A Travellerspoint blog

July 2015

Guana Cay....Anything but Boring.

a.k.a. I think I'm getting to old for this S**t.

July 4th and Abaco.

Like tin foil and a microwave….neither is particularly dangerous alone, but put them together….and POW!

Explosive.

Time it right and you end up with 3 days of high-energy events….the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party…..the 4th of July……and Nippers Sunday Funday. Add to that 8 adults in varying stages of insanity and immaturity, and you have a situation just waiting to happen. Or many situations.

This trip made my 38th birthday on Abaco look like a tea party. Like diarrhea after a bad street taco, it was the gift that just kept giving, replete with “What the ?!” moments.

Hold on, folks. This one’s a doozy.

Day One: Up and At ‘Em!

When I was a kid, this is how my Dad woke us up every morning. He’d beat on our door and shout, “Up and At ‘Em!!” in the most annoyingly cheerful voice ever.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out what the phrase actually was, ending a long standing belief from my childhood that my Dad inexplicably shouted “Up and Adam” at us every morning.

All 8 of us piled up in the Chieftan in the wee hours of the morning. Destination: Guana Cay.

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We had 5 days of fun planned and wanted to get the party started as early as possible. I mean, when you intend to spend the next 5 days going full throttle, why not start at 4:00 a.m. just to ensure the maximum level of exhaustion?

Thanks to Darvin, the man who can do anything on Guana Cay http://www.everythingguana.com/, the boat was waiting for us at the ferry dock in Marsh Harbor as soon as we touched the ground. We hit the ground running.

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We’ve decided that the perfect first day is accomplished by boating straight to Lubbers Landing. Austin and Amy give us the perfect place to relax, unwind, and breathe the city air out and the island air in.

We spent the afternoon with good food, good friends, and the best drinks in Abaco.

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Austin’s going to have to start giving something other than Patron for mastering the “around the pole” game. I bet if he was giving out free shots of Tortilla Gold Matt wouldn’t be so good at it.

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By the end of lunch, we were 100% in island mode.

After lunch at Lubbers, we hopped over to Tahiti Beach for a quick swim. The sandbar was out in full force and the afternoon boat party had started. We all enjoyed a soak in the bath warm water.

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But for this group, flying to the Bahamas, boating to Lubbers Landing, and beaching on Tahiti Beach wasn't enough. Hell no. This trip was about seeing which would kill us first, overconsumption or exhaustion, so we headed to the beach at Man O War. Why not go for total collapse on the first day?

Rest is for sissies.

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We finally made our way to Guana Cay late in the afternoon. We hadn’t even been to the house yet. Our luggage was in the boat and we had been climbing on top of it all day. It was starting to get as limp and soggy as we were.

We only stayed at the house long enough to unpack and get showers. Then it was off to Grabbers for sunset.

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Having recently become big fans of “wing night” at Orchid Bay’s Sunsetter restaurant, we headed that way for some $4 wings.

Dinner took “island time” to a whole new level. You see, wing night is very popular. Even though it was 9:00 p.m., the restaurant was packed. AND we had a table of 8. With a table of 8 in the Bahamas, you might as well be asking the restaurant to feed the entire country of China.

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An hour later……

We managed to eat in less time that it had taken to get a water refill.

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There was nothing left to do but head home and fall into bed, exhausted.

Day Two: Time to Get Stranded Naked!

It was the day before the 4th of July and that meant one thing: The Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay.

No one gets stranded. Or naked.

Sorry.

However, it is the world’s most awesome beach party. Bob and Patricia Henderson work tirelessly each year to throw this most amazing FREE event. Hosted on uninhabited Fiddle Cay, where hundreds of boats surround the islands sandbar, Bob and Patricia give away 1200 Cheeseburgers, 600 hotdogs, 250 pounds of Fries, 100 gallons of Margaritas, and 100 gallons of Boat Drinks.

It is an unforgettable event.

It’s like Bourbon Street and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville had a baby. And Las Vegas was the Godmother and any Orlando water park was the Godfather.

You never know what’s going to happen.

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When Matt told me we were taking a group of 8 down for this year’s event, I knew the boat we normally used wasn’t going to cut it.

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Unfortunately, it is a very bad idea to try to rent a large boat for the single busiest week in Abaco at the last minute. By the time I knew we needed a bigger boat, there were no bigger boats.

That’s when I found the Regal. As soon as I saw her, I knew it was love.

From her hydraulic Flexiteek swim platform to her convertible rear facing chaise lounges to her wet bar and Bluetooth sound system….she was a thing of beauty and I knew she had to be mine.

And she came with a Captain.

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Sure, this meant we would have a witness to our debauchery, but it also meant there was no risk of being stuck on the sandbar for an extra 4 hours while our boat captain “slept it off” on top of the chips in the cuddy cabin.

Worth. Every. Penny.

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The ride over was awesome. Even Matt was able to relax instead of having to be the “responsible one.”

