Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Flying south...

Ducks fly south in winter. Well, just to make a distinction between ourselves and the birds (;-) :-D), we flew south at the start of autumn. Our trip to Miami and Key West was planned a couple of months ago when it had completely slipped our minds that this would be hurricane season!! Since it'd take more than 15 hours if we drove to Miami (the drive to Key West would take an additional 3.5 hours!!), it didn't make that much sense to drive. So we had booked flight tickets to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and would take a drive from there. Also, the flight tickets were a deal and we'd get zilch refund if we cancelled. Sadly, we'd have to cancel if there was a hurricane nearby ;-).

Don't know whether it was the fruit of my prayers (I prayed quite hard that there'd be no hurricanes :-D), but thankfully there were none near Florida anyways. And so we set off.

1st September 2007:

We had booked tickets on a new airline called Skybus from Columbus, OH. So we actually had to drive north (for 3 hours) to fly south (2 hours on the flight). How ironic!

Our flight was at about 8 PM in the night and we had to be there atleast an hour early. So we left Lexington at around 4 PM. I drove the first shift and later Sri took over. We found a good parking space at the airport for the SUV and entered the airport.

Some things about skybus, before we get on with anything. Literally its like our Indian Air Deccan. One thing is that you can check in luggage only if you pay extra $5 per checked-in luggage. We didn't plan to check-in any luggage, but sadly due to all these extra rules about liquids on cabin luggage, we had to check-in atleast one (what with the deodorants, lotions and creams that we use ;-) :-D). Secondly, they don't serve anything free on the plane (not even water!). So want to eat or drink? Then pay :-p. But some sacrifices are worth the results. The deal on the flight tickets was too good compared to all this ;-). Moreover the advantage was that the flight left on time and reached early!! This is something I saw for the first time in US domestic flights. There are always minimum 30 min delays!!

All said and done, our flight was pretty new.

I have to add that we didn't have any seat numbers, but we were able to find pretty good seats. Here's a view from the flight. Just look at the colours:

It was about 10:30 PM in the night when we reached Fort Lauderdale. We simply collected the luggage, went to the rental car station to pick up the car (it was a Volvo S-40), had dinner at a tacobell and retired at our hotel.

2nd September 2007:

Sunday morning we had breakfast at an Ihop and set out on our drive to Key West.

Though we'd be going through Miami, we really had no intentions of stopping at Miami at all (but we did end up seeing some things on the way back). We did get a nice glimpse of the downtown Miami on the way :).

The car we drove was a small car and Sri booked it because he wanted to try a smaller car after drving an SUV all the time ;-). He even quipped "Usually, I owned a small car and always rented a bigger car, this time its the other way around". But he was the one who was soon complaining about the leg space, the break and almost everything :-p. I teased him that he's gotten used to the luxury :-D.

We drove aaraam se for quite a while. I decided to take over and just as we were to enter the Florida Keys, there was a traffic jam (probably due to construction going on) and we got stuck for hours. Florida keys is a cluster of about 1700 islands and each island is called a key. The main parts of the Keys are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Key West. Key Largo is the start of the keys and is in the north while Key West is the southern most key. Whats most fascinationg is that all the main parts are connected by a set of bridges, which is what makes driving a pleasure there :). And some of the names of the keys are funny - Cow Key, Duck Key, Crawl Key, Conch Key, Grassy Key, Pigeon Key, Sugarloaf Key, Lignumvitae Key (!!) and one even named "No Name" Key!! :))). Thankfully there was no skeleton key ;-).

Anyways, after the jam cleared a bit, we started driving again. But the drive was a lot slower thanks to single-laned roads and a lesser speed limit. Soon we reached the bridge we were really looking forward to, the 7-mile bridge connecting Marathon to the Lower Keys, which was used in the bridge blowing up shot in the movie True Lies (they actually blew up a model of the 7-mile bridge).

The bridge was not actually that impressive ;-), but it was good :). On the way, we stopped for a veggie burger at Burger King and reached our hotel in Key West some time after noon. The Keys all have a tropical weather and it was so damn hot!! The sun basically burns the skin and moreover its humid, literally like our Indian coastal weather (consider Udupi/Chennai). Its really a pain to be outside for long. The heat seems to drain all your energy.

