This post includes what was probably our favourite part of the trip yet: Key West. Once we arrived in Florida City, we did some research and we realized that to camp in Key West would be upwards of $60 a night and we wanted to spend more than a couple of nights there. We also did some research on parking overnight on the Keys, and the results for RV parking were pretty disheartening. After our difficulty in finding a place to sleep in South Florida, we weren’t going to take any chances this time. After some brainstorming, we came up with a crazy plan: we would build a bed in the back of the Land Rover and live in it for the duration of our stay on the Keys. This way we wouldn’t be as obvious as we would be with the Boler, and we would blend in much easier.
So first thing first: we had to find a spot to store the Boler. We found a spot in Florida City where the first month is free, and since we only wanted it for a weekend or so, we wouldn’t have to pay any more than the registration and insurance fees. We wanted to be sure there was no catch first though, and we were reassured by those working there that it would be only a flat rate of $41 as long as we didn’t keep it there longer than a month. $41! That’s even cheaper than one night at a campground anywhere near Key West, so we were sold.
Turning the truck into a home was fun. We grabbed pillows and blankets from the Boler and packed them neatly into the back to make a little bed. Drew and Tyler (from the beginning of the trip) had built shelves in the truck before we left, so we put them to use and made a table for eating/using a laptop. We made curtains for the windows out of black vinyl, which not only gave us some privacy, but also gave the illusion from the outside that there was no one inside, and that the truck was empty at night.
We didn’t want to head to the Keys just yet, so we decided to try one night in the truck near the storage place, in case it didn’t work out. Saying goodbye to the Boler was really difficult… we felt bad that it would never see the 0 mile mark, but we promised to bring it back really great stories. It looked so sad as we drove away from the lot in only the Land Rover, but it did have an MGB for a neighbour to hang out with, so we felt better leaving it with a British companion since it wouldn’t have the Rover.
The first night proved to be a real test. There were “No Overnight Parking” signs everywhere, so we tried to stay away from Walmart, and found a dark corner in a nearby Home Depot. As we were watching the second installment in the Lord of the Rings (yes, we’re hooked), a polite police officer, too nervous to knock on our door, drove past with his light on, and parked a few spots over. His message was clear: please leave.
At two in the morning, the last thing you want to do is drive, and the very last thing you want to do is drive to find a spot to sleep when they aren’t easy to come by. However, seeing as the dark corner didn’t work, we tucked ourselves into a parking lot with lots of bright lights and activity, and were left alone for the rest of the night.
Although we weren’t bothered, we were still left with a sleepless night as trying to get comfortable the way we’d set up the truck was impossible. The Land Rover is only an 88”, which is barely enough room for one person, so we had to contort ourselves to find spots for our legs in each others’ space. Also, with all the stuff we’d packed, half of our space was taken up. The mission for the next morning was clear: head back to the Boler, get rid of some of the stuff we’d packed, and remake our home in the back. It turned out to be pretty cozy this time, and we knew we’d have a pleasant stay in the Keys as long as we weren’t asked to leave.
Bright and early, after we’d said goodbye to the Boler a second time (it was happy to have another visit with the Rover and introduced it to its new friend, the MGB), we headed to Key West! The 120 mile-long drive had its ups and downs; when you could see the ocean it was fantastic, but after a hundred resorts, the scenery gets a little tiring. We’re sure everything there was beautiful a hundred years ago. But we learned quickly that the weather south of Miami is always nice… the sun was shining and it was hot hot hot! We made a quick stop at the tourist bureau in Key Largo, and left with two tickets to a sailing/snorkelling/sea kayaking adventure complete with cold beer and wine, FOOD, and a wildlife lesson…that would set sail the next day. We could hardly believe our excitement! We also left with a little tip from the guy working at the bureau: there was a “secret spot” on Key West where you could park overnight and not get bothered. The guy had lived in his car there for a while, and he marked the spot on a map for us (if you’re ever trying to live in your car in Key West, get a hold of us and we’ll help you out!).
As we came nearer to Key West, it seemed the sun shone brighter, and the ocean became more and more beautiful. Danielle’s mom, Nancy, lived there for three winters when she was our age, so she had lots of great suggestions for things to do while we were there. We could see why she loved it there so much after only 5 minutes on the island.
We sat on Smathers Beach that night and just took in the sunset with a cold beer. As we were now on the gulf coast, we had never seen a sunset on the beach before, and this one took your breath away. It was absolutely stunning. We enjoyed a group of people playing jambes as the sun went down.
Later that night, after we’d settled in our secret spot, we decided to walk around the downtown area and enjoy a drink at one of the bars. We’d collected a handful of “buy one get one” drink tickets for various bars around Key West, so we decided to put one to use. We were lured into Willie T’s (and outdoor bar) by a woman with a voice like Janis Joplin, and we each got a margarita and enjoyed the music outside, and the night was extremely mild. We must have been in paradise!
After a comfortable night’s sleep in the truck, and realizing that we would have no problem at all staying overnight in Key West, we headed to Smathers Beach again, trying to find a shower. The only problem we’ve really come by on this road trip is finding places to get a hot shower… and perhaps this time we’d left it for too long. But unfortunately, Key West is not much different from anywhere else for this problem, so we decided to get creative. Danielle used the cold showers for rinsing off at the beach, washed her hair in the bathroom (which in Key West are pretty much open to the elements since there are no ceilings) and somehow came out refreshed and clean. This is the way we showered in Key West.
