Friday, February 3, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 12 - Key West

        I'm classifying this entry under travel instead of school because when I visited the Rosenstiel school in the morning I was dissapointed.  Hector had not waited to lead me to the school in the morning which meant I had to find it myself.  It appeared to me much more of a research center than a school with lots of students.  The Professor I had such high hopes for meeting with and who seemed to have a lot of interest in me had not even read my educational background and franklyDay_12_university_of_miami_23_01
was a bit odd.  I had sent him all my transcripts and had emailed him many times and my application had been complete for weeks.  He wrote me several emails saying that I would be a good candidate for some projects he had funding for such as studying deformation of volcanoes in Hawaii using satellite geodesy.  But, when I met with him I found out that he expected high levels of math and programming skills that I clearly did not have.  I wish he had taken a look at my file before urging me to come down to Miami like he did.  It was a very uncomfortable meeting with him as well as another professor that he introduced me to.  When I spoke to several graduate students they had gDay_12_university_of_miami_23_05
reat things to say about their advisor but one mentioned that her car had been broken into and that there wasn't much outdoorsy activities to partake in unless you drive far out of the city.  On my way to the school in the morning I couldn't even find a decent non-spanish speaking radio station and I couldn't understand any of the toll both agents.  The girls I met with told me that it is impossible to get along with the people that live in Miami - that they are very selfish people only caring about themselves and their needs.  None of this was very appealing to me. 
        I left the school telling the professor I would email him if I had any other questions knowing that I would actually not do so because I was no longer interested.  I was upset that I was going to be stuck in Miami for the next 3 days so decided to call up United and try to get an earlier flight home which I did for the next morning at 6am.  Yes!!!  I headed back to Hector's, packed up my stuff and left him 15 bucks on the dresser and a note thanking him.  I grabbed the map that Budget had given me and located Key West... it was 1:30pm.. could I make it by sunset... may as well try! 
        I headed off down the interstate and hooked up with route 1 (remember I said I thought I had seen the last of Route 1 in California... nope).  Driving out to the Keys was amazing.  It was about 170 miles from Miami but once you got onto the islands the speed limit dropped to 40mph and I hit traffic.   It was a beautiful day and the temperature was about 75 degrees.  I was hummin' along and then a draw bridge gate flew down in front of me with no warning lights or anything.  I slammed on my breaks and stopped with my hood just a few feet from it.  I got out along with Day_12_university_of_miami_23_26
several bikers behind me to watch as a huge sailboat passed through the open draw bridge with pelicans floating in the water.  When the gate closed after 10 minutes I was the first one heading south, too fast obviously because as I rounded a corner a local cop pulled me over saying I had flown through a school zone at 55mph per hour... Whoops... I didn't even see the sign or school I told him and he could clearly see I was a tourist and being honest so the old man kindly let me go with a smile.  As I was driving down the road I noticed hurricane damage to houses and billboards everywhere.  I also saw alligator crossing signs and tsunami hazard zone signs as well which I thought was odd because the likelihood of a tsunami hitting florida really isn't that Day_12_university_of_miami_23_29
great.  Route 1 was the only main road for over a hundred miles out to the fartherst key - Key West and there were tourist attractions every half mile along the way.  I saw atleast 3 acquarium and marine wildlife areas along with several "swim with the dolphins" places.  The road was purposefully built into the center of the islands with large bushes planted on the sides of it to keep tourists fromDay_12_university_of_miami_23_17 looking at the surroundings and slamming into oncoming traffic which apparently gets really bad
during tourist season there.  So, I think if I was to visit the Keys I would only do it by renting a boat for a week and navigating the islands by sea over the beautiful reefs surrounding them.  When I could see water from bridges it was a multitude of beautiful colors due to the underlying coral reefs.  Some of the bridges spanning the islands were miles and miles long.  On one of them I could not even see the end of it.  It just looked like it continued out to see forever. 
