Sat. Nov. 9, 2019:
Key West to Miami, Florida:
I woke up at 8am because I couldn’t sleep any more. By some miracle I was not hungover and had slept quite well for the most part. At the hotel breakfast they had two carafes of coffee, one full sized one and one smaller one. Except neither was marked as decaf. This was a game of Russian roulette I was not willing to play. I filled up my cup halfway from each. Except then there was no milk! They had mini boxes of cereal but no milk! At least there was creamer in the hotel room. It was raining, checkout wasn’t until 11am and our lunch restaurant didn’t open until 10am. We settled in to watch TV, Planet Earth marathon alternating with Friends, and wait out the rain.
The key lime pie was good but nowhere near as good as Kermit’s (first place) or Joe’s Stone Crab (second place). The crumb had gotten soggy in the fridge overnight and it was a bit salty but they did get bonus points for serving it with a lime slice on top. It was a nice touch. I ate the last ⅕ of the sandwich from yesterday, it had totally held up and maybe was even a smidge better (or i was just hungrier this time around?).
We checked out and had one last Key West walk ahead of us. First to the car, which was parked a few blocks away. When we left for snorkeling, we lost our prime parking spot right out front. We passed some high school girls doing a car wash at the gas station on the corner. We passed by again via a different corner after we dropped our stuff in the car and headed out to Duval St. for one last walk. I joked about if I walked in would they give me a shower. At least the rain had stopped and it was much cooler now.
Duval St. is drastically different on a Saturday than on a weekday. Everyone is out and about drinking. There were some people who were impressively hammered for eleven in the morning. One lady sitting on a bar patio shouted at Brent, “go Blue Jays!” (She was there an hour later on our walk back). I joked that we had one last chance at Margaritaville. It was during this conversation that I learned it had nothing to do directly with Key West or Jimmy Buffet, that it was just capitalizing on a song lyric from the two. It was more Hard Rock Cafe or Bubba Gump, rather than the Sloppy Joe’s I thought it was. Having just now learned that Key West was nicknamed margaritaville I decided that on the walk back we would stop in at Fat Tuesday for one last walking margarita. Also, I had not gone to Fat Tuesday while we were in New Orleans so it only made sense.
We had lunch at the Conch Shack, another place from Brent’s 1001 Foods book. They were known for their conch fritters but they had a platter of conch: fritters, ceviche and cracked. Arguably that made the most sense to order. Brent also ordered a cheeseburger, given the last one had been terrible and, in my mind, did not count. Now this, this was a cheeseburger! So flavourful and greasy and basic and oh-so-perfect. I also really like the cracked conch, which was just flattened, salted breaded and fried pieces of fish. But the true winner was the conch fritters, possibly one of my all-time favourite seafood dishes in general. As we ate, we heard faint peeping, there was a momma chicken and her six little chicks nearby and they soon got wise to the fact that we were messy eaters, dropping crumbs all over the floor. We were worried about stepping on them when we finished. Some people walked by and saw them and started taking photos, promptly scaring them off.
We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s for a bathroom break. The place was packed with tourists. Fat Tuesday was just a wall of slushie machines. I went with the smallest of the four sizes. The signs all said that the strawberry margarita was the fan favourite, so obviously I had to get that one. Even still, the smallest size was quite hefty, 12oz maybe? It was good and refreshing except I kept getting rib freeze. As soon as it settled though, I went right back in. We stopped at Kwest to get another pack of the almost-completely-peanut-butter Reese’s cups. They were so good, even better when they were frozen. I also got a Mexican Sprite, we had a long drive ahead of us with few stops. We walked back along Olivia St. for one last look in the cemetery for the cat I had named Floyd, Flossy for short. Alas, she was gone. We walked by the car wash girls again for the third time. As we waited for the light to change Brent spotted a Polish grocery store across the street. I was compelled to go look. There was no bakery, I had really been hoping for some fresh road snacks. They did have singles of beer, which was unfortunate as we had enough drinks. I wish I had known about it sooner. They had a black currant radler! They didn’t even have the basic sól ziołowa! I did get a good laugh at the wing spice that roughly translated to “wild, south, untamed” style.
