Even if you travel all the way to the 0 mile marker.
You will not escape them.
Our first sighting was at the gate.
You see, some poor shmuck had taken a wrong turn and was trying to turn around. And this driver was trying to turn around right next to Lisa's, No Turn Around, sign. The sign that had clearly been voted in by the condo association.
Lisa's blood pressure was as out of control as her shrill voice.
"This is not a turn around!"
She was out of her Honda Civic, door ajar, fingers pointing and giving that driver hell, in an intimidating tennis skirt and perfect little middle aged pony tail.
I was frantically squeezing the hand brakes on L-7, my bike for the week, which was silly since it had pedal brakes.
Fortunately I did not run into either vehicle or my sweet Sven or my brother T.J. or my sister-in-law, Jeanne Lynn.
Lisa continued to ream out the terrified driver, yelling, "Now look what you have done!" Because he or she had driven straight into a log fashioned curb just trying to get away from her.
That is when we pedaled our way through the opened gate.
WELCOME TO KEY WEST
It was late.
TJ and I were sipping on our favorite flavors in a heavily mirrored living room on the second floor.
Our spouses had retired for the night.
"We are going to have to make some vacation rules," we said.
"Agreed," we said.
"Rule # 1. Bedtime no later than 1:00."
"Or 1:15 at the latest."
"Rule # 2. No more Jager."
"After this next one."
Those were the only rules we could think of.
"Not bad," I remember saying as I headed for my toothbrush. "We are only forty-five minutes late."
"We are incredible," I heard my brother say.
The following morning, I woke early to sun streaming through the bottom half or our open window and the sound of an alarm clock.
A very loud alarm clock.
It was a boom.
And it was the beginning of our first full day in Key West, which consisted of beach time, a long hike to rent bikes, riding to the 0-mile marker, a late lunch on the waterfront and then pedaling our way back to our condo.
All without any mishaps.
Until I hit the edge of a speed bump in our parking lot trying to peek at our pool.
But I was fine.
I am not sure what caused T.J. to run into the wall.
But he was fine too.
He was our griller.
And had we not grilled that chicken for dinner we may not have seen the, beware of alligator, sign.
Once you see a beware of an alligator sign, it is very difficult not to cry, "alligator," when there is no alligator.
So, we had to come up with a plan in case an alligator really did appear.
For safety purposes.
"Tippee-toe," says Jeanne Lynn as we walked along a sidewalk being passed by bicycle bells, golf carts, scooters and roosters. "Like on Seinfeld."
Here is another thing.
Once you have a code for really seeing an alligator, it is impossible not to cry, "tippee-toe", when you really have not seen an alligator.
Basically, we were screwed.
In spite of it we did live to see another dawn.
And my Sweet Sven delivered a fresh brewed cup of coffee to me, in bed.
Latin music drifted in through my open window as I settled into my covers with my new favorite book by Jonathan Safran Foer.
I needed a refill.
I hate that.
I wandered out to the coffee pot and spotted Sven out on the front deck through the slats in the kitchen window.
It was early.
Still no sign of T.J or Jeanne Lynn.
I heard a familiar sound.
Some kind of heavy equipment.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
It was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I spun around in our very good friends' 40th wedding anniversary t-shirt, the red one with their pictures on the front, faces now pink. And a pair of very, very, short pajama shorts. I waved to two fellas who were standing there with rollers and paint brushes.
They waved back through the patio window.
I scurried into my bedroom.
Sven came in and closed the blinds for me on the patio side.
But you know how it is.
All the louvers never close all the way on vertical blinds.
It was an awkward beginning to a nice, sunny, day.
"Too the pool," we said.
Lisa was there.
She was in the water under a straw hat and wearing a white sun proof blouse over her swimsuit. She was hanging on to a noodle as she kicked her way to the deep end where more of what appeared to be the official fun committee of Key West, had already set up camp with their noodles.
It was difficult not to listen to the floating barge of complaints.
Finally, they had the carpool schedule worked out for the following afternoon, which was their volunteer workday at the museum. And they needed all the help they could get, as it is an establishment with nothing but a bunch of idiots in charge.
This they mentioned to a woman who had paddled her way a little too close to the circle.
She dove under the water and popped back up at the other end of the pool.
We managed to soak up some vitamin D regardless.
And we readied ourselves to bike our way to Mallory Square in order to whoop it up with all the sunset celebrators.
The sun was below the horizon by the time we got there.
"It was just a practice run," we said. "It could happen to anyone."
You never forget how to ride a bike.
Right turns require more space over time.
And roosters do not heed traffic signs.
It was at Hog's Breath where we discovered Ben Balmer and friends on stage.
"If I had all that hair, there is no way I would wear it in a man bun," says T.J.
My brother hasn't had hair for many years, and he is sensitive to any kind of hair abuse.
