2. Happy Birthdays!…1.2017

Wednesday was our day to leave.  We’d said goodbye to Sara the night before as she had to be at work early in the morning.  Kevin had gone over to the coast last night & picked up Danny’s mom.  Rose, Claire’s Nanny came in the morning.  It’s always wonderful to spend time with her.  She is a sweet, smart & kind woman & really loves Claire!  We just spent the day taking in all things Claire! Our time came to an too-soon end, so with a few tears & a bunch of wet kleenexes, I read her one last book, gave her a big hug & kiss & loaded our bags into an Uber car & headed to the airport.

Danny & Phyllis checked their bags & then I gave Danny a great big hug good bye.  I was getting to stay another 8 days!  As they headed off to security, I made my way to find Jill.my travel buddy!  She was flying in from Dallas & landing about the same time Danny & his mom were taking off.  Hows that for travel-timing?  Jill  & I know how to make all-things-travel flow& if they dont, we just hang on for the ridelaughing all the way.  Jill meets me in Crested Butte each summer & is my only friend from way back that will camp & hike with me.  I LOVE our times together!

We grabbed her bags, picked up a car & headed to the coast.  Jill (& Sherri, another travel friend who will meet up with us later) had designated me the travel planner.  Im all up for thatexcept for the hotel part.  Jill & Sherri always stay in hotels when they travel.  They strangely dont like the whole sleep-in-your-car wherever you can or -- if extravagant-- stay in a hostel type of travel.  Im great at trip planning, but struggle with hotel planning.  I think its exhausting.  They didnt give me any picky parameters…I was free to do whatever I wanted.  I don’t like chains of any kind…food, clothing or hotels.  Also, I think every room should have a view.  But I’m also cheap…so this was a challenge. I made reservations for places once Sherri would join us later in the week, but  Jill & I decided for the first few days, when it would only be the two of us, we’d wing it & just find someplace for that night as we went.  This is a gamble, but she’s easy going & we both knew it would work out (my back up plan was the car & a rest stop…but she didn’t know this!)

I’d picked our first stop in Melbourne; a coastal town with an awesome restaurant called The Mansion.  Great burgers & salads & an amazing beer list.  The temps were great, so we sat outside on their upper deck with a small view of the ocean & the full moon rising above us.

After a yummy dinner & so much fun catching up, we drove a couple of hours to Ft. Lauderdale where I’d booked a room for that night while we’d eaten dinner.  We stayed at the interesting little Fortuna Hotel.  The tiniest room with a big bed & a little bitty bathroom.  The decor was all white & modern.  It was clean & just perfect for the two of us on our first night while just going from one place to another.

Thursday we were on the road…a long trip for sure, but still filled with chatter & laughter.  We painfully & slowly made our way winding through all the traffic & construction in Miami & just barely missed out on getting stuck in a parking garage at a Whole Foods downtown by fire trucks.  The alarm had sounded when were in the check out line picking up a few necessities, & we booked it out of there fast.  I didn’t want to be way laid by an emergency.  We were on the long way to Key West!  Yahoo!

We stopped for lunch (the first of many U-turns…what would any of my trips, much less girls trips be without a few hundred U turns?) at Alabama Jacks.  A dive bar with yummy food right on the canal.  I had such good shrimp & the day was filled with sunshine & warm temps!

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The drive down to Key West is so beautiful!  It’s SUPER SLOW but the water is so many colors of blue & green.  It took hours, but we finally made it!  We’d booked an inn right in the heart of all things fun & managed to get a super convenient but $$ parking spot right across the street.  As with a lot of towns, parking is crazy, so we considered ourselves ‘lucky’. We stayed at an 11 room in called L’Habitation.  The room was really cool (we peeked in all the other unoccupied rooms with doors open…all different but neat!) & we checked in right away, got settled & hit the town.  

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I’ve only been here once before…for about 4 hours…which is why I wanted to come back.  And, I’d missed the nightly sunset party on Mallory Square.  That was where Jill & I headed first.  The vendors were out & so were the people.  But, it was a fun atmosphere & the sunset was just perfect!  

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I’d visited with an artist who sold hand painted t-shirts as we came into the square.  So, after the beautiful sunset, we headed back to her booth.  Despite all the ‘rules’ I’d set for myself on this trip (no buying short sleeve t-shirts, coffee mugs, pint glasses, etc) I bought a LONG SLEEVE hand painted fish shirt from her.  She suggested the Roof Top restaurant for dinner so that was our next stop.  Yummy!  We dined outside on the porch overlooking the street with strolling tourists, roosters, twinkling lights & an atmosphere that this place doesn’t close down at night!

