Two months after Irma hammered the Florida Keys, it seemed like a good time to do down and see how they were doing. The original idea was to just go park the bikes and drink moderately for several days, thereby bringing my tourist dollars to the area.. or at least to a couple of the bars. Somewhere between the planning and the doing, the trip morphed into more of a working trip. Photos. Video. And maybe a blog entry or two.
I gained a bit of an education on travel vlogging. It looks easy until you're still up at 1am waiting for the video to finish uploading over generally slow wireless and thinking the whole time that you need to be up about 5:30am to catch sunrise. Yeah, there's some work and discipline involved. But it was mostly our schedule.. or lack thereof.. which dictated that every other day seemed to be my workable pace for posting Key West vlogs. It's something I want to improve on next time. Maybe everything gets posted a day late?? Now that I think of it, I STILL have a video to post of the last night and the trip home.
On my trip, I also figured out that home is pretty wonderful. Every time I went out to photograph a sunrise, I heard that little voice saying, "You know.. it's the same sun that rises 10 miles from home in Charleston." There are a ton of places I didn't go for photos in Key West but there are also a ton I haven't been to in Charleston. For that matter, no matter where you live, I suspect there is likely a plethora of untapped opportunities.
I discovered that, if I'm ever in Key West again, I will live at Bad Boy Burrito. The Big Ed's Spicy Veg is the greatest burrito ever invented. It might be the greatest thing ever invented. If you could put two wheels on it, I would consider riding it. I took that first bite into it and started raving. One of the guys said, "I don't know if I should take you seriously. You JUST bit into it." Uh.. yeah. It was THAT good. And it's reasonably priced, unlike the $9 bowl of lettuce and croutons I bought at Sunset Pier. At the very least, if I go back to Key West, I'll book a hotel based on it's proximity to Bad Boy. (Oh.. and if there are any Charleston area burritio joints that think they're up to a little unofficial competition, I'd be more than happy to judge.)
I learned that I kinda like chickens, especially free-roaming island chickens. I can't say the same for the roaming, wall-scaling, potentially fire-breathing iguana. I don't like chickens enough to let that little hen take my coffee. I like coffee far more than chickens. But they're okay. At least I can say I had a chick on my lap in Key West.
Once you get off the interstate, the highways of Florida are pretty great, the large farms (and perhaps the smell in the air) made me think of central California. Different crops. Same vibe. From a riding perspective, it was a good trip. Tally another 1500+ miles to this year's otherwise meager total.
I've had people ask since my return, "How bad is it down there?". It's a tough question. I can't help but think about those people that lost much, if not everything. For them, it was devastating. Still, as you ride down Route 1 and pass the piles of debris along the side of the road, piled up with the occasional waverunner, boat or camper, you can see that much of the area looks untouched. As someone passing through at 45 to 65 miles per hour, it appears that much was left standing but, interspersed between, were plots of land that had already been cleared, leveled and prepped for rebuilding. I suppose, if you live in places like that, you know it's not a question of IF the storm's going to come. Some might say it's crazy to stay but, having a place that my heart calls home, would I make any other decision were I in their shoes? Eventually, a storm will hit Charleston but I'm still here. It's home. And when it's over, I'll still be here. So.. I get it and I respect it.
Now the Key West trip is behind me and everyone's home safe and sound. Back in the day when I played music, it was always a little depressing after a show because of the anti-climax. It's not like I was ever one of those superstars who were pulled into big after-parties or swarmed by adoring fans. Even my biggest fan.. my wife.. was often elsewhere doing her part to make it possible for me to play music. So when I got done playing and it was time to pack up and go home, it always felt like a particularly lonely and hugely anti-climactic time. That adrenaline rush was over. Did I have a good time in Key West? Sure. Were there a number of disappointments? Well.. yes. There were those too.. like coming home to cold weather. (What did you people DO while I was gone?)
I had this trip planned for about a year and a half and I'm willing to allow that some of my disappointment was probably due to the prolonged anticipation of it. It is a little disheartening to know that it's 800 miles to the best burrito on the planet. But, overall, it was a good trip. Tasty roads. Tasty foods. Great company. A beautiful area. And perhaps most important, I got Key West out of my system for a while. Next stop? I think.. Texas. Or maybe California. Actually, let me ask you? A ride to Galveston and back? Or a flight to Vegas to rent a bike and spend a couple days in Joshua Tree?
See you out there!