Key Largo

Key LargoIf you’re looking at the photo above, you’re probably thinking something’s a little off. The scene is beautiful, but the photo’s slightly lopsided.

Essentially, that sums up my experience of the three weeks we spent in Key Largo.

We booked a house rental online, attracted to its location right on the beach. The photos were great. The house was radiant with light. And the price was right; relatively inexpensive for shorefront property in the Keys. We thought the low price was because the house was in a retirement community.

When we drove into the neighborhood, we were greeted with the sight of trailer homes. My first thought was: We’re in a trailer park. My next thought was: We’re in a trailer park?!!!

Well, this was unexpected. And unwanted. Spending three weeks in a trailer when we were supposed to be on vacation was not my idea of a good time. My impression of our new digs was made worse when we opened the front door. The must hit my nostrils and made me dread our stay even more. I was not a happy camper.

Granted, the place was clean, and the view of the ocean was amazing. But I couldn’t get over the smell. Honestly, I never did. The double-wide trailer would’ve been fine, if the owners didn’t have white shag carpet that looked and smelled like a holdover from the ’70s. That was a major source of must.

We made a run to Kmart and bought scented candles, rearranged the furniture–which also smelled of must–put sheets on the couches to hide the smell, and opened all the windows to air out the place.

It took several nights for me to acclimate. Eventually, I made my peace with it and kept in mind that we had an amazing view and a whole lot of outdoor space to use. And we certainly used it.

We rented a kayak for a week–a great deal at $99–and launched right off the beach in front of the house. We explored the small keys along the coastline, getting a great workout each time and seeing the sights. The water was shallow, and it was cool to look down and see coral, fish, and even sharks. One day, we kayaked out to a bar, pulling up and tying off for a lunch break. A unique experience, and a lot of fun.

We also did some diving in Key Largo and Islamorada, choosing to go mostly with Conch Republic Divers. I was amazed at the abundance of fish at even the shallow sites–a big change from Jamaican dives.

We even did a day trip to Key West, doing the drive over the famed bridge connecting the Keys.

We took advantage of every day by making sure we got out and did something. All the physical activity was tiring, but if you’re into being active, you know how good that feeling is: the deep satisfaction of exhaustion that comes from fully living.