Friday, May 18, 2012

Key West

In our quest to explore the far corners of the country, we needed to visit the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West, Florida. The Florida Keys are a string of islands, or Keys, that extend for more than 100 miles south and east from the southern tip of Florida. Key West is the last island in the chain that’s accessible by car and is only 90 miles from Cuba, closer than the nearest Walmart. The remoteness of this place has made it a popular tourist destination, which means it’s expensive.

When you’re in touristy areas like this the military RV parks really come in handy. Most all of the campgrounds charge over $100/night out here, but Sigsbee Naval Air Station has a beautiful park, right on the water for $21/night – and we scored a waterfront site – very, very sweet! The snowbirds had gone home and there weren’t too many people here, but during “the season” they pack them in like sardines and boast that they’ve never turned anyone away. The park is just a couple of miles from the action on Duval Street and was perfect for us.

In order to get onto the base in Key West, you need to have a DOD decal on your windshield. We had tried to get a decal when we were staying at the Academy, only to discover that the Air Force no longer issues them—makes sense since they check IDs at the gate all the time now. So, we stopped on Boca Chica Island at the naval base and got our decals there. We now have Key West decals on both our vehicles and Bill gets a salute whenever we approach the gate.

It was a 4-hour drive from Miami, and after our rude wake-up call, we were both pretty exhausted by the time we got to Key West. We hooked up quickly and made our way to town to have what YELP called “the best burger on the island.” We ordered the requisite Coronas and sat outside and inhaled our burgers. They were pretty good, but I was just starting to feel the effects of our stay at Sanibel Island and realized that I had been eaten alive by the vicious NoSeeums. We went home and I crashed for about 48 hours – loading up on Benedryl and covering my body in every kind of topical anti-itch medicine that I could get my hands on. I actually felt ill, like I had a fever too – it wasn’t good, but we had air conditioning and that helped. Unfortunately for Bill the best antidote was tea tree oil, which I use for everything, but he cannot deal with the smell. I tried to stay in the bedroom and he got a lot of work done while I was catatonic, so that was good!

Wednesday mid-day I was feeling a little better so we packed up our beach stuff and headed to the Southernmost Beach Café to spend the day at the beach. We had heard that all of the beaches in Key West were topless and a few were clothing optional – the word on this beach was that it was topless. They don’t have great beaches in Key West, but this was also supposed to be one of the better ones….well, if that’s true, that is pretty sad! The bar/café was right there and you could rent a chaise and umbrella too if you liked, but we had our chairs and umbrella and staked out a nice spot in which to chill. Their key lime margarita was the bomb! We did notice a few topless girls but they were very subtle and put on their tops when they went into the water or the bar, so when in Rome… The water was a great temp and you could walk out pretty far but the beach was covered in sea grass that really stunk – they had a tractor working all day to try to clean it up, but that only made the smell worse.
Having margaritas at Margaritaville

Anyway, we had fun in the sun, but somehow I got sunburned - it wasn’t bad enough that I was dealing with the bug bites, I guess! We decided to stay another day since we hadn’t yet made it out to do the “Duval Crawl” and the weather was cooperating.  Thursday we started with a fabulous breakfast at Sarabeth’s in an historic 1800’s clapboard landmark building and then had a fun day walking Duval from one end of the island to the other. We met some fun people, listened to a lot of music, bought the requisite margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and did a little shopping. We went home for a nap and then went out for one of the best meals we have ever had at a little restaurant called Azur. The service, the food, the wine – everything was fantastic! We couldn’t leave Key West without checking out a bit of the night life - on the roof of the Bull & Whistle Bar is “The Garden of Eden” which is a clothing optional nightclub. We had to walk up a gazillion stairs (in high heels with my broken toe, and bug bites, and suburn!) but when we got to the rooftop the music was pumping and we were ready to party! 

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