Florida, Orlando, Tampa – we’re the destination for many Americans, arguably the tourist capital of the world. So, where do Floridians go on their vacation? We experienced this firsthand recently with our friends, the Bennett family, who makes a summer trek to the Florida Keys.
It’s a boating trip to Islamorada, a fishing Mecca where sportsmen the world over descend for some of the best game fishing there is. My husband, Mark, and Craig Bennett traded e-mail, web links and phone calls about the place, building anticipation and excitement.
I don’t know about other Floridians, but the summer heat, dripping humidity and stench of human sweat really strengthen the appeal of a northern escape for me, think crisp mountain air. My husband, the angler, angling the various aspects of this trip to his advantage, became the Bennett’s best advocate.
They’re good friends and it’s just a long weekend, so I gave in. Even someone like me who sweats the heat could manage four days.
The guys booked a fishing expedition with a local guide and had grand plans.
We started early Friday, June 9 with trucks loaded and six young kids in tow. The leg to Miami was uneventful. As we approached Florida’s Turnpike heading south to Highway 1, we hit a wall of rain, the Bennett’s boat barely visible ahead of us.
Tiny point of note: Summer means the hurricane season. Not a good omen.
Before leaving peninsular Florida, we saw the devastation last year’s hurricanes had on the local vegetation: fallen trunks and dead trees for acres.
In Islamorada, we settled in and monitored the weather channels, hoping for the best.
The next couple days we woke to whipping winds and pelting rain. Tropical Storm Alberto continued the Shattan curse, yet another in a series of failed water adventures. We apologized to our friends. Like Pigpen in Peanuts, storm clouds hover over us wherever we go. The fishing captain canceled the trip and we found ourselves watching the new movie, “Cars,” at a local theater.
Committed to their mission, Craig and Mark returned to the marina and booked another guide who was willing to risk the weather the following morning.
Doped up on motion sickness patches and pills the guys and our two oldest kids braved the seas in questionable weather. The captain took his boat, Man O’ Man, out 13 miles, trolled in six to eight foot swells and returned five hours later. My girlfriend and I stood in the marina watching the big grins on our husbands’ faces. I noticed fins sticking out of the hold. My daughter looked a little shaky, holding her doll tightly against her.
The captain took out the mahi mahi and black fin tuna. Considering the rate for the charter, these were the world’s most expensive fish, but Mark couldn’t look happier. That night, we ate tuna sushi, pan seared tuna, fried mahi and baked mahi. It was delicious.
Something strange happened the next morning. Waking up after a restful slumber, I squinted from the bright walls. The Florida sun had returned and the streak of gray days was broken. Great timing — it was checkout.
We stayed an extra day and enjoyed a family boat ride, swimming at the sandbar and a ride on the Seadoo. Life was good.
Vacationing in Florida, it’s hard to outrun the weather but sometimes the payoff’s big.