reply to post by ProtoplasmicTraveler
Well PT, you've managed to grab my attention once again. My wife and I love the Keys. Her folks came from Cuba escaping Castro in the early 60's.
She was born and grew up in Miami and one of the few treats for her struggling immigrant family (mind you, Castro took everything from them) was to go
to the beach. If I remember her stories correctly they would drive to a public park/beach in Islamorada once a year for a family gathering. I suspect
it reminded them of beaches in Cuba. They picnicked and danced to the radio.
Decades later, we made the trip to the Keys with our kids. I can't remember the exact year. The kids were little, maybe 7 and 9, it was the mid
1990's. We were vacationing in Fort Lauderdale but had always wanted to see the Keys. And so we grabbed enough clothes for a couple of days and
We drove down from Fort Lauderdale and it was early morning. The kids were still out cold in the back seat. We were listening to Van Morrison's
Moondance album on CD. We always bring our own mood music. Yep, damned conservative hippies. I don't remember if the bridge had a name. But we hit
that first arching bridge onto the Keys just as the sun was rising and there was a mist still hanging over the water and the vegetation. No sooner
than the rental car's tires touched the bridge "Into the Mystic" started playing. The new light filtering through the mist over the water. To say
we got chills was an understatement. I've experienced a few days and moments in my life that I consider transcendent. Our children's births. Our
wedding day. The deaths of relatives and friends. And driving over that bridge.
We drove through a couple Keys to see what was there. We drove back at mid-day to Key Largo and signed up for a snorkeling boat tour. We went out to
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and to the Statue of Christ of the Abyss. It was both exhilarating and a panic. We rode out with a boatload of
fellow snorkeling touristas. The boat anchored and the first person off the back of it when the OK was given was my precocious daughter having never
snorkeled before. "Emilyyyyyyyy! Crap!" She was a handful to say the least. I struggled to get my gear on and get in to find her. There were other
boats around and lots of people in the water, we were concerned but not overly. She was an excellent swimmer and had a flotation jacket on. That said,
I scrambled in just a couple of minutes after her and after a few tense moments found her with the help of other snorkelers. "Hey, your kid's over
there! By the barracuda!"
Holy crap! There she was nose to nose with the reef's resident barracuda just moments after leaving the boat. No fear. No panic. I'm not so sure
about the fish. Her first time using a damned snorkel and she's checking out a barracuda within minutes. So I reign her back into the heart of the
group. My wife in the meantime can't get my son to get in the water. Who could blame him, his sister was in there. But we manage and he spends the
snorkel tour clinging to my neck up until the last five minutes. He's got a float jacket on and so he can't sink. But he doesn't care, even though
he floats and you can see forever in the clear water, he hangs on for dear life. I spend the snorkeling time mostly sputtering, choking and clearing
my snorkel and mask because I have a kid sitting on my head. And this with "Christ of the Abyss" maybe 20 feet below me with his arms raised as if
to hold us both up. How's that for a mental picture? But minutes before we all have to get out, my clinging vine decides "Hey dad, this isn't so
bad. Look I can swim by myself!" Doh!!!
Anyways, it was a great day and very funny to remember and relive. We got back to the tour dock and the other snorkelers took off for parts unknown in
a blink. We stayed and got the salt and sand off ourselves and the kids with a hose on the dock. There we were holding beach towels up for privacy.
Improvised showers and dry clothes made for an old timey end to a good day. We drove on and hit Cayo Weso about 9:00 that night.
We've been back to the Keys a number of times since then. We've had a number of memorable days but I doubt any will ever surpass that first one.
Thanks for posting this report. The rising water is surely a concern for all that love Florida but it's hard to imagine holding back the tide. Even
if you can, things will be forever changed.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. - John F.