Big Pine Key, FL at 12:54pm EDT.
And here we are, the pinnacle of our trip! Key West...we have arrived! We're all checked into our room, and already had the girl who checked us in invite us to this afternoon's FREE happy hour to get drunk. That's what we call hospitality! But, after today's drive and getting settled into our lovely bed and breakfast, we'll probably keep it low key (pun intended!) and have a nice dinner tonight, saving the exploration and drinks for tomorrow.
So far Key West looks to hold a ton of potential and thank God most everything we want to do is in walking distance! Not that it's too difficult to navigate via Escape, but I can see why everyone around here has bikes and scooters.
On the agenda for tomorrow: Hemingway House, mile marker zero, and the southernmost spot on the continental United States. Hopefully the Hemingway House is a bit easier to handle than snorkeling. Stay tuned!
Plantation, FL from 12:23pm to 12:49pm EDT (25 mins).
And here are some shots of our visit to a place called the Rain Barrel. Now, it was without question we had to stop here because my grandparents used to have a craft store they owned in Franklin, North Carolina called none other than...the Rain Barrel! I remember as a kid going with my parents on vacation and loving he sight of the red painted sign with a wooden barrel painted on it signaling that not only were we entering the mountains, but it was time to see my grandparents. I can honestly say this tropical version of their place immediately elicited those nostalgic feelings and I half expected a Jimmy Buffet-ed version of my grandfather to be minding the store.
This place was so much more than we expected! The front shop was just the beginning...it opened up into an expanse of small shops full of artist made jewelry, trinkets, ceramics, and a wishing well! Yes...we each chucked some change into the wishing well. Results remain to be seen...but I'm sure they'll be wonderful!
So after a morning spent snuggling we ate at the photographed Chubbs subs went exploring and ended up at Anne's Beach! The Keys are not known for their beaches but this place was pretty neat! The water was warm and bordered on hot at some points due to clear skies and no cloud coverage. It seemed as if the "shallow end" of this oceanic pool went on forever and we walked pretty far out! We played frisbee and Eric may or may not have squealed like a lady when he had to go get the frisbee amongst the slimy crazy seaweed...although to be fair I did my fair share of squealing too. We made the trek back to shore and played some more frisbee...we felt as if we were on our own private island because according to several locals we picked the best week to come down here since its between mini lobster season (we have yet to confirm whether the season is just super short or if it's about catching mini lobsters) and pique season in the area. However after I jumped to catch the frisbee and landed roughly in a hole (ill stop typing for a moment so you can contain your laughter) we decided it was time to pack it in. We stopped for fresh juice...I got pineapple and my love got grapefruit...and then returned to our oasis at the Hampton Inn where we showered and counted our remaining moolah. So far it seems we won't have to donate plasma in order to financially continue our adventure so that is a PLUS!
Tonight we have ordered pizza in as we are both a bit sore from the snorkeling and attempted snorkeling yesterday and of course I was ever the graceful one with my hole falling and all. The pizza was from a place rated the best pizza in the Keys called Uppercrust and their reputation holds firm. The pizza and salad were fantastic, they delivered to the hotel, we are it in bed, and we can happily settle in for a fun movie. Eric has assured me I am not a party pooper and I'll take his word for it as my back doesn't seem to care whether I'm pooping a party or not. Now it's movie time and we will see you tomorrow as we check out of Key Largo and head on down to Key West!
So this post is coming a day after our actual snorkeling adventure and what turned into a beautiful evening dinner by the water. We'll start with the snorkeling adventure...or misadventure for one of us I should say!
Upon arrival we find this island bazaar-like carnival of vendors and patrons milling around a rather large establishment with boats docked nearby. Driving in I noticed a handful of people on the dock laying down with arms draped toward the water. My thinking is they are doing some form of pre-snorkeling exercises or yoga by the sea...totally logical, right? Come to find out they are hand feeding an army (navy?) of finned creatures we first thought were sharks. Logical prevailed again as I assumed they were sacrificing their fingers and hands to these sharks as a peace offering pre-snorkel to appease them and allow safe passage into the water. Wrong again...they were only feeding tarpon! Imagine my disappointment.
So, we have half an hour to kill and begin wondering around when it happens..the call of the wild. We duck to the only restaurant there with external bathrooms...locked of course..damn! And then we see them. The dreaded outdoor concert-goers best friend; the port-a-pot. We exchange panicked glances...swear to never speak of it again...and make the trip, standing guard for one another outside of each. It was terrible...and like we've come to discover, there are some things you can't un-see!
Finally, our boat is set to depart...only, we don't have enough people. Thankfully, a smaller boat shows up and off we go! Onboard our boat we have what will now be known as the Isla Morada Seven. The captain, in his 30s and as calm as can be. The old Maryland couple, probably rich as Rockefellers and can buy any one of us, but friendly enough. The young Miami couple, him seeming to try a little too hard to keep his girl smiling. And then us..the Tampa kids...a beautiful girl, and this dumbass joking about not getting seasick and what a breeze this snorkeling gig will be. Trust me...hilarity ensues!
