I don’t have much time for this unfortunately. I will have to do it in installments. Maybe I will regret choosing not to narrate this later on in my life, but I am just going to have to write it out machine-gun style. So prepare to be assaulted by the story of my spring break.
Steve’s newly purchased Mazda 3, now with 3,000 extra miles (seen below – actually in that photo shoot – not drawn to scale, but close.)
The Florida Keys
Lee J Web
Navigator / Mess Maker / Nest Builder / Soothsayer: Steve
The Irresponsible Guy Who Says Inappropriate Things At The Wrong Time: Lee J
Team Mom / Morale Booster / Athlete / Checks and Balances / Judgment Passer: Stope
Self Proclaimed Scribe / Historian / Mystery Man / Realist / Passive Aggressive Sometimes Debby Downer: Me
The Supporting Actors (actresses):
Gray Miller: owner of a nice apartment / victim of burglary / Stax pancakes never-eater
Din Botsford: hospitality queen / biker bar frequenter
Assorted Botsford Family Members: Loaded.
Check Out Clerk at Food Lion: Not sure of this person’s gender / bothered us all week
Dusty Miller: A desert made with vanilla ice cream and malt powder / not related to Dustin Hoffman
Lauren Massey: photographer extraordinaire / resident greek and latin scholar / bacon chef
Tyler Massey: literature buff / Emily Dickinson hater
Mrs. Massey: The actual Team Mom / poured me a cup of coffee one time
Mr. Massey: Team Dad / Scrabble Mastermind
Assorted UVA Sorority Girls: Stupid.
Hotel Clerk: guy who wanted us to throw him the foxtail beach toy in the parking lot but we didn’t
The Homeless Man: applauded us as we drove by / we gave him a peanut butter sandwich
Planned to have no plans / subject to change.
The Actual Route
Day One: Friday. Drove from Cville to Greenville SC, spent the night at Furman.
Day Two: Saturday. Greenville to Jupiter Beach FL, north of West Palm Beach.
Day Three: Sunday. Day in Jupiter Beach. Night Drive to Ft. Lauderdale.
Day Four: Monday. Day in Ft. Lauderdale. Night Drive to Miami.
Day Five: Tuesday. Half day in Miami. Drive to Key Largo.
Day Six: Wednesday. Full Day in Key Largo.
Day Seven: Thursday. Drive to Key West, then night drive to Tampa / Bushnell.
Day Eight: Friday. Drive to Davidson NC. Night in Davidson.
Day Nine: Saturday. The triumphant return to Cville.
Friday steve showed up at our house with a car full of stuff. He didn’t necessarily bother to clean out the trunk or anything, but we fit it all in anyways. Met Lee J in South Hill VA. He went home to get his surf boards. Bought lots of groceries at Food Lion. Met the check out clerk who could have been a girl, but was most likely a dude. Steve disagrees. Ate sandwiches and talked on the car motorolla radios. Met a kid in traffic over the radio who thought we were his friend who was supposed to have basketball practice that night. He didnt understand why we weren’t at basketball practice. We said the gym had flooded. He informed us he was going to eat macaroni and cheese for dinner. His mom told him to get off the radio. Met Gray in Charlotte. Her father’s car had been broken into, but nothing was stolen (?). Ran around an abandoned fireworks / video game super store called the Castle in the middle of the night. Milkshakes at Jack in the Box. Slept on her couches (steve on the floor) in her apartment.
Saturday we woke up to see Stope out the window at the end of his run, running through the trees in circles and grinning like an idiot. Lee J and I agreed he was the happiest runner we had ever seen. Ate pancakes at Stax Pancake House (deuces wild!) and Gray is a junior and had never been. I don’t go to her school, it was my third trip. You could call me a Stax Pro. Hit the road, changed out of our winter clothes. Bought fireworks from a really shady gas station. Stope spills his ice tea in the parking lot and almost cries. Free Orange and Grapefruit Juice at the florida state border. Naturally we go back for fourths. Ate dinner at Woody’s BBQ south of Jacksonville. Sexual innuendo was everywhere. Lee J and I discovered Amber Bock. Arrived at Jupiter Beach after most stores were closed, but we needed sunscreen and ear plugs for Stope’s little ears. Winn Dixie. Danced to 70’s disco station in the parking lot and the guy driving the street-sweeper past us must have thought we were gay. Made it to Din’s guesthouse (wow) on near ocean front property. It is situated in a maze of Florida plants and jungle-brush. Eventually we go to a biker bar called Scooters. I thought the name was funny. It was in a shopping center. There are no bikers. Only middle aged women who were likely divorced and lonely – we could tell because they were dancing with the DJ. Lee J almost psyched himself up to dance with one. But didn’t. We played cut throat pool. Din bought our drinks, she wins the gold star. Then we go to the beach and touch the ocean. Then I jump 15 feet off of a life guard stand, land in the sand dunes. Everybody thinks I am crazy. Its okay, I am.