No one had to be responsible today.

Except Joey.

I’m sorry, Joey.

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Captain Joey had us anchored off Fiddle Cay just after 10:00 a.m. I was amazed at how many boats were already there so early.

I could smell burgers cooking on the grill. People were lazily drifting about on floats. Margaritas were being poured. The sun was shining.

It was shaping up to be a fantastic day.

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We managed to get in the cheeseburger line early, so there was almost no wait time. I think I’ve told you before that I don’t believe in waiting in line for food. Not even really good food. Not even really good FREE food.

The line was blessedly quick.

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That was good, because when I looked up from my hamburger, grease and ketchup smeared on my cheek, I saw Matt coming toward me with the Yeti cooler in tow.

Holy cats.

When Matt straps the 45 lb Yeti on like it’s a fanny pack…..a serious party is about to get started. I had never been so happy to have a bundle of greasy meat, bread, and potatoes in my belly.

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I threw an extra handful of pickles down my throat just to be on the safe side.

My recollection of the events after lunch are somewhat fuzzy and play in my head to Flo Rida’s theme song from the Hangover…….Thankfully, I made it out of there with all my teeth and no tattoos that weren’t temporary.

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Poor Joey. Somehow he managed to wrangle all of us back onto the boat before the tide went out and he ended up having to spend the night with us on the sandbar.

I don’t blame him for not wanting to spend the night with us.

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Instead, he took us to No Name Cay to feed the pigs before heading back to Guana.

I was a little apprehensive. I had read about a couple of people getting nipped by the pigs in recent weeks.

Having a group of somewhat intoxicated adults waving food around at a bunch of wild pigs seemed to me to be the Bahamian equivalent of “Hey y’all…..watch this….”

As such, instead of all of us running up on to the beach to feed the pigs, we elected a Pig Ambassador, who represented the strongest among us.

Of course it was Matt. Did you really think it would be anyone else? The man hauled a 45 lb. Yeti around all day like it was a beer coozie, for goodness sakes. He’s tough as iron.

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Besides, the rest of the group was in no shape to be feeding pigs.

Captain Joey deposited us safely back at the Guana dock in time for a beautiful sunset at Grabbers.

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We took stock of the day’s injuries.

We had: one black eye, one bruised arm, one bruised ankle, two bruised legs, one cut foot, two blisters, and one toenail completely devoid of polish (hey, to a woman, this is an injury!).

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Good thing we had a nurse in the group.

A wedge salad with the fresh catch of the day was just what the doctor (or nurse) ordered.

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When we returned to the house, an Abaco forum member ( http://abacoforum.com/ ) whom I had met briefly the day before had left the sweetest note and two t-shirts for Matt and I, as thanks for the inspiration he finds in my travel blog.

IS THAT NOT THE SWEETEST?????

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Robert – if you’re out there, I have 3 things to say:

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made my day!

2. I’m sorry we didn’t see you at Stranded Naked. I was apparently too busy drinking out of strangers’ champagne bottles.

3. I kept both t-shirts. I will give Matt his when I feel he has sufficiently earned it. My blog, my shirts. It’s only fair.

Day Three: Red, White, and Booze

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The significance of July 4th is not completely lost on me. I am not unaware that we are celebrating our Declaration of Independence, our freedom, and the birth of the United States. It’s awe inspiring when you think of what happened back in 1776. It fills me with gratitude and pride.

Is it so wrong that it also makes me want to cook meat over fire, drink, and watch things explode?

Even in the Bahamas, many places recognized the U.S. holiday. We had chartered the Regal for a second day to take us to Pete’s Pub for their annual July 4th Pig Roast.

I was surprised when Joey showed up for a second round. I was sure he’d had enough of us the day before, but there he was, undaunted.

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We thought about stopping at Pelican Cay on the way, but the water was rough and Joey suggested that it would be best to get to Pete’s before it got so crowded that we were unable to get space at the dock and were forced to swim in.

As soon as I heard the words “swim in” I decided I could see Pelican Cay after lunch.

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Pete’s was pretty quiet when we arrived. They weren't serving lunch yet, so everyone grabbed drinks, found seats, and enjoyed the relaxing vibe.

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Everyone except me. I was busy stalking the smoker.

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Smelling that meat made me feel very sorry for vegans.

Smoked meat is the monster truck of the food world. It’s the guy at the gym in the too small muscle shirt who is deadlifting weight so heavy that the veins in his forehead start to bulge. Regular grilled meats ask politely if you’d like a taste. Smoked meat will punch you in the mouth and scream “HELL YES!”

Seriously, the smell of that meat turned me into the carnivorous equivalent of a crack addict. I quickly scribbled a note on an old napkin.

Dear Guy at the Smoker,

I will give you $10,000 if you will walk away from the smoker. Now. Just go to the bathroom for 5 minutes. That’s all I need.

V.

