I pledge allegiance to the Conch Republic


My husband and I just spent a long weekend in Margaritaville.  Yippee.  He was a Key West virgin – this was his first visit.  This was my third visit, but I don’t think the first two really counts.

I was 16 and traveling with my parents on my first visit back in the late 60’s.  Do I have to explain any more?  A visit to any place even remotely fun is automatically negated when you travel with your parental units.  Especially mine.  Especially in the late 60’s.

My dad & step-mother were 41 years older than me.  So it was worse than traveling with your parents.  It was like traveling with your grandparents.  And grandparents were way different in the 1960’s than they are now.

Lots of grandparents are cool now.  I’m a grandma and I’m cool.  It’s a Baby Boomer thing…  We’re terrified of getting old so we act cool.  Goldie Hawn is 69 and the grandmother of five.  Her grandkids call her Glamma.  I bet she’s loads of fun to travel with!

Not so grandparents in the 1960’s.  Or grandparent-aged people.  Or maybe it was just my parents.

First of all, we drove from Pittsburgh down to Key West.  All the way…  Just my parents and I with the car radio on grandparent-type music.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, my dad wore mid-calf high socks with his sandals.  Everyday.   Bedtime was 10 PM and we ALL had to go to bed.  Then we ALL got back up at dawn.  And after breakfast every morning, we’d go back to the motel room and just sit for 30 minutes doing nothing so my dad could spend his daily time in the “library”.   To a 16 year old, it was sheer misery.

I know that Key West was very different back in the late 60’s but the trauma of the trip has pretty well erased my memory.  But  I do remember a very quaint town, small 1 1/2 lane roads and walking in the sand beside the road.  No sidewalks.  I’m sure there were fun things to do there back then, but that would have been way too self-indulgent for us.  Our house was where fun came to die so why should it be any different on vacation?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the first visit doesn’t count.

My second visit was for about five hours six years ago.  I was on a cruise with a friend and Key West was one of the stops.  It was fun and we did as much as we could do in five hours.  Then we sailed away.  So the second visit really didn’t count either.

Which brings us up to this past weekend…  We had a great time watching the sunsets, visiting the Hemingway House & lighthouse, eating seafood & key lime pie, and indulging in some adult beverages.  Probably more adult beverages than we should have.

And surprise, surprise – we found out that Key West seceded from the U.S.  For ten minutes.  In 1982.  The Conch Republic.   Too long to explain but you can read about the bravery of the Key West “troops” here.  Crazy, fun stuff.  I like that spirit.

Fast forward to 2015.  Yeah – we had fun in Key West, but it wasn’t the most amazing time ever.  Not even close.  I think things have changed a lot since Jimmy Buffet lived there.  Since Key West seceded.  Accommodations were incredibly expensive with little value for the $$.  At least where we stayed.  There was concrete everywhere.  And bikes and scooters and little electric cars with bad drivers.  Drinks were cheap if you did happy hour, but everything else was pricey.  Very pricey.

Maybe we waited a bit too late in our lives to go.  Getting so drunk every night that you puke has kind of lost much of it’s wonder & charm for us.  We liked watching the sunset in the state park where it was quiet, sandy and green rather than on all concrete Mallory Square.  ADHD sunset there with crowds of tourists, loud musicians competing with each other, and tired street performers all vying for tips.

Maybe we’ve become “where fun comes to die” people.  Nah – we’re too cool for that…

But I’m glad I finally got to really visit Key West.  I’m sure it was amazing in the 70’s and 80’s.  It’s just become a victim of it’s own success as happens so often with charming, quirky places.  They’ve lost much of their authenticity.  But you could see tiny glimpses of what Key West used to be like, and that was at once wonderful and sad.

Long live the spirit of the Conch Republic wherever you are!