Trawlercat Chronicles – On Big Pine Key, Florida Keys – March 7, 2012
No matter how prepared you think you are for a road trip across America you never really are. On March of 2012, my newly retired wife and our two dogs, bicycles and all our water-sports toys traveled east and then south by Toyota 4Runner, all the way from Los Angeles to the Florida Keys, a one way distance of approximately 2700 miles.
My wife was now newly retired and unbeknownst to me also possessed a childhood phobia about driving over bridges. Thankfully there’s not too many bridges between California and Florida. They seem to all be concentrated to where we’re now headed, the Florida Keys for a month long trip.
My memories of this new family adventure and events are now not too particularly clear. A decade has passed by between the actual events and the story. I’ll do my best to connect the dots in a true story telling way.
Perhaps the first clue as to something wrong came from my passenger. A low almost inaudible whisper sounded something like my. Oh my, ohhh, ohhhh, and with that my friends it finally crescendo’d into this loud, “watch the road” and “don’t look at me” tyrant voice. Watch the road! Her heart probably raced uncontrollably while her face showed a dry sweat, like just having run a marathon while still sitting.
I can turn the air up for you if you want “. “KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE FU…. WHEEL!” And then just like that, we were over that one tinny tiny bridge. Are there many more like that she now shyly asked me? Silently, I now knew that I crossed into the twilight zone of her bridge phobias and the Florida keys were still a long ways away. She simply must’ve done little to no research before this Florida Keys trip?
Crap. No Islands, I softly muttered the words under my breath; while our dog Lucy panted on my left ear and wondered what the hell’s wrong with her Nana?
Looks like maybe I’ve got some ‘splaining to do!” Or possibly I went into a Ricky Ricardo routine or voice and sputtered out words like “Esta mujer esta absolutamente loca” which in the Cubana language means this woman is absolutely crazy!” It’s been a decade since that trip, I don’t exactly recall the words spoken.
The Florida Keys are simply a chain of these limestone small islands that extend all the way from the southern tip of the Florida mainland, southwest all the way to the Dry Tortugas, a distance of approximately 220 miles. The only way across is on bridges and Key West, the furthest island is reached by crossing a humongous 7 mile bridge is now 150 miles away.
Driving to the Florida Keys in March of 2012 finally cured her of that bridge phobia that she will claim today never existed. And just to make sure that that cure stuck, I must’ve crossed that infamous 7 mile bridge nearly 100 times each way.
Patti constantly fought me each time I wanted to leave our little Big Pine key island paradise house. Island songs always played on the radio. As for me, all I ever wanted was some sponge cake, mojitos or was it a strange desire for shrimp? Jimmy kept repeating on the radio that they’re just beginnin’ to boil.
On one of those memorable Florida keys days I still remember crossing that big bridge while outside the 4RUNNER nearly 30 miles per hour of winds were blowing from the east and threatening to throw us over the side onto the translucent waters. With a shit eating grin on my face I once again smiled while passing by yet another restaurant named Margaritaville. Our relatives that visited us on Big Pine key until today don’t know about this bridge phobia. Perhaps there’s a woman to blame
but, I know it’s my own damn fault.
She was nearly comatose the first time we crossed the bridge to reach Key West. The double mojitos possibly helped out some but, her watching the sunset softly mesmerized her with its gorgeous hues of orange, red and pinkish color that cast a reflection onto the shallow clear keys waters.
When we get a little older, we begin to notice our partner maybe just a little longer. Suddenly out of nowhere a new avenue might just open up. Thankfully, all those years ago we didn’t tow our Seadoo cross country to do boat things like fish, snorkel, and explore.
We are not only self moving creatures but, also cognitive of our environment and what makes sense for one person is not what makes sense to the other.
I fueled up at Tom Thumb’s gas (Big Pine key) for 3.82 per gallon. At the Navy base in Key West last week we fueled up at $3.80 per gallon.
The wind this morning is blowing at about 20-30 miles per hour and it’s not even lunchtime. Our change in weather brought temperatures at night down to the high 40’s from a daytime high of 80 degrees. This is not the Florida weather I remember. 80+ degree weather are expected by the end of our first week on Big Pine Key.
Yesterday I worked on my brother Ricks 22’ Sea fox open fisherman boat. I got as far as I could before turning the project over to Skeeter’s marina. We’re now just two new throttle cables away from launching. I replaced a boarding ladder and the communal cooler from the nicest West Marine store on Marathon key.
I use quotes often in my daily life and today I shared, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the ……..She responds right back with ……..My life is now NOT measured by the number of breaths I take but, by the number of mosquito bites inflicted on me daily; slowly taking my blood away” – Patti
I’m getting really tired of being bitten by all these bugs. It’s that A + blood in you, I say!
From now on stop feeding those little keys deer and don’t go outside without first spraying yourself down with half a can of “OFF”.
We rented a Big Pine key house on a canal that leads out into the Atlantic Ocean for a month. The first relative to visit was my niece Jenni and her boyfriend. Since it was her birthday weekend we celebrated at the nearby Conch Republic, Key West. Her friends George, Marisol and their newborn baby girl joined us.
Our Australian shepherd Jessie could use a haircut but, dog groomers are in such high demand around here that we can’t get her scheduled for a cut, blow and dry. At this rate, she’ll be looking like a Rastafarian dog with all her dreadlocks. The three dog groomers that I spoke to told me their so busy, they don’t take days off.
Our favorite places now are the local flea market to purchase fruits, vegetables and seafood. The Conch festival on Marathon Key sold out of conch fritters in record time. And next weekend is St. Patrick’s Day in Key West; whoopee, another bridge crossing with a planned Pub Crawl around town.
Apparently it’s quite a big deal. People dress up and follow a chosen leader around stopping along the way to fill up with free beer.
And from the comforts of our little rental we bicycle to the blue hole while looking for the occasional alligator. We feed the backyard canal fish. We update our key deer count that we’re not supposed to feed and by 3:00 p.m. it’s time for happy hour at the local watering hole.
All of this we can do but, we can’t count the number of bridges that we’ve now crossed.
Big Pine Key, Florida