For better or worse, we took a third—and final for Doug—trip down to Key West, slowed only by a sworn peace officer who let Doug off with a warning.
Ahhh, the benefits of clean living. Doug didn’t even have to flirt with the dude. Or maybe he mistook us for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and is a big fan. And yes, the mirror indeed could use a good scrub, but it’s a rental, so nah.
Anyway, this time we were determined to see the stuff that tourists are supposed to see. Like The Southernmost Everything. It all starts with the marker for the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.
The locals know a good marketing slogan when they see it, and thus we have the Southernmost Trolley Stop. And the Southernmost Deli and Groceries. And the Southernmost Point Guest House By the Beach.
And the Southernmost Lobster Shack, and Southernmost Victorian Inn, and Southernmost Surf Shop, and Southernmost blah blah blah.
The Southernmost Annoying Line For a Silly Attraction was queued up for that famous marker. Yup. As documented above we stood in it to get the touristy photo with the boys. Unfortunately, the joke was on us and the other saps waiting around in the heat. Because Doug is a professional skeptic, he looked on Google Earth. THIS ISN’T EVEN THE SOUTHERNMOST POINT. The actual Southernmost Point is at the adjacent naval facility behind a guarded gate, just past the huge Buckminsterfullerene.
Well that’s disappointing. Next stop, Ernest Hemingway’s house.
Supposedly he wrote some famous books in this house, although after the whole “Southernmost” hoax we don’t much trust the folks around here. The thing about the cats with 6 toes, however, turned out to be true. They were everywhere. Dana photographed lots of them. This was her favorite.
Fort Zachary Taylor is another one of those vintage forts oozing with cool history that we’ve explored. There probably weren’t as many Carnival cruise ships back in the day but otherwise it seemed pretty authentic.
Maybe the coolest thing about Fort ZT is the cell where the Union Army stashed Samuel Mudd and others after arresting them for their roles in Abraham Lincoln’s murder, before moving them to Fort Jefferson. It’s small and humid, but hey, they had a window.
The park attendant later chastised us for using the fort parking lot as, well, a parking lot, but by then we’d left the car and walked over to Mel Fisher’s Museum. On the way we passed the Truman Little White House, where Harry wintered. We already had reached our waiting-in-line limit, so we settled for pictures. (Plus we’ve seen both of Franklin Roosevelt’s houses and figured this one couldn’t be much different.)
The most interesting thing was the presidential cornhole set up in the front yard. We imagine Harry and Bess tossing a few bags, perhaps before retiring to the sitting room for some whiskey-pong.
Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter, most famous for finding the Atocha and then beating down all the money-grubbing government officials who tried to take the $500 million booty. A bunch of that booty was on display.
Unfortunately the photo was an afterthought—like so many of our photos—and does a pretty poor job of showing the goods.
A final walk through the square that Key West named after our Punkin, and then back to Marathon.
By the way, we saw exactly zero signs proclaiming Key West as the “Grafton of the Southeast,” so maybe they don’t understand clever branding as well as we thought.
Shannon drove down from Eckerd for an action-packed weekend. First, she and Doug went diving at Sombrero reef, which is guarded by the Sombrero Light. The ride out was about 45 minutes of pounding through 4-foot waves in a small center console dive boat, which apparently caused issues for a couple of folks while Doug and Shannon were underwater. The good news is that all the involuntary chum was gone by the time they got back near the boat, but the fish still were hanging around hoping for more.
The next day Dana and Shannon ran the Key West half marathon. Doug and the boys provided moral support from the safety of the boat and were suitably impressed and proud.
After Shannon left, things slowed back down. Until the dock started buzzing with the rumor that a sailboat full of supermodels was on its way. Well well. That’s worth the hassle of keeping an eye open. How fast can Lewis and Fred and Blomo and Jimmy and Doug’s other buddies get down here?
As if on cue, a 48-foot Jeanneau pulled in past us. Hmmm. The Kelsey Marie is a pretty boat and all, but how many supermodels can fit on a sailboat that size? But in the parking lot we saw a big coach like the one George Strait used when he played Dusty in that Oscar-snubbed classic Pure Country, so maybe the rumors were valid.
Next morning, two guys moved the sailboat around to a dock about 50 feet away from Misty Pearl. Then people started lugging equipment over to it. Alright! Now we’re on to something! Wait just a hot second here. What’s this? Insert the sound of screeching brakes. The first model is a guy? Good thing Doug never called his friends.
Turns out the rumor was sorta kinda true. Ralph Lauren was shooting some of those ads where the family dresses in the latest Polo outfits and sets sail on the ocean blue, with the wind caressing their hair as they expertly pilot a rather complicated vessel with staggering ease. So this handsome devil must be the dad. We’ll get some shots of him while mom and Junior are getting ready. Ok, here they come.
Ahh yes. Nothing like the bond between a model mother and her model child.
Damn. What’s this? A different dad? That’ll make life on the seas a tad awkward. How about some shots of dad #2 working the rigging in his natty sweater from the Spring Collection as he surveys the horizon, perhaps looking for land?*
How about we let the kid control the rudder by himself, with no parental supervision? What are mom and dad doing down in the master berth anyway?
Of course, the ads probably won’t show all the people crowding around or the fact that the boat was secured to the dock the whole time, but we know the truth. Heck, it probably wasn’t even a real family. A real mom would’ve had the kid in school on a Wednesday morning. More dads and moms hopped on and off but we lost interest because we had a sick dog and a replacement water heater installation and other things. Then all the dads and the others packed up and left the marina.
Today we drove up to Miami to get Oscar’s toenails trimmed. We forgot to do that, of course, mostly because we stopped at R.F. Orchids instead.
We both are reading a book called The Orchid Thief, which sort of is ponderous but the story of orchid intrigue is interesting. R.F. Orchids was the victim of some dirty flower business so we wanted to check out the bromeliads and cattalyas and other orchids we could feel smart about based on our very recent and very rudimentary education. The orchids were awesome, but we’ve hardly ever met a plant we can’t kill in a matter of weeks and since these particular plants can live a very long time with proper care, we didn’t buy one.
We also stopped at Knaus Berry Farm. Doug hates amusement parks, but unlike Knotts Berry Farm this place actually is a market and bakery. We got fresh produce and cinnamon rolls. Then we did the other chores and ate at Chuy’s and then by the time we were heading home it was too late to go to PetSmart. Sorry baby dog.
* Years ago the girls forgot about Father’s Day until Father’s Day and they rushed out to Walmart and found a t-shirt that said “Dad #1.” Not “Number 1 Dad,” mind you, but instead simply something to distinguish Doug from all their other numbered dads. Maybe they just wanted to be Ralph Lauren models.