Friday, March 15, 2013

Strollin down the avenue that's known as A1A

After my 24 hour transit home from the dark heart of Africa. Well, ok, the slightly shaded shoulder of Africa, I was faced to a monumental decision...  what to do for the rest of the vacation time.  I had almost a week left before I had to return to work and the thought of sluffing about Louisville was unappealing.  I had a plan but it was getting more and more complex by the minute.

Part of the problem was I had no desire to jump back on an airplane after a 10 hour hiatus from being in transit. The other part of the problem was just getting to my intended destination, the Corn Islands of Nicaragua.  TO get there cheaply, it involved an all night jaunt from Louisville to Managua, via Miami.  The on arrival, purchasing a ticket on a local puddle jumper out to the island.  The thought of another 20 hour travel day really didn't appeal... and that was just to get there. SO deciding to delay my trip to those particular islands (because they are definitely on a must visit list... a warm tropical Caribbean island that's not yet overrun with mega resorts and cruise ships...  Sign me up!

But still wanted to get away from it all... and quick.  After a full nights sleep and excavation of a mountain of dirty laundry, I decided on a course of action.  I'm going out Buffett style.  It was likely going to cost me more than I wanted to pay out, but I was heading to the Keys.  I formulated a plan, and then a back up plan.  There was a browntail jet heading to Miami that afternoon.  Once there, I would find a place to hole up for the night before striking out to Key West first thing in the morning.  Not really sure if I was driving or flying down to the islands...  and I'd yet to find a place in the islands that fit my budget for sleeping, but i won't be deterred by such minor things. 

After carrying the big pack around Europe and Spain, I was motivated to keep it light, so a small back pack was all I took.  How much space do a pair of thongs take up anyway?   Before leaving Louisville, I booked a room in an airport hotel for convenience.  There was the South Beach option available of course (for a fee). But with the plans of a short night and a quick escape, proximity to the airport mattered.  I had put a couple requests out on VRBO (which if you ever need a place and hotels don't fit the need/price, look there.  I've found good deals in Europe and the US).  Unfortunately, none of the owners responded (in all fairness, I'd only really given them about a 12 hour window on a Sunday for a Monday arrival).  Looking at flights from MIA to Key West, I found that I could either take the 6 AM flight or risk not making it at all.  And the flights leaving looked even worse (Airplane geek info, Key West  has quite a short runway for large jets to use, which result in restrictions on the number of people they can take...and all looked to be full)... so time for plan B... Priceline!

I'll admit my snobbery when it comes to a few things, one being domestic hotels.  Overseas, a $5 hostel or guesthouse will do for some reason.  But not in the US.  It's weird I know.  So I started naming my own price, and got a good deal on 4-start property on Mallory Square.  Add a rental car and the plan's complete. 

Other thing with this trip, it was fairly unadvertised.  I didn't really tell anyone where I was off to or for how long.  I kind of was wanting to disconnect from life for a minute.  When I was asked (or in one case when the iLoJack app gave away my current position), I was forthcoming of y plans.  But for the most part I was just going to be warm and buzzed for a few days.  I'm happy to say Mission Accomplished. 
Everyone stops to watch the sunsets

I struck out early for the islands.  I would have loved a convertible, or better yet my bike, but I made do with the sunroof and windows down.  The three hour cruise down the Overseas Highway was nice.  It's a non hurried drive, and the further from Miami you get the less hurried life seems to get.  Sure I wanted to get there, but I also enjoyed the drive from island to island.  I was initially a little disappointed when crossing from Boca Chica Key into Key West proper.  Not at all what I had imagined, or remembered from my last brief visit there (a few years back I was on a cruise that stopped in for a few hours and I barely got any island time in).  But it looked like anytown Amurrica with strip malls and fast food a plenty.  Then, as if crossing into another country, the scenery changed and suddenly I was in the Key West of lore.  Once I found the hotel (which, according to Apple Maps required a drive down a permanently closed road), I was told my room wasn't yet available (it was early), so I checked my belongings with the bell desk (the whole small backpack) and was off to work on part 2 of the plan... being buzzed. 

As far as actual Key West Activities, I didn't do enough.  I made a point to walk down to Hemingway's place, and made it by the southernmost point.  I walked on a beach, but didn't take the boat out to the Dry Tortugas or do a jet ski tour.  Next time i will, but this trip I managed to entertain myself (and a few bartenders) with my scheming to steal the old wooden propeller hanging above the bar in Sloppy Joe's (off one of the first Pan Am flights between Key West and Havana... the first Pan Am route).  I'm almost done with the plan, and I may need some accomplices to help me make it work.  There was also the flip cup competition at Coyote Ugly (I lost) and the continuing Irish Pub Tour to keep me amused. 

The propeller at Sloppy Joe's...  it will be mine
I really enjoyed the all day live music available about the town.  And more so enjoyed the not having to run to a cruise ship just when things were getting fun on Duval.  I met a few interesting people, some just visiting... some were just visiting years ago and never managed to leave.  I'm thinking that's a good idea. 

When my days on the island were drawing to a close and no more sunsets would be watched, I sobered up and headed back to the mainland.  I felt rested and recharged, and amazingly not at all hungover, and looked forward to the drive back.  Even though i wasn't looking forward to the destination.  I"m thinking a return to the Keys for some rum drinks and conch salad should be an annual thing.  Anyone wanna go with?
Wearing the thongs in the Keys
So home I came, with a day to spare to get re adjusted to real life, stepping off the airplane into the falling snow.... ugh.  But it gives a goal to work toward.. early retirement.  So that's the end of the "big trip" for 2013.  A little sad it happened so early, but then again I know I'll be jaunting off hear and there through out the year.  There's weddings and birthday parties to attend.

The beginning of the long road ahead

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