We left the crystal clear waters of the Florida Keys behind and started our way back north. The "Season" as they call it down here is on the wane. The snowbirds, having had their fill of tequila and hubris, are making their way back to the thawing permafrost of middle America.
We left Marathon a little before the rush. Having some work to do on our teak railings, we needed access to shorepower and city water to complete the task. The plan was to take a slip in Marco Island for two weeks where we could take our time and finish the job right.
The trip up from Marathon is usually a two day affair. We were in no hurry and wanted to check out some of the local flora and fauna, so we did it in three. First stop was the Little Shark River. Ideally situated halfway between the Keys and the Mainland, Little Shark is in the middle of a mangrove patch, a long way from nowhere. There were no bars of any kind. No cell phones bars, no internet bars, no beer on tap. That was okay though. It was good to get back to nature and just bask in her enormity.
So we pulled into the anchorage around 2 o'clock and enjoyed the lapping of the waves against the hull and the callings of innumerable birds. By three o'clock we were into our first beer and by four we were looking at our now depleted cache of videos wondering what were we going to do for the next 18 hours? We decided to watch a horrible movie called "The Dog Problem" (it went straight to video) and pray that we fell asleep by nine.
The next night was a little better. We were anchored just outside of Everglades City. It is the last outpost of civilization before one makes the crossing from the west coast of Florida, across the swaps to Miami. We knew there was life there as all day long, a steady stream of fishing boats came in and out of the pass that leads to the city. Our plan was to go and visit the very famous Rod and Gun club for dinner. A mecca for sportsmen, the Rod and Gun Club has been around for almost 100 years. Big game fisherman make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives to pay their respects (and high prices) to those anglers who have come before. The place looks like a TGIFridays, but instead of license plates on the wall, they have giant dead fish. Anyway, we didn't make it in. The winds were so high that day that we couldn't get the dinghy in the water. It was a four mile run from the anchorage to the restaurant, so we would have been drenched on arrival anyway. So, discretion being the better part of valor, we ate cereal for dinner that night.
The next day we triumphantly made it into Marco Island. From about 15 miles away, we could begin to see the gleaming white towers of condos off in the distance. Like magic, our cells phones and air card came back to life and we were once again among the living. Or so we thought.
Marco Island can best be described as a haven for the over 80's crowd. I have never seen so many senior citizens in one place in my life (and Kim worked in a retirement community)! The restaurants are like a funeral home with bar service. The giant screen TV's behind the bar don't show the big games. They show Wheel of Fortune. If an ambulance with sirens blaring passes outside, you can hear the patrons whispering..."I bet thats Maury. He didn't get his flu shot." It was going to be a long two weeks.
So while we busied ourselves with the teak project, we also got accustomed to life in Marco... or 'Shuffleboard City' as I called it. They have a lot of rules down here... and a lot of people watching that you don't break any of them. Our grocery store in Ohio has an express line for those who have 20 items or less. The stores down here cap their item count at 10. So unknowingly, I got in line with a few too many items. Well a hush came over the store. All you could hear was the hum of Musak and pacemakers. Then came the stares. Not the furtive glances we give up in Ohio. These were the stink eye, in your face, if looks could kill stares. And they were all looking at me.
At first I didn't know what was going on, but I knew something was amiss. I looked around thinking that maybe "Maury" had come back to life and was seen over in the incontinence aisle. It seemed though, they were all looking at me. At first I felt pretty cool. Here is a reasonably young guy, in fairly good health, visiting their local establishment. I must have looked out of place to them. Maybe they were just trying to remember when they were in their prime and Ike was president. Who knows. But they were definitely looking my way.
Finally it was my turn to "check out" (by the way, they don't use that term in the grocery stores in Marco...its too close to home.) As I unloaded my cart, the checkout lady advised me of my blunder. Aha! That was it. It was me...over the limit. Well, I apologized the best I could noting to her that I was from Out Of Town and didn't know any better. She didn't care. I think the 'incident' livened up her usual dull shift.
Anyway, as I left I could hear the old farts whispering among themselves and looking at me. In a final act of defiance though, I exited through the entrance doors and didn't return my cart! Maury would have dropped dead on the spot!