I’m back in London now after another action-packed week in Florida. Following the sea trial of Odyssey on Tuesday Reg and I flew from Fort Lauderdale to Key West for a quick visit to the southern-most part of the USA, renowned for it’s laid-back attitude and frontier spirit, being closer to Cuba than the mainland.
We stayed right on Duval Street (in the lovely Tropical Inn) and arrived just in time for the daily sunset celebration on Mallory Square which faces west onto the Gulf of Mexico. It was a bit cloudy so we just caught glimpses of the sun as it set, accompanied by jugglers, tightrope-walking dogs and mime artists. Imagine Covent Garden crossed with Skegness and you’ll get the picture. We then headed off for food and entertainment, ending up at a bar just a short stagger from our hotel.
Wednesday was spent shopping and sight-seeing, including a narrated tour of the island on a trolley bus, although the guide had to shout to be heard over Reg’s snoring at times… Back to Duval Street for more shopping, food, and bars, ending up in the local strip joint where we spent the remainder of our evening finding the contents of our wallets strangely drawn into the underwear of the dancers!
On Thursday we picked up a hire car and headed off up US1, the road which starts at Key West and runs all the way up the east coast of the USA from Florida to Maine. The 126 miles from Key West to the mainland are particularly scenic, linking the chain of islands with a series of bridges, the longest being a seven-mile causeway across the sea.
There are very few natural beaches in the Keys due to the barrier reef so we stopped at the best, Bahia Honda, about 40 miles north of Key West. It’s a classic desert island scene with pure white sand lining the clear blue sea, fringed with palm trees and lush sub-tropical vegetation. Beautiful, and a lovely way to get our last bit of sun.
We made it to Miami airport in good time to enjoy a shower and champagne in the BA lounge before our flight left just after dusk, giving us a great view of the lights of Miami slipping away behind us as we headed out over the Atlantic towards England. As I looked down on the dark ocean I realised that the next time I make this trip it’ll be on the good ship Odyssey, if all goes well. Strange feeling.
The flight was fine, but as usual I didn’t manage to get a wink of sleep, even with BA’s flat bed and sleeper suit. I hate those overnight long-haul flights, it makes no difference if I’m economy or first – I still can’t switch off, so I’m looking forward to doing it by sea. Hopefully I will manage to sleep at some stage during my crossing as I don’t think I can handle being awake for 4 weeks on the trot!
So, now I’m back in London for a final weekend of partying and seeing friends before my return to Florida next Wednesday for the next stage of my mission – preparing the boat for my trans-Atlantic crossing. It’s strange being back in the UK as I now almost feel that Fort Lauderdale is my home, so I wonder if this is the last time I’ll be back??