Monday, February 15, 2016

Week 5 - The Floriday Keys

Well, the week started with a storm and the worst winter driving in recent memory. I left work Monday at 4:30 and was shocked to see that Highway 77 was a sheet of ice with packed snow all the way. Top speed was 40 mph and even at that there were times when my tires would lose traction and spin only to catch and shoot me forward. And no, I didn’t have my cruise on. It was a harrowing drive home but when I got there, my driveway was 75% shoveled! I parked in the street and went to get my shovel to finish and by the time I turned around, there was my neighbor Judith with shovel in hand. I don’t know what possessed her but it was wonderful. We got the rest done in just a few minutes. She and Gerard are wonderful neighbors.

Most everyone had already emailed that they’d be skipping knitting so when Andrea called, we decided it wasn’t worth life and limb so both decided not to go either. You’d think with a free evening I’d be productive but not so much. I knitted and watched TV, ignoring my leftover chores. I made up for it Tuesday morning, getting a few things done before work but any happy feelings were negated by the drive in. The roads were only slightly better in places but washboards of icy ridges in others. Not fun. Good thing I’d be headed to Florida by week’s end. : )

Before then, I had to find summer clothes to pack. I’d lost enough weight that nothing from last summer fit so I started digging in the spare room and spent hours trying things on to come up with 4 or 5 suitable outfits. I know – boo hoo. It was a bit stressful but I managed. I had a stack of possibilities before bedtime on Wednesday, which were destined for the washer.

I had book club at 7:00 on Thursday so left work half an hour early so I could put in the single load of wash and have it drying while I was at the library. I threw the clothes into my suitcase when I got home and was pretty much ready to go. The cats were all set – food and litter boxes – and the house was as in order as it was going to get. The cleaning lady was coming while I was gone so there was some neatizing but not much.

I had to be out of the house early on Friday and would be driving through rush hour traffic but it wasn’t bad and I met Anne and Rene at the airport right on time. The travel was blissfully uneventful so we picked up our rental car and headed to a yarn shop. Because who doesn’t start a trip buying yarn? No one I travel with! We went to The Knitting Garden in Coral Gables, which was close to the airport and we’re glad we did. Not only did we all buy yarn, including Rene who doesn’t knit but bought yarn for me to knit her socks. Hmmm… Anyway, the ladies in the shop were lovely and gave us lots of recommendations on what to see in the keys. Mile marker by mile marker. They also gave us a dinner recommendation for a Cuban restaurant where we enjoyed yummy dinner, leaving with boxes of leftovers for another meal.

We drove to Islamorada in the pitch black so didn’t see much along the way but it was all good. The hotel was lovely and we scoped out the beach after dropping suitcases in our room. There were no waves! I remarked that that was not normal and there must be a breakwater or something because the water was smooth like a pond. It was late enough that we just went to bed. Let me just say that I was glad I had ear plugs. : )

Our plan for Saturday was to head to Key West, figuring we might see things along the way that we’d go back to another day. We enjoyed our free continental breakfast by the beach and headed south. Since we had no firm plans, we enjoyed the ride, stopping at Anne’s beach for a pic of Anne on the beach. Cute. When we got to the key with the key deer sanctuary, we decided to stop since Cindy had recommended seeing them. Well we never found the sanctuary but saw plenty of deer, including one that walked right up to me at the open house we stopped at. Yes, we scoped out real estate because why not? Nice property but a bit out of our price range.

From there we drove to Key West. There was an art festival going on so the downtown was a mob scene. After passing on $30 to park for the afternoon, we found free parking a few blocks away in a state park. It was right next to a NOAA exhibit so we popped in there for the bathrooms and to get tips from the park ranger. Well, as a federal employee he couldn’t recommend restaurants but he did hint at one that was the same place the knitting shop had recommended but could only remember that it was a woman’s name. It was Caroline’s and we had the most amazing lunch there, sitting outside under trees in February. Nothing wrong with that. Having gotten our picture taken at the Mile 0 sign for route 1 already, we wandered into the art festival, where I found a fun pin as a souvenir. When we were done with that, we found the Conch Train office right in front of us, which was something the knitting lady had also recommended. And because our day was just magic, a tour was leaving in 7 minutes. We had just time to grab a drink for the ride and off we went for a couple of hours of local history, including the fact that a coral reef a few miles out kills the waves. Knew it! After the tour, it was just before sunset so we headed to the water (a block away) to watch that with hundreds of other people. We then started back towards the car and even found someone to unlock the gate by the Little White House that cut the walk back to our car in half. Magic! We couldn’t have planned a better day if we’d tried. And on that note, we drove back to the hotel.

Sunday was the warmest day in the forecast so we’d saved it for playing in the water at the hotel. Anne was swimming right after breakfast while the Floridians were wearing sweaters. I opted to sit on the beach and knit for most of the day. Anne and Rene went kayaking and Anne paddle boarded. Me, just more knitting. We ate our leftovers from Friday night for lunch and went to The Hungry Tarpon, which was another recommendation from the knitting shop lady and just the next key south. It was a total hippy place and we sat on the water under a tree and enjoyed fish tacos. It was delish and a total Keys experience. Then we headed back to the hotel where we commandeered the big screen TV near the bar for Downton Abbey. It took some doing to get the right channel and sound level but it was fun to be watching it outside. Unfortunately the woman staying in the room right above us came down and said the volume was disturbing her children so we lowered it and then struggled to hear. Oh well. We got the gist and it was still an experience. We ended the night vegging on the lanai. I could get used to Florida in winter. : )

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