Spent a delectable 4 days in Key West to celebrate the wife's 50 birthday. The trip started out the evening of 16 July when we flew from RDU to MIA and spent the night at the Crowne Plaza Airport. The location was perfect with a shuttle from the airport every 20 minutes and check-in was fast and efficient. It is so nice to sleep without having to worry about an alarm to waken you, which is going to soon become the norm when I retire for good on 31 October and head to Key West for extended periods. So I was expecting to awake my normal time but was surprised when it was almost 7:30 when we got up, so I hopped the shuttle back to the airport to pick up the Mustang Convertible for the drive down to Key West.
Arrived at the Alamo counter a bit later than expected but not an issue as the new check-in kiosk was very efficient and easy to use. A short time later I was on my way back to the hotel to pick-up the wife and hit the road. With the SUNPASS attached to the windshield and the top down it was time to head south. We rotate our paths into to the Keys either stopping at Alabama Jacks or Lorelei for the first drink. This trip it was Lorelei's turn in the rotation so we stopped by for a Bloody Mary and Mimosa, which was spot on in getting one in the official Keys mentality.
Having the top down made the drive it so much more visual than in the past. Took advantage to get some great Go Pro video with the new play toy as we drove down the Overseas Highway, especially the seven mile bridge. Upon arrival we headed out onto Sigsbee to get some supplies from the NAS before heading over to check-in at Olivia by Duval. This was our first time staying there and this was a great location with great service and no one can complain about the clothing optional pool. We had the Balcony Pool room which as the name says was right above the pool with easy access without having to cover up. The pool was a focal place for meeting new great friends. Over the 4 nights we can add a total of 10 great new friends we have in Key West. We would end up later in the weekend all meeting up for a night out, more on this story to follow.
After settling in and a quick dip in the pool it was time to get something to eat so off we went. We started walking down Duval street but soon decided that what we were looking for was not going to be there so it was off to the bight area for us. After walking around a bit we decided we wanted to watch sunset from atop Turtle Kraals where we had a relaxing dinner and unobstructed view of sunset. As we looked across the harbor we could not help to notice the biggest yacht there by the name of "Wheels" having a smaller boat beside it with a fairly large group boarding to head out for the evening. A quick Google revealed it was Rick Hendricks yacht and later in the week we would discover that the group boarding included Dale Earnhardt Jr., who were down for the day for the Blue Marlin Tournament.
Following dinner we headed back up Duval to a new place that I had heard nothing but rave reviews on being The Little Room Jazz Club. Needless to say we have found our new go to place when we are in the Keys. We would make many stops back here over the next 3 days but tonight we pulled up a table and listen to an American Idol alum by the name of Kristen McNamara. She was phenomenal, as is this place. It is a quiet, clean quaint place located on the upper end of Duval that has a feel all its own. There are no TV's with sporting events playing, instead the TV broadcast's the live view of the aquarium from Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. So after having a bottle of wine and at the end of a long day we went around the corner to our room for an evening dip in the pool.
Friday was going to be the day I caught my wife totally off-guard for her birthday. We started the day by renting bikes from Eaton Rentals. Of all the trips to Key West we had never rented bikes until now. After a few minutes there and then a bit of time reacquainting ourselves to riding a bike we headed over to Blue Heaven for breakfast. The wait was short and soon after we were seated and enjoying a Bloody Mary and Mimosa as we awaited our pancakes. After breakfast we headed abut town with the Go Pro mounted on the handle bars to capture a different perspective of Key West. It's going to take me a lifetime to get through all this video, but hey I'm fixing to retire and will have plenty of time to do it soon! We ended up at Lagershead Beach Bar were we rented a couple of loungers and spent a few hours relaxing in the sun with a few drinks. Again this was a new stopping point for us but will not be the last. Very good atmosphere and although the pancakes from breakfast where with me all day I will be back to have the fish tacos. They looked amazing!
After a few hours there it was time to head back to the room to rest of for the evening events. All along I have been telling the wife that we had to meet up with the locals at CTH as we always try to do when we are in town on Friday nights . Unbeknown to her I had a surprise up my sleeve, but first we headed to the Boathouse for Happy Hour and the half priced small plates. What a treat and then to discover that they had PALM beer on draft was a great find. We feel in love with them will living in the UK but the only place we could find it was in Belgium, not any more. As we were sitting inside the Boathouse my wife looked over and noticed Rick Hendricks was on the docks watching them clean the fish his boat "Reel Wheels" caught for the day. You have to love that even the highest of class can visit and walk around without being hounded. Well after dinner and it was approaching 6 PM we headed over to the Sunset Tiki Bar for CTH.