It didn’t work. He was guarding that smoker like his life depended on it. It would have been easier to get a hotdog from a hobo than to sneak anything past that guy.

And just when I thought I couldn’t wait another minute…..I was handed a stunningly beautiful combo plate loaded with slow smoked shredded pork and a crispy chicken leg quarter. As though that wasn’t beautiful enough on its own, they loaded the plate down with potato salad, slaw, corn and rice, and baked beans, which immediately threw me into a full on food frenzy.

MUST EAT ALL THE FOODS.

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I love the 4th of July.

Thank you, Thomas Jefferson. I choose to celebrate with a chicken leg.

The DJ was late, so we all headed for the water after lunch. We waited. And waited.

AND WAITED.

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No DJ.

We left.

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It’s probably a good thing. If the DJ had shown up, there would have been more drinks. There would have been dancing. There would have been even more drinks. By the time we left Pete’s, we’d have been pickled.

That would have made it harder to jump off when the boat caught on fire.

Yes, you read that correctly: WHEN THE BOAT CAUGHT ON FIRE.

One minute, you’re innocently drinking moonshine and dancing on the boat……

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The next minute a life jacket is shoved at you as you are told to get the F*** of the boat.

There are times when the universe likes to remind you that you are not in charge. Usually, the reminders are not easy and are slightly painful. They are a lot like playing with a cat. One minute, you think you are having fun and the next minute, “OUCH.” That sonofabitch just up and bites the hell out of you for no reason.

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We were having some boat drinks, playing some music, and dancing on the Regal when I noticed black smoke starting to pour into the main cabin.

I have slow reflexes when I am NOT drinking. When I am drinking, my reactions are akin to someone in a coma. My flight or fight response is clearly broken and Matt often reminds me that I seem to lack the natural, God-given fear that creates a healthy sense of self-preservation in most people.

Naturally, my reaction was to move some things and lean down to see the smoke better, because that is certainly what most people would do when faced with a sudden boat fire.

That’s when Joey shoved a life jacket in my hands, moved me to the back of the boat, and said, “Jump off. NOW.”

I jumped.

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I had been filming the boat dancing and realized that I still had the GoPro clutched in my sweaty hand.

The playback of the incident is funny. I’m not crying. I’m not panicking. I’m not screaming for help. The only sounds that can be heard on the audio are the sound of the water and me repeating over and over, to no one in particular, “I really hope the boat doesn’t blow up because my camera is still on it.”

Priorities, people.

Everyone, including Joey, was scattered about in the ocean watching the boat burn, hoping it wouldn’t explode.

Because, well, then my camera would blow up.

Obviously.

So, there we all were, drifting alone or in pairs on the current, slightly drunk, silently worrying about sharks, and wondering what the hell we were supposed to do now.

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As I drifted farther from the others, I started trying to remember all those “lost at sea” stories that I have heard on Good Morning America. What did they say to do? Float on your back? Swim? Do you punch a shark in the nose or in the gills? Did I remember to put on sunscreen?

If a Vietnamese fisherman can survive for 4 days, surely I could make it a half hour.

I silently cursed myself for not grabbing that bag of pretzels before I jumped off.

Luckily, one thing you can be sure of is that a motor yacht with plumes of black smoke pouring from it will quickly get the attention of other boats.

We had no need to be worried.

Embarrassed maybe, but not worried.

Some nice folks from Florida pulled us out of the water, one at a time. We looked a hot mess. Some of us were fully dressed, some had life jackets half on/half off, there was smeared mascara, someone only had on one shoe, we all smelled like diesel fuel, and there were more bruises. You’ d have thought we had just endured a capsize, not a simple jump into the water.

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Moonshine and boat fires don’t mix, y’all.

Once everyone was on the boat and Joey was sure the engines were not going to explode, those nice folks from Florida even helped us get all our stuff off the boat. Even my flip flops made it!

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And yes, the camera was fine. (I know you were secretly worried)

I can’t thank Steve, Helen, Victoria, and Matthew enough. They saved the day.

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With the fire out, Joey stayed with the Regal while we were boated over to Lubbers Landing where Blue Wave had another boat waiting to take us home.

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Blue Wave handled it like champs. Thankfully, it was just a funny story instead of a tragedy.

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Just in case you aren’t sure, here is where burning boats fit into the hierarchy of funniness:

7 - EXTREMELY FUNNY: A Chihuahua in a toupee.

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6 - REALLY FUNNY: Matt in the 80s.

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5 – FUNNY: Jumping off a burning boat into the ocean (provided everyone is safe).

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4 – STILL FUNNY: Hemmorhoids (if someone else has them)

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3 – LESS FUNNY: Hemmorhoids (if you have them)

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2 – I'M NOT SURE IF IT'S FUNNY: Adam Sandler

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1 – NOT FUNNY: Exploding boats.

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That should clear that up.

By the time we got back to Guana, everyone was tense. Our day had been cut short. Our stuff (and some of us) smelled like diesel fuel. We’d had to jump in the ocean in our clothes and they had dried stiff and salty. Some of us were only wearing one shoe.

