We didn’t set the alarm but were up with the sun just the same. We had our luggage packed and down to the lobby by 7:00am and after checking out and grabbing a little something to eat at The Marketplace we had Blue loaded up and ready to roll around 7:30am.
Let me just say, as bad as Cobb County is with traffic light timing and controls, the city of Orlando easily has them beat. We must have spent 4 minutes sitting at several stop lights where there was zero cross traffic. I’m guessing it could have been because Monday was a holiday and the normal drive-time traffic wasn’t present but still…. are there not sensors + timing equipment at all of these lights nowadays?
Once we escaped the stop light gauntlet in Orlando we found zero traffic on the Florida Turnpike and, in fact, we never hit any congestion until we were down in Key Largo. The weather was nearly perfect for riding the motorcycle, at least 10 degrees cooler than last year’s trip. In fact, I was able to wear my ½ helmet for the entire ride down to Key West. Debbie switched around between her ½ helmet and the full helmet as the ½ kept rotating back on her head. Well, that and the hot air was beating up her face a bit more than she needed. As for other ride apparel, I had on my long-sleeve Columbia 50 SPF shirt and it was once again the right garment for hot & sunny riding. Debbie was in a spaghetti strap top and shorts – much to my chagrin as I’d prefer she be more covered up when riding the Harley on freeways – and got in a whole bunch of sun over the 388-mile / 7.5 hour ride.
We made only four stops on the ride down: the first was at the Fort Drum Service Plaza for fuel and a bio break. The second was 170 miles later at the Snapper Creek Service Plaza just past Miami. We made another stop in Homestead at the merge of the Turnpike with Route 1 for lunch at the Subway and then one final gas stop and bio break on Marathon so we’d have enough gas to get us back to Homestead if we needed to on Thursday. Speaking of gas, fuel economy on the 80 mph freeway legs riding two-up and with the Accessory that Shall Remain Nameless was about 35 mpg. Once we hit the keys where speeds were between 35 and 65 it jumped up to 41 mpg.
As noted in Part I of Key West II, we decided to skip our lunch stop at the No-Name-Bar and pressed on into Key West and arrived at the Cypress House shortly after 3:00pm. Melissa checked us in and I had our bags up the room by 3:15. About the only issue we had with the entire journey was me dropping Blue on the gravel parking pad as I attempted to back her into the gravel while making a 90* turn. Yeah, pretty stupid considering I was exhausted, still had “sea legs” from the long ride and knew it was a high risk maneuver. Thankfully, there were two gentleman nearby who helped me lift Blue up in a single movement such that I didn’t add insult to injury by re-dropping her on the gravel trying to lift her by myself. The nicks in the paint on the underside of the right front lower and rear bottom edge of the right saddle bag are minimal and something I can take care of with a little touch-up paint… assuming I can get Sapphire Blue touch up paint.
With the bike episode behind me, I collected Miss Debbie from our room and we headed over to Flying Monkey’s for our first frozen cocktail of the trip. They were delicious! We followed that up with a return to our room so we could shower-off the day’s journey ahead of our first night in Key West.
Dinner was first on the agenda and we headed to the bar at theConch Republic Seafood Company for our two-fer cocktails and Baked Oysters Callaloo: braised callaloo and parmesan cheese atop freshly shucked baked oysters drizzled with roasted garlic aioli. It took us about 10 minutes to find a seat at the bar but the service from the bartenders was great (as always) and we had our oysters in no-time (which were also great). We followed our oysters with a nice Caesar salad and that took care of us for dinner.
It was getting close to sunset by the time we finished up at the Conch Republic Seafood Company so our next stop was Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. We were a few minutes behind the sun and ended up watching it set from the Ocean View Hotel deck and actually that made for a really nice perspective we’d not ever seen before.
We wandered past the side shows at Mallory Square since we were already down there but didn’t really stop and watch. As we walked back towards Duval Street we stopped in a few of the art galleries and while we didn’t find any art, Debbie found a novel based on a Key West legend that she picked up just in case we found ourselves wanting to chill in our room during our three-day visit.