The Mexican Sprite was so much better than regular Sprite, so smooth and tasty. I was headed from margaritaville to sleepyville, I couldn’t stay awake. I put in a request for a Dunkin’ Donuts stop and nodded off. Unfortunately, the two Dunkin’s we passed were both on the opposite side and hard to get to. I tried to eat a Reese cup but it was so incredibly melty that it was a bad idea. I stuck the top of the wrapper into the vent in order to cool it via a/c. We had been so close to making it the whole trip with only filling up the car before returning it. Alas, as we were almost out of the Keys the low-gas indicator light came on. We would have to fill up the car twice. It wasn’t meant to be. At the gas station I got green apple Fanta and a bag of chili lime (purple bag) Doritos. They had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sandwiches but we were on our way to lunch! I made a note of it for the next time we are in the States.
As we pulled into the Popeye’s parking lot, I saw that they had a chicken sandwich poster in the window. And it did NOT have a sold out sign over top. Things were looking good! We ordered one spicy and one regular. Except than Brent’s credit card wasn’t working and I was down to my last $5USD. We had come so far!! We couldn’t’ fail now!! Thankfully my credit card worked, else we would have had to settle for just one. The drive-thru had gotten so busy that we couldn’t pull out of the parking lot until one car let us pass through. The sandwiches were in little foil bags to keep the heat- except within a few minutes we were chowing down on the regular one. By the time we got to Trader Joe’s 20-minutes later we were finishing off the spicy sandwich. It was very good, I loved the soft buttery bun and the fried chicken was so good. I still could have used more pickles or lettuce or mayonnaise. I lean a little more towards it than Chick-Fil-A because i am a sucker for that crispy skin. The apple Fanta was really hitting the spot.
Trader Joe’s was confusing. There was a line to get into the parking lot and a guy in a vest directing traffic. Brent pulled into the parking lot of the Burger King across the street while I ran in. I grabbed as many jars of Everything But the Bagel spice as I could safely carry. It was actually half of the stock left. The guy looked at my five jars and looked at me curiously. I said we didn’t have it in Canada. He understood, he knew they were $10CAD each on Amazon. In total I paid $11 USD for all five of my jars. I immediately regretted not running back and grabbing the rest that were left on the shelf. But then I thought of Brent sitting in the parking lot and I rushed out. I had already taken longer than I’d wanted because the cashier was so chatty. He ended up shaking hands and exchanging names with the guy in front of me in line.
We topped off the gas tank in the car and I ran inside to grab an iced coffee for the next morning (something i had forgotten to do at the first gas station). I also found a Hershey’s strawberry and waffle chocolate bar and summer splash Starbursts. We were staying at a hotel in the airport which would save us some time the next morning and make the early wakeup a little less brutal. Our room did not have a mini fridge but it did have an ice bucket. We arrived in the room right at the start of halftime in the football game, perfect time for Brent to go get ice while I started on packing. I filled the sink and arranged our drinks while Brent went to get a second bucket of ice. I added the Reese’s cups in there as well. Packing was like a game of Tetris, I really had to cram everything in. The All Day watermelon wine spritzer was surprisingly good, given it was a wine from the band of the same name. It felt a little like a prank but it got the job done. The rose one was better though. I had a funny photo of both of them sitting in the sink on ice. I played a little Mario Odyssey while Brent watched football. We finally cracked into the tostones, they were not good. Far and away the worst we’ve ever had. Thankfully we had the backup Doritos which tasted faintly like Froot Loops thanks to the overpowering lime. The frozen Reese’s cup was so good. I kind of regretted not just grabbing the whole box.
When we checked in we saw that there was an airport Margartaville, I joked that we had one last shot. Now that we were out of hotel drinks, it seemed kismet. I was finally going to Margaritaville! It reminded me of Jack Astors. Our table was a surfboard. I had considered getting the original margarita but then Brent said he was also getting a margarita, so he got that one while I got one with fresh raspberries. Good thing, given the original was way stronger and it would not have ended well. I’d already had two cans of wine. They were not spritzers, it was just straight up wine. Eventually i realized the strength of my margarita had been masked by the raspberry puree. We split an order of the chicken quesadilla, it was alright. The real winner was the chips and guac on the side.
Back in the room I was trying to write in my notebook but I was fighting a bad case of the mega-hiccups. The shower was one of those high-pressure ones, not great on my sunburnt back. I flipped between Love It Or List It and a Thanksgiving cooking show.