island Princess in an extended entry.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Plant...

Tomato!

I love tomato plants because tomato plants give us tomatoes and tomatoes give us pizza sauce.

   

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Day Nine: Grand Cayman

Posted on March 16th, 2012

Dave!Hello from the land of rum and pirates.

As a Hard Rock fan, Grand Cayman has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I almost visited years ago, but a hurricane in the area changed my travel plans.

But here I am at last.

I wasn't going to do the whole "excursion thing" so I could just bum around George Town and hit the beach, but my face is still burnt to a cinder, so I thought "What the hell?"

Which is ironic, because the first stop was... literally... Hell. Hell, Grand Cayman...

Welcome to Hell!

Hell Landscape

I wouldn't have expected it, but there are chickens in hell. Chickens who like eating coconuts...

Hell Chickens!

And here's a shot of Seven Mile Beach taken from the bus window. Sigh. If not for faulty sun-screen and a massive burn on my face...

Gorgeous Seven Mile Beach

Then it was time for a turtle farm. The idea is to preserve and protect the species, but the poor turtles looked incredibly bored swimming around in circles within their small, crowded tanks. I felt pretty sorry for them, as it didn't look like much of a life...

Turtles!

Baby Turtle

There were also other critters wandering around the place...

Iguana!

After the tour dumped everybody off in George Town, there was only one place I really wanted to go...

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

Hard Rock Grand Cayman

The cafe is a small, old-school property that's located at the end of the main shopping district downtown. It would probably do a lot better business if it were more centrally located near the cruise ship dock, but there you have it.

I would have eaten lunch at the Hard Rock, but I don't really care for their veggie burgers and fries. Since that's what I was craving, I decided to wander down to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

What a huge fucking mistake that turned out to be.

First of all, they didn't have Boca Burgers like every other Margaritaville I had ever been to. Oh well, I decided to have nachos and a Coke instead. Not a big deal.

EXCEPT THEY WERE THE WORST NACHOS I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE! And I am including the time I had Australian nachos where the crazy bastards mix the salsa into the chips for a soggy mess. Because, hey, at least their nachos use actual cheese and are... you know... WARM! Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville nachos are inedible shit. And COLD! They take roasted chips... pour in some FUCKING DISGUSTING COLD IMITATION CHEEZ-WHIZ-LIKE CONGEALED SUBSTANCE... put a small puddle of melted real cheese on top... then add some shriveled olives, jalapeƱos, and crap. What you end up with is a bunch of soggy tortilla chips coated in this grotesque oily mess. And did I mention that they were COLD? They weren't "not hot" or "merely warm"... but FUCKING COLD!

Yes. COLD! I couldn't even bring myself to eat them they were so bad...

Shitty Nachos from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Grand Cayman Georgetown

If that wasn't bad enough, the Coke was watered down and flat. I only drank it because it was something cool. I would have complained to my waiter... but I rarely saw him. The poor guy was given way too many tables that were too far apart. I did tell him when I hunted him down to pay, but his response was to give me a "souvenir glass" I apparently paid for but never wanted, and tell me he would tell his manager.

I'd chalk this up to a bad experience, but the table next to me didn't get hot food either, and the buns on one of their burgers was stale. So... lesson learned... when you're hungry in George Town, Grand Cayman... avoid Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville like the fucking plague. Which is such a shame, because all the other Margaritavilles I've eaten at have had excellent food and service.

Jimmy should be ashamed to have his name on this place.

And, thanks to my pricey souvenir glass I never wanted, I have something to remember one of the worst meals I've ever had for the rest of my life! Or until I throw the shit in the garbage.

Anyway...

Couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Lovely sunshine and a nice breeze to keep things pleasant. And then there's that amazing Caribbean Blue water here that looks like some kind of Photoshop hack, but really isn't...

Caribbean Sea Blue

Caribbean Sea Pirate Ship

Sweet! As I was writing this, I heard somebody telling bad jokes over a loudspeaker ("WHY DIDN'T THE SKELETON CROSS THE ROAD? HE DIDN'T HAVE THE GUTS!"). I thought it was coming from the ship, but it was instead a small touristy pirate ship thing floating by my balcony...