        I got to Key West at about 5:30 right when the sun was beggining to set and I started lookingDay_12_university_of_miami_23_36 for a nice waterfront place to eat dinner.  (I should note how odd it was for the sun to still be up at nearly 6pm because in Seattle at the high lattitude it was completely dark by 4:45pm).  I parked my car at a meter and put in a few quarters (which wasn't enough because I ended up with a ticket
anyway) and wandered
down the very busy street of the Old Waterfront of Key West until I came across the Sunset Pier Ocean Key Resort which had an outside bar, tables with umbrellas and a bandDay_12_university_of_miami_23_47
playing.  It seemed very lively so I grabbed a Corona from the bar and sat at a stool overlooking the Ocean and the setting sun.  A waitress came buy and I ignored any impulse to save money ordering fresh Mahi Mahi and aDay_12_university_of_miami_23_35 half dozen oysters on the halfshell.  The setting sun was beautiful and I wished that I had someone to share dinner with.  There were sunset party booze cruises sailing about and sailboats everwhere.  My dinner was fantastic.  Nothing beats fresh Mahi Mahi and pineapple in Key West on an empty stomach at sunset.  I could not have planned the night any better if I had tried.  It worked out perfectly. 
        I returned to my rental car (and $25 dollar ticket) and drove back towards Miami on route 1 which then changed to a 35mph speed limit after dark.  I hit the Interstate with plenty of money left over for the tolls and made it back to the airport by 10pm.  On the way back I could see lightning in the distance and I heard tornado warnings on the radio for the Miami area.   Great I've gone from hurrican winds on an Island in Canada to tornadoes touching down in Miami, Florida!  This of course worried me because I had a flight less than twelve hours away.  It took me a while to find the rental car return area because of construction and the horrible directions of getting there.  When I did I was told I was being charged 140 bucks... What??!!  My reservation was for 70 bucks for 3 days and I was returning it 3 days early!!! I blew up.  Apparently when I rented it and told the guy I didn't want the extra insurance he put it on anyway for me.  I could barely understand the guy as he quickly asked me to sign and I hadn't bothered to read the printout... damnit... Well, after a few more words with the guy and the manager they managed to knock it down to 80 for me which was fine because it would have cost me 30 bucks from the airport by cab to Hectors each way... So for an extra 20 bucks and a gas tank of gas I was able to see Key West for the afternoon... well worth it. 
        I hopped on a Budget bus to the airport and sat down in a seat to watch an ipod movie and relax for the night.   I decided to spend the night in the airport because my flight was at 6am anyway the next morning and I didn't want to spend money on a hotel room for just 5 hours.   As I was sitting there a kid sat down a few seats away with obviously the same intention on spending the night.  At this point I could hear the rain hitting the airport hard and when I looked out the sliding glass doors it looked like a fireworks display.  I noticed the airport roof starting to leak heavily and the kid and I moved trash cans underneath the leaks (hoping that the weather would pass before my flight the next morning).   We started talking and this kid was honestly the coolest, most interesting person i've ever met in my life.  He grew up in Alaska as a fisherman, currently fishes Alaskan King Crab (his best friend was actually on the Discovery Channel show "Deadliest Catch") and bounces between Hawaii where he owns property and Nicaragua where his mother lives.  He was just coming back from Nicaragua flying to Seattle (ironic right) to collect on some money he loaned his fishing buddies a while back.  He was in a cast which I learned was from him jumping onto a hotel balcony from above several years ago.  He had broken bones in his arm but continued to fish with one arm for over a year before he got surgery!  I sat and listened to his stories for well over 2 hours looking all the digital photos he had on his camera.  I had begun to tell him about my adventure but after he started talking I shut right up because his life made my life look like a boring waste of time.  I could write pages and pages about what he told me but I won't.  We ended up watching a dvd on his portable dvd player and then each of us passed out asleep on the floor but not before I got his email address.  The next morning the alarm on my phone went off at 5am and I headed towards my plane.


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