Sunday: Meet the Botsfords in their bathrobes (awkward.) Stope runs too far, we almost lose him. Go to the yacht club… (sheesh) and walk on a 105 foot yacht owned by this guy with a poodle in his arms, dressed in a really nice suit. Complete yuppie. But its okay, he is getting a 115 foot yacht soon. His crew apologized for the place being such a mess. My goodness, someone hadn’t combed the tassels on the carpet. We noticed. Was it named “Savoiz-faire” ? I can’t remember. Then went on a jet boat ride by a friend of the Botsfords. Cruised around west palm beach. It was cloudy. Saw Tiger Woods’ house and some italian mafia houses. Then the guy showed off his new sail boat, which was on the cover of a sailing magazine. His actual boat. Got a free lunch at the beach club though. Hit the jackpot. Din treats us to Dusty Millers. 3 hour nap time. Later stope cuts his lip on a bottle of water when we go to the beach – somehow. We leave around 5 and head towards Ft Lauderdale. Steve leads us on a wild goose chase through the city. Meet the Masseys for dinner at “Shooters.” Lee J comments in front of the women that our next meal better be at Hooters so we can keep up the rhyme scheme. Eat seafood on Mr. Massey’s bill. He wins the gold star too. Walk around the marina. Chris is nearly kidnapped by a stranger who claims he has a 90 foot yacht. What is it with people and their yachts? Photography. We find a very sketchy hotel off the interstate before we decide to go out. I change in the parking lot. Go to Mangoe’s bar in downtown Ft L and crash George’s 51st birthday party, whoever George is? We just sort of invited ourselves along. Steve and Stope dance with the girls. Lee J and I keep it real in the back of the bar. Our waiter is very short. A successful evening of nightlife.
Monday. Slide out of the sketchy interstate hotel (next door to #10 on America’s Worst Hotels List) and eat in the parking lot. We spend the morning and afternoon with the Massey girls at their beach front resort. It was quite a little utopia inside the U shaped Hotel with beach front access. There were water gardens and hot natural springs with little fairy children flying around playing their pan pipes and singing. Actually, it was shuffle board and a pool and a grill and some bathrooms, but it looked really nice. I saw a kid fall out of a hammock and hit the ground really hard. We read books on the beach. Lee J read the Atlas. I got miserably sunburned on my chest. Lauren commented that it looked like the satellite antenna that Luke Skywalker hangs from in Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back, if anyone remembers that scene. It was just this big red lightning bolt thing that crawled up my neck. No fun. Steve told us about a turtle that he found in elementary school, who he named, yes, you guessed it, Steve. Steve the turtle. And Steve the turtle only ate lettuce. But that’s because Steve the turtle was only fed it lettuce. If Steve the turtle had been fed oatmeal, it would have eaten that too. Later, I see a tall tan man walk by. He looks a lot like Adam Pritchard, my first year roomate. But its fort lauderdale, what are the odds? But convinced that I needed to take action, the rest of the team coaxed me into running after him on the beach. I do so – awkwardly running up next to what could be a stranger – and eureka, it is Adam. We both share a bewildered moment of “how the hell is this possible?” – but it was. He hangs out with us for a while. Then around 3:30 we set off in search of some food in downtown ft. lauderdale. We ride ocean avenue for a while and check out the local cuisine. Expensive! We settle on a small pizza joint that won the county’s best pizza, in 2004, and we order a big one. The water they put in our cups of free water was yellow. No thanks. We eat in the sand and enjoy the afternoon. We return to the hotel to play shuffleboard and sit around the pool. Mr Massey invites me up to play Scrabble, and he devestates me. I didn’t stand a chance, even while wearing my mexican sombrero. I thought “Quaf” was a word. Apparently not. We say goodbye to the Masseys – everyone agrees they are great people. Then we drive to Miami to catch up with some UVA Pi Phi girls who are staying near South beach. We rent an even sketchier hotel right underneath where the planes take off from miami international. We eat subway and the lady charges my card twice for my sandwich (awesome.) We put aloe all over our supple little bodies, comb our hair, put on cologne, and get ready for a night of clubbing in Miami Beach.
