Truth be told, I struggle with the Sunshine State. Like every state, Florida has much to offer. Hannah and I are drawn to its warmth each winter, but cringe at its crowds and traffic congestion. Florida offers water sports, beaches, restaurants, and night life. It’s not Maine, but it’s fine. This year we have chosen the Florida Keys as perhaps an anti-Florida Florida place to visit.
It’s a given that we are not city folks. That’s not Florida’s fault. We live in Maine for many reasons, one being the slower pace and fewer people. This week southern Florida promises 80s so we are giving Florida one more shot by flying from Boston to Miami for five days.
And by the way, why do people hate flying? Could it be the lack of control when one is in a plane? Perhaps they dislike the inflexible deadlines of airlines with set departure times? Crashing? Or is it really that they just dislike traveling at all? Driving the 1710 miles in 26 hours from York, Maine to Key West, Florida (Google maps estimate) to spend five days of vacation on the Keys is not exactly practical for us. Statistics are funny. Check out this link for the different statistics to support whatever your opinion is about safe travel. Cars are safer than airplanes on a per trip basis. It makes sense; car trips are typically shorter than plane trips. Now, if you go by miles traveled, airlines are safer. I like to fly because it saves me time and I’m not thrilled with the tedium of long distance miles and metropolitan traffic.
Even though we awake at 415A this Monday morning in January, we are off to an auspicious start as we are stuck in Monday morning Boston commuter traffic on I-93 heading to Logan Airport. Who knew that we’d be going 15 miles an hour at 630A on a Monday morning? Perhaps anyone who ventures out of his cloistered little life living in small town Maine, Danny Boy!
Once we hit the HOV lane, our son Will, our driver, is cruising at 50 mph and soon has us through the Ted Williams Tunnel, which then puts us at Terminal B. Though it’s 30 minutes after I thought we’d get there, it’s 715A and ours is an 8A flight. We certainly have a good shot at making our flight. Having forgotten to print boarding passes at home, we go to the kiosk and confirm two seats in row 28 of American Airlines flight 439. Hurrying to the TSA baggage screening area, I do the pathetic and sad, really pitiable husband thing and walk ten feet ahead of Hannah in my need/zeal/angst to make the flight, as if ten feet of hurry will make the difference. This morning the TSA checkpoint has few in line and we sail through.
Our flight is three quarters full on this day of the college national championship game in Miami between Notre Dame v Alabama. This American Airlines plane seems so old school compared to Jet Blue and Southwest. There are TVs in the aisle every five rows (if you are 6’ 1” and taller you’ll smack your head on them). The TVs are of the 1950s, cream colored, boxy twelve inch squares. You do get a free movie, in this case the weak Premium Rush, about couriers solving crime in New York City. With borderline ADD, I last twenty minutes and take to my refuge when I fly: Sudoku puzzles and crosswords in the in-flight magazine.
In three plus hours we’ve gone from below freezing in Maine to amazingly warm 80 degrees in January Miami. If you’ve never been to the Miami Airport, it is monstrous. We walk at least a mile on people movers just to get to the high speed shuttle that takes us to the Rental Car center. Since we have found a cheap (and it turns out reliable) car rental (Fox Rent a Car), we then take a shuttle van a mile to the Fox center. When you pay $139 for five days for a car, you pay in other ways. We wait 30 minutes, but we are in Florida, it’s 80F. Small sacrifice indeed.
Renting the smallest, least expensive car we can, a Chevy Aveo, we are instead shown to a Chrysler 200 Convertible.
Believing that going to Key West will get us far from Florida cities, traffic, and congestion, we scurry south on Florida’s Turnpike (a toll road where scanners read each car’s license plate) and eventually to Route One South. The transition to the Overseas Highway on the Keys takes us away.
Stopping at the visitor’s center in Key Largo, we ask about a room in Islamorada, the village of islands. We pronounce it Islam-o-rada giving a Moslem emphasis to the first two syllables. Sweetly, she says it’s pronounced Aisle-ma-rada and the locals call it El-ma-rada. We must look like people who want a room for under $100 because the woman says, “I have rooms for under $100.” We are such bumpkins. She has a $65 room fifteen miles away in Islamorada on the way to Key West. We are ready to get out of the car and just cool our jets and settle in for the night.
Twenty-five minutes later, we arrive and check in into the last $65 room. We unpack, check out renting bicycles for tomorrow, and later sit poolside hoping for Florida’s best.
As we sit by the pool I find solace in thinking about getting my teeth cleaned. (Stick with me, there is a connection.) As I lay back in the dentist chair I can see a poster above my head that has 20 reasons for happiness. #1 – Choose your spouse well. 95% of your happiness depends on that one decision.