Our regular posting was delayed due to the new computer; we’ll get to that adventure in a rare Saturday blog. For now, we finish off the tale of the Keys trip.
As expected, when I arrived to pick up Dad at 4:30 am, he had more stuff with him than we had talked about. I mentioned in the last post that this was a direct result of his inability to cope with my nice, uncluttered trunk. No worries about that now.
We started out to go pick up the kids and it only took about four minutes for Dad’s first commentary on my choice of route. I knew this was going to be long trip, but I thought I would at least get until we hit the expressway. Ah well, I got my “revenge” by setting the cruise control at speed limit the entire way. Dad could barely contain himself (actually, a couple times he didn’t contain himself) about how “slow” I was driving.
The girls were all ready to load in the car when we got there, which was excellent. Of course, they also had a couple coolers full of stuff (drinks) as well as some beach stuff and some extra clothes. They loaded up the back of the car and we were off on our three hour tour.
Surprisingly, the kids (not really, the age range was 16 to 20, but when the three get together they act younger) didn’t just sleep but kept a running conversation with either Dad or me.
I was depending on my heretofore superb GPS to navigate the roads for me, but early it showed some curious choices. I kept ignoring the suggestions in favor of more logical ones and it occurred to me that the system must have “rebooted” after my recent map update (in preparation for the D.C. drive). When the lady in my GPS reboots, she forgets that I like toll roads and often takes me way out of the way to avoid costing me money. I remedied that on the way back, but the trip down was problematic for about half the journey.
We stopped off at the famous Waffle House for breakfast, where all three girls put away much more than either of the two men. Amazing. About an hour later, we stopped at a bait shop and Dad picked up some frozen bait. As with the packing, he bought too much bait for our needs, but that’s Dad. I was only concerned that the bait be properly wrapped inside a plastic bag and tucked away safely. I can remember many a time Dad would find some old piece of bait in his trunk. No way I wanted any part of that…especially in August!
Finally, we hit a fishing spot just before the 7 mile bridge and we all unloaded and began the setup process. The girls had jumped out ahead as Dad and I unloaded the equipment. They were already heading back towards us as we were carrying stuff down the stairs. My older nice thought it was too rocky to fish and wanted to go up on the bridge. We decided to give the seawall a try first.
As Dad and I were setting up the rigs, the complaining began. It was too hot; it was too still, it was too…
In a few minutes we had a couple rigs ready to go. The older niece went right to it. As expected, the younger niece wasn’t interested. The third girl (and youngest) was unsure, but she was willing to give it a try. I stayed with her to “mentor” her on casting and feeling for bites. After about 15 minutes, neither girl had a fish and Dad and I concluded the hooks were too small for the little fishies.
I cannibalized a tiny hook from a different rig, set up a lighter weight and went back with the youngest to try our luck again. She immediately got a “hit” and reeled in our first catch, a small grunt. I was ready to throw it back when Dad suggested he could use it for live bait (for a barracuda or some other larger fish that might be wandering by). This idea was not appreciated by the non-fishing niece, but that didn’t deter Dad.
It was plenty hot out there, but my young student continued to show enthusiasm for fishing, so we kept at it and she caught about a half dozen more little fish (which I threw back unharmed). She continued to improve both her casting form and her touch on the line. Her only real mishap was when she hooked me in the collar as she was distracted by a bug while I was baiting her hook. Thankfully it was my collar and not my neck.
My older niece was having no luck with her rod, which still had a large hook, and she was getting disinterested. I suggested she and her friend take turns with the little hook and they both started catching fish, which lifted my niece’s spirits significantly.
After nearly 2 hours, the girls were ready to move on for some swimming and cooling down, so we packed up and I handed out unopened bait to other fisherman there. Dad wanted to keep the squid (now mostly defrosted) in case we found some fishing hole somewhere along the way. I had serious misgivings about keeping a package of soon-to-be-smelly bait in the trunk, but I allowed it.
We were recommended by a jogging Coast Guard officer to a beach on the other side of the 7 mile bridge called Bahia Honda. He had mentioned that he thought it was about three dollars a car. That was true if you were alone, but it was really $3 a head ($2.50 @ for 5 people). Dad was not pleased, but this was supposed to be a fabulous beach (“number 6 in the country” the booth attendant told us proudly).
The girls went down to the beach and Dad and I ate sandwiches in the car. I kept my sandwich mostly in my mouth or on the paper towel in my lap (not easy, considering the sandwiches had gotten soggy and they were sliding and dripping). Dad was not so fastidious, although he did manage to catch a fair amount on his shirt.
There was an outcry from the girls as they waded in the water (they were clearly visible right in front of us through the windshield) and they came running back to the shore. We found out later that they had brushed into a jellyfish. Strange, since they see them all the time in our beaches up here, but there you go.
My older niece never went back into the water and my younger niece, who wanted to see some reef fish, never went out deep enough to use her mask. Ultimately, they came back after only about an hour or so and ate sandwiches. During this period there was some complaining about the beach and complaining about the soggy sandwiches. By all accounts, it sounded like it was time to go.
I was able to convince Dad to at least throw away the squid before we left (like I wanted that in the trunk for the next three hot August afternoon hours). As we rummaged through the trunk to find the squid, I looked in dismay at the disaster that used to be a neat and mostly empty trunk. Attempting to inject as much of that feeling as I could into my voice, I simply looked at Dad and said “Just one day”, which caused him to spit up the water he was drinking so he could laugh.
The trip home was uneventful; the girls slept most of the way back. We had one blinding thunderstorm for about 15 minutes and the rest of the travel was pretty smooth. The girls seemed pleased with the day’s adventure; though I think they missed a major opportunity by not swimming out to the reef area to see the Keys’ amazing sea population. Still, I was glad they were happy and we were back early enough that Dad and I could work carefully to get rid of most everything he had dumped in my trunk.
The car handled the whole ride beautifully, averaging a startling 28+ miles to the gallon despite stretches of low speed zones and interrupted driving. The whole trip was made on one tank with room to spare. Very encouraging news for my travels later this year.
I had forgotten how taxing that much driving could be. Not so much that I was sleepy, but more cramps in areas that are uncomfortable when they cramp. Hopefully I can get myself into better driving shape before the big trip in October.
So there it is. The big Keys trip with the girls and Dad. About what I expected, in terms of fun and other things. I would do it again, but maybe we could try it in the spring and see if the girls showed more staying power in the cooler conditions.