Sunday, July 20, 2014

Key West....and the rest of Florida

July 6-July 11, 2014


We left the castle in Florida and took farewell of my parents, siblings and their children and headed on our journey even further south in Florida towards KEY WEST.
View from the back balcony. Not a bad way to spend a week.

Kevin outside the castle 
The drive down to the southernmost point in the continental USA was over many bridges and islands. It was a one-lane highway-road once we got past Miami. It was the Sunday at the end of a long holiday weekend in the USA. So, there was at least a 40 mile line of traffic heading north….thank goodness we were going the other way.

Past Miami and we finally get onto the famous Highway 1 to Key West

Peter gets to do all the driving. There are a couple of reasons for this. My eyes are still sensitive to light and I can’t wear contact lenses yet as my eyes have changed during the chemo. I am still tired and sitting behind the wheel is not safe for long periods of time. I am also the best one of us to keep the order in the back seats with the kids…….or try to anyway.

Key Largo......we drove past it 
It is a varied landscape from water, flat landscapes, hot weather, tourist shops and signs along the way and it wouldn’t be complete unless there was an afternoon lightning and thunder storm to drive through. I tortured the kids by playing KOKOMO by the Beach Boys as we drove through Key Largo and then putting it on repeat until they could name all of the cities mentioned in the song. Late afternoon, and it was a relief to pull up at our hotel and unload the luggage and get changed for dinner before we headed into the main streets of KEY WEST.

Henry Flagler built a railroad from Miami to Key West 128 miles long in the early 1900äs

The excitement of seeing new places is a strong force within me. I try and transfer this to my children. They know the routine. We are going to explore our new surroundings. The kids noticed first that there is a Starbucks in the lobby of our hotel. Can’t get better than that…..but it does….

We take the hotel shuttle to the middle of Key West and boy is it hot outside.  We walk along the waterfront exploring a little bit after being in the car all day. It felt good to stretch the legs.

We walked down Duval Street and found a fantastic Italian restaurant with great food, great service and air-conditioning. Dinner was enjoyed and it was time to head to Mallory Square to see the sunset.  As coincidence would have it – a friend that we knew in Charlotte was also in Mallory Square and we noticed this because of facebook- so we met up for a little bit before they went to eat dinner. Awesome Natalie, to see you and the kids!

A walk around and a chance to see all the street performers before we head back to the hotel to try and get some well rested sleep.


Breakfast at the hotel Starbucks was enjoyed by all of us. Time for head into town and learn a little more about Key West. We walked down Duval Street and explored a few of the side streets.  Tourist shops with fun t-shirts, many bars and tons of restaurants. We get tired fast in this hot climate.

Lunch was the Hard Rock Café right on Duval Street. Then the obligatory walk to the Southernmost point in the USA to stand in line and then get to take a picture of yourself standing in front of it. The boys were hot and so was I. Didn’t know that heads could sweat so much, felt worse as my peach fuzz is growing in a little thicker.

We headed back to the hotel so I could rest and the kids and Peter could be in the pool at the hotel. The heat had taken its toll on all of us. Of course, as is par for the course, just when I feel like getting my bathing suit on and swimming ---the afternoon thunderstorm starts….lightning…..not allowed in the pool.

We ate a simple dinner that night in the vicinity of our hotel and then went to the neighboring hotel to inquire about jet ski or boat rental for the next day. We were told to come back in the morning as it was so late. We all fell asleep easily that night.


Today we have been married 19 years. Can’t believe it. We have been through so much and still love being around each other. Only 31 more years to achieve the same level as my parents.

Woke to sunshine and a plan to get lucky with the charter of a boat for a half-day excursion out into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. We really got lucky. We booked Sol Chaser Charters for a half day tour. It was just Captain Nik and us.

A totally memorable day. The Gulf side is very shallow in the miles closest to the keys. We saw dolphins, egrets, tons of other wildlife. Nik took us to a fantastic island with a great sandbar where we could swim. Paradise. 

I dipped my toes off the edge of the boat while the rest of them jumped in and walked/swam to shore. I am too scared to step on something and my big toe is not ready to be bitten by any fish yet.