Our first point of interest was the Southernmost point of USA which lies in Key West.

Again nothing impressive since it was just a stone marking the southernmost tip :).

Since it was already around 5:30 PM in the evening during this time, most of the places we wanted to see were either closed for public or closing shortly. So we headed to the Sunset celebration at Mallory Square. Mallory Square is a pier which faces the Gulf of Mexico, so you are supposed to be able to see a perfect Sunset. "Supposed" is the key word as nobody can predict stray clouds :-p.

But the pier itself had lots of fun activities. There were a collection of acrobats, jugglers and animal trainers entertaining the crowds and there were huge number of people willing to be entertained. We bought a couple of refreshments and had lots of fun wandering around watching these entertainers.

Finally, we had dinner at a Pizza hut and waved good bye to the day :).

3nd September 2007:

After having breakfast, the first order of the day was to rent a 2-wheeler :-D. We had seen many people travelling on scooters the previous day and wanted to try it. Also, parking was difficult to find for a car, while scooters had free parking everywhere. All it took was our driving licenses (for Id), a $100 refundable deposit, a $40 renting charge and Voila!! We had a "scooter" :-D.

We left the car at the scooter renting shop and were off on the scooter. I was the driver and it was lots of fun. I mean, I have driven a Kinetic Honda in Bangalore for quite a long time, but its a great experience here altogether :-D. First of all I had to wear a helmet in India, here it was not necessary. No pollution and pretty good roads made it all the more fun :). Then again, it was hot as hell and there was no "protection" of air-conditioning :-p. And the scooter could only go upto 30 miles/hour :-p. Well, it was certainly not a Harley :-D. But it had been 1.5 years since I last rode a 2-wheeler and so I enjoyed it immensely.

Our first stop of the day was the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. It is a pretty small place, but the collection of butterflies they have is amazing! There were colorful butterflies fluttering around everywhere. At one point, one butterfly got comfortable enough to rest on my leg :-O. Maybe it thought my leg to be a wooden stump or something :-p.

Well, it was literally a photographer's paradise, so needless to say I must have taken about a 100 snaps :-p. There were also some very pretty birds.

The conservatory even had fishes and turtles. I felt it was maintained very well. We were even asked to check ourselves for stowaway butterflies before we left the premises :-D.

Next on the schedule was a glass bottom boat ride by Fury. The Florida Keys are surrounded by many coral reefs. But the only way to access these if you don't want to get into the water at that hot weather is with the help of a glass bottom boat (you can snorkel/scuba dive otherwise). And so we set off on the 2-hour boat ride.

The boat moved west in the Gulf of Mexico and stopped at the coral reef. This is how you can view the coral reef from the glass bottom of the boat.

And here's a close-up of the fish and the reef we were able to see :).

We even got to see a couple of live but resting sharks!!

The view from outside the boat was in no way less :).

There were 1000s of fish around the boat :-D. The guide said that people threw food and hence the fish came running, err.. swimming whenever they saw a boat ;-).

Soon it was time to head back to the shore. We wanted to visit Ernest Hemingway's house next, but sadly nobody picked the phone up when we tried to call them. So we skipped that (the same thing happened the previous day with a star-gazing cruise I was really keen on :-p). Our next stop was the Higgs beach (after all, we were in Key West and hadn't been to a beach yet :-p).

It was beautiful, but it was wayyyyyyy too hot! I really wonder how people manage to sun bathe at such places! By this time, it was already 2 PM, so we stayed only for a while and were off to have lunch at a Panini restaurant. After lunch, we went back to the scooter rental to return the scooter. Our car was literally like an oven and we had to stand outside for about 5 min just trying to cool the car before we got in!

Our plan was to drive to Marathon, since our hotel reservations for the night were there. On the way, I wanted to stop at one key called Big Pine Key which is famous for key deer. Key deer is an endangered variety of deer, but there was no particular place where we could watch them (they have protected the whole area, so if you get to see them its plain luck). Well though we looked and looked, we weren't able to see a single one :-p. Instead of fretting about the deer too much, we stopped at the Bahia Honda State Park.

The beaches there were beautiful with variations of colours in the water..

