Why not double the fun! I had such a great time in the Keys last year I thought would make another trip to the southernmost part of Florida once again over Christmas break. Yet just as I was planning the trip, a college roommate named Ted Christ offered me a free ticket to Jacksonville. Sorry, Blitz, you’re going to have to stay home this year! Together we boarded a plane at O’Hare Airport outside of Chicago and then landed in the Sunshine State.
In Jacksonville I picked up a rental car and we drove about 40 minutes north up the coast to visit a good college friend who lived in Amelia City (pictured above). Ted was planning to stay with her for the week. My plans were to “crash out” there for the night and then depart with the rental for the Florida Keys early in the morning. I spent much of the day driving south on Interstate 95 along the eastern coast until I crossed the Florida Bay and entered the Keys.
Biscayne Bay and The Florida Keys
Again, I was flying by the seat of my pants. Since I was making all the plans at the spur of the moment, I was thankful for any campsite I could find during this busy season. As you can see in the picture below, the campsite was fine, but my old orange tent was an embarrassing sight. What made it worse was the obnoxious rigging I did with string to keep the sides expanded. Not sure what I was thinking!
The campsite had a pool which I enjoyed in the evening and then a nice spot along the water to watch the sunset.
Since I was without the dog, I took advantage of the opportunity to spend the majority of this trip snorkeling.
Often I would drive over to Key Largo (which was nearby) and spend the day at John Pennekamp State Park, laying out and snorkeling in the water just off its beautiful beaches. At one of the three beaches (Canon Beach) they arranged the remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck only a hundred feet offshore. On another day I rented a kayak and paddled through the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks. I also had the pleasure to take a charter boat a few miles off shore and gain a better appreciation for the coral reefs by viewing a beautiful array of marine species.
Another popular destination in the Florida Keys is Bahia Honda State Park. I did some snorkeling there and enjoyed their “award winning beaches.”
When my time in the Keys was completed, I needed to return to Jacksonville to reconnect with Ted and the flight back to Chicago. However, I saved some time to make two more important stops en route.
Cocoa Beach Florida
First, I made a planned stop in Cocoa Beach.
Once at Cocoa Beach I rented a surfboard, donned my newly purchased wet suit and hit the waves. Although this is a surfing capital, I was cracking up at the crowd that gathered around me as I was getting prepared to enter the water. No doubt to their disappointment, my performance in the water fell far short of the show they were expecting to see. After a couple waves, the crowed of a dozen or so folks quickly dissipated. I spend most of the evening in the water and when the sun was setting I grabbed a bite to eat and spent some time browsing through the nearby Ron Jon Surf Shop.
I left Cocoa Beach when it was dark. I checked out a few hotels, but being that it was New Year’s Eve, the prices were totally unreasonable. I couldn’t justify paying that kind of money just to lay down for a few hours. Therefore I welcomed the new year of 1995 from the front seat of my car, the very location I chose to spend the night.
In the morning I drove directly west for about an hour and arrived in Orlando. A good friend and fellow lifeguard with me from Centennial Beach in Illinois named Kevin Miller was now employed by Disney World at their water park called “Typhoon Lagoon.” Kevin got me in for free and I enjoyed the day at this amazing park filled with fast slides and beautiful foliage. The pictures below show the wave pool and the giant boat high up on the mountain that would shoot vast amounts of water out its chimney at certain scheduled times during the day. The picture on the right shows two lifeguards standing with red shorts. One of them (can’t remember which one) is Kevin.
Back in Amelia City.
Unloading and repacking for the flight home in the morning.
Another great Christmas break in the Florida Keys!