Thursday 5:30 PM

On the Key West Express ferry to Ft. Myers. This is it. It’s over. Mixed emotions.

While we were in Key West, we tried to see all the stuff people told us to see. Schooner’s Wharf, Captain Tony’s, Ernest Hemingway’s house and cats, Sunset Wharf, Duval Street. As if anyone could miss Duval Street!

I thought I liked to drink, but in Key West I am a lightweight. It’s a non-stop party. Every night, on our ride, we were thrilled to find a bar – preferably one with cushioned bar stools, of course. And each night, we were happy with the one place we found, and that made that particular perch special. I blogged while Dana read. One or both of us connected with another customer, or perhaps a bartender, or perhaps everyone in the place. But there were too many options in Key West. Too many bars, too many people, too many choices.

Other than bars, Key West’s other main attraction seems to be t-shirt stores. We saw many Key West t-shirts, many funny t-shirts, and many dirty t-shirts, a few of which Katie had to explain to me. I had thought I would buy a Key West tank top as a souvenir, but like the bars, it was overwhelming. I almost bought a shirt for Bill that said “Drink coffee. Do stupid stuff faster and with more energy”, but we chose to buy nothing.

So we went to some art galleries – our favorite was Paul Carmichael’s bird photographs – and we ate some ice cream. Of the four major food groups of this ride – ice cream, alcohol, Italian subs and Gatorade – ice cream is the one we still crave. But, while I didn’t take pictures of ice cream, I did take a few pictures of famous bars. Here is a picture of the famous Green Parrot:

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We went to Captain Tony’s, where Hemingway and Shel Silverstein and Tennessee Williams and lots of other famous people hung out. I didn’t get a picture of the outside, but the ceiling is covered with police and fire badges from all over the country. I saw Woburn, MA, Shrewsbury, MA, Port Chester, NY, NYC, etc. I actually took pictures of them, and I am sure I looked like a total touristy dork in the process. Having ridden 2000 miles, however, I had that lovely feeling where I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I earned the right to do what I want, and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.

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At the Hemingway house, I took pictures of their latest batches of kittens.

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And when Dana bought a Diet Coke from a soda machine, and it Lauren’s name on it

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And we liked this sign near the Hemingway house:

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Last night we watched the sunset. Well, I watched the sunset. Dana sat on a bench reading his book.

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While we were waiting for the sunset, we had ice cream (there’s a shocker!) and saw this silly plaque in the store. Given my recent thing about historic markers, I took a picture.

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Today we rode our bikes around town. It’s much too hot to walk, and everything is closer by bike. Everyone rides bikes and scooters around Key West. I had to convince Dana not to wear his helmet, however. Everyone else is wearing flip flops, holding a beer in one hand and a cellphone in the other, on a rental beach bike. I just can’t go out there with the helmet and gloves. The shoes are dorky enough. Unfortunately, my pedals and flip flops are a bad combination.

First we had breakfast at the Cuban Coffee Queen. I am definitely buying an espresso maker when we get home. Then we went to Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden. She has been rescuing parrots for about 40 years, and she displays them in her yard. She chatted with us for quite a while, telling us about the histories and personalities of the different birds. It was so pleasant, sitting on chairs in the shade, surrounded by birds, hearing her stories of old Key West. This is Nancy with Mr. Peaches.

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And this is Baby Blue

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And this is Nancy’s website: www.nancyforrester.com/garden.html. A very good cause in my opinion.

After visiting with Nancy, we went to the Key West Museum of History and Art. We learned about Key West before and during the Civil War, about the history of Florida tourism, and about the building of all of the bridges on the keys. Turns out we rode across 42 bridges on the keys! I think this means I am no longer a bridge wimp.

Tuesday, 6:30 PM

About Ernest Hemingway… Dana’s mom, Jeanne, told us that when she was a model in Florida back in the 1940’s, she and some other models were taken on a trip to Cuba, where they “hung out with Ernie”. Of course, she also spent time in NYC hanging out with Martin and Lewis, and Dana’s parents often socialized with the Shah of Iran. In contrast, my parents’ idea of living on the edge was changing up the flavor of Sealtest ice cream we kept in the freezer.