We had the time of our lives and Nik was born and raised in Key West so we got inside information about everything possible.

The boys were happy after this trip. I thought it was fantastic too. Of course, with me as tour guide we had a schedule to keep in order to maximize every minute of our trip. 

So, a quick lunch and then time to head back into town to take a Conch train tour (sightseeing tram) around Key West to learn more about its history. 

It was hot, hot hot to sit on that open air tram. But, we did learn a lot about Key West.

We were so hot after that ride that we needed to stop at the world famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar where Ernest Hemingway hung out. Dinner today was a few daiquiris and some bar food as we sat on the bar stools and watched a World Cup Soccer game where Germany was scoring goal after goal……

We ended our last day in Key West with viewing the sunset and enjoying some large ice cream cones. It was a good day.

I try and ignore the side effects and how they affect me just because I don’t have enough time to dwell on them. It is hard to not think of them or the cancer as I am constantly reminded every time I look down at my toes in my open-toed shoes. Or when I look in the mirror and try and remember what it was like when I had long hair. Or when the lady at Starbucks asks me what type of cancer I had.


A Day of TRAVEL.

Awoke early as it was time to check out and get on the road. It is a long drive back up the keys. Today’s drive is to Daytona Beach Shores. I have managed to book a good hotel right on the Atlantic Ocean with Ocean view. So the expectations are high.

It was a long day with driving and stopping for some shopping and lunch at the outlets. It was a typical afternoon drive when we hit the storms and had to drive with our hazards on while not being able to see out the windows unless there was some lightning. Luckily those storms pass so quickly that it is almost fun to drive through them.

We arrived at the hotel around 9 pm and checked in and just unpacked for the night and went to sleep. 


Awoke early as the sunrise shined into our room so we could have a walk on the beach and the morning by the pool before we met Mike and Nikki and the kids so we could drive back to Charlotte in a caravan.
Good Morning Atlantic Ocean! 
The beach was beautiful and the morning walk I forced the kids and Peter on was appreciated by them…. The sand was smooth and soft on the feet. The boys had their suits on so them ran in the gentle waves and laughed and splashed each other as they ran past.

We then settled into the pool which was between the hotel and the ocean. I swam in the pool and did a few laps. It felt good. I stayed in the pool and the boys and Peter got the boogie boards and headed back into the ocean again.

Too soon and the morning had passed so we went up to the hotel room, changed our clothes and checked out.

It was time for the 8 hours of driving to Charlotte. Lunch and then we started off. My brother and his family were leaving from Orlando and finally caught up with us halfway into South Carolina. It was fun to have some quasi – company on the trip up.
We made it home to their house at 8 pm and I got changed and then Peter drove me to the old neighborhood for a ladies night out with the old neighborhood girls. It was a lot of fun to see them again. Many, many laughs this night as we reminisced about all the good times. These ladies helped to re-charge my batteries. They gave me energy. Peter was really nice and came and got me at midnight. Good Guy that he is.


Peter felt the urge to shop today. Just he and I went to the big mall and walked around. He managed to buy some stuff for him with great ease. I for some reason did not find it so easy. It is really a combination of remembering how much crap and junk we have thrown out over the past few months as we prepared for the move and the fact that I had no energy and maybe not such a positive picture of myself in the mirror. It meant that nothing I tried on would look good. I just wasn’t in the mood.  Good thing a Starbucks coffee made the feelings bearable.

Back to Mike and Nikki’s house and we felt good. The kids had spent the day with their cousins. Life is good.

We are so lucky to be able to stay at Mike and Nikki’s house when we are in the US. It is like our second home and all the cousins have fun with each other. THANKS MIKE AND NICOLE.

Only a few days left in the USA until we head back to Europe.

I am tired but that is to be expected. It has been three weeks since I got the news that I am in remission. It still feels surreal that I had cancer, that I battled cancer and now that the cancer is gone. Really???????   The doubts linger that it is really gone….only the next few doctors appointments every three months will lessen those doubts.

I really need to take each day as a gift and do what I want to do and be with the people who give me energy. I need to plan a little more than one day at a time but live each day in the here and now.  I think I might set the alarm on my phone a few times each day as a reminder……..

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