Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don't Bogart My Boat: Day 2 in the Florida Keys

It's pretty tough to get lost in the Florida Keys. Even with my lackluster navigating skills and total lack of a sense of direction, I can't seem to lose my way on the single road that runs north to south from Key Largo to Key West.

The addresses are equally simple to decode. One doesn't even need to know the specific Key to locate a particular address. For example, the Palms & Pines Resort, where the tourism folks lodged me my first two nights of this Keys boondoggle, is at MM 80.4 Oceanside. That translates into "mile marker 80.4 on the east side of Old Highway. As you drive south that means it's on the left side of the road.

As it turns out, this is in Islamorada with an actual street number of 80401. See; so simple even the sense-of-direction impaired can get where they are going 9 out of 10 times. If you are at least somewhat brighter than I, you can probably achieve a perfect score of 10 out of 10.

I spent Tuesday in the navigator's seat, riding shotgun as our tourism liaison chauffeured us from place to place. My role consisted of shouting out, "That's it!" as we closed in on our next destination.

Carolina -- that's the liaison's name -- is with the Newman PR agency representing the Keys; a decent gig, if you ask me. I wouldn't work for a PR agency again to free my mother from a Turkish prison; but I guess if you have to, working the Florida Keys account would be about the best assignment you could expect. Despite laboring for a PR agency, Carolina has a pleasant disposition and has managed not to kill anyone during our little jaunts around the Keys.

As if I'm not already day-date-and-time challenged from simply being in the Keys, this is compounded by lollygagging, running up and down Old Highway between Key Largo and Islamorada for, what I think has been, two days.

Tuesday's highlight was taking a little cruise around a couple of canals on the freshly restored African Queen. Yes, the one used in the Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name.

Having just returned to service after a few years of neglect and a four-month restoration, our little cruise was its first public run in some time. The boiler is brand new. Actually there wasn't a boiler on the boat when John Houston found it, and the boiler in the movie was a prop. The new one is real, however, with the steam to run the engine being produced by burning diesel.

We were quite the spectacle chugging up the deep-water canal heading for the Atlantic. The clickity clack of the engine, the chime of the bell and the shrill scream of the steam whistle signaling our approach drew waves, applause and cameras. The African Queen's return to service was well publicized and anticipated in Key Largo. People crowded the dock to see us off and welcome us back 90 minutes later.

I was glad there were plenty of photographs snapped, so someone would have one to give to the local paper in case we were lost at sea. There is something about the sight of the engineer squirting oil into the engine mechanism as we motored along that didn't give me warm fuzzies. A somewhat new experience for the crew, pushing off the dock and getting under way was a bit exciting. I moved a little closer to the hold with the life jackets as the two-man crew struggled to get us underway.

I can't say that it wasn't fun.

Today we'll head down to Key West. I'm almost certain that's south….

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