Not that you really need to know this, unless you are married to me, which most of you are not, but I do not wake up gently.
If I wake up on my own, I am fine. Even an alarm clock tends to be unproblematic, if unpleasant. But if you come up to me while I am sleeping and place a hand on me and gently shake me, I will shoot out of bed like I am being chased by a really ugly duck.
Just ask Tori. Who woke me up like that this morning. And scared the jumpin' be-jeezus out of both of us.
Last night, in an attempt to stave off having to get out of bed this morning, we gave Tori a key to our hotel room. Since she is clinically insane and chooses to jog every morning, we suggested that she could jog over to the hotel and let herself in. Then, we would gladly treat her to a free, crappy hotel breakfast as a fancy way to say goodbye before we leave her alone in Florida for 3 months.
Because we are thoughtful and generous like that.
It appears that the key did not work.
She banged on the door and called Kerri a couple times but, because of a leaky air conditioner in our room, maintenance had installed a powerful and loud fan to attempt to dry the puddle of water that pooled on the carpet.
We heard nothing.
Except the fan, of course.
Tori eventually gave up and sat in the hall outside our room, always keeping a wary eye out for Leonard, the ugly duck of doom.
She banged on the door listlessly a few more times and, somehow, actually managed to rouse Kerri. Kerri let Tori into our room, Tori tried to wake me gently, and we both had to change our undies before heading down to get some crappy hotel breakfast.
All-in-all, a great start to our last day with Tori.
Our breakfast was, it will not surprise you, crappy.
We packed up and drove Tori back to campus to say goodbye.
|My eyeballs were sweating and it wasn't even 9:00 a.m.|
|I'm not crying, that's eyeball sweat.|
We watched Tori slowly disappear into the shimmering heat-waves reflecting up from the pavement and then we climbed into Squanket to begin the next leg of our journey: Key West.
Kerri has always had a burning, unquenchable desire to see America's Southernmost Point. I, on the other hand, have a burning, unquenchable desire to stay in Florida for as little time as humanly possible. Naturally, we compromised and did what Kerri wanted.
My only knowledge of Key West comes from songs by The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett and books by Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry. They make it seem like a laid-back, rum-scented tropical paradise populated by quirky eccentrics and roosters.
At least there were roosters.
In case you need a brief refresher, Key West is waaaaaaay, way down at the tip of Florida. You get there by driving down an endless series of bridges, connecting a series of small islands, all of which are covered with trash and run down business districts hoping that you will overlook how filthy everything is if they open a strip club.
I expected a long drive along sparkling beaches. I got McDonalds and drive thru liquor lounges.
|No, I'm not exaggerating.|
There were parts of the drive that were lovely, but I was seriously shocked by just how dirty and run down most of places along the Intercoastal Highway were.
|Truck nuts. Keep it classy, guy.|
|It will be at least 5 miles before you get to another bar. Plan ahead!|
|And it begins...|
|It looks like this for a few thousand miles, but then things get spicy.|
|No joke. It's so hot here that you need shade in order to cool off in the ocean. Lots of people brought these pop-up tents to cower beneath.|
|Parts of it are pretty. From a distance.|
Kerri was intent on making good time getting to Key West so there were a few places that, once again, I was not allowed to stop at.
|Is THIS the famous welding shop that The Beach Boys sang about?|
|They accept walk-ins. Hilarious!|
|Depressing and, occasionally, terrifying. RUN!!|
|This is not what I thought Key Largo would look like.|
|The Beach Boys lied to me!|
|Hey! That looks nice. From a distance.|
|You and a million other people can watch satellite TV in your RV next to the ocean!|
|A fun vacation for you and the whole family!|
|The water along the road was filled with so much trash. It was really sad.|
We did, eventually, actually make it all the way to Key West. Our hotel room wasn't ready so, naturally, we climbed back into Squanket and went on a small expedition.
