The adventure starts on Florida’s Turnpike South towards Key West. As we cruised south, I remembered a place I visited on a grad. school trip to the Everglades a few years ago that was a MASSIVE farmstand/farm that served as the gateway to the western edge of the park called Robert Is Here! It was a great pit stop at the time back in the day and as I looked it up on my gps, I saw we were right outside Homestead, the city where Robert Is!, so we made a quick detour west a few blocks to take a look. This place seriously ROCKS! The story is that Robert, as a small child, stood on this major intersection of two state roads throughout his childhood everyday selling fruits to people driving either into or exiting the ‘Glades, and it is a major trucking route so he slowly grew some tiny empire to result in this massive stand almost fifty years later! Cool, huh? There have tons of native fruits there and other fun oddities such as…

Sea Sponges

Alien species…?

Nope, it’s jackfruit! Kinda wish I bought some b/c I don’t believe I have ever had it (what does it taste like? Now I am dying to know).

They also have all kinds of Florida and southern grown citrus, figs, peanuts, potatoes, watermelons, you get the idea. Out back there is a cute little petting zoo/farm set-up with ducks, geese, goats, ostrich, pigs…

and tropical, rainbow eucalyptus trees (it is where rainbow sherbet comes from! Just kidding)…

    The bark is so cool and pretty!

Yup, I do.
I was hungry for breakfast so I headed to the smoothie bar, which they blend up right there. I wanted a key lime smoothie and the nice girls working the bar told me that would be weird? So I took Robert’s advice and got a key lime milkshake that was strange-ly…refreshing? Tangy? BOTH!We hopped back in the car, pulled a U-ie, and burned out of the parking lot (not really) back to the Highway 1 South – Destiny Bound!* (For your Phish lovers out there 😉 ). Check out that sweet blue sea! Water on both sides, nothing but the skinny highway between the islands all the way south for over 113 miles to Key Largo! Even the highway barrier walls are painted a pale azure to blend in between endless blue sea and sky.  We made it to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park! The real  Florida.   

Our seaworthy vessel the Encounter

Strangler fig tree

TRAVEL ADVISORY TIP: There are an overwhelming number of snorkeling/dive cruise outfitters all throughout the keys and the further you travel south, the more expensive they become (because you are further away from the mainland gas supplies). We chose to snorkel out of the State Park in Key Largo because I would rather spend my tourist dollars there than a private tourist trap snorkeling outfit (often overpriced) and I felt that we could trust the knowledge of the Park’s trained wildlife guides, who also served as the boat captains. I have been on some bad snorkeling adventures before and I think it is important to feel comfortable with the boat organizers, and especially trust their sensitivities to the natural environment, to have the best experience in the water as possible, so the State Park was a clear choice for me. 

We* (*I) had the best time snorkeling! I think I was the last one to get back on the boat. I got stung at least once by the moon jellyfish, which were enormous but really beautiful and somewhat mesmerizing to watch, but I’ve lived to the tell the tale! On our way back ‘stateside’ we hit up Alabama Jacks, which I randomly have been to now at least four times. It is literally straddling the toll bridge of the Keys back onto the mainland on the Card Sound Road (locals only!) and is not much more than a roadside shack on a barge, but they serve awesome fried seafood and cold cold brews. After our sunned out day that was exactly what we were craving. I lost my picture of this, but I had the special fish o’ the day, Red Snapper, with slaw and sweet potato fries. It could not have been more fresh and perfectly crisp! Washed down with a Corona Light (or two ;)), we made our long drive back north.

My sundrenched profile

View of the sunset through our balcony overlooking the golf course. FORE!

The man was restless so we headed out that same evening to the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth to check out a band called Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones. No, not the chipmunks, this band plays heavy hitting R&B, roots rock with a guitar legend at the helm. The inside of the club was gorgeous, with glowing backlights of vintage musical instruments adorning the walls and a glowing, huge 20′ bar stretching to the rafters. They jammed hard! Loved them and even bought the cd, which as a chronic iTunes downloader, is extremely rare for me, but hey, the artists deserved the royalties.  The club said this ticket booth was from an original Greyhound Station in Chicago, circa 1950’s!

Stay tuned for Day 3 of Florida birthday adventures!