We left Key West Monday morning around 10, with the car still somewhat loaded to the gills, just an inkling of a “plan” to avoid the Interstates wherever possible and find a cheesy motel to stay the night. Judy and I were still giddy about the wedding and all that had transpired over the last week, so we laughed and smiled our way north on AIA/The Overseas Highway.
My best friend of 48 years and best man had recommended a restaurant just past the bridge on Card Sound Road (the original routing from Florida City to Key Largo), so we took this minor detour with lunch in mind. As we rolled down the bridge and saw the place, we realized it was a bit to redneck-y for our tastes, so we kept going. As we neared Florida City, we also made the decision to bypass most of Route 1 through Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, as we had done that trip before. We rolled on to Florida’s Turnpike and started making some time.
Excuse a bit of a rant here…why is it that in this day and age of interconnectedness we still don’t have a national system for collecting tolls? With my EZPass, I can go virtually anywhere in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast and let automation do the work – even on the Jersey Turnpike. Not so in Florida. You either need to get a SunPass – IN ADVANCE – or pay the lady/guy at the toll booth. To make it even more confusing, in South Florida, they have bill by plate (smart) but once north of Ft. Lauderdale or so, it’s back to pulling out bills and coins. Very frustrating.
So we got off the Turnpike, had a quick McD’s lunch (we were starving by this point) and joined I-95 for bit. We had decided that Cocoa Beach was probably a good place to spend the night, knowing that it had its fair share of cheesy motels. We got off the highway in Melbourne, bought some gas, and headed east again, knowing that when we hit the beach, it was time to turn left.
Night had fallen and as we rolled past Patrick Air Force Base, we started keeping our eyes open for that perfect motel. Shortly thereafter, the glimmering tower of true tourist trappings – the world famous Ron Jon Surf Shop (already a destination for us) – loomed in the night sky. But what are those flames? Can it be? Why yes! They’re giant tiki torches, marking the presence of the Wakulla Suites Motel. Perfect! A quick check on Yelp to make sure it wasn’t a complete dive (in fact, it rated 3 stars) and we were in!
We went to Ron Jon first. We bought t-shirts for the grandkids, a few other gifts, and a few things for us. We went back to the Wakulla and asked what they had available. Two-bedroom suites for $79, the young man at the desk said. Do they have a government rate, we asked (proud Feds that we are)? Of course, but it’s more than the rate he quoted, so we took the lower rate, slipped him the Amex and got our key.
What a great find! There was a pool and a hot tub, barbecue areas, and hundreds of tropical trees in the courtyard between the buildings. The room didn’t disappoint — two nice bedrooms, a bath and kitchenette with all the trappings of a tidy apartment. Turns out, that’s exactly what it was. Built in 1965 for serve the burgeoning space industry, the Wakulla Apartments were likely home to many a drunken ’60s party. We imagined ourselves there back at that time and had a little party of our own.
We both woke up early the next morning with the same idea…catch the sunrise on the beach just steps away. We put on sweaters and grabbed the camera. We met the morning with the perfect Florida sunrise, ready for another wonderful day…
Merry Christmas, Everyone.