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FL Day 1: Thelma and Louise Head for the Keys

Ok so our names aren't really Thelma and Louise. They're Brenda and Denise. And we didn't have a convertible. We had a 4-door Toyota Corolla. We didn't blow up any eighteen wheelers, shoot a guy at a bar, drive off a cliff into a canyon, or pick up any cute cowboy hitchhikers (though that last one is not totally off limits). Just kidding, Mike. Oh, yes, and I'm not a slightly uptight, neat freak and Brenda's not a carefree, get-into-trouble kind of girl. Well, maybe that part is a little bit true after all. But we were two best friends on a road trip to the Keys and Louise rhymes with Keys so bam...a title was born.

This was a last minute trip planned about two weeks beforehand. That's last minute for slightly, uptight neat freaks like me. Brenda had a work conference in Orlando and invited me to join her for a girls' road trip. I flew into Orlando on Wednesday night, grabbed the rental car, and headed to her hotel for the night, the Gaylord Palms. After spending forever trudging around the hotel grounds with all my luggage in tow, I finally made it to her room. We had a nice dinner at the Key West sailboat restaurant, a couple of drinks, and hit the sack excited about our adventure to begin the following morning.

I insisted we get up fairly early so that we could make it to Key West by sunset. GPS said it was a 7-hour drive so we made our way to the Florida Turnpike and set off. Right on schedule, we pulled into Key Largo about four hours later hungry and ready for a break. We decided to have some lunch at the Fish House. The Fish House is a cute little restaurant right off the Highway with bright blue shutters.


Inside, rows and rows of sea-themed Christmas lights hang from the ceiling.


I ordered my first (and I think only) frozen fru-fru drink of the trip, a creamsicle, which tasted almost exactly like an orange push-up pop from my younger days.


To go with it, I had the Fish House's specialty--yellowtail snapper matecumbe.


Brenda went with the lobster reuben.


The finale was homemade, coconut ice cream served in a real coconut shell and topped with roasted coconut shavings. YUM!


Bellies full, we set off for Key West.


I'm not sure what I envisioned this drive to be like but I think I imagined dramatic bridges with beautiful seascapes. Not so much. There was some of that towards the end but mostly it was a 2-lane highway framed in scrub bushes. And if you got stuck behind Farmer Ted, well, you were just screwed. Brenda amused herself by spotting the different manatee mailboxes. This one had a hula skirt.


Others had babies and even others had nursing babies (which I found particularly gross).

Upon reaching Islamorada, we made another pit stop, this time at Robbie's Marina.







The fishermen were cleaning fish on the dock and threw the scraps into the water for the pelicans.


These two guys had their own tug-of-war going on. I'm not sure who eventually won.



For $3, you get a bucket of dead fish to hand feed the tarpon that congregate just off the dock. What they don't tell you is that the pelicans have figured out this little tourist scheme and darn near commit assault and battery to get the fish from you first.



We managed to save some for the tarpon.




Of course, some macho guys thought it would be extra cool to risk losing a hand.


Tarpon bellies full, we again set off for Key West and arrived around 6 p.m. to the Sheraton Suites. Normally, we would have booked a cute little cottage in town but our last minute options were limited. The Sheraton was pretty nice. It was a bit of a distance from town but was right across the street from Smathers Beach.





We freshened up real quick and then tried to figure out the best way to get to Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration. Our hotel ran a shuttle into town but it only took 12 people and you had to make a reservation (how stupid is that?). I had driven far enough during the day so we decided to call a cab. We were dropped off at Mallory Square just in time. The square was pretty packed with people and all of the performers were just getting started. Brenda wanted to sit down and have a drink somewhere to watch the goings-on. I didn't think we'd find a place but finally, at the end of the boardwalk we saw a few seats in an upstairs bar overlooking the square. I think it was part of the Westin hotel. We ordered a couple of rum and cokes (the bartender tried to rip us off TWICE) and found some barstools right on the railing. The sunset was nice but it was a bit cloudy and the view was constantly interrupted by the annoying biplane flying by every few minutes advertising rides and the overpacked booze cruises floating by.




One of the nightly acts is this guy, known as the "Catman." His cats do all kinds of circus-type tricks like walking a "tightrope" and jumping thru hoops of fire. True to cat form, they weren't all that cooperative.



Tourist thing done, we walked down Duval Street to get our bearings and look for a place to eat dinner. We passed by the Red Garter Saloon where a nice, unassuming man standing out front gave us a friendly nod. Just as we walked by, he yelled "Titties and beer are the reasons we're here." We couldn't stop laughing at that one.

For dinner we decided to try Red Fish Blue Fish. It wasn't crowded or loud and they had a pleasant patio. We started off splitting the stone crab claws.


Brenda ordered the conch ceviche, served with some tasty stale crackers.


I ordered a pound of peel-and-eat Key West shrimp.


We were pretty tired after a long day so we caught a cab back to the hotel and called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:56 Archived in USA Tagged keys florida brenda

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