Thursday, August 5, 2010

Independence Day Weekend in the Keys

From Key West

Saturday, I took advantage of being in a real bed and slept in to let my body rest. It was glorious. After getting up late, George and I met up with my friend Anni who was also in Key West for the weekend from Tampa. We drove her to a scooter shop where she rented a scooter to ride around town for the day. Then, we went to an amazing spa where we got the best feeling massages to ease our sore muscles. Although we hadn’t really ridden too hard, the extra special treatment was magnificent. From the resort grounds, we saw a very rusty, previously sunken ship being hauled to land. We found out later that the government offers $3000 for anyone to recover sunken ships. Whoever recovers the ship has to pay to float it and scrap it, but can keep whatever profits are left. What a great program! Perhaps this will be my fallback job if I ever decide to leave the mainland for the island life.
From Key West

Later, we still had our awesome bikes that now felt like home, so George and I decided to ride around town to explore. I am still relatively unfamiliar with Key West, even though this was my third time visiting. There is always something new and fun to see, and riding slowly on bikes is one of the best ways to see the town. Cars are too much of a hassle to park and walking in the heat is exhausting. We found the 0 mile marker which was very exciting for me considering I had started the trip at the 105 mile marker!! The mile marker countdown along the entire ride was very exciting, and I had finally made it to the very last mile.
From Key West

Some other tourist sights we went to see included:(this is a non-native tree, but still interesting)
  1. The Kapok Tree (this is a non-native tree, but still interesting)
  2. Ernest Hemingway’s House
  3. The Southernmost Point in the continental United States
  4. Beach Bocce Ball Courts
  5. and the National Champion Buttonwood (this one isn’t actually a normal tourist attraction, but it really should be!)
From Key West

The national champion buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is 207 inches in circumference, 35 feet tall, and has 70 feet of crown spread. It is a magnificent example of the tree that has grown in the shape of a hurricane with its massive shaggy branches twisting toward the sky. It is located on the corner of Washington and Leon Street on the main island of Key West in a residential yard. Buttonwoods are typically found in moist wetland soils, so the fact that this specimen is located on high and dry land is somewhat unusual. If you live in Florida, this tree makes a great landscaping plant because it is native to the state and it can tolerate harsh conditions with sand, salt and full sun. It is one tough tree!
From Key West

Dinner was lovely on the main docks and we noticed that the Keys docks were full of massive yachts and fishing boats, more so than normal. Upon closer inspection, we found that the owners and drivers from the Daytona 500 car races were in town and had all docked here. We kept our eyes peeled for famous drivers.
From Key West

Sunday we explored the beaches on Key West. Please note that the beaches on Key West are not as you might expect them to be. I had assumed that the beaches here would be pristine and gorgeous, but instead they are very rocky, with lots of broken coral and seaweed. The shoreline here is very shallow, so swimming in the ocean is not even an option as the water only comes to thigh deep (even on me!). So remember, the beaches at Long Key State Park and Bahia Honda are the ones to hit before reaching Key West.

In the afternoon we chartered a Dorado fishing boat (Reel Lucky) to go sport fishing. Anni brought her friend Eric along and the four of us had a blast with Captain Cory and his first mate. As it turned out, we were fishing about 200 yards from the Daytona 500 enormous sport fishing boat. But it didn't matter, we still managed to out-fish them from a boat about 3 times smaller than their boat! George and Eric landed two enormous tarpon, the biggest of which was probably almost 80 pounds. George also fought what turned out to be a skate for a while. I hooked up a large tarpon, but lost it on a jump after about 30 minutes of the hardest reeling I’ve ever done. Although I really wanted to land it, I was actually somewhat relieved that this wonderful creature had won the deserved it. I also caught an Atlantic Sharpnose shark! This one was super fun to fight and he was pretty feisty when we got him on the boat. Captain Cory grabbed the fighter and we got pictures before throwing him back in the water and watching him swim away. What a beautiful animal!

Later that evening we finished out our time in the Keys with a visit to Mallory Square to see the famous street performers at sunset (the Cat Man is a staple act and we also saw a new act by an 18 year old local). Then we saw a few acts at a drag show (Key West is also famous for their gay and drag scene. The ladies are all extremely talented here!). We ended the evening at a kickin live performance by the Spam Allstars at The Green Parrot (AJ Hill really rocked out on the sax that night!).
From Key West

It was a fabulous weekend filled with great people in an amazing paradise away from all the stresses of reality. After 100 miles of riding, you can’t help but relax. But it’s a process. Within the first 30 miles, I had shed all my most pressing worries and realized that I was now free of all problems. There was nothing I could control now, I had no technology to bog me down, no way to fix the bigger issues, and I needed to just let go of the things weighing on me. By 60 miles I put my energy into riding and appreciating my life as it was at that moment. Living in the moment has never been my forte. I’m always looking to the future, to my next adventure, and this ride was a great reminder and practice in appreciating the present. By mile 100 I was happy. Smiling and riding, the sun sparkling down on me, the wind in my hair, and sweet sweat squeezing out of every pore. My mind was clear and calm. What a wonderful life.

I recommend this ride to everyone and anyone adventurous enough to try it. You will not regret it! It is simple, easy, and life changing. There is no better way to experience the Keys!

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