To celebrate my birthday each year, I’ve started going to Key West, FL, on Columbus Day weekend to run(and by run, I mean jog-walk-shuffle-cry-hobble) in the Southernmost Marathon*. Now, most people think I’m crazy-bananas for wanting to spend my vacation pounding the pavement in the sweltering humidity of the Keys…and to those people, I say “You are absolutely RIGHT! This is insane, but I love it!”
Basically I have two hobbies – people-watching, and eating – and Key West affords me plenty of opportunities to indulge in both of these hobbies. This year a Series of Unfortunate Events resulted in my traveling companion going to the ER with a broken leg** not even two hours into our first day of touristing (forthwith known as The Accident), followed by me tearing a ligament in my back the night before the marathon. The Key West ER gave me ample opportunity to indulge in my people-watching habit but was sadly lacking in culinary delights.
Fortunately we had visited the Historic Seaport and Harborwalk area the night before The Accident and had eaten our respective weights in oysters, shrimp, conch ceviche and crab legs the night before. I have to admit that among all the epicurean experiences in Key West, I really adore Half Shell Raw Bar. There’s something magical about sitting on their deck in the harbor at sunset that is both soothing and invigorating to my soul. Add in a little seafood and I’m fairly certain I’ve found my own personal nirvana.
I think it helps that I like weird and kooky things. I know Texans take pride in the motto “Keep Austin Weird” but I think the same Embracing o’ the Weirdness applies to Key West. Who couldn’t love a region that seceded from the Union, surrendered and then demanded $1 billion in War Relief and Foreign Aid, all in the span of less than two minutes? Don’t believe me? Google “Conch Republic” and read all about it. Last year I took the time to visit Fort East Martello and I’m not going to lie – Robert the Doll*** was watching me verrrrrry closely while I was in his display area. Key West has a flavor all of its own and my little annual jaunt is something I look forward to each year. I run(walk-shuffle-jog-cry) so I can eat all the deliciousness, be it a fabulous filet at Bagatelle‘s Moon Lounge or a post-marathon Nutella crepe at La Creperie French Cafe.
*Disclaimer: my cousin is the race director but I am not being compensated in any way, shape or form for mentioning the race.
**Tourists should not be allowed to rent motor scooters without proper training first. That is all. The silver lining is that the nature of the injury, and the bulky leg immobilier, required that we have bulkhead seating on every flight from Key West to Little Rock. Yay for spacious seating?
***I did not take his photo, with or without permission. Nope. Just nope. The display of letters from those who had transgressed upon Robert and were begging for his forgiveness was enough to put the fear in me. Excellent marketing ploy there, Key West. Well played.