We woke up “bright and early” in Key West for a 9:00 snorkeling expedition we had scheduled the day before when we checked into our hotel.  We were still a little groggy and hadn’t discussed if we were packing up before or after we were done snorkeling.  The answer was before, as the snorkeling and boat ride combo would mean we would never be back in time for checkout.  After quickly going through the motions of trying to get a late checkout we started quickly packing, hurried Sarah along getting ready (she was the last to shower) and jumped in the car.  We later checked out over the phone from downtown.
We drove around looking for parking.  It was 9:05 and we didn’t want to miss our boat.  We drove past a pier and Sarah ducked and rolled out of the car at full speed (she jumped out at a stop sign) and started running to the pier for information.  Tom and I found street parking a few blocks later, fed the meter, and ran.  We found out where to go, but had lost Sarah in the small downtown/beach front/touristy area.  Tom and I ran asked quick directions, put down our things and ran towards the correct snorkeling company.  Sarah ran from behind us and informed us that we were going in the right direction.  When we got there, we exchanged our receipt for tickets and started running down the docks.  Someone yelled out “the boat doesn’t leave for fifteen minutes.”  We resigned ourselves to walking the rest of the way and stood in line.  They built a half hour buffer into the schedule.

After a leisurely boat ride with around fifty other people, getting gear, and sitting through the crash course on snorkeling, we arrived at a reef.  We got into the water and swam towards the reef.  I am a scuba diver and, while I knew that this would not be a world renowned reef, I expected more than a few rocks and dead coral.  I lamented our decision not to get wave runners (a more expensive option).

Then the attack started.  Though the jellyfish were small, there were more of them than I have seen in one place outside of an aquarium.  I swam over to Sarah, who was not having a good time at all.  She soon decided to swim to the boat.  We high-tailed it back to the deeper, non-reef area and Sarah climbed on to the boat.  I hung around, keeping an eye out for jellyfish while watching a school of fish that had collected under the shade of the boat.  While I was killing time hanging around near the boat, I heard the punchline from one of the guides, “these jellyfish don’t sting.”

The crew of the snorkeling operation got bonus points for serving free beer on the ride back to shore.  When we went to the southernmost tip of the continental United States, Tom had to use the bathroom pretty badly.  He did a lap around the block, and realized this was a totally residential area, no bathrooms anywhere.  Look how grumpy he looks (click to enlarge, ha ha).

Afterwards, we stopped at a gas station and got a huge fillet of catfish from a Cuban food roadside stand.  On the ride back up the beautiful Florida Keys, there were a couple accidents and traffic that lasted forever.  Thankfully for us, this was in the opposite direction and we had no problems.
On the drive to Tampa, we stopped briefly in Everglades National Park to check out the surroundings and snap some photos.  We arrived in Tampa late and checked into our hotel, necessary because the southern heat was still too much to camp in.

7/20/2009 09:47:53 pm

Too bad you didn't call me about the bathroom--I know where there's a lovely one near the pier. Sarah, you should know me better!


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