My summer on the Run began Thursday night after flying in to Fort Lauderdale. After a delicious dinner at Rocco’s Tacos (their chips are coated in chili powder and other spices! Yum!), we made the long journey by car back to the boat in Marathon. I have to admit, as we pulled into the City Marina and walked up to our dinghy (which was brand spanking new two months ago) it all still seemed surreal. We motored through the darkness with only the stars and the anchor lights of moored boats, and there she was, The Pascagoula Run: the boat that just 5 years ago was cradled in the derelict boats towards the back edge of our marina. Except now, she was shiny, outfitted for cruising, and looked right at home in the waters of the Florida Keys.
Since Joel had to get a rental car to pick me up that night, we decided to extend the lease for two extra days so we could spend some time in Key West. I’d never been farther south than Fort Meyers before, and I was anxious to see some sights. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Key West. Some have called it a tourist trap; others, a party town. Having spent two days there now, on the verge of Memorial Day Weekend, I’d call it this: an eclectic, unique, and somehow loveable tourist trap. If you’re into shops, Duvall Street is the place for you. Delicious food can be found anywhere and on any budget (we really enjoyed Schooner’s Wharf and, of course, the original Margaritaville). If you’re into history and/literature, then you must visit Hemingway’s House.
The historical house and grounds still hold a plethora of original furnishings, pictures, and displays that chronicle the life and times of an author whose short and stoic sentence style at times thrills me and at others, leaves me feeling like I’ve just finished one of those incomplete conversations that so often occur with hypermasculine members of the human race. However, one of Hemingway’s oddities was his affinity for the manliest of all God’s creatures: pussy cats. If you, too, are a member of the feline fan club, there are currently some 40 cats living on the premises, many of them 6-toed descendants of Hemingway’s original pets.
After visiting the Hemingway House, we walked a few blocks down to the so-called Southernmost Point (of the Continental US) to snap a few pics at the buoy; the real southernmost point is a stone’s throw away on US Naval Base ground, which appeared to be fiercely guarded by an attack iguana and barbed-wire fences, so we played along.
Around dinnertime, we drove home to the boat to make dinner (chicken cacccitori…mmm!) and practice blowing on the new conch shell we got at a shell market. As new members of the Conch Republic, we joined the other cruisers in heralding the sunset with our conch shell horn.
The next day, we went back to Key West to visit the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarter’s Museum. Other than one minor incident involving a stingy father who was harassing the lighthouse ticket-taker and ended up walking out because his daughter didn’t have her college ID and he still expected the reduced rate (stingy, rude moron), we absolutely loved our visit. For a mere $10 per adult, you get to walk through the actual keeper’s house and the Key West Lighthouse, checkout the original lenses from the Sombrero Lighthouse as well as many other artifacts and photos from the 2 families that were required to keep the lighthouse working properly. It was great.
All in all, I really enjoyed our Key West-capade. I liked the bustling streets and busy shops; the old architectural churches and homes; I even liked the feral chickens and roosters. I think anyone with an open mind can love Key West, especially if they also have an interest in the past.