Cruising along envisioning myself on this speeding boat like Crocket a la Miami Vice, we arrive to our first snorkel point. Time to gear up! Flippers and masks get handed out. Everyone has game faces on, and my brave sweety takes the first plunge in, looking like a natural. Miami couple is in next, and then my turn. Without a thought of disaster anywhere remotely near my mind, I jump in...and watch as my snorkel detaches from my mask and begins to float away! (Insert imagined expletive). Grabbing it and swimming like a wounded duck trying to figure out the damn flippers, I get back to the boat and have our captain reattach it to my mask. He hands it back, and I fumble around getting it back on my face. Meanwhile, everyone is out snorkeling with the ease of those mermaids at Weeki Wachi.
Geared up, I dip my head into the water to look on in amazement at the lush undersea life and...water up my nose in the mask! Take two...try it again and I feel like I'm breathing through a straw. To quote Dark Helmet from the classic Spaceballs, "I can't breath in this thing!" And now water is in the mask again. Nope...nada...time to go back to the boat!
Kristina swims over to help out and our captain gives us some of those life saving water noodles. Now, as my logical girlfriend points out, they will keep me afloat. In my mind, I am going to sink my damn noodle with me to the bottom of the deep blue sea! But I try...for a minute...and then my left flipper comes off! Noooo! Screw my life, I don't wanna pay for a lost flipper! So I submerge a moment to grab it and then shoot back up for air. Now, panting for air and already exhausted, I am done and done and try to swim one-flipper back to the boat that now seems a mile or two away. Reality...maybe twenty feet.
The exchange that follows as I am bobbing and trying to swim for the boat goes as follows:
Me: "Get me back to the boat!"
Kristina: "Grab the noodle!"
The noodle?! No way can a kid's toy save my life! Seeing the events unfold and probably stifling a laugh, our captain goes Baywatch, throws off his shirt and dives in to help. He grabs the noodle I am clinging too, and starts swim-pulling me to the boat. So there I lay in the water, feeling like a lion cub being pulled along in his mother's mouth. Pride...nowhere to be found. Masculinity...on the bottom of the sea where my flipper almost was. But damned if I didn't get pulled back to the boat with both flippers! Go me!
Back in the boat, I am breathing for dear life. Kristina is keeping me company and I stare off into that son of a bitch water that almost got me again like it did 26 years ago (yup, almost drowned as a child). And then it hits me...now I'm getting sea sick.
Everyone gets back to the boat and we are off to spot 2. I successfully talked Kristina into going while I stayed aboard and tried to save face with the captain. Hell of a nice guy and we talked about shared fears. Then I puked over the side of the boat. The sea got one more knee slapping laugh. Bastard.
The captain calls everyone in and with a smile says "probably music to your ears." Yes captain...it is...be glad I didn't yack in your boat.
Kristina said the sites were amazing and we have pics of some battle bruises she got from it. Me...I had a nice boat ride! It's hilarious in hindsight so don't feel bad for the laughter that accompanied reading this post.
I will return to conquer snorkeling however...mark my words...and when I do, I'll hold that noodle high into the sky and shout with triumph!
Well, what is one to do after surviving the fierce ocean? How about heading out with his sweety and finding one of the top ten dining experiences that they have ever had?
After stopping outside of our hotel to admire the day coming to a close, the dinner discussion began. Whipping out our phones and hitting Urbanspoon with a mission for good food, we spent about twenty minutes debating the best places to go, what we felt like, what my recently evacuated stomach could handle, and what we wanted to have to close the first full day in the Keys with. Circling around someplace we'd seen earlier, we finally decided on a place called Snook's Bayside. No, it's not another God-awful spinoff of that Jersey Shore munchkin, but rather an amazing little restaurant tucked away behind a nearby hotel. We'd considered drinks there already and read that the food wasn't as good as the view, but we decided to throw caution to the wind and go for an outside dining adventure, tiki torches included.
Walking up we immediately notice that not only do they have outdoor seating, but they have outdoor couches! Though we didn't orally ask to be seated at the couch (fearing extra cost..or just being shy), we succeeded in Jedi mind-tricking our hostess into leading us past the regular outdoor seating and straight to the couches. When asked if we wanted to sit at these awesome couches, we exchanged that surprised "wow what a surprise/that's what we secretly wanted" look, and gladly accepted.
When I say that the experience was amazing, it can't compare to the reality. Across the sandy venue, there was live music going on, the light of the day fading in the distance, tiki torches abound, and the best waiter we've had in a quite a long time (keep it real Matt!). And then there were mosquitoes. Damn! Thankfully, Matt was the man and brought us Deep Woods Off. This restaurant had it all!
Starting off with an awesome surf n turf kabob appetizer and a few mixed drinks, we lounged into the night with terrific food, fun music, and the best service possible. Matt made us feel like we were the ONLY people there, had a great sense of humor, and talked us in to a second round of drinks after a great meal. If any of you who read this come to Key Largo, do yourself a favor and dine at Snook's Bayside...and ask for Matt as your waiter. You will not be disappointed!