So we decided to load up the Jeep, and head all the way to Key West Florida with just over 2 weeks in total to make the trip there and back, with as much leisure time as possible. So off we went on the wee hours of August 21 for the first leg, a 10 hour drive according to my GPS, a trip we have made many times before, but good ol GPS doesnt take into account that I am a compulsive SPEEDER! So we got there with stops for lunch etc in under 10 hours. We checked into our favorite - the Hyatt Grand Washington, washed up, and headed for the usual feedbag, awesome, meat lovers paradise fogo de chao Brazilian BBQ steakhouse. I wont post links for it on this post, as Ive done it many times before on previous posts. In a word, awesome. I was introduced to the new love of my life, rum-wise, Zaya - a smooth, velvety, aromatic and syrupy sipping rum, with overtones of vanilla, chocolate and coffee. It is made in limited batches, and has won numerous awards among the rum and vintage powers that be. It took me until I got to Key West to actually find a bottle of this stuff, and with the $55 USD price tag, although well worth it, it is a rum to be cherished. You wont find it here in Canada as far as I know, but I recommend it highly. We spent the following day touring the free of charge Smithsonian museums which although were pretty cool, were not quite as grandiose as we were expecting, but it was hot, packed, and we saw what we wanted to see, in the time wanted to spend. The Abe Lincoln exhibit was tops in my books. We went from there on a 5 hour bar hopping spree that got pretty out of hand, but we woke up Sunday morning in not too bad shape - to begin our next leg - to Norfolk Virginia to see our friends and fellow adventurers, Keith and Michelle.
We got to their custom designed and built, stunning home, deep in the Virginia woods on a lakeside, around 4:30pm and enjoyed catching up, a few drinks, and as usual a fresh caught fish and seafood feast which would more than fill any seafood lover. On the menu was fried grouper, more than you can eat snow crab legs and even a sampling of frogs legs which I tried but wouldnt again. The next day the four of us travelled to the Outer Banks (OBX) region of North Carolina, about a 3 hour drive, to Nags Head to see the beaches and have lunch. Awesome place. Great Surf culture there, and just a really cool place overall. I even got to go through a drive thru beer store (bru-thru), I mean thats just awesome - filled the cooler with Red Stripe and on we went. We parted ways with K & M after lunch and continued down the OBX on US 12 through Rodanthe (stopped at some surf shops and the beach for some drinks and swim) then down to the tip of Cape Hatteras and got the free 45 min ferry to Okracoke Island. This was the main home of Blackbeard, his favorite haunt, site of his last week-long beach party, and ultimate resting place after he was beheaded and thrown overboard at Teaches Hole, a small inlet at the back of Okracoke in about 30 foot of water. We stayed the night at the Anchorage Inn and Marina not 50 yards from Blackbeards party area, and watery grave, and swam alone in the inn's pool under full stars. It was wicked. The next day we spent some time touring the island, and then caught the 2.5 hour ferry back to the mainland en route to Beaufort Inlet to continue south on our travels. Nice trip on that ferry we just sat on the roof of the truck, listened to tunes and had a few drinks. Good times. Once ashore, we hit it back to the I-95 to begin the long stretch through the rest of NC, SC and Georgia.
We stayed in NC near the 95 that night, and the next day blasted through all of NC, SC, and most of Georgia, stopping in a place called Brunswick GA, at a Holiday Inn which had the wickedest restaurant attached to it - Millhouse - and ate like royalty. Another awesome pool at this place, where we dipped, again, alone, and had a ball. It was indoor and saltwater. The next day we got down into Florida, and began the stretch to the Keys. We stopped at Ron Jon in Cocoa Beach of course, had a pizza on the strip and then punched it down to just south of Miami to a place called Florida City where we stayed at another Hoiday Inn and ate at the coolest, non-cheesy, pirate themed restaurant we have ever seen, which we stumbled onto by chance called The Mutineer. Awesome seafood etc, and cheap. Awesome decor, all non-cheesy. The next morning we were in the Keys!
