when speaking to chrystal one night last fall she mentioned that she and pat turns would be spending christmas in the florida keys. a friend of hers from high school was going to be traveling with her family and wanted someone to stay with their dog, and chrystal and pat had signed up for duty. as soon as they booked their tickets they began asking me to join them for any or all of their trip; i wanted to but knew that with a number of other big purchases coming up i couldn’t swing the ticket.
once they got down to key largo and got settled they came back with an alternate suggestion: buy the ticket, and they would each contribute 1/3 of the cost. with that on the table, as well as the promise of sun, warmth, and zero responsibilities, i knew i couldn’t say no. i bought the ticket.
what we did.
i flew to fort lauderdale the day after christmas, and being the amazing people they are they met me at the airport with a bottle of jack daniel’s and another of dr pepper. vacation mode was on.
skipper’s dockside. it was a little late by the time we were ready for dinner and skipper’s dockside was the only close place still open, and it was awesome. the drinks were delicious, the outdoor patio was perfect, and my blackened chicken tacos were incredible. we took a chance and it paid off big time.
caribbean club. we decided to check out the “world famous” caribbean club after dinner and it was exactly how i pictured a florida keys dive bar to be. it was dark and smoky, there was an arcade game from the 80s in the corner, and the guy playing guitar looked like a long-lost relative of the duck dynasty people. it was awesome.
on friday we drove down to key west to spend some time exploring the town. we had no real agenda and went wherever the wind took us.
alonzo’s oyster bar. one of chrystal’s friends suggested alonzo’s oyster house for lunch, so that’s where we went first. we didn’t want to have a full meal, so we only had some oysters and people watched before heading out to walk the town.
we decided to walk through the town to the southernmost point of the states. we didn’t stop in any of the places along the way, but we walked past: the audubon house / the truman little white house / mile marker 0 / the hemingway home / key west lighthouse.
southernmost point of the continental united states. when we got near this point we noticed a long queue to take a picture with the marker. we weren’t too bothered about having the marker in our pictures, so we snuck around them to get some pictures of the water and managed to get some with the marker anyway. it was very cool to stand on one of the edges of the continental united states.
la grignote. both chrystal and pat needed to use the restroom, so they popped into the la grignote bakery to take advantage of the facilities. since we didn’t want to leave completely empty handed they picked up a few pastries, which we snacked on as we continued walking. they were very tasty.
the thirsty mermaid. pat had found the thirsty mermaid during a search of restaurants and bars in the area, and we headed there to take advantage of the happy hour. we split a bottle of wine and filled ourselves on poke, shrimp, and 5 rounds of ridiculously delicious oysters. it was very much a successful visit.
saturday was all about football. we initially planned to go somewhere to watch all the games, but after a long – and expensive – day on friday we called an audible and spent the day lounging on the couch, watching football, and snacking. it was perfect.
chrystal’s friend kaya and her husband and son got home that night, so we waited up and spent some time with them.
on sunday we slept in, spent some more time chatting with kaya, and then went out to watch football.
jimmy johnson’s big chill. chrystal and pat had watched football here the previous weekend, so that is where we headed on sunday to catch the first round of nfl games. the bar inside had probably 15 televisions, and from our perch we could see every game that was currently on. pat had a straight shot to the saints game, i could see the packers, and chrystal could keep an eye on the browns. we made friends with the guys sitting next to us [a bears fan, but we forgave him] and snacked and watched all the football.
around 4 chrystal and i said farewell to pat, picked up my bag from the house, and drove up to fort lauderdale so i could catch my flight.
as you can see, it was pretty much the perfect weekend. it was that great combination of going out and doing things but also doing nothing and enjoying being on vacation. we had no agenda and no expectations, so everything was a pleasant surprise.
there is no way i can adequately thank chrystal and pat for giving me the opportunity to join them, but i will try anyway. so if you two are reading this, thank for allowing me to be a part of your vacation for a few days. as you promised, it was exactly what i needed.
some good things to know.
i have always heard of the florida keys [after all, kokomo was one of my favorite songs growing up], but until a few years ago i never realized how many keys there are. in truth there are over 100 keys that stretch about 150 miles from key west [the westernmost inhabitable key and the location of mile marker 0] up to the mainland. they’re split into three regions: the lower keys, running from key west to little duck key / the middle keys, running from pigeon key to conch key / and the upper keys, from long key to cross key.
know your mile markers. most locals will give directions based on the mile markers, so be sure to pay attention to those green signs on the side of the highway. mile 0 is in key west, and it goes up to somewhere around 180 near the mainland.
be careful on the roads. the overseas highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the united states. it’s a two-lane road with a maximum speed limit of 55mph [and 45 in most places] that runs the length of the keys, and when drivers get impatient they become dangerous. make sure you or whoever is driving is paying attention to the other drivers on the road and being careful.
seafood is king, but it will cost you. when in the keys, eat seafood. shrimp, mahi mahi, tuna, etc etc etc. it’s delicious, but it’s not always cheap. quite a few places in key west had oyster happy hours, so if that’s what you’re in mood for try to take advantage of the good deals.
keep a raincoat handy. the keys are generally sunny and warm, but every day when i was there the clouds would gather and it would rain for about 30 minutes. it comes and goes suddenly, but when it rains it comes down pretty hard. it’s a good idea to keep a rain coat or an umbrella nearby if you are on the go.
relax. the keys are super laidback, and honestly the best thing we did was to go with the flow. we had no agenda, and it was perfect. we could have done a lot of stuff, but that’s not what we were there for; we were there to relax, to spend some time with each other, and to chill. and that’s exactly what we did.
have you ever been to the florida keys?