I love the drive down to the Keys on the Overseas Highway. We’ve made this trip quite a few times. John and I were even married in Key West in 2003. But for the last handful of years we’ve made this trip during November for the Key West Offshore Powerboat World Championships. We were part of my brother’s pit crew so we drove the race boat and/or the support trailer ( https://www.facebook.com/TalbotOffshoreRacing/ ). We’d leave Sarasota early in the morning when it was still dark, make our way through Alligator Alley and meet a police escort in Homestead. From there to Key West they drove us as fast as they could through the Keys. No time to stop for signs.
It takes about 5 hours to make the drive ( traffic permitting and with no police escort ) from Key Largo to Key West. Each bridge and each key take you further into the Gulf of Mexico and closer to the sea. Pelicans fly next to you and small brightly colored tourist shops line the highway. Each mile makes you smile even more.
This trip we made base camp half way down at Fiesta Key. We unhooked the trailer so we could drive the Upper Keys in search of neon. The weather was great and we had quite a catch for the day. Back at the RV Park, there was a tiki bar and restaurant where we could eat, drink and listen to music. And there was a huge outdoor pool where we could swim each morning before work.
The next home base was on a military campsite in Key West—and right on the water. From here we rented a golf cart and went into downtown. Parking is at a premium and while you can drive in Key West, the island itself is only 2 miles x 4 miles and there’s no easy way to pull over for a sign in a big truck. Plus, I love golf carts! Some neon and a visit to one of my favorite cemeteries and we were back at camp to enjoy another gorgeous sunset.
Driving back up the keys gave us a chance to stop and visit some dear friends. First a pitstop in Sarasota at the warehouse to see Grant and Kellie ( yes, even spelled the same! ). These guys always took care of my brother and his boat and to be around them is like medicine. It’s never long enough, but we enjoy a pizza and wine with the large doors open and the golf cart ready to be driven around. We camp in the parking lot as is now our tradition —and head north in the morning.
This year we got to make another pitstop on our way back to New Orleans in between more signs. Gainsville is now home to another dear family whom we’ve visited as they’ve moved around the country. They just bought a home there and in the midst of their remodel, let us park in their driveway. It is worthy to note how awesome it is that after so many years apart you can roll up to someone’s house and go right back to the preverbal kitchen table you last sat at. Pato y Gato for life.
Just one night with each set of friends and then it was back on the road. Next stop Pensalcola. We’d never camped here, nor looked for signs. We’d always driven through. It was worth the stop for the neon. And the Naval flight museum. And the sunset.
And that was our two-week adventure to the Keys. We did time things right so that we could visit John’s parents on the way down. We got to enjoy some meals, a lot of laughs and some sun together before John’s next deployment.
In a nutshell, I think this road trip has been one of the best. Life is short and yes, that’s cliché, but you never know how long you’ve got. I say work hard at what you do, take the time to hug your parents, visit old friends, make new ones at camp and ride that golf cart.