Lo and behold, it sucked. This is the part of the story (monday night to tuesday) where Steve tells me not to be a Debby Downer. Its true, I shouldn’t have been. I tried to keep my mouth shut. But I knew what was coming. And what was coming was nothing. How can I be excited when I already knew that clubs are typically no fun and that the girls we were going to go with were not interested in us whatsoever. The rest of the guys were pumped to try out their first club, maybe even to get some action with the ladies (mr. innapropriate) – but things never happen like that. Nightlife is one big lie. We met the girls in their hotel, where they were getting drunk, and we hadn’t had a drop, then we walk around Miami beach for about an hour going to different club doors and being turned away because we werent fabulous enough or didn’t have the money – or simply the fact that we were 5 girls and 4 guys, when we should have just been 5 girls. Clubs don’t like guys. They like rich men who can buy lots of tables and lots of drinks for scandolous girls. That wasn’t us. I enjoyed the fact that steve wore a bright yellow polo shirt, when nearly everyone getting into these clubs were decked out in italian suits, leather, or european designer brand clothing. And it was all about the “hot spot” – whichever club was hot tonight was where these girls wanted to go. They wanted to be seen. And seen with the uva football team, which they found, and at that point, decided that it was ok to leave us behind. Two girls felt bad about it, but we rationalized that we would significantly detriment their chances of getting attention from the football team, so we left and we were on our own. It was much better this way. We went to a bar that advertised 25 cent beers. What a lie. We got ripped off at that place. Then we retreated in our failure and found a small tango bar a couple of blocks away from the main strip. It was a relaxing cafe underneath palm trees with christmas lights strung in their branches on this little back alley street. People were dancing tango inside. We ordered some sangria and watched two hours float by. We had saved the evening. Everyone was relaxed, people told jokes, general comradery was spread, and all was not lost after all.
Tuesday: After the toilet overflowed and we found insects in our bed, we were eager to leave the crappy miami ariport hotel. Steve checked out while stope Lee j and I listened to saves the day in the parking lot with the car doors open, making peanut butter sandwiches and sitting on the pavement. We drove back to Miami Beach where we found the same girls on South Beach and didn’t really speak to them but left our backpacks with them since we wanted to go on a walk. We passed the gay cuddling section and the tops optional section again. I had promised myself last january that I would never come back to South Beach. It just is not my idea of fun. But 15 months later, there I was. Chris had to see it. It’s something I guess you have to see. Once. And that’s all. So now I’ve seen the gay cuddling section twice, and that was twice more than I needed. I’m not going into detail. We sat on the rocks at the end of the island for a while looking out over the miami intercoastal waterway and thinking about life. Eventually we split out of there and hit the road for the Keys. The drive down was awesome. Stope and I listened to the Stars album, Josh Rouse, John Mayer, and some oldies with the windows down. Taco Bell. Passed the homeless man who was standing up on the grass and applauding traffic as we drove by. One of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Once in the keys, it took us a while to find a hotel. But Steve came through as the soothsayer – he spoke words of a great deal on a key largo condo – and it came into being. He made the phone call, and soon we had a two story condo right on the edge of the marina with two full bathrooms, kitchen, back porth, master bed room, pull out sofa, fridge and freezer, plates and silverware – all for 99 dollars a night (split four ways). Jackpot. We went to Winn Dixie again, bought some beers and pizza, explored the island a little bit, then crashed watching star wars and eating pizza and getting naked from time to time.
