Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
Key West, Florida: A cute beach bicycle rests against a beach house fence, facing the sea and a sandy beach somewhere in the Florida Keys. This image first appeared on https://www.florida-guidebook.com/key-west/
Photo by Florida-Guidebook.com / Unsplash

A strange situation to have back to back travel blogs, but you can't predict funerals and a trip to the keys was in the books for the birthday. This time no flights needed, just a drive on an early Saturday morning to Key Largo, Florida.

The drive consisted of a few unique portions - the regular highway drive from Tampa to Naples, then the Alligator Alley portion to cross the state and finally the single lane Highway 1 to connect Miami to the keys. It was a longer drive than usually clocking in around 5 hours and 30 minutes. The last time I remember doing this drive phone signal would drop in random locations, but this time the entire drive to the destination kept LTE signal.

House overlooking the ocean

There is also something strangely odd heading to the keys when a potential hurricane Fred is approaching. However, as Saturday hit it was becoming clear that this storm would not even hit category 1 and might perhaps just spin into the gulf and die out. The locals were staying, but a good deal of cars and traffic were leaving the keys - not heading in. The wind was quite strong and it did rain off/on the entire time, but otherwise just another regular time in the keys.

Since it was my birthday over this weekend - I decided to go to a tiki bar after lunch with some of the family for drinks. We weren't allowed to sit on the beach portion because of "danger" (pending hurricane) even though the water looked like glass. A few ciders turned to hard liquor turned into meeting some randoms at the bar for more drinks. It had been since the start of the pandemic since I really sat down at a bar and consumed a ton of alcohol. A few birthday shots and drinks from the bartender and locals and for sure I was over my limit.

Marker 88 - Key Lime Pie

Outside of the alcohol though, nearly every single place claims they have the best key lime pie or makes it from scratch. There were stores that specialized in pies nearly every 10 minutes on the road. Probably like the cuban sandwich is to Tampa, the key lime pie is to the keys.

We did head north on the keys into Key Largo towards the end of the trip to visit Ocean Reef, which can't really be explained. Its a place of yachts and more, but you can do a day visit without staying in the expensive homes there. Its the slow season there during the summer - so nearly everything was under construction.

However, it was a great time to still enjoy the unique restraunts that serve dishes that are perfect for the atmosphere and area. Peeling shrimp while sitting on a channel watching boats go by is quite the casual dining experience.

Ocean Reef is also known for cats everywhere. They are cared for by the ORCAT organization that traps, neuters and takes care of the cats to keep the population in check. We stumbled upon one friendly individual walking around the stores.

Random cat in Fishing Village

The beach was under construction with half it closed for improvements. The beach bar was packed as usual with an interesting small twist - I ran into another person with the taco cat meme collared shirt. I had mine packed in romper form, but a quick change in the bathroom and I was matching. From the instant I walked out of the bathroom running into a staff member to leaving the beach - every single person had something to say.

This blog goes out on Sunday as usual, but my long drive begins early tomorrow (Monday). No more travel after this for awhile, so the non-travel blogs will resume.

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