We couldn’t let the day end like that.

We put the life back in the party by making a quick stop at Nippers and Kidd’s Cove to remind ourselves that it was a beautiful day, life was fun, and there were things to celebrate.

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Back at the house, we thanked the Lord for our safe return and took stock of the new injuries of the day.

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Earlier, at Kidd’s Cove, Matt had made us a reservation for dinner. The last time we’d been on island, Forrest wasn’t around and his dad had done all the cooking. Mind you, Edmond was a fine cook, but he only had one thing on the menu…..Mahi-Mahi in a bowl of black beans and rice. Both times.

I was looking forward to seeing what Forrest had to offer. I have been told Forrest is professionally trained and is an excellent chef. After the day we’d had, a really good meal was in order.

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They weren’t quite ready for us when we arrived, so we sat at their pop-up bar across the street and had some Jello shots.

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When we were finally seated, I was giddy with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear what my options were.

That’s when Edmond came out of the kitchen.

“I’m cooking tonight and I’ve got mahi-mahi with black beans and rice.”

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We're going to have to teach Edmond to make something else.

We ended the day with fireworks at Nippers because apparently we hadn’t had enough smoke and fire for one day.

Happy Birthday, America.

Day Four: Just Kill Me Already

I woke up exhausted.

This trip was killing me.

I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

And today was Nippers Sunday Funday.

Oh dear sweet Lord.

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We arrived early, before the crowd, to ensure our newbies had a front row seat to the action and to allow them the “full day experience,” which is really the best way to experience Nippers for the first time.

Sneaking in late in the afternoon just for the pinnacle of madness is not sufficient.

You need to be there early, when it’s calm and quiet. The music is playing, the breeze is blowing. You have a drink, lay by the pool, laugh with friends, have a little lunch. It’s beautiful and the atmosphere is chill and relaxed.

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While you are blissfully enjoying your mac n’ cheese, more and more bodies pour in, faster than a flu virus spreading on a playground. Before you know what has happened, Nippers is a bouncing mob of sweaty bodies, thumping music, and frozen drinks being spilled on your feet by strangers and you are right in the middle of it.

And you like it.

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I gave our newbies “Vicki’s Top 10 Tips for a Successful Nippers Sunday Funday:”

1) Get there early. Otherwise, you’re stuck at what I call the SPF 70 tables – the ones with absolutely NO SHADE. You will fry in less than 20 minutes and then you’ll have to go home and spend the rest of the afternoon bathing in aloe instead of having fun.

2) NEVER leave your keys in your golf cart. Not because someone will steal it. Don’t be crazy. This is the safest place on earth. Don’t do it because every rental golf cart looks exactly the same. Do you trust 400 drunk people to know exactly which one is theirs when the leave? I didn’t think so.

3) Don’t wear heels. Heels and a swimsuit? Heels at the beach? Heels in the sand? Why? Just WHY? Please, stop the madness.

4) Leave the trucker hats at home. I’m sorry, but I am so sick of the 20-somethings that show up in their matching trucker hats from their massive yacht and try to take over Nippers with their designer swimwear and Daddy’s AmEx card. Stay in Bakers Bay for gods sakes and leave Nippers to the 40-somethings that have nowhere else to lose their dignity without being judged by a bunch of entitled young people.

5) Eat the buffet. "ALL YOU CAN EAT MACARONI AND CHEESE." There’s really nothing else to say.

6) Have the Frozen Nipper. Sure, you can drink other things but this is why you are really here, isn’t it?

7) Don’t have more than 3 Frozen Nippers. You’ll thank me for this one later. If you ignore it, I can promise your boat/dock/deck/spouse will be covered in a moderate amount of bright red vomit later.

8) Never go to the bathroom in bare feet. This one needs no explanation.

9) Don’t get in the pool after 3:00 p.m. You just don’t know what might be in there.

10) Dance badly. No one cares. Most of them dance as badly as you do. This isn’t the place to worry that you might look silly. This is exactly the place to look silly.

It appears they took my advice.

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It seems the Nippers crowd always migrates to Grabbers late in the afternoon. It’s the place to fill your stomach with some heavy food, the place to slow down, the place to regain your composure.

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Or, in the case of our group, the place to enter a dance contest, try some hula hooping, and see how many more drinks you can consume before requiring a stomach pump.

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We added the new bruises to the “bruise of the day” list and called it a night.

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Day Five: It's Not Over Until It's Over

I jumped out of bed in a panic.

It was already 6:30 a.m.! I should have the cooler packed! We should be headed to the boat! I should be dressed already!!! Where were we supposed to be today????? Beach party? Nippers??? Fireworks????? Where was I? What day was it?

That’s when I remembered we had absolutely nothing planned for the day.

Sigh.

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It was our final day and it was blessedly agenda free.