We wanted to rent a kayak there for an hour or so, but it had already crossed 5 PM when we reached there and the rentals had closed :-p. So we decided to jump in the sea. The water was practically warm! We weren't really able to swim as it was shallow, so waddled through the water a bit. We were in the water only for half an hour or so, but by the time I got out I was really tanned! It was oh-so-hot man!

After drying ourselves, we hiked to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge which was originally part of the Overseas Railroad built by Henry Flagler.

It seems trains sped through the center of the span, protected on either side by high, steel guardrails. In 1936, after the railroad was destroyed by a hurricane, the bridge was adapted for automobile traffic as part of the Overseas Highway. Because the track area was too narrow to accommodate two lanes of cars, the roadway was built atop the structure. Much later a new bridge replaced the whole thing.

Soon we left and reached our hotel in Marathon. It was already time for sunset and after driving about a bit, we found the perfect spot to watch it.

Beautiful, isn't it? Since our hotel room was a suite, we bought some frozen Indian food (surprisingly found it in one of the supermarkets), microwaved it and had a good dinner..

4th September 2007:

Since our flight back was this day, we had to start heading back towards Fort Lauderdale. So our first stop for the day was the Theater Of The Sea at Islamorada. It is famous for Dolphin and Sea Lion shows and since I had never seen a dolphin before, I really wanted to visit it :).

For a $23 per person entry fee, we got a guided tour of the whole place (they had various types of fishes, turtles, sharks, parrots, alligators etc), we got to see a parrot show, a dolphin show, a sea lion show and a bottomless boat ride (note that its not glass bottom :-p). It was really worth it and more!

Firstly we saw the parrot show. They had a lot of colourful parrots which did everything from counting, to cracking walnuts, to walking on barrels to recognizing shapes.

I even was able to hold one on my hand for sometime :-D. They were so well-trained. And most of the animals in the place are all rescued animals.

Next in line was the dolphin show. This was the best of them all. Again I had to gasp at the way they have been trained. They jumped on cue, swung rings on their noses, swum like sharks, stood up in the water, all on cue from the instructors!

Then came the sea lion show. It was fun but not as good as the dolphins though ;-). The sea lion (named Classy), pretended to be a dolphin, a walrus, a seal, balanced a basket ball, jumped, clapped and acted according to the instructor's fancy. It even gave out handshakes, hugs and kisses for photos :-D (the dolphins gave out kisses only :-D).

The last thing was the bottomless boat. They had a rectangular shaped boat, whose middle was bottomless. So dolphins came from under the boat into the center, did some tricks (like jumping through a loop and hitting a bell) and it was a short yet fun ride :).

We next headed to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at Key Largo. As the name suggests, its famous for its several coral reefs. But sadly, the only possible way to see the coral reefs was another glass bottom boat ride which we were really in no mood for, so we left. There was no traffic jam, thankfully, when we were heading back into the mainland and there were no problems whatsoever.

I was really interested in The Fruit and Spice Park near the outskirts of Miami as its tropical weather there and so we went there. We fooled around and took snaps as we waited for a guided tram tour to start..

Hehehehe :)). I was wondering whether they'd have some familiar Indian fruits. And boy, did they!! It was lovely to see and taste jackfruits!

The next plant Sugar Leaf, is one of the plants that fascinated me, so am putting it here. This plants leaves, aptly named, are actually sweet (we were allowed to pluck and taste the leaf) and are used as a natural replacement for sugar! And it is known not to cause diabetes and is actually good for people suffering from the same.

The tour went on for an hour. We got to not only see the various trees, but got to sample fresh ripe fruits. We had berries, guavas, grapes...

..., other tasty-but-I-don't-know-the-names fruits, avocados..

and basically had a wonderful time. We even got to see our very own curry leaves and some poisonous fruits! I'd like to add that I love romping around in fruit gardens (one of my favourite activities whenever we would go to our native Udupi) and so I enjoyed it even more :-D. After the tour, we got to taste several more fruits (which included some strange varieties of custard apples, bananas and some sour and sweet berries) and we even bought a cup of yummy homemade fruit icecream before we left.

The drive back to Miami was a bit cool thanks to the clouds and the rain that fell :-p.

