This spot in the middle Keys is a popular place with cruisers. We've met many people with lots of sea miles, including two couples who have completed circumnavigations. One comment fascinated me. The wife of one of the couples said that they have basically settled here, and in the last year she has rarely traveled more than bicycle distance from their marina. Within that square mile was the grocery store, the t-shirt shop where she worked, the park where yoga classes and local festivals and concerts were held, a few restaurants and bars, the hardware store, marine store, move theater, and beach. That, she felt, was all that she needed.
Now, if anyone has earned the right to settle down and think small, that world traveler has! Still, it's not for me, not yet anyway. And two other people I met here on the island claimed they lived in almost as small a range, rarely leaving the Keys and visiting the mainland. "If they don't sell it here on the island, I don't really need it," said one. Interesting take on minimalism, to be sure. Again, not quite us. With the car, we've explored not just up and down the island chain, but also into south Florida.
I don't know, maybe it's just the novelty of having a car again, but whenever we go anywhere, we try to tag one or two explorations in addition to our primary purpose for going on that errand. Back when we were in Annapolis, we had a dermatologist we really liked. We'd schedule an annual visit back every year to do the round of our doctors, and she was always included. So we were pretty disappointed one visit when she told us she was leaving. Our disappointment turned to delight when we learned that she was moving and setting up a new practice in south Florida. So being "only" about a 4-hour drive away, we made plans to see her while we were here. Of course, while we were on the mainland anyway, we'd add in a few side trips...
First stop, the Everglades. Then on to the doctor's appointment itself (just routine and no issues discovered, thankfully). We deliberately asked to schedule the last appointment of the day and after the exam we did a bunch of social chatting, about the drivers in her new city; about the time she and her husband were sitting in a sidewalk cafe in Charleston, SC on vacation and we walked by and she said hi and I was totally unable to recognize her out of context and without her lab coat; about the plusses and minuses of having a solo practice instead of being a partner in a larger group; about the cost of jewelry in Aruba ... all in all, it felt a lot more like catching up with an old friend than a doctor visit. Then a bit of mainland shopping for material culture - unlike the person I quoted above, I do need some things that aren't available on the island, everything from vitamins and protein supplements to sapphire blue hair dye.
Next stop on our rather ambitious schedule was a visit with an old couple friend, J and J, who we hadn't seen since we lived in Annapolis and they lived in Chicago. We'd kept in touch via Facebook and were delighted to learn we were going to be in the same place at the same time -- or at least, within an hour's drive of each other. We agreed to meet at the Ritz-Carlton. I had just as much fun getting used to saying "meeting at the Ritz" as I did getting used to referring to "on the mainland."
Of course we talked about absolutely everything, but one thing about the way J and J related to each other really stood out to me. They really admired each other. It's the sort of thing that might have been cute, in a sugary sort of way, if they were newlyweds. But they'd been together many years, and the cute had mellowed into something totally authentic, and totally wonderful. J1 explained that J2, who has a background in finance, had gotten interested in local politics, "...and is really, really good at it" and may run for city council next. J2 explained in turn that J1, "rewired our whole house, you know, has that whole set of construction skills." And then of course J1 had to talk about how J2 had designed all the plantings and the color scheme of their (sweet, funky, and oh-so-quintessentially-Florida-style) cottage. We talked until the sun went down, and then one of them reminded the other that Dan and I had at 2-1/2 hour drive yet to get to Homestead where we were spending the night. "No worries, though," the other J replied, "For Dan and Jaye that 2-1/2 hours doesn't seem very far. They're like tumbleweeds, you just never know where they're going to show up." A 2-1/2 hour drive was a very small price to pay for that lovely little window into their lives.
|Not a sign you see very often. I was going to take a selfie in front of it, but it just didn't seem wise to get out of the car.|
|Birds rather like building nests above alligator waters, because the reptiles keep other predators away from the eggs.|
|It's a telephoto lens -- I'm bold but not that close!|
|Passers by told us that this egret keeps vigil on top of whatever car is parked here, about a block from the beach, day after day. Sadly, they surmise that hizzer mate was killed here and he's waiting ... waiting ...|
|For our friends in Colorado -- mountain passes have a whole different meaning here!|
|Lovely shady boardwalk through the mangroves|