For the first time in our short RV career we welcomed overnight guests into our rig and it was so much fun! After our first week in the Florida Keys my cousin Mitch and his daughter Lauren joined us to celebrate Lauren’s 21st birthday and New Years. Our time together was filled with laughter, toasts, and new adventures in some of the most beautiful spots on the planet.
As soon as they arrived we headed into Key West to explore a bit, hit a few happy hours, and watch another spectacular sunset. We then headed to the nearby El Meson de Pepe for dinner (our second of three total visits to this great Cuban restaurant).
The next day we headed back into town for more exploration. In particular we took the tour of the Hemingway Home and met the famed six-toed cats. Many of the 40-50 cats on the property can be traced back to Hemingway’s cat Snowball. They were very friendly!
We also saw the penny that is embedded in the cement next to the swimming pool his wife Pauline built when he was away. In 1938 it was the first pool to be built in Key West at a cost of $20,000. Exasperated at the expense, Papa Hemingway reportedly flung a penny towards Pauline and said, “You’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that too.”
One evening we took a night kayak trip with clear-bottomed LED-lit kayaks. Paddling through the mangroves we could see fish and coral right below us! We saw some cool sea creatures and got a great sunset as well.
On Wednesday we had hoped to make it a beach day but the weather didn’t really cooperate. In fact it rained off and on all day. So, we made the best of it with a few more cocktails at some of Key West’s finest establishments and brunch at the legendary Blue Heaven. Bloody Marys and Eggs Benedict with lobster made the rainy day seem not so bad!
On New Year’s Eve we spent the day on the water with a fun kayak through the mangroves, including a portion where you had to use your hands to guide and propel the kayak. It was fun until Mitch and Lauren saw a snake! We also saw lots of Cassiopeia, or upside-down jellyfish, and crabs.
That evening we watched the sunset once more and then had a wonderful tapas dinner at Santiago’s Bodega. Due to the pandemic Key West instituted a 10:00pm curfew over the New Year’s weekend so the crowds were very small. Masks are mandatory inside and outside. Still, we headed home very early before the police began their sweep of the area.
Our last big adventure in Key West was a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, the most remote national park in the country–almost 70 miles west of Key West. We boarded our ferry, the Yankee Freedom III, early in the morning. It was so early Cuban coffee was required!
After a two plus hour voyage we docked at Garden Key and Fort Jefferson, the largest man-made masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. The fort was built during the Civil War to safeguard U.S. shipping and to defend the Gulf of Mexico from potential enemies. Though never completed it served as a military prison and active military outpost, housing hundreds of Union soldiers.
We explored the fort from top to bottom and enjoyed the spectacular views from the top level amid cannons and powder magazines.
Dry Tortugas is also known as a primo snorkeling destination. The boys explored the waters while Lauren and I stayed on the beach and soaked up the sun. It was the perfect place for a little photo shoot too!
The water was chilly 75 degrees and the guys said it was “perfect.” It was truly an experience of a lifetime, and we are so grateful to have shared it with Mitch and Lauren.
Too soon our time in the Keys came to an end, Mitch and Lauren headed home to Arizona, and we are headed north. But our adventures are continuing so stay tuned for more soon!