We made one additional pass through the Cypress House to drop Debbie’s book before hitting Duval Street. As for the evening itself, we had a great time, enjoyed great weather, saw spectacular fireworks, got in a little dancing and ended the evening with a visit to Angelino’s for a slice of pizza shortly after midnight. Yes, it was a full night.
Following a mid-morning breakfast by the pool at the Cypress House we began our first walk from the Gulf of Mexico end of Duval Street to the “Southern Most Point” at the Atlantic Ocean end of Duval Street, about 1.25 miles from end-to-end. It was a warm but not unbearably warm morning which made for a pleasant walk. As on Monday, there was a cruise ship tied up at the Key West pier so the town was filled with tour groups at all the more popular attractions, like the Butterfly House’s Conservatory. We had hoped to tour the Conservatory but opted to skip it until Wednesday morning in the hope it would be less crowded.
It was about 11:00am when we reached the Atlantic end pier, snapped a photo and began walking back to the other end of Duval Street and then two blocks over to the marina where we had our usual blackened Mahi Mahi sandwich with a side Caesar salad at the Boat House, the Commodore restaurant’s downstairs bar. Just a great meal in a lovely, breeze-filled shady location overlooking the marina.
After lunch we did a little shopping. We returned to the Diver Direct store where I found our sun shirts last year and picked up a black one to see if that wouldn’t also work and fit a bit better than the Columbia PFG shirt. We also found a very nice, stylish blouse for Debbie. A bit later she found some anklets that tickled her fancy at a street corner store back on Duval Street.
Around 2:00pm we carved out about an hour so we could relax and soak up some sun, a “new feature” for our Key West visits as it’s only been something we’d done at the resorts in Orlando. Not sure why we didn’t do so in the Keys before this trip, but it was a great way to enjoy some down time after our long morning walk and lunch. We also spent a little time enjoying our room at the Cypress House, room #6 which sits at the very top of the old home… a 46 step climb from the front gate. About the only issue we had with the room this year was a very tired window A/C unit struggling to keep up with a very warm, attic room in Key West. It didn’t struggle as much as it did last year and at times the room was a bit warmer than we’d like. Not unbearable but enough to consider a move to a smaller room on a lower level for our next trip.
After showering and getting cleaned up for the late afternoon and evening we headed over to Flying Monkey’s for our afternoon cocktail. As we made our way there we encountered another couple who we apparently crossed paths with on Monday night. We ended up spending a good hour or so visiting with Michael and Maria at Flying Monkey’s. They had flown down from their home near Tampa for a couple of days and were flying back out that evening. Michael is the CEO of an IT peripherals manufacturer & sales company he founded back in 1987 and he and Maria were a joy to speak with on a wide range of topics, from Key West happenings, hobbies, soccer and life in general. As we talked about the upcoming soccer games they invited us to drop by their home near Tampa to watch Thursday’s UEFA Semi-Final game between Germany and France on our way North. I was assured by Michael he had all the necessary black-yellow-red wigs and other paraphernalia needed to cheer his home country of Germany on to a victory. It was a very tempting offer but, alas, not one we’d be able to take given our time-table.
We headed back to the Conch Republic Seafood Company for dinner around 6:30 and met a nice couple from New York who were down visiting. We skipped the oysters and, instead, tried their smoked fish dip as our appetizer followed by the Coriander Spiced Tuna Steak: seared tuna with a soy, honey, and ginger glaze, topped with a mandarin jicama and herb slaw and served with baby bok choy and smashed sweet potatoes. Just delicious and a nice change from the oysters, as we didn’t want to overdue those.
It was a bit overcast out to the west so we didn’t even bother to visit Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration: it would just be a blur of light on the cloudy horizon and I’m pretty sure we’ve seen every performer and artist at least twice during our four visits to Key West.
As for the evening itself, we had a great time, enjoyed great weather, got in a little dancing and ended the evening with a visit to Angelino’s for a slice of pizza.
After yet another late night we slept in until about 9am on Wednesday. After a light breakfast by the pool at the Cypress House we headed back down to the Southern Most Point via Whitehead Street to the Butterfly House. Now, I should probably provide a little context for where the various places we visit are located in Key West.
