Our original plan was to visit Key West by boat. Leave our mooring ball, head 50ish miles towards the sunset until we get to Key West, stay a couple of days, tour the town, then head back to Marathon for Christmas. But we looked at the weather and if we wanted to return, we would be bucking East winds with some waves. And that isn’t fun. And the Key West mooring field has a mile(ish) dinghy ride to get the dog to shore for his twice daily constitutional. Which is not something we wanted to necessarily do if we didn’t have to. We made the decision to get a car and drive to Key West! Not sexy…not adventurous, but it gets to the same end–that we get to see the sights of the famed place and the incredible sunset!
At 0830 I hopped into a cab and took the short ride to the airport. A hint of what was to come was when the taxi driver asked me if I wanted to book my return trip immediately or wait until I get told they don’t have any cars. Apparently the rental car business is a bit chaotic on the key. I said I would wait and was pleasantly surprised when I got to the counter–they had a vehicle available for me, as long as I would take a pickup truck. No problem! It had seats in the back–AJ would fit just fine. So into the truck I went, back to the marina and by 1030 the three of us are heading down the road.
It is about a 90 minute trip to Key West on the only road we can take west. There is a ton of work on clearing the island still being done and the roads were lined with rubble to be cleared. It is amazing the force of Irma and the impact on the communities.
When we were 45 minutes into the drive, at a little island called Cudjoe Key, our rental truck decided to go ahead and crap the bed. It bucked, lights came on, the engine raced and then died and some how we pulled it off the road and had enough momentum to carry us into a parking lot where it shut itself down. We were stuck.
I won’t divulge the name of the rental car company; breakdowns happen all the time; it is one of those things. So to make it easy, I will make up a name and just refer to them as Esirpretne.
I called the Esirpretne office in Marathon where I got the car and was told that they would contact Key West and have them come out and pick us up and swap out our car with a working one. They (Key West) would be calling me soon, he assured me. 15 minutes later I called Esirpretne Marathon and he was shocked that I hadn’t been contacted yet. He would call Key West. 5 minutes later I called Esirpretne Marathon and he was shocked AGAIN that I was still waiting! I got the contact information for the Key West office, called and they had no help–they were slammed, no people or vehicles available. We were referred to vehicle recovery.
I called vehicle recovery and a nice lady took all our information and after thirty minutes of talking, she assured me a truck would be at our location in 90 minutes (2 pm) to pick us up. Good! Jan, AJ and I went to a restaurant to get some lunch.
And talk about good luck. Our car died on the back side of a place called the Square Grouper. Its motto is “My favorite joint.” The fish on their logo is made up of squares. Weird. And there were little saying all over the menu and in the restaurant that referred to joints. And the square groupers they had in their fish tanks looked like square bags. We were told, finally, that square grouper is the term given to bales of marijuana that were thrown over board from boats or planes when they were about to boarded by the Coast Guard. That would then float ashore. The place definitely had a tongue in cheek attitude and the food was fantastic; not a place we would have never found had not our car broke down.
Lunch done, we headed back outside to meet our tow truck operator. Who finally showed up at 3pm. And gave us some great news! His instructions were to tow the car to Key West. He could give us a ride, but we would end up in the Key West Esirpretne rental agency, not in Marathon. Where, you understand, our boat is located. Quick call to the Esirpretne help desk asking them politely if they knew we were stranded and was there a plan to get us back to Marathon. The short answer was ‘no.’ So we called an audible named Lyft.
Our driver of the day was Bruce and he was the first thing today that was on time. We had a great hour ride back to Marathon and got a ton of information on Key West, Irma and the impact, food and life in the Keys. His recommendation to get to Key West? Forget the rental car and take the bus. Between the lunch and Bruce, the day actually turned out to be really good.
Our plan for tomorrow? Take Bruce’s recommendation and hop on the bus and head back to Key West to see if we can actually make it this time!