Sunday, June 15, 2008

From Tobaccoville to Key West - Part II
Friday morning we were up at 5:15 to start our "real" vacation: driving to the Keys. We had reservations to take a scuba diving lesson on Islamorada at 8:30 that morning. The GPS system, which we lovingly named Olivia, wasn't happy with Katie's driving. Katie had already decided the route we would take and Olivia kept trying to get us back on the GPS-designated route. When we got tired of Olivia saying, "Recalculating," we put her on mute; then we put her in the glove box. Later in the trip, we let her come back out to play and it seems she didn't hold a grudge. That's not to say we started following her directions :-)
We arrived at Key Dives right on time
and, after filling out our paperwork, we were told that the winds were very high and the afternoon dives might not happen. We and 2 other would-be-divers decided to go ahead with the training; we were given our equipment and the instructor drove us a couple blocks away to a swimming pool. We spent 2 hours in the water, learning how to communicate underwater and how to use our equipment. What an experience! On the one hand, it was amazing to actually be doing all this stuff; on the other hand, I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing! Turns out Katie was feeling the same way. Back at the dive shop, we were informed that (due to the winds) the afternoon dives were still "iffy." They told us our first dive would be a better experience if the waters were calm, but it was up to us if we wanted to dive or not. We decided to go with NOT!! (I hate that we didn't get any pictures of us in our scuba gear.)
Suddenly we had an empty afternoon ahead of us. What to do?? Head for Key West!
First stop: Long Key State Park. Our little state park packet said, "Be sure to walk the Golden Orb Trail, one of two beautiful nature trails in the park. It takes hikers through Long Key's five ecological zones and to an observation tower where you can gaze over the island and surrounding waters." We didn't read that until we were back in the car and heading down the road. In our typical backward (non-conformist) fashion, we had somehow started our hike at the observation tower. It was still a nice hike :-) and fortunately we didn't see any golden orb SPIDERS!!!!!

Seven-mile Bridge:

Big Pine Key and the National Key Deer Refuge. From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brochure: "The Key deer is the smallest sub-species of the Virginia white-tailed deer.... [and] is federally listed as endangered. The current population is estimated between 600 and 750." We didn't see any deer, but we stopped at The Blue Hole (an abandoned limestone quarry) where we saw an alligator, a crane, and a baby bird that we guessed belonged to the crane.

You'll have to click on the last 2 pics to make them bigger to see the crane and baby.
Key West
First stop: The Blond Giraffe. Voted "Best Key Lime Pie in Florida" 2003,4,5, & 6. I don't know what happened in 2007 & 2008, but they surely get my vote!!

The Hemingway House and its 6-toed cats:

We weren't there long, but now I can say I've been to Key West!
Miscellaneous scenery as we headed back up the keys to check in at our hotel in Islamorada:

We cooled off in the pool and then decided we needed some real food. We ate at the Islamorada Fish Company, where they feed scraps to the sharks!

And that was our Friday! (I guess you now understand why I never finished posting about my trip to Japan.) Check back later for Part III.

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