We were pretty excited, because it was Thursday, and that meant that we would be going on our sailing adventure that afternoon. We parked at the beach and walked across the island to the marina where the gorgeous 60’ schooner (which had originally been an oyster boat) would meet us to take us out to the middle of the ocean. The cruise was fantastic. We had a beautiful day to sail (which is no surprise in Key West) and met lots of interesting people who were on the cruise with us (some honeymooners, a 45th year high school reunion, some drunks from France…). When we were out far enough, we went snorkelling! It was soooo amazing, and we were one of the first two to get in the water and the last two to come back on the boat! We saw lots of incredible fish (once Danielle got the hang of breathing out of the snorkel)… including a stingray!
After snorkelling, the bottles of wine and cans of beer were broken open and handed around. Drew found a new favourite beer, called Yuenglings, which is from America’s oldest brewery. That day we also got to go sea kayaking around an island, and learned about various different wildlife and trees in the area. We also learned some pretty cool facts about Key West, and its history as an island that salvaged shipwrecks.
During our five day stay in Key West we developed a daily routine. Each morning we awoke at dawn and drove to the beach to continue sleeping and relaxing until about noon. The sand on the beach happened to be more comfortable than the bed in the back of the Rover. We didn’t want to hang around our “secret spot” too much and attract any attention, and the beach happened to be closed from 11 pm to 6 am which worked perfectly into our plans. Once well rested we would explore the town. There was a lot to see such as: the USA’s most southern point, Ernest Hemingway’s house (Danielle loved this as he’s a fellow writer), the AIDS memorial, the beautiful gardens in the West Martello Tower, and more! There are a million places to eat (and drink), and the night life actually starts at noon each day. We had the pleasure of eating sloppy joes AT SLOPPY JOE’S, and Key Lime pie at Caroline’s Café (Drew’s first!).
The town has a very interesting vibe unlike any place we’ve been. Half the people there are vacationing tourists (us), and the other half are hip, bohemian locals (we wish this was us). Duvall is the main downtown street in Key west and is littered with bars and shops of all kinds. Many shops cater to tourists, boasting bright t-shirts labelled “Key West”, and overpriced key chains (no pun intended!). Many of the bars present live music in the form of a guy with a guitar playing the same hits as all the others. BUT there ARE many wonderful little shops and bars hidden between these tourist traps. We enjoyed a bit of each type of attraction! Off the main strip there are many other wonderful streets to walk down with lots of interesting quirks of their own. If you ever visit Key West, you might also notice that there are ROOSTERS EVERYWHERE. They are hilarious, walking with their chicks across crosswalks, and you love them… until they start crowing at 4 am every single morning. Before coming to the island we assumed we would find a problem with traffic, but this was not the case. Everyone rides bikes, scooters, skateboards, or they walk or run. We think this is extremely cool, and the world should follow by example!
One of the coolest things that Key West has to offer is the sunset party at Mallory Square, which happens every single night. There you’ll find buskers, kiosks, and most of all lots and lots of people with drinks in their hands as they enjoy the gorgeous sunset. Nancy told us about it before we left, and she said that when she had lived there she went every single night with friends, and that it was something we had to check out. Drew even got to be an assistant to one of the buskers, during his high wire act. He had to wear a sash that read “Miss Sunset” and helped with the performance. He did an EXCELLENT job and was a beautiful Miss Sunset!
We got into a little bit of trouble downtown on the Friday night (in good fun of course). We decided we had to party like the tourists (we were asked if we were locals at a coffee shop! So proud) and we shared a bottle of wine in our quaint little Land Rover home before hitting the bars. Key West has a large gay population, and Nancy recommended that we should go to a drag show. IT WAS AWESOME. We chose a gay bar called Aqua, and were not let down! Drew even got up close and personal with a beautiful Dolly Parton, and Danielle fell in love with a lovely lady that gave Adele a run for her money. After the show, we realized that we needed a few more drinks, but they are very, very expensive in Key West. So instead we got creative and bought a handful of assorted mickeys from a convenience store and drank them on a backstreet near the downtown area. After we were feeling much better, we went back to Aqua to shake our groove thangs for a little while. Not too long after we found ourselves belligerent in an Irish pub… who would have guessed?! We were not unprovoked of course. A few minutes after sitting down next to the stage we found ourselves blinded by a spotlight (aka the plastic flashlight the musician carried onstage). “Hey Jesus! I’ve been talking to your father lately!” a voice boomed from the PA. We assumed he was talking about Drew, since he had chosen to let his hair down that evening. Funny enough a drunken fellow had called him Jesus earlier that same evening while we were walking down the street. We laughed that one off, since part of his act was to tease people in the audience. Throughout the night the singer kept saying “I lived in Ireland for two years! Here’s an Irish song for you!” and then would play Tom Petty, so we were discouraged as we are from Nova Scotia, where Irish bars play Irish music. Drew decided to request “The Night that Pat Murphy Died”, to which the singer replied he did not know. This must have ticked him off for some reason, and he began to make some rude jokes towards Danielle. We retaliated with some yelling “Play some actual Irish songs you fool!” and kept doing so until he replied with “I lived in Ireland for two years! Shut up Jesus you’re ruining my show!” The fun was over then, and we decided we hated Irish Kevin’s Irish pub. So we went to Sloppy Joe’s (our favourite bar there!) and danced the night away. We stumbled back to the Rover with smiles on our faces and love in our eyes… until Drew found a squished banana in the back of the truck. Game over.
Needless to say, Key West is one of the coolest places we’ve ever been to, and we had so much fun there! Although we did it as cheap as humanly possible, it was still quite expensive (but worth it!). We’ve decided to move there someday, and have scoped out a trailer park where we will store the Boler and live in it for a while. Fingers crossed it all works out!
PS: Try a café con leche if you ever have a chance.