Thursday, Sept 8, 2022. Two days before “race” day.
Reaching the general vicinity of the venue of the Swim to Alligator Lighthouse was an endeavor in itself. Seriously.
I currently live in Tampa, FL. Our destination was the village of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. I won’t give you a minute-by-minute account, but I woke up at 4:00am, left at 5:30am to get to Orlando via I-4 (an interstate road that passes Disney, etc. and is notorious for dangerous and unpredictable traffic; the drive could take 1hr and 45min, or 4 hours, you never know; all you can do is hope and leave hella early). Luckily I beat the morning traffic and arrived a little after 7:45am.
I caught up with Vanessa who had to see her kids off to school and finish packing. We left Orlando around 2pm and arrived in the vicinity of Miami around 6pm. That’s when Miami traffic, combined with afternoon thunderstorms, struck.
My advice for driving through Miami: Don’t.
Traffic in Miami is always a disaster. Actually, scratch that, not always. Sunday mornings, but ONLY Sunday mornings, is the time to pass through Miami-Dade county because everyone sleeps in and then all of those people attend the late morning religious services.
Unfortunately for this trip, we drove on a Thursday evening.
Around 6:30pm, the hotel called while we were hanging out in the I-95 parking lot (that’s a joke; there’s no lot; I-95 was itself the parking lot) to see how we were progressing (weird, I’d never had a hotel do that; are they my mom?). After thinking about it though, it made sense. I had called Wednesday night to see if there was any special check-in procedure we needed to follow when we arrived (there wasn’t) and at that time the receptionist had casually asked for our expected arrival time. I had said 6:00-6:30pm. (I thought it was neat that she had made a note and then followed up promptly.)
We caught up with Anton and Maddie at Maddie’s mom’s place in Miami, we piled in Vanessa’s vehicle which was biggest, and left under a veil of flashing lightning and seething darkness. Anton drove. He likes driving and we like letting him.
Per the hotel receptionist, I should call her back around 8:00pm with our progress, because the office closed at 9:00pm. I tried not to stare at the clock as we drove but, dammit, I stared at the clock and stressed. At 8:00pm when I called, I felt badly but told her we estimated we’d likely arrive a few minutes after 9:00pm because we didn’t trust traffic, and the lady was cool enough to wait for us.
Once we passed through the Homestead area on US-1, the traffic evaporated as night settled hard over south Florida but we were basically home free. US-1 strikes out across marshes as a single road, losing lanes along the way until it traces a land bridge onto Key Largo.
We pulled into the gravel parking area of Creekside Inn Islamorada with ten minutes to spare.
Maddie ran with me to the front office. A pair of smiling front desk associates greeted us and, within five minutes, we had our room key and the office humans didn’t have to work late because of us. (Woo!)
NEXT: Friday, Sept 9, 2022. One day before “race” day.