Throwback Thursday might be cliché at this point. Oh, well.
I figure since I’m doing video games on Tuesday, writing prompts on Wednesday, I’ll at least do throwbacks on Thursday. Makes sense, right? Maybe not, we’ll see.
I’ve touched on a good portion of my history throughout my blog, in past posts. This is as good of a time as any to do it again. I’ll try to recall specific events in my life on the blog. Since it’s getting to be really good and hot outside, (it’s the boiling summer in the southern US) I’ll do a recollection of some our beach trips. Specifically, our longest one. The Florida Keys.
Now, what I’m not sure if I’ve touched on in the past, is that I’m a rather big Jimmy Buffett fan. I like his music and his writing, both, a considerable amount. I’m even a fan of Landshark Lager. But I don’t think I really found my love for his lifestyle and music until I went to the Keys. My parents were actually taking some time off work anyway — they did some household renovations, and we planned one big trip that summer — and I was eleven years old, I think.
The trip down was long. From where we lived at the time, it was all of seventeen hours in the car. Instead of making the push straight back, we stopped in Naples, and stayed the night. Naples is nice, but it isn’t the focus here. The next day, we carried on. Instead of taking the Turnpike, which gave you the best travel from Orlando to the Keys, we took the road that let you pass through the Everglades. Now, there is tons of wildlife down there. Alligators, snakes, turtles, birds — I mean, you name it. It was a really cool experience, too, but still… not our focus.
Finally, we arrived in the Keys. Key Largo is the first stop on the way, and a neat island, but it’s super commercialized in comparison to the rest. For whatever reason, it was more like staying in Miami, than one of the Keys. It was just different, and that’s really the best way I can describe it. We didn’t stay there until we were on our way out of the Keys, so I’ll touch back on it later. When you arrive in the Keys, though, you’re greeted with a long series of bridges, one in particular called “The Seven Mile Bridge” which, at the time of its construction, was the longest bridge in the US.
After catching a delicious lunch at the 7 Mile Grill, We pushed on until we reached Key West, where we stayed at a little place that probably would be a VRBO these days. It was a nice little apartment, ground level, with pool access. I want to say we stayed there 3 days. But it was such an experience. The whole island is a different lifestyle — really — and when we went they were having one of their Pride celebrations, which, as a child raised in the Bible Belt, was really my first welcoming introduction to the world beyond heterosexuality. I was pretty sheltered. Accidentally, of course, my parents were very progressive and welcoming people, but I did attend a private Christian school. Again, I’ll touch on all that later… I’m detouring.
I digress… the food, the weather, the vistas; all those things were something that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. And I’ve since been again, and I took my wife for our honeymoon. Specifically, though. We hung out at the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, which was set up right at the end of the island, where you could look out and see a beautiful, unadulterated sunset like none you’ve ever seen. I guarantee it. As a matter of fact, I had started photography with a Nikon 35mm film camera, and took a photo that won first place that year in a photography contest. That photo, to this day, is among my favorites. It captures the allure of Key West — the Keys, in general — like very few other things can. One other fond memory of Key West that I carry, before we left, was snorkeling at out at the breakers in the ocean, beyond the Naval Base beaches. Snorkeling out there was super cool; it was deep on the back side of the breakers, and in the center, but I got to see more aquatic life than I ever had in my own life. Urchins, barnacles, tropical fish, and one experience that nearly made me have a heart-attack. As I skirted around the outside of the deeper end of the breaker, I ran face to face with what might as well have been a boat-sized barracuda. I came up out of the water fast enough that I’m not sure I didn’t run on the surface. I’m pretty sure my dad cackled all the way back to shore!
Our next stay in the Keys was actually my favorite, and would later be the place I stayed with my wife during our honeymoon. Coral Bay Resort, in Islamorada, Florida, may have been the most beautiful single destination we held — rivaling the sunset. The little place had cabana-style houses that you stayed in. It was small, but it was so endearing, and the management staff at the time was some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. The hotel — resort — kept fishing rods for the visitor to use. To this day, some of the best fishing I’ve ever experienced. We used raw shrimp, and almost as soon as the hook hit the water, a fish was on the line. I remember seeing stingrays, barracuda, sea snails, and an amalgamation of other sea creatures. One of the other really cool parts about Coral Bay was their snorkeling pool. It was separate, but connected, to the ocean. So, when you got down into the water, you were in a protected pool. It was full of little fish, and awesome little treasures at the bottom. By treasures, of course, I mean shells, coral, and other neat little things. Just another super-cool little tidbit.
Food is one of my weaknesses. I struggle with what I eat all the time. So much so that I spend time in the gym just to make sure that I can just about eat what I want. The food was incredible the whole time we were down there. I love seafood, though, so it’s even a greater weakness for me.
Finally, our stay in Key Largo. This will be brief. We only stayed one night, but the night we stayed was okay. It was very commercialized, like I said. As the largest island, it also had some of the largest buildings, which really ransacked the view. The hotel was basic, and it felt like it was basic. Cookie cutter. I’ll bypass Key Largo for Islamorada or Key West any time I visit. Sorry, Key Largo.
All in all, it ranks in my top trips that I’ve made throughout my life. I have some great memories in the Keys, both from this trip, and my later honeymoon. But like I said early on, it’s the lifestyle down there that really captures you. It has a large homeless population, simply because the place is so perfect to live — even without a home. If I have it my way, when I retire (obviously as an incredibly successful writer, and epic visionary), I’ll retire to the Keys. If they’re not underwater by then.
TL;DR Go to the Keys. You’ll thank me.