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Water Under the Bridge

Water Under the Bridge

The difference between bravery and stupidity often lies in the outcome of the undertaking. Ideas that seem good at inception often prove themselves to be significantly less than good in execution. Setting goals for yourself is a laudable endeavor, but when you are only focused on the end result, you often get swept up in the process. Oregano and I proved this theory while vacationing in the Florida Keys.

Neither one of us is particularly athletic, but we have been kayaking off the beach at our hotel for the past few winters. One year, we were kayaking in the warm, shallow water at a pretty good clip and were quite impressed with our paddling prowess.

“We’ve gotten a lot better at this,” I shouted over my shoulder to Oregano.

“Yeah. We are really in the zone. At this rate, I think we could actually make it to Duck Key,” he said pointing at the island directly in front of us.  

We were half way to our goal when common sense seeped into our consciousness. Upon more careful consideration, we determined that the next island looked closer than it actually was so we turned around. It wasn’t until we pointed the bow of the boat towards our island that we realized why we had the feeling of being such powerful paddlers. The strong headwind hit us smack in the face. The kayak was bouncing on the waves and we had to dig deep to make any forward progress. It was exhausting, but if we stopped paddling to rest, we were simply pushed back erasing all the progress our physical labor had produced. After an hour of slogging our way to a shoreline that never seemed to be getting any closer, we beached our kayak and I flopped, exhausted into a hammock.

“Well, I guess we’re not quite the paddlers we thought we were,” I said to Oregano while letting my rubbery arms dangle over the edge over the hammock.

“That paddle back was challenging and we did it, so I prefer to think of us as strong kayakers,” he replied.

“One might argue that strong, experienced kayakers would have realized they were being carried along by the wind and current rather than patting themselves on their backs for being so awesome,” I countered.

“Be that as it may,” Oregano said, “we were strong enough to paddle back safely. That counts for something.”

Chalking up that experience as a lesson learned, each year we’d try to explore a different area around our island. Not too far from our beach is a bridge for the Overseas Highway. More than once we had talked about paddling under the bridge which would take us from the calm Atlantic Ocean to the equally calm waters of Florida Bay.

Sitting on the dock one night, Oregano announced, “I think we should try to go under the bridge this year. We’ve gotten a lot better at paddling and it would be fun to explore the bay.” 


Our lofty goal was reaching the bridge in the distance.

“I don’t know,” I responded. “Just getting to the bridge seems like a long paddle. How much energy will we have left to explore the bay? We’d also still need to have enough umph to make it all the way back.”

“We’re strong enough to do it. We’re in a tandem kayak so we can take turns paddling if we get tired,” he said trying to persuade me.

It was an enticing idea, so we waited for a day when the winds were calm. (See, we had learned not to go on a windy day.) We set off from our beach full of vim and vigor.


a close up picture of the bridge from the kayak

As we approached the bridge, I turned back towards Oregano, “Are you sure we should do this?”  

Before he could respond, we got sucked into a current that pulled us under the concrete arches of the bridge. Our kayak spun around in circles as we got frighteningly close to the low sides of the arches. Instinctively, we put the paddles up to keep our heads from banging into the concrete. As we swirled around uncontrollably, we quickly reviewed our options before we didn’t have any.

“What do we do now?” Oregano asked, his voice echoing off the concrete arch.

“Well, we’ve got 3 options.” I responded. “We can protect our heads until we get dragged out into the bay then paddle to the edge, hoist the kayak out of the water and walk back across the road with it.”

“We’d have to cross the highway carrying the kayak and we’re barefoot. Next idea?” Oregano responded.

“We could abandon the kayak and swim back.” Oregano and I were both on the swim team and knew we were strong enough swimmers to make it back to shore.

“You hate swimming in the ocean with all the critters.” Oregano shot down that option as we continued being tossed around the whirlpool.  “What’s option 3?”

“Paddle like hell and hope we can push our way out of this swirling vortex of near death,” I shouted.

“Start paddling!” His answer reverberated off the bridge.

“Ok. Dig in! This is going to be quite a feat!” I said leaning forward to avoid smacking my head.

We paddled as hard as we could to get the kayak to move forward against the churning water as we laughed at our stupidity. After ten grueling minutes that seemed like an hour, we cleared the vortex. Once we were on flat water, we bobbed peacefully in the ocean to rest and reflected on our experience. 


We only noticed the swirling waters AFTER we got sucked into the current.

“Wow! We made it out of there!” Oregano said celebrating the not so small victory of emerging without concussions. “How did we not think about the current?”

“From the beach, the water looks calm. To be precise, we never really did commit to going under the bridge. We got sucked under it while we were deciding.We may have survived the swirling vortex of near death, but we still have to paddle all the way back to our beach. Let’s save the congratulations for when we are safely on land.”

Forty-five minutes later we arrived on our beach. Our arms and shoulders were a little worse for wear from the intense paddling, but the kayak, paddles and, more importantly, our skulls were still intact.

“See, I told you we could kayak all the way to the bridge and back. We reached the goal we set for ourselves,” Oregano said feeling a sense of accomplishment.