"Not even on stage? Maybe it keeps it out of his eyes."
"Especially not on stage," he said.
Man, bun or not.
The dude was very talented.
We were waiting in the bike lane for the light to turn green that night when a van failed to stop and slammed into the back end of a girl on a scooter, waiting for the same light.
She was okay.
Everybody was okay.
And we were all happy to get home.
The beach across the street was calling us.
It is too bad the fun committee has complete control of the place.
But they and all their signs could not deter us from spending time on the sand with our noses in our books and walking along the shore.
Grouper Cheeks and Hog Fish Tacos were among our favorite dishes at The Hog Fish Bar and Grill, before wandering through the neighboring docks and getting a feel of a whole other life.
Since the fun committee was volunteering their torture elsewhere we headed for the pool.
Mallory Square for sunset.
We locked up our bikes.
We made it in time to see so much more than just a setting sun.
"It's raining," says T.J. a few hours later.
We happened to be under a shelter at the time.
The music was really good.
He held up his phone to show us the radar screen.
"It looks like we have about a nineteen-minute window to gun it home in about three minutes from now. We should probably take it."
We all nodded and gunned our way through nineteen minutes of rain.
It was really fun.
And it was also fun watching, The Mule, in dry pajamas.
The Hemmingway House was interesting and entertaining and so many cats and so many questions.
Our favorite guy on the street, Tai, explained to us the following.
"My mom came here on vacation, and she never left. I am a product from her. Been here ever since."
It made total sense.
The side streets of Key West are all dressed up in front porches and foliage. They make you want to turn onto each and every one of them.
The Rum Bar is fun.
The Green Parrot is lots of fun.
T.J and Jeanne Lynn can really dance.
And the 1990 movie, Tremors, is still really stupid.
Suddenly it was Sunday.
One last play-off game for us Packer fans.
When you live in the Midwest where the sun doesn't shine all winter unless it is trying to trick you into going outside where it is minus fifteen degrees, football is important.
That is why we were front and center as Aaron and his friends were busy screwing up any chances for a super bowl party that we would be attending, and the rumor of Sven's untimely death was spreading like wildfire back home.
One should never use words such as, Sven's last words, and put them on a Facebook post.
In my defense, one should never have said, "I think San Francisco is going to score again before halftime."
If I ever do hit Sven over the head with a frying pan, I will not be sharing the news on social media.
I will be looking for a shovel.
Luckily, Ben Balmer and his man bun walked into our lives just when we needed a little bit of cheering up.
I finally did it.
I, me, Millie Noe, am all signed up with Uber.
And I am hopeful that one day all the emails inquiring about what kind of car I drive and when I would like to start my new job, will cease.
It was couples' night.
Time to shake things up a bit.
I cannot speak for my brother and sister-in-law.
But Sven and I pedaled our way downtown and returned L-7 and F-16 to Island Bikes.
Our plan was to spend some sightseeing time on foot and then calling an Uber to take us home.
What we hadn't planned on was freezing to death.
The sun was shining brightly as we meandered among the catacombs.
The wind started picking up.
It was gale force down by the water.
Not even a monster cruise ship could block it.
Blue skies were turning gray.
"Let's go to Duval Street. It'll be warmer there."
It was not.
So, I asked my new friend at Lucy's, the only twenty-two-year-old bartender in the world who has never used Uber before, to help me out.
"It's coming!" I said.
"You have time," he said.
"He's here!" I said.
This was all in under ten seconds.
The driver dropped Sven and I off at Salute for a fine dinner.
Coincidentally it was the same restaurant T.J and Jeanne Lynn had chosen for their anniversary date.
When we had to say good-by to Key West the next morning, the painting crew was about to start on the route to get out of our front door.
When we left Fort Lauderdale the morning after that, they were issuing warnings on the news of freezing iguanas falling from trees.
It was time to go.
"By the way Sven, there is something I have been meaning to tell you."
"A lot of people back home think you are dead."
My good friend Vol Lindsey described this place perfectly.
The keys are also a little like a junk store where nothing is categorized and everything is just lying in piles. You know there are treasures everywhere you look, but so many you just can't pick.
In other words, one must go back.
Thank you T.J. and Jeanne Lynn for the awesome adventure together. We had so much fun.
This just in.
A message from my sister-in-law.
This morning I had a dream that you and I walked down to the ocean and were exploring some tide pools. There were cool rocks, plants and fish. As I was standing by the edge of a pool, a small alligator slid between my feet. I turned around and a large gator was rising up out of the water. I clamped it’s mouth shut as hard as I could and ran toward an ice cream shop (?) where I climbed on a stool yelling “tippee-toe!, tippee-toe!” Until a small crowd had gathered around me with their cell phones up. I dropped the gator who appeared to be having trouble breathing, and asked if anyone had got a picture of it. No one had.