Today we continue our Key West close out started last post, the final section of which focused on food, which is a nice segue into the starting subject of this post:
The Parties: Sigsbee Park has an unending social scene, one that has become increasingly insistent as we have become more connected, especially via the Sigsbee Shufflers facebook page. Where to even begin? Since the FL Keys are all about the water, afternoon floats seems like a good spot. I don’t know how this became a thing, but through the seasons a growing number of Sigsbee RVers began to gather in makeshift flotillas of rafts, kayaks, and other sundry floating objects. (Insert your own Cuban migrant joke if you must, we sure did.) I think the peak was our over-sized gathering near the end of the season, as pictured here. It sucks you in: I expected to spend an hour or two at most in the water, and yet we ended up there all day.
Of course the pride and joy of the Sigsbee social season is the more than monthly shuffles: roaming afternoon parties that drift from one designated host to another. They have gotten so popular that the Navy MWR masters who run the campground felt the need to step in and manage it with a sign up list and 40 person max participation: something about hordes of drunken retirees staggering around the base, cocktails in hand, hit a liability nerve I assume. Either that or it started to looked like a Walking Dead scene once the sun went down.
Anyway, after thoroughly enjoying a five stop shuffle in January, we got bold and volunteered to be a host at the next one. And then Rosemarie left town to visit relatives, leaving me with sole responsibility. I, of course, consulted my extensive collection of Martha Stewart Living magazines on how to throw the best high brow shuffle ever, got overwhelmed and decided to just go with a still ambitious offering of watermelon rum punch and jalapeno-pigs-in-a-blanket-poppers. Even this became too complicated and so I completely punted: four boxes of margherita mix, cheap tequila and carry out pizzas for all my friends! It was a hit, regardless.
We also loved International Day, in which Bonnie and Roger hosted all comers at a pot luck dinner in which everyone brought an internationally oriented dish or drink of their choice. There must have been a hundred of us there, a truly successful party by any measure.
This list could go on for far too long, so just a couple of more events from the season: Eddie and Tina hosted a wine tasting of sorts. The rules: every couple brings one less than $12 bottle of (not sweet) red wine for a blind taste test. The catch? A bottle of $2 wine would be inserted into the mix as well. To our everlasting shame, guess what won? Yeah, Winking Owl wine from god knows where met the lowest common denominator test. Sadly, we are all losers for this atrocity. I take solace in the knowledge that I did not put this crime against humanity in my top three ballot.
Lastly, party provocateurs Eddie and Tina also coordinated the end of season “Cinco de Marcho” bash: celebrating all of the late Spring and early Summer holidays that we would, as a group, miss since we would all be disbursing within weeks. I was highly skeptical of the proposed plan, an all day party beginning with breakfast tacos and mimosas, concluding only after dark? But damned if it didn’t go down as planned, though many of us might be a bit fuzzy on the details.
Craft markets and other sales: Ever since dipping our toes into the craft market/yard sales last Winter in Key West, we have been looking forward to coming back and seeing if we could expand on our initial success. With a lot more experience as well as a lot more and varied items available, we returned to The Keys hoping to broaden our opportunities by perhaps pursuing some events off base.
To our happy surprise, one presented itself early in the season: The Lower Keys Medical Center on the very next island north (Stock Island) hosted an event in their parking lot, the table fees for which benefited cancer research. We were a bit worried about the $25 table fee considering the somewhat out of the way location, lack of event history (this was their first one) and unknown amount of advertising. Though it started slow, as the morning wore on we saw an up tick in visitors, never really a rush, just enough to do steady business, and we ended the event with a satisfying profit.
Next up we had our first on base craft/yard sale of the winter. We had not arrived in time for the December sale, but the MWR department had wisely rescheduled the next one from late January to early February in order to align it with the base Family Day event, which would have kid oriented activities throughout the day culminating in a luau. This worked out spectacularly, with far greater numbers of potential buyers. It was one of our most successful markets ever, and several of our friends did quite nicely as well.
One of the things we noticed last year was the number of bicycles being thrown out beside the base dumpsters and recycling areas. Key West is hard on bikes, the constant exposure to sea breeze driven salt air results in shockingly fast corrosion, and a lot of owners just don’t want to transport a rusted up, barely working one all the way back to there northern home. But to see them just thrown out seemed pretty wasteful, especially after I had so easily cannibalized some parts to fix both our bikes early in our stay. So I started snatching them up whenever they were left for dead, taking them apart, chemically removing rust, reassembling them, changing out tires and tubes as needed, and lubing up the gears and cables.
Over the course of our 73 day stay I made four working bikes out of seven trashed ones, and sold three of them plus an assortment of parts (tires, tubes, wheels) for $135. I could not find a buyer for the little girl’s bike I put together, but after putting it back out in the recycle area in much better shape than I found it, a dad snatched it up for his daughter who was just growing out of her baby bike. This whole thing seemed like a triple win: we made a bit of money, stuff that didn’t need to be thrown away wasn’t, and I learned a whole lot about bike repair along the way.
For our Key West exit date, we only had a rough departure window: first or second week of March. Given the unending parties and social scene, our livers were suggesting we leave as soon as possible, but when the base scheduled the last yard sale for March 11, we felt that would be as good a last day as any. We put in the work to make the last sale opportunity of the winter as successful as possible, but with our expectations moderated by the knowledge that there was no concurrent base event to draw in extra crowds. To our pleasant surprise we had a quite successful day: not as good as the Family Day event from February, but better than any of the base sales we had worked last winter.
I had originally envisioned one long post to close out Key West, but as we jotted down all the things we wanted to cover, the length became unwieldy and I broke it into two posts. But then it kept getting longer and longer so it will now be a three-parter, with the final section coming within a day and covering friends and family visits and the extensive group geocaching we did throughout the lower keys.