We showed up to be greeted by Seabus and Flingo Chick and the music of Clint Bullard. What my wife didn't know is that Seabus and I had been in cahoots with one another to have her birthday cake at CTH. Key West Cakes made her an awesome cake depicting the Key West sunset topped off with white chocolate sea shells and star fish. If you ever need a cake while in the Keys this is the place to go. So as we were relaxing having a great conversation my wife suddenly realized that something was up with Seabus placed a big party hat on her head and this cake was placed in front of her for all the bar to see. It was a great surprise and one she says she will remember the rest of her life. After all the festivities there we headed back to the room to freshen up and head back out on Duval for a few drinks. After a trip up and down Duval with a check-in at the Garden of Eden (which was dead) we decided to head back to the room for a dip in the pool. There is where we meet up with the others staying at Olivia by Duval and had drinks and conversation well into the evening. It was decided that we all would meet up the next night to revisit the GOE and add some life to it.
Saturday started out with a relaxing morning by the pool before heading over to the Little Room for their 12 to 8 Happy Hour. There is where we meet Fran the owner and spent a good portion of the day conversing and getting to really know the place. As I said this is the place to go for an easy going quite atmosphere with outstanding drinks. His Mojitos are the best! A bit later we went down to stroll along the Hemmingway days Street Fair where we found the Purrfit Toe Ring lady. The wife has had hers since 08 and every time we come she has an adjustment and addition. We had dinner reservations that evening at Louie's Backyard so we went back to get ready for that before stopping back for another Mojito with Fran. Dinner was over the top at Louie's, as one would expect. After dinner we went back to the room to drop off a few things before heading out to meet the others at the GOE. Well you remember I said earlier there is more to the story. Have you ever been in Key West when ALL the power goes out? How about at the GOE with no lights? Well we all meet up and was having a good time there with everyone enjoying the music and our group enjoying the GOE the way it was meant to be. We even had one couple who had never been in a CO environment that was leading the way. Well there everyone is in different states of dress and undress when, BOOM out goes the lights on the entire island. We all waited a few minutes to see what was going to happen as the lightening was off in the distance but we soon decided it was time to take the party back to the pool area. As we were leaving the power returned but being at the bottom of the steps we decided to head on back, what a good call that was. As we started walking back up Duval the storm rapidly approached and the wife spotted a Taxi Van and stopped it in the middle of the road, another good call as the second we were dropped off and entered the gate the sky's fell open and dumped buckets of rain. So we all decided to call it a night and listen to the rain fall.
Sunday was our final day on this trip as we had to be in Miami on Monday morning for a 10 AM flight. I booked the wife the Fury Island Adventure for her birthday (the best free thing going in Key West for sure). We had a great time. The crew on the boat were very knowledgeable and made the entire trip. The 5 hours flew by but what time on the water in Key West doesn't. We returned back to the room to turn in the bikes, freshen up and catch Fran at the Little room before he left for the day so he could wish the wife Happy Birthday as this was her official birthday day. We hung around there while another storm rolled in and ran folks off the street into the bar. It was weird as they walked in thinking that they were under dressed or in the wrong place. After a few minutes of discussion they were loving the place. After the rain stopped we hailed a taxi back down to the bight to have another round of the Boathouse small plates before calling it an early night. Well best laid plans are just that, plans. Ricks (Hendricks) boys were back cleaning another massive load of fish and being NC folks ourselves we got talking and having drinks with them as they cleaned. Before we knew it, the time was after 8 and we had a 3 am awaking with a 4 hour drive ahead of us. Lucky for me I throttled my drinks back but birthday girl enjoyed hers immensely. So after getting her in the bed, I hastily packed the clothes and put everything in the car so all we had to do was get up, dress and put ourselves in and leave. Which is what happened , we arrived Miami Airport at 0745 was checked in and at the gate by 0920 for a 1000 departure back to RDU.
We are counting the days now till we head back down for Fantasy Fest in October with the RV, where I will leave the wife behind to come back to NC to finish up my job on 31 Oct and head back to Key West to spend the winter.