Simple Pleasures at the Edge of the Country

Note: This post was automatically generated from John’s weekly newsletter, The Daly Grind. If you encounter broken links or images, you can go here to read from the original newsletter: Read More

Last week, my family and I enjoyed a great vacation in the Florida Keys. None of us had been there before, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I knew (until we started planning the trip a few months earlier) that the islands are all accessible by bridges starting from the Florida mainland.

I mean, I probably should have known that… but I don’t think I did.

Anyway, it was an interesting trip in that the sights we figured would be spectacular were just kind of okay, and the ones we figured would be just kind of okay were actually pretty spectacular. So, for this week’s Daly Grind newsletter, I decided to highlight some of the sleeper hits (for any of you who may find yourselves down in that neck of the woods some day).

History of Diving Museum

We didn’t do much (if any) research on this place, so when we pulled into an Islamorada parking lot and saw what looked more like a strip-mall than a museum, I wasn’t expecting much. But once we entered the main corridor through a submarine-looking door in the gift shop, we were absolutely blown away by the huge presentation of artifacts and equipment detailing the history of deep-sea diving, not just in our own country but around the world.

Great stuff!

The Turtle Hospital

This charitable organization, based out of Marathon, is dedicated to rehabilitating injured sea turtles and releasing them back into the wild. The beachfront property it sits on previously served as a motel, and amazingly, most of the retro buildings and even the swimming pool from back then still exist.

Only, they’ve been converted into treatment facilities (including surgery centers) for sea turtles of various shapes, sizes, and ages.

The tour is very interesting and educational, and the organization is one of very few of its kind in existence.

The Turtle Hospital also turned out to be the location of the most incredible “small world” moment of my life. As our tour was finishing up, I spotted, in the tour-group behind us, who looked (from pictures) like fellow BQB Publishing author, Cheryl Campbell. I kept thinking I had to be mistaken. After all, what were the odds of running into anyone I even remotely knew, while vacationing on a small island at the literal edge of the country, a few thousand miles from home. But sure enough… it was her.

In an amazing coincidence, she was also on vacation, at that very place and time, with her husband. Again, what were the odds?

Manatee Alley

To be clear, there’s no place in the Florida Keys called “Manatee Alley.” At least, I don’t think there is. I’m just calling it that for effect.

One of my family’s goals on the trip was to spot a manatee. I’d only ever seen one as a child, and the other Dalys had never seen one. I understand that to Floridians, they’re no big deal. But to us land-loving Coloradans, they might as well be a mythological creatures.

We hoped to catch a glimpse of one at a pier in Key West, but we weren’t in luck that day. The same was true of an afternoon at Robbie’s of Islamorada (though we did have a notable wildlife encounter) and a morning kayaking tour in the same area. But after the latter, our tour guide clued us in to a great spot for manatee viewing: the ocean inlet directly behind the Square Grouper Bar & Grill.

We ate a delicious lunch there, then began walking along the pier. Within just a minute, we spotted this fellow.

It was memorizing watching the big dude glide through the water for several minutes. Before we headed back to our car, I decided to walk further down the inlet — much further than the rest of my family preferred (I could feel their eye-rolls from well behind me). But I’m glad I did, because I came upon four more manatees jockeying for position under the fresh-water drops from a hose a fisherman had left on. It must have tasted great to them (a big upgrade from the salty stuff). We watched (and laughed at) these guys/gals for probably 20 minutes:

Well, since I’m out of space in this week’s newsletter, I’ll wrap things up. I hope at least some of you found this information helpful and/or intriguing. If anyone’s interested in other shots from our trip, you can find some here.


Ever been to the Florida Keys? What was your favorite spot? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.

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Random Thought

Obligatory Dog Shot


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