Wednesday, December 28, 2016

This is Christmas 2016

I wake up at 4:00am and I smile. It's adventure time! It is 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Two plane rides later, we exit the airport and it's 80 degrees. We have lunch with my dad in Melbourne, FL then drive six hours to Key West. We have traveled from Monroe County, NY to Monroe County, FL. It's the Monday before Christmas. Lights and tinsel abound. Christmas songs play on the radio and I laugh at the nonsensical juxtaposition. There is no White Christmas or Winter Wonderland here, only palm trees, sunshine and ocean breezes. This, I think, is how to December.

I wake up at 4:00am, bewildered and borderline poultricidal. Roosters are crowing loudly outside of the condo we have rented on the Navy base in Key West. What cockamamie fowlplay is this? Pete deadpans "So, do you feel like chicken for breakfast?" We move to another bedroom (luckily the condo we have rented has 3 bedrooms), where we are able to almost fall back asleep before being awoken at 6:00am by more ear-splitting caws from the cursed alarm cocks! Later, our bike tour guide, Bruce, tells us the chickens were brought to Key West by Cubans for cock fights, then released into the city when cock fighting was outlawed. I sleep with earplugs for the remainder of our stay.

We go paddleboarding at Boca Chica Navy Air Station, even though it is far too windy and the water is too shallow for paddleboarding. My board's fin keeps catching on the sand and vegetation and jolting me into the water. My legs get all scraped up but I don't mind because the water is warm and we get to watch the fighter jets practicing overhead.

We visit Ernest Hemingway's house and look for six-toed cats. Some of the 50-some cats who live on the house/museum grounds today are descendants of Hemingway's polydactyl cat, Snow White. Pete exclaims "This is the best $6 I ever spent. There are cats everywhere!"

Hemingway's house

Cool dude I found in Hemingway's garden

Hemingway's cats don't give a shit about your signs

We climb the 88 steps to the top of the Key West Lighthouse tower. Later we will learn from Bruce that the lighthouse had a female keeper for 30+ years, until she was fired for distributing Confederate propaganda from the top of the tower.

Pete is using his phone to navigate to Mallory Square, where we are planning to watch the sunset. He inadvertently directs us to the end of a street where a line of people has formed in front of a concrete buoy. I realize we are actually at the Southernmost Point in the continental US and Pete says "oh I wondered what all those people were standing in line for." Throughout the rest of the trip, he says things like "Who took you to see the Southernmost Point in the US?" and "We're the Southernmost bike tour in the US right now."

Southernmost Pete & Jen in the continental US

Kapok tree outside the Monroe County courthouse

We eventually find our way to Mallory Square to watch the sunset and see the unicyclists, fire jugglers and this weird, creepy statue made out of natural sponges.

I run. In shorts. Every day. Around town. On the beach. To the Southernmost Point early enough to have it all to myself. I create my own faux Fit1 workout on base. It is glorious. This, I think, is how to vacation.

We go on a boat tour where the food is surprisingly good and the "entertainment" is too bad to even be hilarious. Unless the guy was a professional drunken karaoke singer, in which case he was superb at his job. This, I think, is not how to boat. There isn't even any dessert here. I do, however, have the most excellent and tallest of company. 

We walk and bike around town, eating our weight in Key Lime Pie. Mini pies, pie slices, chocolate covered pie slices, key lime sugar cookies. I cannot overstate how legit delicious that pie is.

We drive back to Melbourne, stopping for lunch in Miami Beach. Pete has now driven 12 hours in a rental car without cruise control. Yes, apparently they do exist. I have now spent 12 hours singing to every song on the radio and asking if we can stop to pee. I am also in charge of buying the Diet Mountain Dew at gas stations and rest stops. This, I think, is how to roadtrip.

It is Christmas Eve. Pete and I swim in the ocean. We watch football. Later we eat Chinese food and mini mince fruit pies with my dad and family friends from England. It is laid back and perfect (except for the people smoking at the bar where we watched football. My lungs were horrified to learn that some places still allow smoking indoors).

It is Christmas Day. I run 6 miles on a soft, white sandy beach, past people who smile and wave. I read "Ready Player One" while Pete is swimming. We eat Christmas brinner (or whatever the word for lunch-dinner is) with my dad at the Hilton Melbourne Beach's buffet. Later, Pete and I go in the hot tub and the heated pool, then order room service (I chose chocolate lava cake. I chose wisely). This, I think, is a pretty awesome way to Christmas.

Lyric of the moment: "You and I would have our first Christmas in space. Space Christmas. Maybe it'd be better if I didn't spend at all. Sometimes the bestest presents don't cost anything at all... ~Allo Darlin' "Space Christmas"

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