Sunday, December 2, 2012

Checking off the Keys bucket list

November 26-29, Marathon, Florida

I have been to the Keys at least half a dozen times before since my father lived here in the 80s and my brother has owned a home here since ‘94.  Last year, however, was the first time here in a motorhome and as a retiree with no set schedule, so now I finally get to experience the joy of not having to leave after the end of a week’s vacation. We arrived here more than two weeks ago and even though we have reserved the month of December at a park near my aunt’s in Zephyrhills, Florida, we agreed to stay in the Keys as long as we wanted to since the “rent” here is free. But the flow of life does not always go in the direction one hopes for as I learned on Sunday night that my uncle in Zephyrhills was rushed by ambulance to the VA hospital in Tampa. My middle brother, Jerry, and his daughter Kathryn were only going to be here in the Keys for three days with hopes of showing Kathryn some of the highlights of the area before she flies off to Sweden on Saturday. My immediate reaction to the news of my uncle’s hospitalization was to head north on Monday morning, leaving Kathryn and Jerry to enjoy their days together. However, I did not know that Jerry’s plan was to re-carpet my brother’s motorhome while he was here with the idea that Aunt Pam might be available to play tourist guide with Kathryn. So we decided to monitor his status closely for the next couple days with the possibility, if need be, of leaving on Thursday along with my brother and his daughter.  Hence, the bucket list of things we wanted to do while we are here takes center stage.


I often generate at least a mental list of “must dos” when we are in a new, otherwise, with the freedom of no set schedule, the days can melt away. Our list for this visit included the following: spend a day in Key West to see the Hemingway home and Truman’s Little White House, snorkel in the coral reefs, snorkel for lobster, kayak through the mangrove inlets and at Bahia Honda State Park, meet Karen and Al of RV Travels while they are here at Sunshine Key RV Resort on Big Pine Key,  reconnect with Diane and Fred whom we met last year at a private motorhome rally in the Keys, hang out at the pool at Sunset Grille, spend a day lounging at Sombrero Beach, have .25 wings at Sparky’s Landing, eat Florida lobster, walk the nature trail at Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, and take the dogs to play in the water at Coco Plum Beach. Of course it’s always important to leave room for serendipity to show up too, so there has never been a lack of things to do while we are here. One semi-serendipitous discovery was finding amazing Zumba classes less than a five minute drive from my brothers at Marathon Shores Zumba Fitness.  I immediately bought a ten pack and made it to Zumba every day except Sundays since we arrived—including Thanksgiving.  I am addicted to starting my day with such an exhilarating energy boost.

With only three days to spend with my niece, we created a plan. Monday was beach day, Tuesday Key West day, and Wednesday snorkeling day. If my uncle’s prognosis did not improve by Wednesday, Vic and I agreed to head back to the Tampa area on Thursday along with my brother and his daughter.

Beach day on Monday was girl time. We first walked the beach a few times (it’s not very long) at Sombrero and then went to get a bit to eat at the Cracked Conch CafĂ©, a local favorite.  We both had Conch, and yes, it is the meat from the beautiful shell. Conch is a protected species in the U.S., so the meat typically comes from the Bahamas where it is still legally harvested. I like to try regional fare when traveling, and I had tried conch chowder years ago when I visited Key West, but had never tried the fried version. The trick to making it good requires pounding it till tender much like razor clams from the Northwest. In fact, they taste similar.  Very yummy for an occasional treat that is also a bit similar to fried calamari.

Next stop was happy hour at the Sunset Grille where, for the price of one drink, you can also enjoy swimming in their 84 degrees pool or lounging in their faux beach area as you wait for sundown.

I introduced Kathryn to a little known tropical drink that I like called a Dark and Stormy. Uncertain of the origin of this drink, other than knowing it hails from Bermuda, I discovered this cocktail has a literary association. It has been referred to as Bermuda’s poem in a bottle based on the theory that the idea of mixing rum and ginger beer comes from a poem by Andrew Marvel:
Where the remote Bermudas ride In th' Ocean's bosom unespied,/ From a small boat that rowed along,/ The listening winds received this song:/ "What should we do but sing His praise, /That led us through the watery maze, /Unto an isle so long unknown,/ And yet far kinder than our own;/ That gave us this eternal spring /Which here enamels every thing,/ And poured us healthy tots of rum,/ With ginger-beer made frolicsome?

I am a big fan of anything with ginger but not all ginger beers are alike. The Sunset Grille’s choice of ginger beer (and ginger ale is no subsitute!) was one made by the same brand as the rum: Gosling.  Whoa, Kathryn and I both rated our sunset cocktail a ten. The only drawback was having them served in plastic cups, but this concession allowed us to sip our libation while enjoying their lovely pool. 

Due to a somewhat stormy looking sky with sun breaks (perfect for our drink choice), we had high hopes of catching a spectacular sunset. Half the fun is the anticipation, but this one disappointed us a little as the sun never broke through the last bank of clouds closest to the horizon.  One surprise though was the full moon rising while the sun set--such artistry in nature!


To avoid the risk of making this entry too long, I am going to post our Key West and snorkeling adventures as separate entries. Happy days to everyone.


  1. Boy happy days is an understatement! Thanks for the great list of what to do in the keys.

    1. You are most welcome. I hope you can get there sometime this year. You might set your calendar to call for a state park reservation six months out. My choice would be Bahia Honda.

  2. Nice day in the Keys ... I'm Pinteresting the Sunset Grille to check it out when we find ourselves in the area.

  3. I just love the Keys...your pics were awesome and now I can't wait to go back!
    Thanks for sharing. I am also enjoying Zumba at the park is such fun that it just doesn't even seem like exercise. Again, thanks for the great pics!

    1. Iam so jealous that you have Zumba at your park. We will be at Seminole in Feb and I will have to settle for Zumba on the Wii. Doesn't equal the live male instructor I had in the Keys. Ooh-la-la!


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