In 1972 I left New Jersey to visit my brother for two weeks in Key West … and never went back.
It was as if I’d landed on a different planet with a cosmic cast of characters like I’d never seen before: healers, thinkers, seers, philosophers, artists, craftsmen, athletes and sailors, musicians, jugglers, acrobats and singers, astrologers, actors, you name it. Absolutely dazzling.
I briefly returned to New Jersey, gathered my meager belongings and drove directly back to this amazing new place — 30 hours, Deep Purple wailing, almost non-stop. Once having landed, I began to realize I did not need a car anymore. Everyone seemed to be on a bicycle. I drove to the beach and fired the keys into the ocean like an outfielder pegging a ball to home plate. I haven’t owned a car since. A new life had begun.
Back then, Key West was overflowing with Gurus of one stripe or another and each one seemed to have a longer beard than the last one. Everyone had some pearls of wisdom for posterity, heavy man, heavy, but some of it was worth listening to. There was one such type who was affectionately known on the island as “Indian Ron”, though he was really from Sri Lanka. Ron was 50, I was 20, and I had never met anyone like him. He’d say things like, “forget the past, don’t worry about the future, just enjoy the moment”. And boy, did we ever. One day, with our minds pleasantly altered by a well known plant, Ron was holding court. “Do what you love, love what you do, and the world will come to you”.
And this was the embryonic beginning of what would eventually be the birth of Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour many years later. How lucky I am to be making a living doing what I love and loving what I do as I show so many people the special place that’s become my home.
<../img src=”images/stories/smhentz2bio.jpg” alt=” ” width=”300″ height=”208″ align=”right” /> Imagine being a stranger in an exotic place and having a good friend who knows every wrinkle of it, someone who will take you to places other visitors will never see. That is the essence of Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour. My specialty is showing off the lush tropical plant life that thrives here, especially those with edible fruit. I am the mango master and from spring into summer we will sample the best of the of the best tasting fruit on Earth. But there is always some kind of fruit in season, perhaps something you’ve never tried before, like a sapodilla, a Surinam cherry, a sugar apple, or … let me surprise you. Just sit back, peddle along effortlessly on our flat island and relax. It all makes so much sense.
Along the way I might stop and interview someone who’s grown up here (a conch), someone who can tell you what it was like in the “old days”. Ladies and gentlemen, this is live entertainment, living history performed for your pleasure. It’s this kind of spontaneity that I cherish most. Each tour is like a different finger print, never quite the same as the one before — a new day, a new group, different weather, and a route that might vary depending on what is blooming, what is in season, or where the coolest dogs, cats or parrots are.
I also have access to some spectacular private gardens. One such place is the Medicine Garden, an experience you won’t forget. It is the creation of a wonderful man named Pejuta (the American Indian name for medicine), who has designed a Japanese garden that leaves nothing to chance. Although it is open to the public, it is not easy to find and will never appear in any tourist guide. Come with me, feel the remarkable peace and tranquility of this special place.
And then there is Nancy’s Secret Garden, an unbelievable miniature rain forest right in the heart of old Key West, complete with an array of exotic palms from the Amazon and a shadowy trail that winds through it all. The path is lined with spectacular orquids and huge stalks of bamboo, all brightly festooned with the brilliant color and scratchy squawks of the many orphaned parrots that Nancy has adopted and now cares for.
Like an orangutan fading deeper into the forest to avoid the encroachment of civilization, this is how my tour is designed. We will travel the back streets, the out of the way places, away from the daily bluster of everyday traffic. Not only will we see the unique styles of the homes of old Key West, but we will look above as well, where a splendid array of bird life make their daily appearance: ospreys, migratory hawks and falcons; ocean birds like frigates, pelicans and cormorants; land cruisers like egrets, ibis, or a great white heron.
I never go anywhere without my trusty machete. One of the signature plants of the tropics is the coconut palm and I will surely stop to cut open a good sampling of this magical tree’s fruit. You’ll get to taste its sweet water and delectable meat fresh from the source. When key limes are in season, we will gather a few and “put de’ lime in de’ coconut”, just as the song suggests. Could life be any better than that?
There’s nothing like riding a bike in Key West. You’ll feel the gentle caress of the tropical breeze without the intrusion of mechanical noise and fumes as you glide through the streets of my beautiful home. You’ll feel like you are floating. As a famous local song says, “it’s an island in disguise — though it seems so civilized — every street will lead you to the sea.”
So come along with me and find out why you really came to Key West.