I wanted to visit atleast one beach in Miami, so giving into my pleas, Sri drove to Miami city where we stopped at a really nice beach..

We wandered around for a while, dipped our legs in the water for a while (the water was warm here too), sat for a while and took pictures for a while :-D.

Hmmm there you have it. My big secret :-D. Didn't notice anything?

1) If you think there is nothing different about me, then your eyesight has certainly gone poof :-D.
2) If you noticed that that I have grown really motu and are too polite to point it out thinking that it is the result of me eating like a gujjaane mari (that means baby elephant :-D), then you are wrong :-p.
3) If you guessed the real reason and want to congratulate me, well here's your chance :-D. Thanks in advance :)).

Yup, I'm pregnant and in my 7th month. More hammering/cribbing (:-D) about that in future posts :). Right now, I would only like to add that this trip was something of a "last fling" (as I've repeatedly been telling my friends) before the biggest adventure of my life :-D.

Anyways by the time we stopped wandering around the beach, it was around 7 PM, so headed straight to Fort Lauderdale from there. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant (notice that its the first on the trip because there were no Indian restaurants in the Florida Keys) and seeda went to the airport. The first thing to do was to return the car and next to check-in one of our Lotions-Creams-Sprays containing luggage. The worse thing was the security check where they threw our 2 unopened water bottles. I wanted to shout "you can't deny water to a pregnant woman!!", but the only thing that stopped me from doing precisely that was the fact that the guy may retort "Cheapskates! Can't you buy water inside?" :-p. Its a different matter that anything inside the airport/plane is more than double the normal price of the same thing outside :-p.

Anyways our flight was at around 10:30 PM and soon we were on the plane dozing off. We were so tired, we didn't know how the 2 hours passed. We reached Columbus at around 1 AM, collected our luggage, travelled to car parking and went off to the hotel for the night (home was still 3 hours drive away and we didn't want to drive so far in the middle of the night).

5th September 2007:

Next morning, we got up early and headed out soon as Sri had to work that day. He drove the first 1.5 hours, after which I took over and drove the rest of the way. Poor Sri, while I could dump myself on the bed as soon as we reached home, he had to go to office. And so, another of our long trips came to an end. With this trip, I believe we have covered all that is there to see in the East coast of the US. Also, the next time we go on one of these, we'll have a new member of the family joining us ;-). Now that'll be "adventurous" ;-) :-D.


Altoid retorted...

Congratulations and take care


Thanu retorted...

Looks like so much fun...

When I saw the 1st pict I was like Y is she standing behind him....

Congratulations :))))

Vanditha retorted...

Congratulations once again!!

The photos have come out real good! Especially the butterfly ones!

SK retorted...

Many congrats! :--)
KeyWest pics brought back memories of my trip.

Deeps retorted...


Thanks a lot :).


Thanks :). I actually didn't plan to announce my pregnancy in this post. So the only photo I wanted to put here was the one where I stood behind Sri ;-). But later changed my mind :).


Thankyou thankyou thankyou :).


Thanks :). Glad to bring some memories back :).

Chickoo retorted...

You look very cute in the last photo. Congrats again ( I left a note for you in my blog).

Soumya retorted...

He!He! Adventure lover, ure in for a lifelong adventure now...
Congrats yet again...Well, surely u were determined to make ur "last fling" very memorable...
Excellent photos! The sunset one is wonderful...U in the sea is the best though...
Take care..

Deeps retorted...


Thanks, saw your other note too :).


Yeah lifelong is right {rolls her eyes} :-O. Hehehehe :). Thanks again :).

timepass retorted...

Congrats Deepthi... Let me admit, I was first zapped when I saw the lillypie ticker loading. I even crosschecked whether I have typed the correct blog address... Ur post answered the query.. Take care of ur health.

wise donkey retorted...

Congrats! and take care
i couldnt see all thepics,due to slow net,but the ones i saw were fab.loved the butterflies and the sky color
PS : 6th month here:)

Deeps retorted...


Thanks :). I wrote the post sometime back and added the ticker recently :-D.


Wow, congrats to you too :). On the same boat eh? :)).

The_Girl_From_Ipanema retorted...

Awww congrats! :D