“If our goal was demonstrating our utter lack of understanding of ocean currents, then you are right. Goal achieved!” I gave him the look then dropped onto the nearest lounge chair and took a long nap.


The Perils of Going Topless

The bright sunshine, turquoise waters and gentle breezes of the laid-back Florida Keys are a great place to go topless. It allows us to relish the sunshine. We drove south from Fort Lauderdale and couldn’t wait to reach Key Largo to take our top off. The Overseas Highway is a narrow ribbon of road that connects the Florida Keys crossing over water that seems to stretch endlessly on both sides. It is the perfect place for a convertible.

Being topless is a novelty for us, so we take every opportunity to pop the top. Running to the grocery store, driving to the ATM or heading to a nearby beach are all good excuses to put the top down. After a ride to a neighboring island to watch kite boarders, we returned to our resort to spend the rest of the warm, cloudless afternoon on the beach. We left the top down in anticipation of going out to dinner at our favorite Cuban restaurant.

After watching a colorful sunset, we came back to our cottage to shower off a day’s worth of sunscreen and sand. While we were getting ready for dinner we tuned in to the South Florida local news. We find the frequent weather reports particularly amusing. On the night we were watching, the meteorologist and newscasters were complaining about the unseasonably warm temperatures – the low 80’s. They were eagerly anticipating a cold front that would come through the region and cause the temperatures to tumble all the way down to the high 70’s. They even recommended people get their sweaters and fleece jackets ready to prepare for overnight temperatures in the high 60’s.

Oregano sat on the couch reading while I was showering.  Moments after I turned off the water, I heard Oregano say, “Oh shit!” I saw him jump off the couch and run out the door without shoes. Dripping wet from my shower, I had no idea what was happening and was in no position to run after him to find out what was going on. Despite the nearly incessant weather reports, the irony was that the meteorologist neglected to mention the showers passing over the Middle Keys; information that would have alerted us to put the top back on the convertible. Instead, Oregano heard the rain, but mistook it for the water running in the shower. When I turned off the water, but the sound continued, he realized what was going on and dashed out the door holding the car keys.

As quickly as he could, Oregano put the key in the ignition and hit the button to put the top back up. He sat in the car being rained upon waiting for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time while the top leisurely fell back into place. The top closed mere moments before the deluge ended, but it was too late, the interior of the car was wet. A soaked Oregano gingerly walked barefoot back to the cottage across the gravel parking lot. As he sat on the floor picking small stones from between his toes he said, “The weather report was on 15 times in the last hour. Do you think they could have mentioned that there were showers in the area? Don’t tell me they didn’t see it coming on the radar!”

His toes now gravel free, he put shoes on, grabbed beach towels then went back to the car to attempt to dry the dashboard and seats. There was only so much he could do. What we really needed was time and sunshine to dry things out; two things we didn’t have at the moment.

Oregano returned to the cottage and changed into dry clothes. We grabbed another set of towels to sit on as we drove to dinner. Before the door to the cottage closed, I turned to him and asked, “Do you have the keys?”

He said he had them in his hand. Not five minutes later, as we were slipcovering the damp car upholstery with beach towels, he said, “Give me the keys and I’ll go get more towels for us to sit on.”

I looked up at him and replied, “I don’t have the keys. You said you had the keys.”

“I had the keys to the car, not the keys to the cottage. Crap! Now what do we do?”

“Go to the office and ask for another set,” I said calmly. I watched him walk to the office then turn around and dejectedly walk back towards me empty-handed.

“The office is closed. Now what?”

“Well, I have a number to call the manager, but it’s locked in the cottage along with the keys,” I said, noting the irony of the situation.

What we attempted to do next was not our finest moment as a married couple. We’ve seen criminals in movies break into houses using credit cards, so we tried to jimmy the lock. We didn’t want to damage our credit cards so we decided to use my library card. Not usually the first choice of burglars, but it’s the same size as a credit card so we thought it might work. After a few unsuccessful and clueless attempts, we decided that we’d never make it as criminals and stopped our endeavors before we made our situation worse by breaking the lock, my library card or both.

The thought of spending the night sleeping in the soggy back seat of a convertible was completely unappealing. There had to be a way to get the after-hours number for the manager. I walked up to the office and found a number listed on the late check-in box. Oregano called it and thankfully the manager answered and told us she was on the way. We stood outside on the now cloudless evening admiring the constellations, waiting to be rescued from our own stupidity. Of course, Oregano lightened the mood by making numerous puns about leaving the keys in our cottage in the Keys. I laughed as I swatted away the mosquitoes that were feasting on my repellant-free flesh. Fifteen minutes later, the manager arrived. We apologized profusely for disturbing her evening, but true to Southern hospitality she was gracious and said it wasn’t a problem.

With two sets of keys in our hands, we climbed into our moist ride and headed off to the Cuban restaurant looking forward to a great meal and a big glass of sangria. As we walked across the parking lot with damp backsides, we were supremely disappointed to find that the Cuban restaurant had gone out of business.

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