Saturday February 15, 2014
When we arrived to Key West I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to go back to having internet only every 2-3 days when I could drag Matt to a McDonald’s to use their services, and usually only for an hour at a time. Imagine my surprise when as soon as the anchor was down, Matt had found a signal and already got us connected. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a story of how we never left the boat because we were busy surfing the web (although I could see that happening depending on how long we stay here), but I tell you this because we had the gift of being able to research where the hell we were supposed to go here to land the dinghy. Or do anything, really. Don’t laugh at me, I had visions in my head of getting to Key West to anchor ourselves among 8-10 other boats, and seeing shore access right in front of us, preferably on a sandy beach with no cost associated with tying up. Hello, the budget game is still running. Keep in mind that I had never researched anything on Key West before we left, only how to get there. So when we dropped anchor last night among 100 other masts that I could make out and looked at the multiplying condo complexes in front of us, I knew this was going to be harder than I initially imagined. This new internet connection of ours told us where we could land the dinghy and even how to get there from where we were. For the cost of $6 a day. Ugh.
Our internet access also allowed us to make a call to Customs to find out that we personally could not check in solely based on a phone call as our guide book told us (damn!), but that we could visit the airport the next morning and get it done there. This morning we brought our dinghy up to the marina listed online to find out where exactly it was we were supposed to tie up, and immediately got a mouthful from the marina employee for not tying up where we were supposed to. Thanks guy, that’s what I was coming to ask you. As soon as he sent us on our way with a glare in his eye, we were greeted and ushered in by a dinghy full of,…hmmm, there’s no way to say this,..hillbillies that gave us half toothed smiles as they waved us in while trying not to spill the Busch Light out of their cans. Welcome to America.
Our first important stop of the day, almost more important than getting ourselves check in, was a stop at the Post Office to pick up the care package my mom sent, the one that’s been trying to get to us since December. That’s ok though, because a longer delay meant more time to add requests to fill the box. Which then turned into two. Oops. While shuffling through the boring but necessary things, the debit card we hadn’t had access to since October, the the sewing kit for repairing sails and thick fabrics, we were able to get to the good things. For me at least, I don’t think Matt was excited. While he waded through all kinds of paperwork that we hadn’t been able to receive in months, I pulled out pairs and pairs of new sunglasses, sundresses, Skittles. There were Snickers, Starbucks gift cards, and a Snuffelupagus. Sorry, I got carried away there on my S’s. That last one was actually supposed to be gourmet coffee grounds. To say I was a little excited to receive this package was an understatement. We also received back, on loan, our Waterway Guide to Florida that we had sent to our friends Jackie and Ron when we left Florida last year and thought we’d never be back. Turns out we were wrong. We’ll just take that back for a few weeks…
From our internet connection we were also able to discover that the airport is completely on the other side of the island. Not that we’re not normally up for a hike, but when the officer on the phone last night said morning, did he mean before 12 noon morning? As in, the office will be closed, if you don’t get here in the morning?! Because in that case, even though I like to consider myself in good shape, I didn’t know if I could walk the 5 miles in less than an hour. A taxi it was going to have to be. The last thing we needed was Border Protection exiling us from our own country because we didn’t check into the country before Monday and Matt, who does actually follow the rules, couldn’t keep his wife from wandering up and down Duval St after three days at sea.
Rushing ourselves out to the Arnold Building to make sure the American government didn’t have a reason to hate us we found out that not only was the office open until 7 that night, but Border Patrol wouldn’t even be back for over an hour as they were currently out inspecting one of the cruise ships that had just come in. It wasn’t all bad though, we found a vending machine that offered Mountain Dew, our first taste of it since Colombia, and wandered through the tourist shops where they were pawning sea beans with peace signs and hearts on them for $6. I just smiled, remembering all the ones we’d collect on the beaches of the Bahamas for free.
When we finally saw life inside the Border Patrol building again, we went inside for what was probably the easiest check in procedure we’ve ever done. Even better than Cayman, which had been high on my list of We’ll never get this lucky again. Maybe it’s because we had an a-hole agent walking out the door when we first arrived to tell us that they wouldn’t be back to help us for hours, and when they did, there would be a thorough inspection of our boat, it’s contents, and every piece of food in the chill box; but we were blessed with someone much friendlier when we got back the second time. It was just one form, $19, five minutes, and we were out the door. The only thing that really, I mean really surprised me, is that not one of the officers batted an eye at my over-dialated eyes. Did I forget to mention that I got the other one this morning while doing my make-up? I guess I must have brushed one of my fingers over the spot that my scopolamine patch had been sitting on and accidentally rubbed it into my good eye. If these men are supposed to be looking for suspicious behavior, it was literally written all over my face. I looked like I had been trying every kind of drug Mexico has to offer. Maybe my tank top was just lower cut than I knew and they didn’t even realized I had a face, who knows?
Continuing on with our day of excitement: care packages and legal entry back into our country, we set our sights on finding some good ol’ American fast food. Walking the two miles from the airport to the fast food district, we passed on McDonald’s before setting our sighs on Wendy’s. With greasy burgers and cheesy bacon fries placed in front of us, we dug in like there was no tomorrow and were soon paying for our mistake. After not eating food like this for so long our stomachs were not liking the sudden change. As we wandered out of the building and down the street, I think the only words that either of us could mutter were “I think I’m going to die…”. Maybe this is the opportunity to kick our fast food habit for good? We’ll let you know how that one turns out.