So, here is Key West
And this is the “old town” located at the Southwest corner of the island, with the various places we’ve mentioned highlighted.
When we “hit Duval Street” it’s a tour de force of bars and night clubs: Sloppy Joe’s, Irish Kevin’s, Captain Tony’s, Lazy Gecko, Rick’s, Fogarty’s, Bull & Whistle, Willy T’s and a few others a block or so away from Duval, such as the Green Parrot and Schooner’s Wharf, most of which are within a 1/4 mile of the Cypress House.
We’d hoped to visit the same little store we discovered last year across from the Green Parrot bar and Mile Market Zero at the corner of Fleming & Whitehead Streets. Sadly, the place was boarded-up as though it was prepared for hurricane season and/or shut down for the season. We could see through the glass entrance doors that everything else was in place and even a PC monitor was fired up in screen saver mode. Strange, to be sure. Oh well, on to the Butterfly House.
We were happy to find there weren’t any tour groups at the Butterfly House when we arrived and we were able to go right on in to the Conservatory. As in the past, Debbie is deeply moved by butterfly’s so it was a lovely experience. The Conservatory is just an amazing place where you’re overwhelmed by the number of butterflies, birds, plants and other sights and sounds; too hard to describe and certainly somewhere worth paying a visit. It’s clearly a goldmine for the gentleman who created the entire enterprise, noting after our tour we added yet another lexan butterfly display case, albeit a bit smaller than our first.
As before, our next destination was the Boat House for lunch down at the marina, then back to the room and then out to soak up some vitamin D. We had to time our afternoon such that we’d be at Flying Monkey’s by 3:00pm when the Portugal / Wales UEFA European 2016 semi-final match began. We enjoyed some frozen drinks and watched the 1st period at Monkey’s and then went back to our room to catch the 2nd half, lest we get too far ahead of our afternoon “buzz.” It was really quite a good match.
While watching the match I also firmed up our travel plans for returning home: we’d head to Daytona Beach on Thursday morning — about a 460-mile / 9 hour trip — and spend just one evening at the Shores Resort & Spa so we can make the final 450-mile leg home on Friday via the Golden Isle Parkway vs. I75 as we’d had about all the freeway riding we could handle on this trip. We really gave a lot of thought to taking Michael & Maria up on their offer to join them at their home north of Tampa for the UEFA semi-final match between Germany and France; however, we would have had to leave Key West at 6:00am to pull that off and it would also mean we’d have to make the final leg home all the way on I75. So, it just wasn’t all that doable. We passed on going back via Orlando for the same “we’re just tired of freeways” rationale. As far as catching the soccer match, if we found that we’d not be in Daytona by the game start time at 3:00pm we’d just find a sports bar along the way for an afternoon break.
As before, after getting cleaned up for the evening we headed over to the Conch Republic Seafood Company for cocktails and dinner. We had our second taste of the Baked Oysters Callaloo as an appetizer and finished up sharing the catch-of-the-day, Swordfish blackened and topped with Ju Ju slather and served with island rice and fresh green beans. To say it was delicious would be an understatement. Of course, the great meals and bar keepers are what keeps us coming back to the Conch!
We skipped Sunset Celebration again and Debbie wanted to see if we could find some shorts that she’d seen earlier during one of our walks down Duval Street. It took us about 30 minutes but we finally remembered which shop it was and successfully found the short plus a couple of tops to go with them: they’re beyond cute and Debbie makes them look sensational!!
As you would expect, it was back to Duval Street for one final night of bar hopping, socializing and dancing. Thinking back on our visit we met and spent some quality time visiting with a number of different couples: Dewey & Tara from Key West, Michael & Maria from Tampa, a couple from Kentucky, a couple from New York and a couple from Wisconsin. We’ve run into Dewey & Tara during two previous 4th of July visits and we’re pretty we’ve previously seen \ two of the other four couples in Key West during our 4th of July visits. Hey, it’s a small world!
And, as we had on the three previous evenings, we ended the night with a slice of pizza at Angelino’s around 1:30am. Yeah, we definitely wouldn’t be leaving at 6:00am on Thursday morning!!