…and half-way back.
The day was the epitome of vacation. It began by witnessing the morning ablutions of the Mariott staff, as they attempt to restore the resort to pristine conditions before the guests awaken. All of the pool and beach chairs are aligned just so. The sand is raked to remove any footprints from the day before, and all walkways, walls, and cement surfaces are swept clear of sand. The process begins before the sun rises and continues until time to open the pool area.
The first order of business was wave running. We went to the local water sports shop and rented a Yamaha Wave Runner for the morning. The water was relatively calm, but there were enough waves on the bay to make it exciting. Laura clung to me as I opened it up a bit faster than she might have liked. From our starting point, we could run all the way out to the boundary of the Everglades. It was a blast. Discounting the actual cost of this trip, our shopping list for when we get home is growing – swimming pool, now a wave runner. Laura’s not sure we should try anything else new.
The rest of the morning was spent back at the pool. There have been lots of kids here, but for the most part they have been very well behaved. Even the Pool Gods seem to have calmed down and have not been too obnoxious. Pool God #2 still waded into the water with cell phone firmly attached to ear, and now sporting a gold chain with an anchor around his neck. I guess it’s a way to show his importance, that he must be able to conduct import business even while standing in the middle of a pool at a resort. A group begins gathering at one corner of the pool. Some know each other, and some are introduced. Laura surmises that it’s a collection of family and friends here for a wedding. Sounds reasonable.
Figuring that we have been wet and hot for most of the day, it was time to dry off, and perhaps go for a drive. We headed south on US 1, planning to reach the Key Deer habitat as our goal. We crossed the Seven Mile Bridge, then headed onto Big Pine Key and followed a sign toward the Key Deer Refuge. These tiny deer are supposedly only two feet tall, and there are only 300 of them in the wild. Our chances of seeing one mid-day were slim to none. As we drove across the island, it became apparent that the interior of these small keys is much less desireable than the areas near water. There was nothing but scrawny pines and palmetto bushes. I was also reminded that if you’re searching for wide sandy beaches, the Keys are not for you. There are small sandy strips in certain areas, but nothing like the Grand Strand.
Back on US 1, we decided that since we had come this far, we might as well head on down to Key West. We skirted the south side of the island, and made our way to the Southernmost Point in the Continental US. A pylon marks the location, and is in dire need of repainting. We drove through the streets admiring the architecture, and marvelling at the weirdness of Duvall Street. There were several unusual fashion statements, particularly on the men(?) out on the streets. We were also amazed to see chickens everywhere. They roam the streets with abandon.
The day was quickly slipping away, and we didn’t want to be caught in the madness of Key West into the evening hours. Since it was getting late, we decided to try to find dinner along the way back. We had one of the local guides, and a description of the Island Grill near Islamorada looked interesting. We passed several enticing restaurants, but decided to continue to our target.
At first we were skeptical. The Island Grill was out of the way, tucked nearly under a bridge on one of the channels. It looked a bit seedy, and we were having second thoughts about bypassing those other places. We were seated outside with a threatening sky, but soon our fears went away. This was the true Florida Keys – not those polished joints on US 1. There was an outside bar with a TV that showed nothing but fishing and boating shows. A trio of musicians were playing guitars and singing (no Buffett, fortunately.) The food was incredible, and one can’t help but kick back and relax. If we ever make it back down here, this will have to be one of our stops.
Just as we left the Island Grill on US 1, we had a close encounter of the feathered kind. Somewhere between Islamorada and Tavernier, a large peacock ran out in front of our car. I almost hit it, but was able to brake just in time as it flew over the front of our car.
It promised to be another spectacular sunset, so we raced the light back to the Mariott just in time to catch the final rays.