Wednesday: Woke up next to Stope in a sleeping bag – it was sort of a pattern. We called around and found a snorkling place. I spent 45 minutes roasting by the pool without suntan lotion on before we headed over to the snorkling shop. We were throwing the foxtail around in the parking lot and this guy who works in the office, sort of like the guy who might bring towels to your room or clean the pool or fill up the coffee machine, he comes out of the office and motions to us from the steps to throw him the foxtail. He must be bored. We think about it for a while, but then don’t do it, and get in our car and drive away. We board the boat after hopping through multiple fenced off areas and restraunt lobbies trying to find our way to the marina (it was complicated) and sit on the bow for a couple of minutes before the safety talk. Two very sunburned men who undoubtedly will have skin cancer within the decade ran the ship and went over all of the snorkling gear etc. They took us through the marina and the water canals until we reached the ocean. Key Largo is a little something like Venice, in that most people drive boats around from house to house in these tiny little canals. It was very hot and sunny. An hour later, after stop and I took naps on the front of the boat using shoes for pillows, we arrived at the first of three dive locations. The water was very blue and we pulled up to this white spot in the water where waves were breaking. They pushed us in the water by saying “the pool is open” and we were off. Lee J had never snorkeled before. It was cold so we had to keep moving or else we’d start to shiver. I touched some fish. Lee J saw a shark eventually I think. The baracuda were pretty friendly as well. At dive spot number two, they had a twenty foot statue of Jesus under the water that we dove down and got out pictures taken next to. It was very nice to enjoy the under water world and to know that God built these fish with so many remarkable colors – for our enjoyment. But who knew Jesus actually lived there? The irony was – you couldn’t touch him. He was covered in fire coral.
After shivering for a good hour on the boat ride back home, we realized that I was very badly burned and then rubbed aloe all over me. We went out to eat at an outdoors marina type seafood restraunt right on the water (gulf side) and enjoyed some local beer and watched the sun go down. Lots of pelicans. Photography. Later, we drove to a secluded neighborhood culdesac where there weren’t too many houses, and we decided to try a little something Lee J dreamed up called the Rocket Board. We attached a number of bottle rockets to his skate board, lit them, he jumped on, rode for a ways, then they ignited and gave little tiny pops underneath his feet. But the bottle rockets really didn’t do much at all. So we pulled out the big one. Yes, The Big One (from animated classic Toy Story), complete with fins and nosecone and scribbly Chinese warnings. We lit that one, Lee J jumped on, cameras rolling, steve in the car with the engine going so we could get the hell out of there when things got crazy, and then it blew, and the board and Lee J sort of dissapeared in this blast of pink fire. It was way loud. He wasn’t harmed, but we were scared of cops or something, so we took off fast. Had a great talk with Stope that night as we were going to sleep for nearly an hour – just about med school and God and the future and girls and the kind of stuff good friends talk about. Went to sleep happy.
Thursday: Lee J left in his car with his surfboards that he never used for a wedding in Jacksonville. Stope Steve and I continued on out of Key Largo towards Key West. Windows down. 79 degrees. Beach Boys. Blue Water. Blimps in the sky. Great day. Stopped at a national park / beach thing. Tried to swim out to an island we saw that appeared to be only 500 yards away or so. But after ten minutes of swimming away from the coast, it still looked just as far away as it had from the beginning. The water was getting deeper, I think I saw a shark splash off in the distance, and so we decided just to point at the island and say “you bastard, we’ll get to you someday” – then turned around and swam back. We walked around without shirts on in Key West because we saw other people doing it too. We all held hands in front of the 90 miles to cuba sign and got strangers to take our photo. Then we walked through Spring Break Party Central (gross) and left Key West after enjoying Frozen Key Lime Pie On A Stick. So good. We met some bikers at a gas station. Drove and drove and drove. Fed the homeless guy a peanut butter sandwich when we got back to the actual mainland – the same homeless guy who had applauded us on the way down. I fell asleep all of the way through the everglades. Made fun of the taco bell drive thru man who gave me mild sauce when I asked for hot. Called Davis, got stood up for a hotel room, so we decided not to stay in Tampa with the rest of the UVA crew there for the ACC tournament, but continued on to Bushnell FL, a virtual hole in the wall sort of town with a hotel that did not accept credit cards. Yeah. We stayed there, asked for a non smoking room, got a smoking room, and one with mud and stains all over the carpet. I fell asleep watching Conan from the end of the bed and knew that somehow tomorrow would bring brighter things.