Key West is a great place to sweat, get drunk, and shop. If you had other plans, you might consider any other spot on the entire planet.
|We found a parking spot a mile from the end of the country and went exploring.|
|Alex got a new bathing suit and Kerri got some ice cream.|
|The meaty lizards lounging in the shade along the sidewalk provided Kerri with a lifetime of trauma.|
We passed the gauntlet of lounging lizards and found a house with a historic placard listing it as the southernmost house in the United States. And then, just a few houses south of that, we came upon a long line of people, indicating that we had arrived.
We didn't know where we were, but it must be good if people were willing to line up in this heat. So, naturally, we lined up for whatever it was.
I know I have mentioned this a number of times, and believe me, the people on the trip with me heard it many, many more times, but it is HOT there. While we waited in line for whatever we were waiting in line for, my kneecaps sweat. It was a slightly alarming experience. A bead of sweat trickled from each kneecap, ran down my shin, and soaked into my already saturated socks.
I thought you need to know about that.
|Are we at Disney World?|
|No, kids. We're at the southernmost point in the U.S. If you squint your eyes, you can see a lot more land, just south of the fence.|
It soon became clear that were were waiting in line to take pictures at the southernmost point.
|This dude didn't want to wait in line so he stood in the middle fo the road, tying up traffic, for several minutes while his wife posed in all manner of fashionable ways.|
|We made it!|
|People were all wonderfully nice. Everybody offered to take pictures for each other.|
|And sometimes we took our own.|
We walked around bit more and decided to go back to the hotel before our shoes melted. We passed a few more places that Kerri wouldn't let me stop.
|An intimate cafe.|
|A local small business that I suggested might have air conditioning.|
|Another local business that I wanted to support.|
|Roosters! I don't know what all the hype about them is for. I prefer ugly ducks in hotel parking lots. Oh, I miss Leonard.|
|A pawn shop/tattoo parlor. Why isn't this a thing everywhere?|
|I don't know why but the repurposed Pizza Hut as a medical office seemed sketchy.|
And, again, I was surprised by just how much Key West was not the quiet tropical paradise I envisioned. I still blame the Beach Boys.
|They did not|
|Key West looking like this.|
|AH HA!! And now I can tell them in person!|
We went back to the hotel and rehydrated in the pool, which was lovely. There was a reggae singer with steel drums playing poolside and it was very relaxing.
After a few hours in the pool, feeling rehydrated and refreshed, we went out to get some dinner. Alex wanted BBQ again and, as we were 90 miles from Cuba, likely as close as I will ever get, I needed...
ANOTHER CUBAN SANDWICH!!
|This was listed as one of the best Cuban restaurants in Key West.|
|And this is how I felt about my sandwich. Let us never speak of it again.|
I managed to shake off the existential sadness that my sub-par sandwich caused and we climbed on the hotel's shuttle for a few hours in downtown Key West at night.
|Waiting for the shuttle.|
Once downtown, it was immediately apparent that the only reason to come downtown was to get staggeringly drunk or shop for tacky tourist stuff.
"Okay," I said, "I'm in."
|Hemmingway drank here, so naturally, everyone should.|
|However, you may also want someplace a bit cozier.|
Kerri suggested a bit of shopping.
Again, we compromised by doing what she wanted.
Alex found a candy store with a vast and, at times alarming, selection of candy.
After the candy store, we headed to the world's tackiest souvenir shop, where I felt immediately at home.
|the legend. Kerri would not let me buy one.|
|"But you get a smooshed quarter," I whined. "I want a creepy doll!"|
|We compromised again. And she let me share her quarter.|
Soon - very soon - we had absorbed all the Key West atmosphere we required in this lifetime and we headed back to the shuttle stop.
|No seats. Darn it.|
|Alex was super happy to pose for this.|
"Did you get my shirt?" he asked.
"No," she snapped, not looking up from her phone.
"But, I didn't even do nuthin'. It wasn't even my fault. I didn't do nuthin'."
|Maybe he did something. Maybe he didn't do nuthin'. I wasn't there. I don't know.|
The shuttle came and whisked us back to the hotel.
Tomorrow (spoiler alert)... MORE DRIVING!