“You can shake the sand from your shoes but not from your soul.”(Florida Keys Promotion)
As December arrived and hurricane season ended, it seemed the ideal time for Ruth and I to relax with a three day, Florida Keys interlude away from crowded South Florida before the upcoming tourist season arrived. We intended to enjoy a scenic drive south on this brief vacation along the U.S. 1 “Overseas Highway ending up in Key West for some engaging tropical amusement. Skirting west on the Florida Turnpike Extension to avoid the congested urban chaos of Miami on this surprisingly chilly Tuesday morning, we began to notice a stiff breeze blowing inland from the latest cold that had settled in overnight. Entering the Upper Keys in Key Largo, our first bridge crossings would now begin as the normally aqua serene waters of the surrounding bays appeared churned up by such gusty winds into a pale green torrent of rising, wave swept conditions. So why had we chosen to wear only an informal attire of shorts, flimsy tops, and no jacket today on this blustery morning today?
Continuing south to Islamorada, I then reflected fondly of those nostalgic days past of seafood feasts, hometown cafes, and music festivals when stone crabs, lobster, and tropical grogs were once purchased at more affordable prices. Traveling further along the Middle Keys and its shrinking land areas interspersed with adjacent shore inlets, I noted the stoic presence of fishermen braving the harsh weather conditions that morning along bridge catwalk corridors. During those moments, it seemed surreal to recall that I once had joined this parade of sea-hardened vagabonds to cast my fishing reel over these windswept waters to patiently await the big catch of the day.
Crossing through Marathon into the Lower Keys region, additional memories of past youthful exuberance surfaced as we entered the spectacular overlook section of the Seven Mile Bridge. For in the 1980s. I twice ran the entire length of this bridge as a participant in long distance, run competitions. It felt exhilarating to feel an explosion of positive energy in this 2020 bridge crossing by being in sync again with wild ocean nature that I once had so euphorically experienced as a runner there. Settling into our quaint motel resembling a South Beach, “Art Deco” like structure in mid afternoon, our first evening would end quietly with a slow saunter along a holiday-decorated walkway in the heart of Old Town Key West. What new excitement then might lie ahead for us tomorrow and Thursday for these well seasoned travelers on this brief winter journey? Enjoy the photographs below.