If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.
In my case, if you want to see God roll in the aisles, plan your trip to the Z in TripIt. My mini-moon in Florida Keys could have been the ultimate beach trip, with sunset rendezvous with dazzling glasses of mojito, floating among the whimsical Florida Reefs, playing pirate ghosts in shipwrecks, or parasailing with the wind.
Nah! He sent his pariah named Winter Storm Jonas.
On the day I planned to go diving in John Pennekamp State Park, all water activities, even kayaking in semi-concealed mangrove tunnels. I got really upset! I’m like a spoiled kid when things didn’t go accordingly. But this was no hollow plan. I have wanted to go to the park since I read about the underwater Christ of the Abyss statue and ship remnants that settled there. It’s a chance for me to put my PADI certification in use, and it’s different from other water sites I have snorkeled/dived in.
2 days later, we woke up at 6.30 for our tour to Dry Tortugas National Park, only to be greeted by a cautious ranger. She informed us that the catamaran was still running, but the ride would be very rocky, and snorkeling would be “out of the question”. Despite my longing to see this unique, superlative park, the kinetosis in me cried no. I knew my limit: Dramamine wouldn’t help much, and I would get too cranky and exhausted to enjoy the scenery. Plus, what’s the point of seeing a mesmerizing palette of blue without being to touch it?
- On the Seven Mile Bridge. The GoPro shook like crazy, I had to do multiple shots to get one or two almost neat-looking photos.
Still, we still had a lot of fun dashing through the Overseas Highway and exploring the Keys. It was no California’s State Route 1, but with a Mustang Convertible, the drive was still a classic. Here are some of our interest encounter along the way:
- Python Challenge: NOT SAFE FOR GEEKS! The wildlife in Everglades National Park is being threatened by the invasion of non-native Burmese pythons, so people are participating in a removal competition. I propose captured pythons be packed and sent oversea to Asian countries, where python fat is used as a kind of alternative medicine (notably burn treatment), but apparently Everglades pythons have high levels of mercury and not recommended for consumption. (Not that Asians care)
- Robert is Here: a well-known fruit farm in Homestead, FL. Well, for me, it was a sanctuary. There were star fruits, canistels, rambutans, full-sized jackfruits, SUGARCANE JUICE! Sapodillas were twice the size of a regular one, and soursops were twice the prize. I particularly love how the tastes are described: pineapple cotton candy, egg custard, fruity flan… Growing up eating these tropical fruits on a daily basis, I kind of took them for granted, never thinking about how foreigner would perceive these tastes. It’s like… describing colors to blind people.
- Big Pine Key / No Name Key: I was adamant about dropping by this tiny island to spot the endangered Key deer. We saw 4: a lonesome, mellow buck, and a group of 2 does and 1 tiny fawn. They are tiny and intrepid, but I kept my distance, with respect to their habitat.
- Bahia Honda State Park: some guides say this state park is passable. I’m glad I didn’t listen. Not much activity was going on the day we came (stormy stuffs), but the beach was sophisticatedly turquoise. I think it’s one of the more beautiful beaches in Florida Keys. It also gave a great view to the old Bahia Honda Bridge, and better, access to the bridge itself.
- The Spice & Tea Exchange Key West: a “franchise” that specializes in, well, spices and tea. I purchased a bag of Wuyi tea with relatively good quality (not on a par with my favorites Ten Ren, Harney & Sons, or McNulty though). I have higher hopes for the spices, and can’t wait to try the salmon rub made from black tea and peppercorn.
- I almost forgot the most important thing: food! While the seafood here is so fresh you can hear fishermen singing, the execution didn’t wow us. We went to restaurants on both the widely praised and the locally recommended sides, enjoyed our meals overall, but neither of us got that euphoria in the tummy. The only memorable dish, for me, is the Asian-fusion tuna tataki, seared rare tuna and wakame salad, at Bagatelle.
- And yeah, conch fritters!
For now, I think I’m done with Florida. Temporarily. Maybe I’ll be back a few years later to explore the off-beaten paths this sunshine state has to offer. But in the mean time, 2016 will be the year of lakes and mountains!