The roads and streets here in the Keys are often “under improvement.” North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key Weird has been torn up for 86 years, we think. We all know about the $330 million 18 mile boondoggle that had that part of U.S.1 all discombobulated for almost as long. (It’s “finished” now, which means we have new paint on the pig and a single accident can still close the road for hours.) Marathon dug up Overseas Highway to put a sewer pipe down the middle which guarantees more digging to fix the sewer pipe down the middle. And here in South Puffin, we’re cutting through driveways to install storm drains.
And those are just the purposeful slowdowns.
Construction season lasts decade-round here in the Keys and there are always Tonka toys to play with. Great big Tonka toys.
Today’s stories start about when we arrived in South Puffin, back when Whitehead Street in Key Weird was dug up to replace storm drains. As with all Keys roadwork, Whitehead was a shambles for months. The Green Parrot tells the story:
“Toppino would leave their heavy equipment outside the bar over the weekend and one of our regulars, ‘Caveman Dave,’ a heavy-equipment operator himself, decided that rather than walk or take a cab, he would simply borrow one of Charley Toppino’s backhoes to continue his bar-hopping. The police caught up with Dave as he pulled up to The Bull and Whistle and the best part of this story is that the Key West Police, wanting to return the backhoe to where it belonged and realizing that none of them knew how to operate it, made Dave drive the backhoe to The Parrot before arresting him for DUI in full view of a Parrot crowd that was simultaneously overjoyed at Dave’s seemingly successful circuit, with police escort no less, and outraged at his subsequent incarceration.”
It goes without saying, the Parrot said, that Dave was “good people.”
Caveman Dave’s spiritual nephew was up in Marathon the other night.
A homeless guy took a hoe on joyride and ran afoul of several deputies. He started out by borrowing the backhoe from near the Marathon Community Park about four-five miles from the bridge. Sewer work is still ongoing there along U.S. 1 and the keys were in the ignition. He dumped boulders at this end of the bridge to build a chicane at around mile marker 47. He then headed south, topping out at at least 13 mph, and nearly made it to the other end at mile marker 40 before spinning it around on its axis to come back the other way.
His apparent reason for the adventure: Traffic moves too fast, man. He wanted to slow the other motorists down.
Florida Department of Transportation says “Backhoe Boy” caused only about $30,000 in damage to the Seven Mile Bridge.
Backhoe Boy bunged up (and probably broke out) hundreds of the reflective pavement markers and did “minor damage to the bridge concrete deck.” Betcha that’s not what the report in the DOT budget says. The repair work should be completed in a couple of days.
Charges filed against Backhoe Boy include driving on a suspended license, driving an unregistered vehicle and not having proper lights for night driving. They also dinged him for vehicle theft, reckless driving, fleeing from law officers, aggravated assault, littering and damaging U.S. 1.
Of course, it will be a $7 million, two-year project at the other end.
As far as I know, the backhoe was left on the bridge for some time after the incident.