Once everyone was up and about, we all agreed that our first destination would be the lagoon. The water was a little choppy on the sea and we thought this might offer a calm place to hang out on the boat for a while.

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It was perfect.

We did nothing more ambitious than sip on some bacon bloody marys and watch the clouds roll by.

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When we started to get hungry, it was time to make a decision. We narrowed it down to 2 options:

1) The weather was looking iffy, but it was gorgeous on Guana. It seemed like a good idea to swing by Guana grocery and get stuff for sandwiches and do nothing more than boat over to the north end beaches to relax.

2) Throw caution to the wind and head to Treasure Cay.

You’ve probably figured out by now that we have more guts than smarts.

The ride over was as beautiful as it always is. I am always mesmerized by the changing colors of the water as you get closer to Treasure Cay. It’s practically electric.

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As we neared the dock at Treasure Sands, the black clouds started to roll in. We watched the clouds gather ominously…promising a thunderstorm.

The bottom dropped out just as we made it inside.

I’d like to say we didn’t mind it so much. I’d like to be a big enough person to say we’d had our sun and our fun and a day of rain was just fine. But I am, in fact, a very small person and I wanted sunshine dammit.

I learned that no amount of sulking will make the rain stop.

We were stuck in the Treasure Sands club for HOURS.

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Oh well. If you are going to be stuck somewhere, at least get stuck somewhere with AWESOME FOOD.

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All of the food was fantastic, but it was the Crichton that won my heart.

THE CRICHTON: Vanilla ice cream, Espresso, Amaretto

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Listed with the “Adult Coffees” rather than the desserts, I expected a drink. Maybe like a grown up milkshake.

However, it was not a drink that showed up. It was this awesomeness.

Sure, that may just look like ice cream, but to dismiss this is JUST ice cream would be like saying van Gogh was JUST a guy with one ear. Comparing this to ice cream is like comparing Disney World to that time you took a creepy photo with an unlicensed character in Time Square that one time when you were drunk.

IT IS NOT THE SAME THING.

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I shoved it into my mouth with such unrestrained urgency that Matt gave me “that look.” You ladies know the one. The same look your husband gives you when you eat that 3rd piece of cake at the wedding or when you buy the dress that’s $435 because it’s ON SALE instead of the one that’s $49.95 or when you drink the champagne out of the bottle. Okay, maybe these are just me? Whatever. You know what I am saying.

I looked at him and said, “SHUT UP!” but I don’t think he understood what I was saying because my mouth was full of delicious ice cream-coffee-liquor awesomeness, but my passion was conveyed and that’s what matters.

With lunch over, there was nothing to do but wait.

And wait.

And wait.

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To add insult to injury, the roof was leaking everywhere. We may as well have been outside. We bundled up in towels and wished we were eating bologna sandwiches on Bakers Bay beach.

The storm finally slowed to a drizzle and we were able to leave.

So, our calm, quiet day hadn’t been so calm and quiet. It was par for the course. With this group, anything could happen.

We cleaned up and headed to Island Flavors for dinner. It was the only place that we hadn’t eaten at yet and they had MANGO SOFT SERVE!

MANGO SOFT SERVE!!!!

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And then, five days of madness were concluded with a simple fried grouper sandwich with a side of mac n’ cheese.

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Just like that, it was ov------

Wait.

It’s not over until it’s over.

And it wasn’t over.

Guana Cay had one more kick in the pants in store for us.

Apparently, one black eye, a sprained ankle, countless cuts and bruises, one boat fire, and one thunderstorm were not sufficient.

We also needed to run out of gas on our golf cart at 11:00 p.m. in the dark.

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Sweet heavenly Moses. I was never going to survive this trip.

Day Six: TGIFO (Thank God It's Finally Over)

Survive it, we did. We made it to the airport the next morning, a little banged up, a lot tired, and still smelling a little bit like diesel fuel, but we’d had a blast.

Now it was time to go home and lick our wounds.

Guana Cay: Don’t cry because it’s over. Cry because it happened.

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Until Next Time!!!!

Posted by vicki_h 10:00 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (3)

Forty is the new F Word.

A friend's 40th in Key West

People can run around saying “40 is the new 20” and “I’m not 40, I’m 23 with 17 years of experience,” all they want. The truth is, turning 40 sucks giant donkey balls.

I know. It happened to me 5 years ago.

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You have to check a new demographic box every time you fill anything out.

Young adults literally start calling you “ma’am” overnight like there’s a stamp on your forehead that says, “I AM YOUR MOM’S AGE.” The cute boy that was flirting with you at the coffee shop? Yeah, he wasn’t. He called you ma'am as he handed you your change. There was no way he was flirting with you. You remind him of his mom.

You have to start getting mammograms.

Even the DMV takes a crack at you by ensuring that your driver’s license expires on your 40th birthday, forcing you to go get a new one with a picture where you suddenly age 5 years.

It can be uber depressing.

Unless you plan something fun.

