Westwinds Hotel


Key West Light Tower

Hemmingway's House

Jet Ski Rental

Carmen on the Jet Ski

Kurt racing his Scooter

Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor



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04.02.2002 - Day 5

The task for this day is to explore the island to our hearts’ content. After a little contemplating, Kurt and I decide that we need to ditch the RAV4 for the day and find ourselves a ride on the island’s most popular form of transportation: scooters. After our adventures from the day before, we can see why at least half of the vehicles are either scooters or bicycles - one of these two methods would certainly make parking a whole lot easier! Since scooters sound like a lot more fun than bicycles, our first order of the day is to find a scooter rental office. This is not a difficult task at all – we easily find an establishment with gads of scooters in the parking lot - more scooters than I have ever seen before in one location. After renting a couple and receiving a brief driving lesson (about 2 minutes’ worth... I have never driven one before), we’re off to explore Key West. The unobstructed view and the fresh salt breeze rushing past soon have me hooked.

We spend the next few hours riding the perimeter of the island - cruising past Hemmingway’s house, the Historic Lighthouse and visiting the City Cemetery. I am completely awed by how beautiful the entire town is - it's truly paradise. I can see why so many people come here on vacation and never return home.

Once the heat of the afternoon sets in, Kurt and I decide it’s time to get wet. With ease, we find a jet ski rental shop thinking that we’ll be able to explore the perimeter of the island by water! Alas, once we were on our jet ski, we learn that we will not be free-range riders, but instead we have to stay within set boundaries and in fact a guide on another jet ski will lead us across the harbor to this boundaried area. Slightly disappointed, Kurt and I follow our leader to a triangle-shaped section of water off an adjacent Key. Once we are safely inside this area, the guide leaves us to do our thing. The area is relatively large and we have fun attempting to throw ourselves off the machine. (Kurt tries harder than I do, of course – plus he has never driven one of these things before!) Sharing the space with us are parasailing boats – 3 or 4 of them at a time – which we are required to navigate around, of course.

Our hour is soon up and the guide comes to lead us safely back across the harbor. Let me say that at this point I quickly learn why we are required to have a guide on the open water. It’s about 45 minutes before sunset and all sorts of boats are making their way into the harbor for the night. The waves on the open water are at least 4 feet high and the sheer size of the boats crossing our path is incredibly intimidating. Since jet skis are the smallest craft on the water, everything else has the right of way. Legally, a boat can run a jet ski over and not get in trouble (they made sure we understood this when we signed the paper work). This thought also adds to my tension as we dodge boats more than 20 times our size and hang on with all our might so we don’t end up as fish bait if an oversized wave hits us just right (or wrong...).

Luckily (and due to my skillful driving), we arrive at the docks without incident. We have just about 45 minutes before we have to return the scooters and there is one more attraction we want to visit: Fort Zachary Taylor on the south side of the island. A short scooter ride takes us to the former military outpost. This fort was a Union stronghold through out the Civil War, keeping shipments of supplies from reaching prominent Confederate cities. So impressive were the fort’s defenses that it was never attacked through out the entire war.

Sadly, the time comes for us to return our fun machines and head out of Key West. Our destination for the night is a camp ground on Sugar Load Key, about 20 miles back up Highway 1. I am incredibly sad to leave Key West and in fact wish we could spend the rest of the week in Margaritaville.

We arrive at the KOA campground and find a location to set up our tent. Kurt and I are a little disappointed that all our neighbors are extremely near to our camping site, but then again we should have expected it – it’s a family camping area after all. What we don't expect are the grounds to be so trashy. Litter is scattered everywhere. When you’re paying $49 a night to pitch a tent (it’s the cheapest we could find!!), you at least expect to stay in immaculate quarters.

After hanging all our still-wet diving gear outside, we determine it’s time to find a good place for dinner. We locate a nice tiki-style open-air seafood bar not too far down the road. The food is delicious and the Key Lime Pie is outstanding! Upon returning to the KOA, we mosey over to the bar to sip on a few cold ones before turning in.
(To Day 6)