FYI… the Shah enjoyed playing charades. Who knew?

When we docked in Ft. Myers Thursday night it was dark, and we finally used the headlamps and taillights we’ve been carrying for 2 months. It was worth bringing them, even for that one little 1.5 mile ride. Biking in the dark is dangerous. Then we checked into the Matanzas Motel, which was fine, but we are not mourning the fact that it was our last motel room – we are truly sick of them. In the morning we rode a few more miles and picked up a rental car. We drove to a bike store in Clearwater that Dana used to go to in high school, and dropped off the bikes to be shipped home. Turns out it costs the same to ship them or take them on the plane with us. Shipping them seemed more practical. Then we drove to Dana’s mom’s house, got her car, and the three of us drove to Tampa airport to return the rental.

About coming home… we had been planning to drive home all along, but as the trip got longer and we got more homesick, we started considering flying home instead. We weighed the costs: money, time, aggravation, etc. Financially it was about even, so we are flying home because it is faster. Nancy T. will pick us up at Logan Wednesday afternoon. I will pay her back in Cambodian food.

Meanwhile, since Friday afternoon, we have been very busy visiting Dana’s family and friends. We are staying with Dana’s mom in Clearwater. Dana’s brother Dara, sister-in-law Anvar, and nephew Alexander came for dinner Friday evening, and we went to their house Monday night for home-cooked Persian food.

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Saturday we went to visit Doug’s mother, Ruth, and his sister, Terry. You may recall Doug from earlier in our trip, when we visited with him in Easton, PA. Ruth gave us a tour of her extensive gardens – everything grows bigger and better in Florida. She told me not to worry about my garden being a hodgepodge of whatever, but I think I want to improve it when we get home. After the garden tour, the four of us went out for sushi and then for coffee at Starbucks. It was a lovely afternoon, and it was nice for Dana to reconnect with people he’s known his whole life but rarely sees.

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Sunday we went to visit Dana’s friend, Rich, his wife Mandy and his son Sasha. Doug, Rich and Dana were friends in high school. Rich and Mandy treated us to brunch at Frescos, we walked around for a while, and then Rich drove us around some very nice streets in St. Petersburg. They kept talking about which houses are new, what used to where, etc. I simply enjoyed touring in an air-conditioned car.

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Jeanne didn’t join us for either of our visits, so we came home both nights and I cooked dinner for her. I don’t think she ever really liked cooking, and now that she’s alone she never cooks for herself. So I used some of the leftover chicken from Friday’s dinner to make curried chicken salad Saturday, and bought all fresh ingredients for crunchy onion tilapia with mango and avocado salsa Sunday. Today I made a big pot of soup with all of her leftovers, plus a few hidden treasures from her freezer. (We did, however, convince her to toss the pasta sauce her late husband made. He died in 2011.)

Can you tell that I miss my kitchen?

Yesterday we drove around St. Pete for a while. We passed 3 of the houses Dana lived in a child, although he was unclear on the actual address of the first one. Then we went to his favorite used bookstore, Haslam’s – we were both relieved to see that it has survived:

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And here is the Thunderbird motel, where Dana’s father stayed back in the day when he was visiting from Iran. It’s so retro – I love it!

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Then we went to the Salvador Dali museum. We got a tour, which was necessary. I think I’d last about 5 minutes in an art history class.

Here is a Dali dolphin, which seems apropos for this trip

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and a replica of the famous Dali melting clock.

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Honestly, I listened to an explanation of the melting clocks, and I Googled it, and I still don’t understand it well enough to explain it here. It’s like when we were in Fredricksburg and I was reading an historic sign about Stonewall Jackson. A woman came over and asked me what the sign said, and I told her I had no idea. Which totally explains why 7th grade totally sucked for me.

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