Something that makes you look forward to turning 40. Something that gives you an opportunity to look 40 right in the eye and say, “BRING IT.”

My 40th birthday in the Bahamas made turning 40 one of the most fun things I ever did.

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When my friend Alison’s husband was trying to figure out what to do for her 40th birthday, I offered him 2 suggestions: 1) hire Stephen Tyler to serenade her with “Walk this Way” as Channing Tatum provides a personal lap dance or 2) do a destination birthday.

And that is how we ended up planning a surprise trip with her husband and 8 friends to Key West.

(Personally, I was hoping for Channing Tatum)

We spent 6 months planning and scheming….. quietly, carefully. Finally, the big day came. Alison was blindfolded and told she was being taken to see a car. Instead, all of us were waiting to surprise her.

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You have to be careful surprising an almost 40 year old woman like that. At our age, we could lose bladder control. Or spontaneously break a hip.

We expected screams. We expected fainting. We expected tears of joy. Instead, we heard, “You mean I’m not getting a car?”

(I told him he should have gone with Channing Tatum)

It was time to load everyone up in the Chieftan and head south.

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It was Key West or BUST, baby.

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Day One: Key West in June....Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt

My planning was impeccable. I had the perfect place to stay. Groceries and drinks were being delivered before we arrived. A beautiful cake and balloons had been ordered. An awesome itinerary had been planned. Every detail was accounted for.

Or so I thought.

I missed one tiny detail.

It’s really HOT in Key West in late June.

Like…really, REALLY hot.

I have had some hot vacation experiences. Like that time we thought it would be a good idea to go to Texas in the summer and eat tacos with hot sauce from a street vendor on the sidewalk. That was just before we caught on fire.

But Key West in late June? It was like walking through a furnace in a gasoline suit.

Even my fingernails were sweating.

There you are, innocently waiting in line to eat when it happens. One minute, you are smiling and enjoying a beautiful day. The next minute, you burst into flames.

It’s called Spontaneous Key West Line Combustion and it can really happen. It’s science, people.

And there is only one remedy: mimosas!

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We found them at Blue Heaven. We also found lobster & grits with toasted banana bread, BLT benedicts, and PIE.

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It was early in the day, and some of our group had never been to Key West, so we thought we'd do some walking around, maybe some shopping, and let everyone get a feel for Key West.

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Within 5 minutes, we said "Screw it." It was too hot to do much walking, so we only made it as far as the Rum Bar. Bahama Bob was behind the bar doing his thing.

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The group quickly became addicted to painkillers. We had to get them out of there after the 3rd round. We had been up since 4:00 a.m. and we didn’t want anyone passing out before we even got checked into the house.

Palm Gardens was PERFECT. Two, 2 story houses, each made up of 2 independent condominium units with a king bedroom, kitchen, den, bath, and porch. We had rented all 4 which gave us private access to the pool.

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Which was good, because no one else would have fit in that pool.

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We spent the afternoon cooling off before heading to Half Shell for happy hour. It was time for oysters!

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And shrimp.

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And drinks.

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And unfortunately shaped shadows.

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Having done the “booze cruise” with the Fury catamaran a couple of times, I had decided we needed something a little classier for the birthday girl. I didn’t want Alison’s pre-birthday filled with memories of overcooked chicken wings and cheap margaritas.

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I had booked us on the sunset sail with Floridays. It was a smaller boat, a more intimate crowd, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

It was an AWESOME boat. Service was impeccable. The boat was classy and refined. The mood was relaxed.

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But, as we sipped our champagne in the sunset, I couldn’t help but wish I had a couple of those greasy chicken wings.

You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can never take the trailer park out of the girl.

To prove that point, I forced tequila shots and tater tots on everyone after the sunset sail.

We had drinks at Agave 308. It’s dark. It’s classy. It’s filled with tequila. What’s not to like?

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Afterward, we stumbled over to Amigo’s. You can’t beat Amigo’s for late night eats.

The pork carnitas nachos were simply a thing of beauty. Not to be outdone by the amazing tater tots and street corn.

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And just to be certain that everyone barfed before they went to bed, we stopped at Better Than Sex for dessert.

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Then we all ate a handful of Tums and called it a night!

Day Two: Happy Birthday!

We’d had enough drinks the day before to give an aspirin a headache.

There is only one remedy for that: mimosas!

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What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This especially applies to alcohol and fried foods, so we headed to Camille’s for a deliciously boozy breakfast.

Every time I walk into Camille’s, I feel like I am visiting 1984. From the orange sherbet walls and colorful vinyl tablecloths to the barbies and fornicating ceramic pigs to the Pet Shop Boys pumping out of the stereo, it screams "Hello, Vicki, this is your adolescence calling." However, despite how awesomely eclectic it is, one does not come to Camille’s for the décor, one comes for the breakfast.

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Matt went snazzy with the chorizo benedict and I went old school with a fried egg, grits, and Cuban toast.

