Last year, around spring break time, I was getting ready for a trip to the Keys to visit Grandpa and enjoy a vacation away from Boston’s grey skies.  Sun, relaxation, and an inexpensive visit were all necessary, so staying with Grandpa and Annie (his lovely lady friend) made perfect sense for the boy and I.

Grandpa and Annie met us at the Key West airport and drove us back to the vacation park where Grandpa has been a snow-bird nearly every year that I can remember.  I was ready for some of his famous coconut shrimp, runs across the famous key bridges, and quality time spent with loved ones.  We enjoyed the company of their friends at a ’31 group’ lunch that my Grandpa hosted (Poker Joe hit on me and Sam enjoyed some lewd conversation with the same octogenarian).  We played card games and enjoyed sunsets over the water while clouds blew by quickly.

With my Dad’s recommendation, Sam and I decided to take a boat trip to visit the Dry Tortugas- an island 70 miles from Key West that was a failed fort (the structure was too heavy for the island and it started to sink).  We were warned that the water would be choppy, but we never expected the boat to jump the waves the way it did.  Hellish would really be the word to best explain what the ride there (and back!) was like, but my survival mode kicked in and I fell asleep, while Sam tried to hold the boat together by keeping the bolted down table in place.  I wish I had a photo to share…

Anyway, it was nearly worth the pain because the island was such a curious place.  We saw some birds on a nearby closed island, snorkeled in the choppy water, and explored the fort/prison.  We also learned that the Dry Tortugas often has refugees that land seeking asylum from ‘nearby’ caribbean nations.  A ‘boat’, constructed out of leftover material carrying more people than obviously possible, was left on shore for visitors to see.

Back on sane, dry land, we enjoyed a good fish sandwich on Duval Street and headed back to fall asleep exhausted.  The vacation was coming to an end, or so I thought.  Two days later, I kissed my Grandpa and Annie goodbye and saw Sam off on his much earlier flight back to Chicago.  My flight was eight hours later that day, so I checked my bag in and started walking towards the southernmost point in the continental USA.  I had a Cuban coffee at a friendly cafe, where a curious Spanish speaking gentlemen spoke to me about how expensive rent is in Key West and how insane rich white people can be.  After a failed attempt to get me a bicycle- I think he really enjoyed talking to someone who listened, even if I could only catch about half of what he said underneath his think Cuban accent- he showed me where to catch the gua-gua (the bus) and off I went.

My crazy curls had soaked up the sea air and my shoes were filled with sand as I waited for my flight.  And then the news came, in the form of a text message- “Your flight has been canceled and you have been rescheduled for the next available flight from Key West.”  WHAT!  I panicked.  I had a presentation in a seminar the next day, a thesis to finish and meetings that could not be rescheduled.  Oh, and they had misplaced my luggage.  So all I had with me were my extra-large pants and a sweater.  Great Key West apparel.

Some of the best hosts there ever could be- Thanks Grandpa and Annie!

After pissing off the airline staff, ensuring that my room and clothing purchases would be covered by the airline, and having a mini-nervous attack, I gave in to the situation and prepared to enjoy the island.  A lovely succession of people followed including a concerned cab driver, a polite bellman from Uzbekistan, and a Polish bartender who took me out for conversation and drinks.

I spent the morning on a rented bike, exploring the island and looking around a bit.  If you are going to be stranded somewhere, it might as well be in Key West.  I arrived back at the airport a bit too early and ended up donating blood, while I waited, in exchange for an awesome t-shirt and a free meal.  The beautiful memories of my trip and of my wonderful friends waiting at the cold Boston airport to whisk me back to life at Wellesley, along with the bonus day in Key West, has me wishing for another spring break adventure.  I guess we will see what home has to offer in the coming weeks.