There we were this morning, ten of us packed into two cars driving the Florida turnpike.: my mom, dad, sister (8 months pregnant), brother-in-law, his parents and grandma, my grandma, and my two-and-a-half-year-old niece. With us were not just beachwear and travel gear, but the necessities for our family in particular– Indian spices, a frying pan, and a toaster oven, duh.
Driving along the turnpike, it was interesting to see the scenery change. Moving further south, the side of the highway slowly turned swampier. I drowned out the chatter of everyone else in the car with the “Havana Nights” soundtrack I’d downloaded in preparation for this trip, leafing through pamphlets about Key West, wishing now that I had taken cheap diving lessons in Guam when I’d had the chance.
The drive down gave us ample time to raise the questions most people have when they head down to the Keys, for instance, “Why are they called the Keys?” “Which is the closest key to mainland Florida?” “How far is Key West from Cuba?” “Can you see Cuba from the Keys?”
The Florida Keys are named as such because the word “key” is derived from the Spanish “cayo,” referring to little islands. Key Largo is the first and closest key to mainland Florida. The southernmost point of the mainland U.S., at the tip of Key West, is about 90 miles from Cuba. Apparently, you cannot see Cuba from Key West because of the way the earth is curved.
We stopped once at a rest stop near Jupiter for a lunch of cheese and coriander chutney sandwiches. By the time we made it to Key Largo it was about 3 p.m. We knew it was too late to catch any tours, and we aren’t diving or fishing folk, so we booked tours for the next day instead: a two-hour glass-bottom boat tour along Key West’s coral reefs, a three-hour snorkeling tour promising an underwater glimpse of radiant corals, fish and dolphins, and a visit to the Ernest Hemingway house. We planned to catch a sunset at the southern tip of Key West the next day.
By the time we pulled into the Hampton Inn & Suites at Islamorada around 5 o’clock, we were ready to just kick back and order food in for the night.
As we waited for our pizza delivery, a few of us checked out the hotel’s tiki bar, empty, save for two guests seated at the bar. It seemed to be a chilly night for the Keys, but not too chilly a night for December, and certainly not too chilly enough to pass up a piña colada.
Cheers. Here’s to an amazing Thanksgiving with my family in the Keys!