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We walked around checking out the one million t-shirt shops & thousands of bars….the two types of places that make up most of this part of Key West.  I did a double take walking by this van…designed using sharpie markers.  I love stuff like this!

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I had a “Florida checklist” of things I wanted to see, do & eat.  This first thing off my list would be a slice of Key Lime pie…which I ate while we walked (Jill is gluten & dairy free…no pie for her.  Sad face)  We strolled in & out of shops, people watched & just enjoyed the beautiful clear warm full moon evening, then headed back to the inn to tuck in for the night.

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Friday was our day to explore Key West!  We checked out early, re-filled the parking meter & took off walking.  The Key West roosters are everywhere!  If you were a person bothered by crowing in the middle of the night or early in the morning, better stay away!  I think it’s so quirky-fun that they’re all over the island.

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Here are the sights we took in on this care-free island day!

I love love love the fact that within the past 10 months I’ve been on BOTH coasts & road tripping on the WESTERN-most & EASTERN-most magnificent Highway 1….perfect!

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Super amazing trees

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famous houses!

The ‘little’ White house on the left; the Audubon house on the right; & Hemingway’s house below!

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the ‘tourist’ Southern Most Point (left) & the ‘actual’ Southern Most Point (right) owned by the military.

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a lighthouse...

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So Key West...

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We’d hit some fun shops during our sight seeing too.  

A friend of Jill’s had recommended a lunch spot…the Half Shell Raw Bar.  Doesn’t look like much, but soooo delicious!  We ate FRESH catch of the day fish…Jill eating Stone Crabs & I had Hogfish…a new treat for me.  Wow!  It was great!

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Our travel plans were changing on the fly.  Sherri, originally supposed to fly in on Sunday afternoon, was coming in early due to the icky ice storm that was going to hit the Midwest.  She would be flying in on Friday & we’d meet her Saturday afternoon on the Gulf Coast. (After note:  Good thing she flew in early, all Southwests flights out of Kansas City were cancelled on Sunday!) 

We jumped in the car after lunch & started our long drive north through all the Keys.  When I’d been here before, I’d camped on one of the Keys.  I’d also gone to Bahia Honda State Park…one of the best beaches in the Keys & also on my ‘Florida list’…so that was our first stop!  YAY!  Beach walking & ocean-viewing.  Love, love, love this!!!  I could so be a beach bum during winter!!!  

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Look at this!  Who wouldn’t want to be here?????  

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love spending time with this woman!

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pretty perfect beach…I don’t want to leave!!!

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roadside attraction…Betsy the Lobster

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We had started to stop at a place on our drive down that I’d read about while researching the Keys, called M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom….noted for the ‘Best Burger in Florida”.  We decided to go to Alabama Jacks instead because I’d had a burger the night before.  So, after pulling over, making a U-turn & driving back 10 slow miles, we had dinner there. WOWIE!  It was so worth the extra miles & time.  GEEAMAZING burger & good BEER (Floridas not a big beer state, so I hadnt drank much beer at all.  But I love some of Cigar Citys beer & really love Funky Buddahs beer.)  The place doesnt look like much sitting in a roadside strip mall, but the minute we walked in we knew it would be goodbut we were in food-heaven!  They make so much of their offering from scratchincluding the catsup, spices, etc.  The place was decorated cool, the staff so super friendly & chatty, (there wasnt hardly anyone here when we first arrived, but by the time we left, the place was full!) & have I mentioned how great the food was?

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Stuffed but loving having had this experience (as well as the food), we kept heading north.  Our last minute lodging for the night was at Gilberts Resort…not on the ocean, but on one of the canals.  I’d seen it as a Facebook post that morning on one of my cycling friends page…she & her husband had been here a couple of weeks ago biking their way down into the Keys…yikes! …brave souls & bad ass bikers!

It’s on Key Largo & almost the last place before leaving the Keys.  The room was great with a big OLD porch connected to a walkway along the canal & down to the Tiki Bar.  

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The Tiki Bar is the largest one in the Keys…we had to go there, right?  It was quiet & not crowded for a Friday night.  But a live band played good music & we sipped our drinks by the water & ended another wonderful day & our last in the Keys!

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