We stopped in Key Largo for some browsing / shopping and had a drink and light lunch in Marathon Key's apparently world famous Cracked Conch Cafe. They serve exactly that, Conch. They cant be world famous for the service or friendliness of the waitress, but whatever it was an experience in the 96 degree heat and the beer was almost cold. We boogied on, and hit Key West in the mid afternoon, now a full week since our departure date, at the Hyatt Resort and Spa Key West. Our room wasnt quite ready for check in, so we hit the pool and cooled off as best we could even though the pool was too warm, but it was wet, and that was all that mattered. Awesome place overall, incredibly beautifully appointed rooms, well laid out, nice pool. Had some trouble getting our room made up each day but my complaint about it got us $50 in resort credits which we used for brekkie and some drinks.
Key West was wonderful, very touristy, but wonderful as long as youve travelled before, know what you like, how and where to get it, and can smell a rip off or tourist trap. Great bars, night life, restaurants, and attractions. Among some of the better restaurants we ate at were A&B's Lobster House (awesome lobster, mussels, oysters, etc), La Trattoria (awesome Italian, home-made pasta, good seafood), and a little hole in the wall called Johnny Rocco's (eat here only at happy hour - which for them is twice a day - and the oysters are 50 cents each, and the creamiest, nicest Ive ever had). Im proud to report that yours truly ate a total of 4 dozen over the course of my stay. ;-)
We did some shopping for shirts, snorkel gear (lost our masks and snorkels somehow on our last adventure) - likely booze related - and did some attractions. We stayed far from the tourist trap, sunset sails, snorkel trips etc, those just suck ass anyway. We hit the beach and floated and drank one day, we went to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory (awesome!) and I went to Pat Croce's "Pirate Soul" Museum one morning alone while Renee enjoyed a 60 min massage at the spa. The museum is the BEST of its kind I have ever seen, and Ive been through a few. It beats the one in Nassau Bahamas hands down, and has actual artifacts with providence (proof of ownership) back to actual pirates we all know like Thomas Tew for example. Awesome, awesome place. Did the tour, alone, no one else in the museum, took tons of pics in the "no photography" museum, and bought the t shirt. By Monday we had been there three nights, and were debating staying another, but decided against it as we had seen all we wanted, bought all we needed, and wanted the extra jump on the way back to give us a nice long weekend back home to unwind before heading back to the dreaded - WORK! We hit up Bahia Honda State Park up the Keys on the way back that Monday morning, and spent a few hours alone on a couple mile long stretch of beach, in blue waters. Awesome. We then trucked it back, took our time, and got all the way back to the Mutineer restaurant where we gladly ate again, and drove another hour or so up to Boynton Beach FLA for the night. The next day we drove, stopped in Cocoa Beach again, bought a surf board for shits n giggles, and continued on - stayed back in Brunswick at the same place, and ate at Millhouse again. Not as awesome as the way dow, but not bad. By now depression was setting in on us, as we were now just trudging back to home which means WORK, which means misery to us. It was like being at the edge of a precipice, struggling to back away with a mechanical wall pushing us forward. We did our best to overcome it, and make the best of what was left - we turned off the 95 and headed to Myrtle Beach - Renee had never been there, and I hadnt been since I was 7 or something, so we decided to check it out, knowing what we were walking into - a pimped out version of Niagara Falls' Cliffton Hill district. Mucho non impresso when we got there, but we went to the Ripley's Aquarium, 3 out of 5 stars I would say, ate dinner at an awesome little Italian chain place called Carraba's, and moved on to Lumberton NC where we slept. The next day we drove all day to get to Washington DC again, for one last hurrah at the Grand Hyatt, and another clogged artery at Fogo de Chao. Mmmmm I can still taste it now...god its good. Flip that paper coin to the green side, and its non stop Brazilian Gaucho dudes, with never-ending selections of perfectly spiced BBQ's meats on huge skewers which they slice off onto your plate -and about 18 different kinds of meat to boot. Gimme a feast there one night, an all you can eat Lobster feast the night after, and I could die a happy man. :P
By 7pm the next day we were done the last leg, the trek through the beautiful PA and NY countryside (stunning views and scenery) - through customs, and sitting at our favorite table, with two of our favorite people (Renees folks) and eating a comfortable, well loved meal at our favorite restaurant here at home - Vincents Spot - a little hole in the wall at Midland and Kingston Road in the lower east side of Scarberia which has been around since the early seventies with the same owners for the last 30 years...That was the end of this adventure, but we are already planning another...stay tuned.