Early in our marriage, my husband and I made our daily commute on Route #1, or Boston Post Road as it’s called in Westchester, New York. I had no idea this busy road, should we have chosen to follow it south, led to a place that, years later, would become our favorite getaway destination.
Key West, a small island with nicknames such as Bone Island and Conch Republic, is located at the southwestern tip of US Highway Route 1, one hundred twenty-seven scenic miles and 43 bridges from the Florida mainland.
After many happy years of marriage, we welcomed the arrival of our second child. We were thrilled, but overwhelmed! The baby we had waited for so long and love so dearly was born with special needs. We dug in our heels, advocating tirelessly for him to become his personal best. Unfortunately, with our focus on our son, something had to give. That something was us.
A wise friend advised, “The best gift a parent can give their child is a great marriage.” Now, if a typical couple’s divorce rate is about 5o%, adding in my husband’s line of work and our new family situation, the odds were stacked against us. (I realize it’s not always possible to make a marriage work; all we can do is try our best.)
Sharing my concerns with family, I was grateful when my kind mother-in-law offered to babysit. We hadn’t been on a couple’s vacation in a decade, but we knew what we craved–tropical weather, hammocks, water sports, romantic walks on the beach, fresh seafood, and fine spirits. With a little research and a lot of faith, we took a chance on Key West.
Landing at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport one summer morning, we rent a sexy Mustang convertible and are on our way. You know, like in the movies. Well, those movies lie, people. By the time we reach Key Largo in the upper keys (an hour into our drive), I notice my husband’s forehead is fire-engine red and his shirt’s dripping wet. Laughing, we give in, putting up the top before one of us collapses from heat exhaustion.
Aside from the rental car, our first getaway is memorable in a good way. Overseas Highway locations are found according to mile markers (MM) and whether an establishment is bayside or oceanside. We stop at MM102 to eat lunch at the Fish House, a casual restaurant that features, you guessed it, fish. But these aren’t ordinary fish. They are bought directly off boats, not through distributors. Now, that’s fresh! I become an instant fan of yellowtail snapper.
Back on the road, we cross the famous Seven-Mile Bridge toward paradise. The layers of worry and responsibilities unravel as we listen to the rhythmic steel drums of Caribbean music. Sparkling, turquoise waters beckon on either side of our vehicle, while fishing and sail boats dot the horizon. We even glimpse wildlife at Deer Key when a small, four-legged inhabit skitters along our path, safe behind its nature preserve fencing. At that point we remember, “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.” (Hitch, 2005)
Reaching Old Town, Key West, we check into our B&B, welcomed by friendly faces and refreshing drinks. It’s only fitting: Happy Hour has begun.
Do you have a special place where you can escape the ordinary?