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Lunch, a Silvery Palm, and a Surveillance Blimp Called Fat Albert

For lunch today we skipped down a few keys to Cudjoe Key and grabbed some sandwiches at The Square Grouper. Great lunch! When we came back outside it had started raining (the as-promised-afternoon-thunderstorm). 

Silvery palm in the parking lot (but I don't think it's an official "Silver Palm" like in the grove of them here in Bahia Honda State Park):


Before we headed back up to Bahia Honda we decided to see if we could get a closer look at the big white blimp we saw in the air yesterday. It looked like this:


It looked like it wasn't moving, so when we got back to the Airstream yesterday we did a little research and learned it's a tethered aerostat radar system called "Fat Albert" and that it's part of the Continental U.S. air defense network. It carries radar and monitors suspected drug smuggling flights, fast boats smuggling Cubans, weather, low flying aircraft, and any other potential harmful activity. It also broadcasts Television Marti to Cuba (Cuban-directed U.S. government-financed anti-communist propaganda).

It's helium-filled, can be raised to a maximum of 15,000 feet but stays at around 10,000 feet tethered to the blimp base by a single cable with a maximum breaking strength of 26,000 pounds. It's 175 feet long, 58 feet across, and tail wing from tip to tip is 81 feet. It can lift a 1,200 pound payload.

There may be two of them, but if not, the one we saw yesterday was on the ground during today's thunderstorms:


Heading back over the bridge with a nice view of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge that we walked out on this morning. The train bridge is below, and the automobile road was built on top of it:


The part on the left is where we were earlier this morning:


Campsite from the Overseas Highway again:


As we were headed back to the Airstream it seemed like we were outrunning the storm, but after about 10 minutes it caught up with us and poured for a good half hour. It's nice again now.