Saturday, January 19, 2019

Of Picnics and Sonnets

A short stack by the bay kicked off an especially gorgeous day.

Although we'd had breakfast on our deck overlooking the ocean, in a bakery, at the mid-point between Miami and Key West and at a classic diner, we'd yet to eat the most important meal of the day on the bay side.

We fixed that with a walk to Lorelei's Cabana Bar - the same Lorelei's that had provided our first sunset views - and seats on the deck with the sun on our backs.

I was almost through the second half of my pancakes (the half smothered in strawberry jam as opposed to the half swimming in Mrs. Butterworth's) and Mr. Wright was polishing off his bagel with lox and capers when we overheard the couple at the table next to us saying they'd been at Lazy Days the night before, coincidentally, the same place we'd dined oceanside.

A quick glance over at them and I immediately recognized the guy's back because they'd not only been at Lazy Days, but at the table right next to us. When he gets up to head to the water's edge, the wife catches my eye and has the same realization. "I recognize you from last night!" she says in a decided accent. "I told my husband at dinner last night that you look like my friend Terri."

Because this is 2019, she pulls out her phone so she can find a photo of Terri on Facebook to show us to prove it, but alas, she's not especially Facebook-savvy. "I'll wait till my husband gets back and have him find it for me," she explains looking a bit embarrassed. He returns and locates the picture, passing the phone to us for consideration.

Lots of hair, big smile, middle aged. Yup, that could be me.

Then the husband turns around and introduces himself, saying he's from Wisconsin in that distinctive Wisconsin/Minnesota way of speaking. All four of us are a little amazed that we could end up sitting at adjacent tables at different restaurants 12 hours apart.

When they share that they only have one more night in Islamorada before heading to Key West for a a few days, we entertain them with our Key West adventures. Their itinerary is far more rigid, with a ghost tour, a sunset cruise and tarpon feeding, among other activities, plus a reservation at a dessert cafe.

Clearly we weren't the only ones with a whole helluva lot to see and do in Key West.

When we get up to leave, they joke about running into us that evening (they're headed to Robbie's, which their server has informed them is "Lorelei's south with lots of souvenir and tchotchke huts"), we know it's the last time we'll ever see them.

We wish the Green Bay fans the best and head out.

Our plan for the afternoon involves nothing more than a picnic at Founders Park, mainly because of its beach, which Mr. Wright has discovered while out cycling one morning. Interestingly enough, for being surrounded everywhere by water on this narrow island, there are surprisingly few public beaches.

Walking from the parking lot to the park, we pass a trio of people measuring an opening in the trees for one of two stages that will be erected for the bluegrass festival taking place on Sunday. Ever the local cheerleaders, they insist we come back to hear the 13 bands. "And tonight's our Dancing in the Streets event, so you need to come square dance with us first!" they insist, big smiles on their tanned faces.

If only we didn't already have plans, you know we'd be there.

One thing is obvious the moment we arrive and it's that this is a beach frequented by locals, not tourists, perhaps because locals don't have to pay to come in and everyone else does. Scattered around the sandy beach are people sunning themselves, having brought their own lounge and beach chairs, and snorkeling or wading in the amazingly clear bay water.

The husband of an older woman wading out to thigh-high level must want to get her attention because he begins tossing pebbles so that they land just behind her, splashing the back of her legs. She ignores the splashes, wading further out, but he persists.

"Ancient mating ritual in the Keys," Mr. Wright observes.

We set up camp under the picnic pavilion and enjoy lunch before hitting the water, and by hitting, I mean wading in the warm water while admiring all the marine life on full display below the crystal clear surface. We've got no idea what most of these blob-like creatures are, but watching them inhale and exhale as schools of tiny pale green fish dart by is pretty fascinating.

A string of buoy markers delineates the part of the bay for people to enjoy, although several snorkelers, including one in a full wet suit with a small kayak (both of which seem like overkill), slip under the line and further out where boats are anchored or jetting by.

One sunken-chested, heavily tattooed guy, cigarette in his mouth, repeatedly sticks his camera phone underwater to take pictures of various things, although I can't hep but think that his falling ashes add nothing to the water quality for the underwater population.

But seriously, you couldn't finish that cig before you go in the water, buddy?

It's a gloriously stunning day weather-wise - warm, deep blue sky and little breeze - and, as we've learned, that's saying something down here because we've yet to have a bad weather day. A couple of times, there's been a bit of rain during the middle of the night, but it's always gone before sunrise. And when the sky is this brilliantly blue, it makes the various shades of green in the palm trees even more striking.

By late afternoon when we left, it was to head back to the house, not to get gussied up to go square dancing (not that there's anything wrong with that because there's been plenty of dancing on this trip) but to put in motion our plans for a progressive dinner.

And not the kind where you move from house to house or restaurant to restaurant, but the Islamorada kind where you move from oceanfront deck table to deep, cushioned oceanfront chairs to bayside dining room table to oceanfront couch, enjoying a different course - the first was Mumm Napa Brut and fried chicken followed by Florida confectioner Anastasia's dark chocolate coconut patty, the third course was pesto pizza and Prosecco gifted to us by my thoughtful Key West amigo - at each spot.

Providing the soundtrack were Vince Mendoza and Miles Davis, so that kind of progressive dinner.

It didn't hurt that the evening temperature was as seductive as the afternoon's had been, warm with soft breezes and a near full moon so bright that it cast unbelievably deep shadows on the deck and beach.

Down here, they call that a marvelous night for a moondance.

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