Years ago, I went to Key Largo for a day trip from Miami. I went on a snorkeling tour with Ligeia, my ex-wife (ooph, that’s still weird for me to write), and my seasickness also decided to tag along. I ended up losing my lunch and chumming the waters. It wasn’t really a nice memory of being in the Florida Keys.
In creating my Memory List, I wanted to add a new chapter to how I remember the Keys, so I made sure to specify that I wanted to have a memory of actually going there for a vacation. A true vacation, where I could unwind and relax.
It’s about a 7-hour drive from my apartment door to Key West. That’s pretty much the only thing I knew about the Keys. I guess I also knew something about Ernest Hemingway living there at some point, and that the Florida Keys are a major tourist destination. Other than those facts, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Since I was already planning to be in Fort Lauderdale for a softball tournament the weekend of Thanksgiving, I figured I would take advantage that I was already 4 hours closer to the Keys and tack on a few extra days for my holiday.
So, with my vacation dates known, I started looking for places to stay. For shits and giggles, I Googled “vegan hotels Florida Keys”, completely not expecting any relevant results to pop up. To my utter surprise, however, there’s actually a vegan B&B on Big Pine Key! I didn’t do any further lodging research, because if I ever have a chance to support a vegan business, that’s what I’m going to do. Deer Run on the Atlantic was where I was going to stay, and one of their oceanfront rooms looked perfect.
And the room was perfect! The beach was much closer than a stone’s throw, the lounge chair on the deck was great for reading, and the view of the water was incredible.
Big Pine Key also happens to be one of the last places on earth that the native, and unfortunately endangered, key deer live. They’re a subspecies of the white-tailed deer, and they’re the smallest North American deer at the size of a large dog. Although I went on a couple walks each day, I was only lucky enough to catch quick glimpses of them along the side of the road while I was driving. Thankfully, though, this cutie hung out with me the whole time while at the B&B:
Before these 3 days in the Keys, I don’t think I had ever taken a vacation on my own. And, to be completely honest, it was a challenge for me to enjoy it. Breaking my habit of co-dependent behavior has been tough, and this vacation highlighted both my progress and how much further I have to go in my therapeutic journey.
I’ve only ever traveled with someone else, so I got to share the experience. This time around, I didn’t have anyone by my side, so I had to figure out how to make the most of it, for me. What the heck did I want to do?
The first day, I spent the day sightseeing in Key West. With covid numbers steadily increasing in Florida, the entire island was under a strict mask mandate – both indoors and outdoors. Gratefully, the weather was a comfortable 73F, so wearing a mask the entire day wasn’t too oppressive.
I walked through the city’s serene cemetery, itself a testament to how multicultural and diverse Key West is. Much like New Orleans, the high water table makes above-ground crypts a necessity, which is pretty neat to see. The intermittent crows of the resident roosters also added a bit of Key West uniqueness.
I also took a tour of the Hemingway house, and got to meet some of the 55 cats, all of whom are descendants of the original felines he had as pets. Interesting fact: the genetic trait of polydactylism (having extra fingers and/or toes) runs rampant in these cats.
And, of course, no visit to Key West could be complete without an obligatory stop at the southernmost point of the continental US.
I also read an entire book – Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle – in the 3 short days I was on vacation. I never saw myself as a reader, but it’s an activity I’m finding more and more enjoyment from. So, needless to say, I’m quite impressed at myself for finishing a full book so quickly!
And because the B&B had it available for free, I went out kayaking one afternoon. Being the non-aquatic person I am, though, I was extremely non-strategic when I ventured out at low tide. I kept getting stuck on the sea floor. When I finally made my way far enough out to paddle, the wind-kicked waves started to churn my stomach. There was no chance I wanted to repeat throwing up in the Keys, so I headed back to solid ground after only about 15 minutes on the water. Oh, well. At least I can say I went kayaking.
Despite the fact that I felt lonely much of the time, I did enjoy my vacation. What I really liked about the trip is that I did it for me. I caught up on sleep, I relaxed, and I didn’t barf. Overall, a success. New memory made!