Fake Pirates!

Yo! Ho! A pirates life for me!

And, just like that, my last excursion was over. We set sail for Florida in a couple hours.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Inspiration...

Lil' Steve Jobs!

This should come as no shock to anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time. Steve Jobs takes inspiration to an entirely new level. But he did that with most things. I know it probably rings hollow for somebody to gush over a person they've never met... but I miss Steve Jobs terribly and think of him often. What I wouldn't give for just one more keynote speech... just one more thing.

   

Day Eight: At Sea

Posted on March 15th, 2012

Dave!Another sea day.

Which is kind of a relief, as it gives me a chance to recover from the hideous burns on my face after cruising through the Panama Canal. As in... HOLY CRAP! MY FACE HAS BEEN BURNT OFF! Thanks a lot, stupid sun-screen lotion that didn't work! Actually, the burns aren't quite so bad now. Only my forehead blistered, so it's pretty raw... the rest of my face has settled down to a rosy glow. In another couple of days I should be back to quasi-normal-looking, but with a slight tan.

Anyway...

With nothing better to do, I started placing the artwork for the latest issue of THRICE FICTION. I know I say this every time, but this is probably our best issue yet! RW has found some mind-bogglingly good stories for numero quatro, and I can't wait for everybody to get their hands on it. Which will probably be the end of next week, once I've had a chance to code the eBook editions.

And so now I take my leave of you with this gorgeous sunset that's happening out my balcony...

Sunset View

Thank you "VIVID SUNSET MODE" on my pocket Canon camera!"

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw a Family Portrait...

Lil' Dave draws a Family Portrait

   

Day Six: Panama

Posted on March 13th, 2012

Dave!Since this ship didn't go all the way through the Panama Canal, I took an excursion that would continue onward to the Pacific. Kind of boring, but I didn't come all this way to only go through half the canal.

It was pleasant enough, I guess, except I ended up burned again... even though I piled on the sunscreen...

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw a Comic...

BatMan

And by "comic" I'm assuming a comic book hero will work?

   

Day Five: Cartegena

Posted on March 12th, 2012

Dave!It was a roasting 90° F in Columbia today. I thought I'd melt under the flawless blue skies of beautiful Cartegena, but instead I just got a little red.

Some random shots of the day, because I'm too tired for much else...

Arriving in Cartegena

Arriving in Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena

Beautiful Cartegena Doorway

Beautiful Cartegena Park

Church in Cartegena

Church Statue in Cartegena

Random Crow in Cartegena

Cartegena Fort

Hard Rock Cafe Cartegena

Hard Rock Cafe Cartegena

Sunset While Leaving Cartegena, Columbia

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Most Recent Accomplishment...

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Lil' Dave Sleeping

Getting six full hours of sleep last night was a major accomplishment.

Even if it was artificially-induced.

   

Day Four: Aruba

Posted on March 11th, 2012

Dave!If it's going to rain in The Caribbean, it's usually just for a bit in the morning until the sun comes out and burns the clouds away. Which is why I'm at a complete loss as to why the ship's itinerary has it docking in Oranjestad, Aruba (an independent part of the Netherlands) at FRICKIN' SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING when it was pissing down rain... then leaving at 12:30, just as blue skies were arriving. If I were a sun worshiper coming to enjoy one of Aruba's magnificent beaches, I'd be pissed.

But I'm not, so I don't get all bent out of shape. Heck, cloudy days with a little rain make for some beautiful photos, so I'm perfectly fine with that kind of weather.

Which didn't come until 9:30am, meaning I spent a couple hours getting drenched. Because the rain rolled in just moments after docking...

Arriving in Oranjestad, Aruba

Visiting the "California Lighthouse" (named for a ship that sunk off the coast here) was a wet experience indeed...

California Lighthouse, Aruba

But after a while the sun started breaking through and even the dogs were coming out...

Aruba Doggies

By the time I arrived at "Baby Natural Bridge," the rain had completely stopped and the skies were clearing...

Aruba Shore

Aruba Shore

"Baby Natural Bridge" is a land formation where the water has eaten away at the base of a big rock, creating a bridge...

Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

The original "Natural Bridge" was bigger than "Baby Natural Bridge," but it collapsed into the ocean back in 2005. It's the black busted rocks you see on the right there...

Busted Natural Bridge

And here's a better view...

Busted Natural Bridge

In the above picture, the waterline used to extend all the way up onto the sand there. But when Natural Bridge collapsed, it blocked off the ocean. Apparently, tourists used to walk across the bridge all the time so, luckily, it fell apart in the early morning when nobody was around to get hurt.

There's a few places on the island where giant boulders randomly appear for no reason that geologists understand. This makes them a tourist attraction, and you can even climb on top of one like a mini Stone Mountain!

On Top of a Giant Boulder

And, of course, my last stop had to be the Hard Rock Cafe Aruba, so I could pick up a shirt and a few pins...

Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

AT LEAST I WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A T-SHIRT IF THE SHOP HAD ANY OF THEM... ABSOLUTELY ANY OF THEM... IN A SIZE LARGE!! How incredibly stupid do you have to be to run out of the one souvenir that everybody wants in the most popular size on earth? It's as if the management at this Hard Rock just said "Fuck it! We don't want the cash!"... and then set a huge pile of money on fire in the middle of the fucking restaurant. I mean, seriously, selling souvenir shirts and pins at a Hard Rock is like printing money. You get guaranteed sales at a massive profit margin, and so it makes zero sense why any Hard Rock would ever... ever... run out.

Unless they were purposely trying to run themselves out of business.

Oh well.

With an hour left to kill, I wandered down the colorful streets of Oranjestad...

Colorful building in Oranjestad

And, as you can see, blue skies struck with a vengeance... just as the ship was leaving port.

And that was the first port excursion on my cruise. A welcome event after two days trapped on a giant boat at sea.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw the Turning Point in Your Life...

Buddha Lil' Dave

While there are many turning points in my life, the biggest would be a visit to Thailand back in 1998. My entire outlook on life was completely changed. Suddenly all the things that once seemed so critical to my happiness became trivial and petty. Some of this came from studying Buddhist teachings... but mostly it came from the beautiful example set by the Thai people themselves. It was as if I had been sleepwalking for decades and suddenly started to wake up as to what was important in life.

It doesn't get to be more of a turning point than that.

   

Day Three: At Sea

Posted on March 10th, 2012

Dave!I'M TRAPPED! TRAPPED LIKE A RAT ON A BIG BOAT!!

Sea days on a cruise are tough. Two of them in a row is really tough.

The highlight of my day was watching some chefs cut fruits and vegetables into a variety of interesting shapes, then assembling these shapes into various birds, fish, and animals...

Fish Carvings

Poodle Carving

Birds Carvings

Crane Carvings

Yep, that was my day.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Candy...

Lil' Dave Eats U-NO Candy Bars

I love U-NO bars. The texture is sublime. They're sweet... but have little salty almond bits. I could eat them morning, noon, and night, but only seem to find them around Halloween where I live.

Probably a good thing.

But a little boring to draw.

   

Passed

Posted on March 7th, 2012

Dave!Yesterday was the very definition of chaos. Probably because I didn't get any sleep the night before, and was running on fumes all day long.

The day you leave for vacation is always like that, I guess, no matter how much you try to make it otherwise. There's always too much to be done and time is running out to do it. Oh well, it's over now. Even though I was pretty much dead by the time I got to my hotel at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last night.

The one bright spot was the drive over Blewett and Snoqualmie passes, which nearly killed me in my exhausted state, but what a beautiful way to go...

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Snoqualmie Pass

Always amazes me what you can pull off an iPhone that's been stuck to your windshield after you've cleaned, cropped, and sharpened up the mess of photos that were snapping away during your drive. Makes me wish I had time to pull off the road and take some photos with my real camera!

I'd say "there's always next time" but how can I be sure?

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Favorite Word...

Bad Monkey Paints

Not so much that I would care to live for an eternity... but because I like the idea of something that is infinite and never-ending. Something that is bigger than the sum of everything. It's a terrific word that encompasses so much with so little.

   

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