Skydiving, Snorkeling, and Hanging with Locals
Updated: Jul 6, 2018
I woke up much earlier than Miranda, as I had fall asleep the same. I spent sometime soaking up the morning rays outside, and enjoyed a buttery bagel with vegan cream cheese. I woke her up around 9:30 with “ so what do you want to do today. ” She looks at me like it had already been decided “aren’t we going skydiving?” Shit, was my first thought. Hell yeah, my second. I call the place and see when the first available slot it. There’s one at 11am, but we must arrive 15 minutes early. Its 10:15am and we are 20 minutes away. We can pack up in 10 minutes, right? We pack up in 8, rush to find an ATM because we save $20 each if we pay cash. There’s one right down the road, and we are on time to make it there by 10:45. I know where I’m going for once, since we were there yesterday and in the keys there’s only one main road. You can either drive North or South. I put it in the GPS out of habit, as we head out in the wrong direction. I push start on the GPS about 5 minutes into the drive to confirm we are as close as I think we are, which we aren’t. We flip a U-E, get a call from the place asking where we are and promise them we will be there soon; we’re just 10 minutes late.
We arrive at Sky Dive Key West a bit dazzled from the rush, but I’m feeling pretty excited after chugging two beers with Miranda. She’ll later tell me that I drank one and half. But hey, I was more nervous than her to begin with. Nerves left me pretty quickly when we were greeted by two sexy employees who we learned would be strapped to us, and jumping out of a plane with. They were on island time, and if they were upset with our tardiness, they didn’t show it. We signed in real quick, agreeing to about 40 things we didn’t read. We paid cash for the jump, and couldn’t help but chuck $240 onto my credit card for the video package. If there’s not a picture, it didn’t happen, right?
We spent about 5 minutes going over what would happened once it was time to jump, standing by the plane we would be jumping from. Will, my jumping buddy explained very simply what was required of us. “When I open the door, you will put one foot here, and the other foot here. Cross your arms. And we’ll do the rest. ” He asked who’s going first. Simultaneously Miranda says she doesn't care, as I shout out ME! I’m am not down to deal with the adrenaline of watching her fall from a plane 10,000 feet in the air and then going to go through with it myself.
The 20-minute flight 10,000 feet up was breathtaking, informative, and exciting. We could see fish in the water. Shortly after we could see the whole island we just flew from, and a few minutes later I see several islands at once. Will is telling me about what I’m looking at and was patient with my repetitive question of “what’s that?” I don’t stop smiling until Will opens the door and I feel the skin on my leg try to escape from the bone. One foot here, the other foot there, I cross my arms and smile. I don’t stop smiling, save to say WOW or OMG. The 45-second free fall was exhilarating, and oddly at the same time relaxing. I felt weightless and fearless and AT PEACE. The 8 minute sail down was even more relaxing, and fun because I was able to control the parachute and therefore the direction in which we were going. As we neared land, Will took back over and my mind took back over my body. I told will “I’m just letting you know I’m going to lift my legs up,” scared to embrace the impact of the landing. “That’s exactly what you should do,” he replied.
Miranda landed 30 seconds after me and we hugged and hi-fived and both felt like new people. That 10 minutes flying through the sky had changed us, and been more restorative that a hundred good nights of sleep. We drove off still smiling, and it wasn’t until about 15 minutes away that I realized I had also just fallen in love and never told him to call me. I call the place back and am greeted with an older voice that belongs to Steve. I tell him that I just went skydiving there, oh and it was amazing, oh and could you please tell Will to call me if he wants to hang out??” Steve chuckles, “oh he’s taken, sweetie.” I smile and reply “of course he is.”
We head to Bahia Honda State Park, as we’ve heard it’s not only a must-see in the keys, but one of all of Florida’s top attractions. We rush there to catch the boat for a 1pm snorkel tour 5 miles offshore at Looe Key, the third largest barrier reef in the world. We make it just in time and join about 40 others on a large boat headed for an underwater adventure.
The moment we are moored, and the guides have given us the ok to jump in, I do. Fearless after my free-fall, nothing in the big blue can scare me now. I am actually helping Miranda hunt for a shark, as she desperately wants up close GoPro footage with one. While we did see rainbow fish, angel fish, parrot fish, blue tang, sergeant majors, grunts, snappers, triggerfish, grouper, jacks, hamlets, puffer fish, moray eels, and hundreds of others I couldn’t identify, we were two of the only people on the ride back to shore that didn’t raise their hands when asked if we saw a shark.
We decide now is as good as time as any to break into the box of vegan ice cream bars and devour 2 of the 4 within seconds of returning to the van. On the way back to Justin’s for a shower, we stop by a nearby café, The Good Food Conspiracy. I ordered a vegan pesto melt, which was delicious and buy some vegan cheese puffs and chocolate for later. Filled from our late lunch, we don’t offer to cook dinner this time- but still feel welcomed as ever and are happy to be back at Justin’s pristine house in Big Pine.
We ask the boys their favorite bars around here. Justin names the four that exist, telling us Coconuts is their favorite but that it’s pretty “local,” with an err of caution in his voice. We start at Boondocks, since there is live music and all of the bars are within walking distance of each other, so it doesn’t matter much where we start. We meet a nice older couple from New Jersey who tell me I would be welcome to stay with them when I make it up that way.
We drive by Looe Key Bar next, but seeing that it is primarily empty, decide it’s a stop we can skip. We find parking in the back of Coconuts and are pleased to see pool tables when we walk in, but not nearly as pleased as all 20 people in the bar seem to see us walk in. The next couple hours are a bit blurry, maybe for the drinks, or maybe for the monotony of being hit on by each person in there. But here are the highlights: we lost at pool, twice. We didn’t pay for a drink. We met a pirate, who we called that before meeting him, but when it was finally his turn to hit on us, that’s actually how he introduced himself. We met a father/ son duo that scared Miranda more than me, but neither of us could argue that his tiger-eye pupil was pretty creepy. We had a smoke circle with 5 new friends in the van. Miranda invited the whole bar to come see her play at Rick’s the next night as she had landed a random gig there, that she was a bit nervous for, not having any of her equipment with her and having to borrow it all. It wouldn’t be until the next night that we would regret the open invitation. After our tenth denial of any cocaine, more drinks, or “going somewhere to party,” Miranda was ready to leave. It was less than a 5-minute drive home, but I needed to hang out and drink water, so we were a bit stuck in this wayyy too “local” of a bar on the Big Pine Island.