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We had rented a deck boat for the day. Destination: Boca Grande, a small uninhabited island about 14 miles from Key West with a pretty nice little beach. Renting a boat was significantly cheaper than taking a boat out for a day with a captain, and it eliminated the embarrassment of acting like total idiots in front of a stranger. When we act like idiots, we prefer to do it in privacy.

We were armed with sandwiches and adult beverages. It was time to get our boat day on.

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It only took about 40 minutes to get to Boca Grande.

As we pulled up to the beach, I noticed a lot more seaweed than usual. It wasn’t quite a pretty as it usually was, but it still beat any beach on Key West.

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We poured up some beach drinks, found ourselves a shallow spot in the water, and made a day of it.

We proceeded to go through the 5 stages of beach drinking:

Stage 1: SUNSHINE AND HAPPINESS. This is the pre-drinking stage. Everyone is basking in the golden sunshine, cup in hand, marveling at how simply amazing it is to be right where they are.

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Stage 2: LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED. There is always that one person that gets a little louder sooner than everyone else. A little rowdier. A little OUT THERE. That person is usually me. This time, it was all 10 of us.

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Stage 3: DUDE, THIS IS AWESOME. This is the full-buzz stage. Everyone is having a killer time. Everything is the most fun thing EVER. Especially more drinks.

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Stage 4: HEY, Y’ALL…WATCH THIS. You have arrived. You are fully intoxicated and it seems really cool to do really dorky things. Like try to put your glass in your swimsuit and try to drink out of it. Or do synchronized swimming. This is the stage where you are most likely to get a black eye or lose a tooth.

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Stage 5: I LOVE YOU, MAN. We’ve all been there. This is the stage where you love everyone. They love you. These people are your BEST FRIENDS EVER. At least one person usually cries. Personal space ceases to exist as everyone talks too close, hugs too much, and generally climbs on top of each other like a bunch of puppies in a too small box. At least this is what happens when women drink.

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It is best to follow the “I love you, man” stage with food, lest you end up in the dreaded 6th stage of beach drinking: Puking like a kid who ate all of his Halloween candy in one sitting.

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We had an amazing lunch spread. We had it all: Champagne, coconut rum, and beer. Sodas. Chicken salad, tuna salad, and turkey and Swiss sandwiches. Chips and dip. Fresh Fruit. Cheese. Crackers.

Know what we didn’t have?

A knife.

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(I realize there is a "cut the cheese" joke just dying to come in here, but it's just not going to happen, folks)

And then, somewhere in the alcohol fueled haze of the beautiful afternoon….we ran out of alcohol. Just. Like. That.

It was probably a good thing. Otherwise, we’d probably still be sitting on that beach.

Time to go!

Back at the house, we had an AMAZING pina colada birthday cake from Key West Cakes. The cake was delicious, beautiful, and they had even delivered it to our fridge before we even arrived.

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Then it was time to head to Alison’s birthday dinner.

I was not about to let my girl spend her 40th birthday somewhere mundane like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville eating a “cheeseburger in paradise” while sipping a watery cocktail and listening to “Fins.”

I wanted her big day to be exceptional and memorial. What better way to do that than with a dinner on the beach at a private island resort?

Ask anyone “Where is the best place to have a special occasion dinner in Key West?” and you will almost always get the same answer: Latitudes. Jet Set dining at its best, Latitudes is located on the private island resort of Sunset Cay, just a five minute ride on their private ferry from Key West.

As we pulled up to the dock, we knew we were in for a very special evening.

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And we were. It was called “Heat Stroke.” And it was very special.

I had made reservations in February so that I could secure a table in the sand about an hour before sunset, knowing that the restaurant was known for its unobstructed sunset view.

“It’s going to be really hot,” the girl on the phone warned me when I made the reservation. “It’s late June and you’ll have literally NO PROTECTION from the sun. It’s brutal.”

I looked outside my office window. It was snowing. I pictured a beautifully set table in the sand.

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“We’ll take the 7:00 reservation,” I said. What did she know? WE LOVE SUN. Sun is awesome. Sun is our friend. Too hot? Pfffffft. There’s no such thing as too hot.

I remembered that conversation as I sat sweating through my tank dress, gulping down a coconut martini as fast as my throat could swallow while silently apologizing to Mother Nature for making all those snide comments about global warming. Then I started sucking down Matt’s frozen bushwacker, promising God that I would purchase some solar panels and trade in my Land Rover for a hybrid as soon as I got home if he would just cool it down a few degrees.

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Heat be damned, we had an excellent dinner. Even though our faces were sliding off into our laps, the food and setting were hard to beat.

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The cool wedge salad was a perfect first course, with fresh Florida oranges and chilled melon topped with gorgonzola cheese and a papaya dressing.

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Matt had the seafood pasta: fresh tagliatelle pasta with Key West pink shrimp, lobster, and scallops tossed in a parmesan pesto cream sauce with heirloom tomatoes and roasted mushrooms.

