February 6 – 20
Knowing a six-hour drive lay ahead of us we decided to stop in at Bennett’s Fresh Roast for another donut and the Cajun Shrimp and Grits we’d passed up the day before. With a good cup of coffee and donut on the side, we devoured the dish, so tasty with Louisiana Andouille Sausage, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. Not being exposed to grits much coming from the west coast, they are the one uniquely southern staple we’ve come to appreciate.
Sadly, no pictures of this superb dish exist (we were too busy demolishing it to think about taking a snapshot) so you’ll just have to take my word on this one. We hopped in the car and began the drive south, with me taking the first shift and Joanna the second. Our general pattern is two hours on and two off, adjustable to the day, the miles to be covered, and our general frames of mind.
Joanna had the harder shift of the two as once you hit Key Largo, the road becomes mainly two lanes with lots of traffic lights as you cross from key to key, 98-miles that takes you nearly two hours.
We eventually arrived at Boyd’s Key West RV Campground on Stock Island, immediately adjacent to Key West. We checked in and drove to our site, on the dock side of the campground, a nice flat spot somewhat larger than the others nearby.
We began to set up camp and this is when the entire trip went off the rails for me, my back seizing up in a way that made bending over difficult. Thinking it just a temporary thing I did my share and we finished up, sitting in the chairs with a cold one as we contemplated dinner plans. After the long drive that day we didn’t feel up to venturing into Key West itself, so instead settled on Hogfish Bar & Grill, a highly rated joint nearby.
Although it was early in the evening, the place was jumping and would obviously get busier later on. Seated outside on the deck next to the water with dozens of boats moored nearby, we started with a cocktail apiece, a Margarita for Joanna and the Shrimpers Mule for me, followed by a bowl of very good Lobster Bisque.
We then struggled to finish our entrees with their large portion sizes, the Hogfish Sandwich for Joanna and the Cobb Salad for me that included Shrimp, Bacon, and Ham, along with other typical ingredients. Much like the shrimp we had on Pine Island, these were cooked to perfection, hot and juicy with the right amount of grilling.
Back in camp we hung out in the common area near the office/market, and plotted our agenda for the next day, a walk around the heart of Key West and whatever that would be bring us. We woke to overcast skies with wind and rain. Driving into town was easy enough and we actually found parking close to Mallory Square, although it wasn’t inexpensive. This is when I got my first taste of what the next week would be like as paralyzing back spasms slammed me, making walking difficult if not impossible.
I staggered around for a while before giving up and heading back towards camp, stopping to take in a movie at Tropic Cinema, a refurbished former one screen operation specializing in non-mainstream flicks. We enjoyed Peter Jackson’s (of Lord of the Rings fame) They Shall Not Grow Old, an incredibly creative effort that took digitally restored World War One footage, colorized it and then, using forensic lip readers reconstructed what the soldiers were saying.
As we drove back to camp, we wondered how the tent was holding up in the high winds and driving rain, but needing some food, we stopped in at the Blossom Café where for the princely sum of $23, we thoroughly enjoyed a plate of fish tacos, and a nice bowl of cheese grits. Searching the web though I now note they have closed, a shame as Key West tends to be a pricey place for food and Blossom’s was an oasis.
We arrived back in camp only to find that the winds had blown so hard that the stakes holding the tent stable had pulled out, creating an opening in the side between the fly and the tent body that allowed a substantial amount of water to enter, flooding one corner. After the flooded tent incident last fall at Black Mountain, I was beginning to question my allegiance to tent camping.
Joanna took charge though, particularly in light of my back issues, as we loaded wet sleeping bags, pads, and other damp items into the car and hauled them off to the laundry room. Over the course of the next couple of hours we hung out in the common area, periodically walking to the room to feed quarters into the dryers.
At the close of the day all was dry, the winds died down, the sky cleared up and we had perfect weather for the balance of our stay. My back would only get worse though, making the evening a long battle with pain, moving back and forth between lying in the tent and sitting in the car, trying to find the one position that would ease the pain. Finally, around 2:00 am, I gave in and downed a couple of left-over Tylenol-Codeines which provided the relief I needed to get some sleep. We’d seek a better solution the next day as we continued our journey to Key West.
Bennett’s Fresh Roast: https://www.bennettsfreshroast.com/
Boyd’s Key West RV Campground: https://www.boydscampground.com/
Hogfish Bar & Grill: http://www.hogfishbar.com/
Tropic Cinema: https://www.tropiccinema.com/
They Shall Not Grow Old: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/16/movies/peter-jackson-war-movie.html
Blossom Café: https://www.facebook.com/BlossomKWCafe/