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I couldn’t resist the honey and ancho chile crusted waygu beef skirt steak, primarily because it was topped with two big, fat onion rings (remember what I said about the trailer park?).

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Finished up with a mango martini, the dinner couldn’t have been better.

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Cooler, yes. Better, no.

We enjoyed the amazing sunset before catching the ferry back to Key West.

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Now that the sophisticated part of the evening was over, it was time to get the party started. In order to protect the guilty, I shall not divulge the intimate details, but there may have been lots of shots, dancing on tables, a couple of male dancers and a significant loss of one dollar bills, and we might have gotten thrown out of a bar by a guy that looked just like Vanilla Ice (but not before I told him how much I loved Ice, Ice, Baby….which he did not seem to think was as funny as I did)…..but I’m not confirming nor denying anything.

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Day 3: Wakey, Wakey, Eggs & Bakey

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We woke up s-l-o-w. I don't mean slowly. I mean slow. We were slow. We had no aggressive plans for the day so everyone slept in and got up at their own pace. It was a perfect morning to do nothing more than lay around in the air conditioning eating aspirin for breakfast.

Everyone finally roused around noon, so we thought we’d take everyone to the Southernmost Point for the “photo op” since some of our group had never been to Key West.

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We severely underestimated how heat can affect a hangover.

There are many who say that heat is a good remedy for a hangover. These people say you should “sweat it out” and get rid of the toxins in your body.

These people are stupid.

And are masochists.

We should not have tried to beat the heat. We needed to sit in the shade and drink a lot of Gatorade. And think about our life choices.

Instead, we were on bicycles, sweating it out on top of pavement that had to be at least 147 degrees. As we pedaled from our place on White Street toward Duval Street, there was absolutely no shade to be found. At the 4th traffic light we were forced to stop at, we started to die slowly.

It was so hot, my biggest bicycle wreck fear was, "What if I fall off my bike and cook to death on the pavement?"

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By the time we reached the Southernmost Point, we sent the strongest of our bunch in search of water while the rest of us lay limply on the sidewalk, begging for a quick and painless death. When Matt returned (did you really think it was anyone else?), we didn’t even bother to drink the water, but simply poured it over our heads. I think I saw steam.

And yes, we got the photo op. Unfortunately, Matt was buying water and I was taking the picture so I had to Photoshop us in. I don’t think you can tell.

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When we realized we were not, in fact, going to die, we made a mad dash to Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill for some lunch in the blessed air conditioning.

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This was a first time at Deuce’s and it was a WINNER. It instantly became everyone’s favorite, and not just because of the air conditioning.

Because of the amazing fish tacos and sweet potato tater tots.

SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS, y’all!

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The food at this small restaurant was outstanding.

Go here. Now.

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We were loath to leave the air conditioning, and the tater tots, but I don’t think Deuce’s was willing to let us stay for the next 7 hours, so we had to pedal on out of there.

It was just too hot for shopping, and no one had seen the beach at Key West, so we took them to Fort Zachary, thinking we might be able to dip in the refreshing water.

Unfortunately, the refreshing water was filled with seaweed and smelled like farts.

So we sat in the shade and ate giant pickles and popsicles instead. Have you ever noticed how many penis shaped foods there are in Key West? I’m just making a point, here, people. Just making a point.

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There was nothing left to do but spend the afternoon in our pool. Even though the pool was heated, it was the coolest we’d been all day.

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Seriously….who heats a pool in Key West in the summer??????!!!!!

It was our last day, so heat or no, we were going to make the most of it. We decided to do a Happy Hour crawl for dinner, starting with oysters and margaritas at Pepe’s.

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Then, it was on to Kelly’s for wings, nachos, and more margaritas (and maybe some nachos and fish dip).

I have a tidbit of advice for Kelly's: Maybe if you let people sit OUTSIDE in your pretty courtyard during happy hour instead of making them sit INSIDE....your pretty courtyard wouldn't be TOTALLY EMPTY.

Just a thought.

Especially considering the courtyard was the only really good thing at Kellys.

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Then we did a little Duval Street Strolling. It was finally cool enough to shop!

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The final stop was at the Little Room Jazz Bar for what was supposed to be one drink. You know, since we were flying out in the morning.

One drink did not happen.

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As a dog returns to its vomit…….

Some of us never learn.

Home again, Home again!

We filled ourselves with doughnuts and bacon before heading home.

I learned that a “side of bacon” at Sandy’s means “a pound of bacon.” It was a thing of beauty.

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It had been a whirlwind, but it had been fabulous. It had been hot, but it had been fun. It had been exhausting, but it had been worth every second.

There was nothing left to do but put the inflatable margarita in the trash and fly home.

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What's next? Why, getting stranded naked in Abaco, that's what!

Posted by vicki_h 12:39 Archived in USA Tagged key_west florida_keys duval_street conch_republic Comments (4)

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