The Key out of Key West

What do you do when you are in Key West, the key to your car doesn’t work, and the dealer tells you it will be over a week before they can get you a new one? I was pondering answers to this last Monday morning during a short excursion to Key West. Here I will share an adventurous two days in the Keys in the spirit of traveling healthy and how I would get out.

This excursion came together as I had never been to Key West and it was something I committed myself to do by year-end. In the last two months I explored stand up paddle boarding and decided to purchase one. Good friend Leo Briceno allowed me to try an inflatable board recently and it’s what I acquired as I needed one that was limited on taking up space to store. This adventure would have the new board and be a center piece to enjoy while in the Keys.

Before heading to Key West I raced in the Great Floridian Triathlon on Saturday. I shared that experience in last week’s blog, A Commiserating Bond. Later Saturday afternoon post race I headed to Key West from the race location in Clermont, Florida. My goal was to drive as far south as I could before tiring out and putting up for the night. I also stopped at my favorite South Florida restaurant, The New Vegan, for dinner in Delray Beach. When I was finished with dinner my body was also calling it quits for the day. I found a hotel in Boca Raton, a short distance away, and collapsed into bed after a very long day.

I got on the road early and while driving through Miami I stopped at another one of my favorites in the area, Raw Juce, for an acai bowl. I then made a quick stop at Whole Foods to pick up a few supplies for the two days in the Keys. On the way down to the Keys I pulled off the road for a minute to find the set of the Netflix show, Bloodline. It was protected from the public really well so I didn’t get to see it…it was ok…I still had paddle boarding and other fun stuff ahead of me…

As I was entering Key West I spotted a location on the side of the road just south of a small bridge that looked like a great entrance point for the board. My plan was to check into the hotel and put my bike in the room so it was not exposed while I was paddle boarding. I brought a few more things into the room before heading back to the the location I found coming into town.

When I arrived I pulled the board, paddle, and pump out of the cargo area. This was my first attempt to blow it up and it went as planned. Before I knew it I was on the board and figuring out how to navigate through heavy currents. I thought an hour would be a good first trial as I would potentially be sore on Monday if I spent too much time on it. I returned to where my car was parked on the side of the road, deflated the board, and packed it in the carry bag. It was an extremely simple and quick process.

When I hopped in the car to leave it didn’t start and didn’t even attempt to turn over. After a few tries I knew I was stuck for the moment. “Could it be the battery again?” I thought to myself. I pulled out my AAA card and called for assistance. While I was waiting for help I realized when I was turning the key the dashboard lights were turning on and there was a new warning light that appeared. I read the manual which didn’t have any trouble shooting tips. Then it was on to YouTube where I found several videos attempting to fix the problem.

As I was researching I identified the issue as being the key. It was disabled due to getting wet while paddle boarding. I thought it was protected but it was completely soaked when I pulled it out of the bag. The roadside assistance driver arrived and couldn’t help. Unfortunately he wasn’t driving a tow truck so I had to call AAA again and ask for a tow to the local Chevy dealership. This wait was a bit longer than the first. Thankfully I still had my cooler in the car with a few energy bars and water so I was ok from that stand point. I also had my beach chair so I pulled it out and went back to the water to wait.

There was a man fishing next to me who had pulled out a small shark where I exited earlier. I thought if I was to get stranded waiting for someone there couldn’t have been a better place so I just tried to enjoy it. Over three hours after I exited the water to leave originally I was finally being towed to the dealership. We dropped the car and I stuffed a backpack with remaining essentials I needed to take to the hotel. It was just under two miles so I decided to walk.

When I arrived at the hotel it was almost sunset so I dropped my bag and jumped on my bike to go where I could see a bit better. It was a nice way to end the day sitting on a bench overlooking the endless sea. I then ordered dinner to be delivered from, The Cafe Key West, where I enjoyed a tasty Kung Pao Tofu.

When Monday morning arrived I rode my bike to the Chevy dealership when they opened. I told the service representative my story and I was informed the best case scenario was that they could potentially look at the situation late in the day but didn’t have a formal appointment till Thursday. He also shared if it was what we thought it was I would need a brand new key and for me to check with the Parts Department to see if they even had a replacement key on hand.

I walked over to the counter and shared the same story. The gentleman agreed with the hypothesis that my existing key was going to be inoperable, ran a test on it and confirmed. He then shared he didn’t have another one in stock and it would be the following week before he could receive one once ordered. “What am I going to do now?” I thought to myself. Before I walked out he gave me contact information for a local Locksmith who could maybe help as they knew he carried replacement keys for many makes of vehicles.

I called and left a message. At that point I thought I had two options if he didn’t have one. I could either fly or rent a car home and return in two weeks to pick up the car. The Locksmith called and after identifying the specific key, he informed me he had one available and could program it in about 30 minutes. We agreed to meet at the car 45 minutes later.

I can’t say how much of a relief that was from all the hassle that would have followed. I had new life…

I drove away and found a really cool place to get a smoothie, Date & Thyme. On the route back to the hotel I found a launching point for the next paddle board adventure, this time on the Atlantic Ocean side of Key West. I dropped my bike in the hotel and returned to the spot.

The water was rougher than Sunday with significant wind and current but I figured it out and had an awesome time on the board. I paddled standing, kneeling and in a kayak type of position. It certainly felt like I was using different muscles with the three positions. Before I finished I laid completely flat on my back facing the sky and just chilled for several minutes. I was disconnected from everything…it was amazing. I also learned my lesson this time and took the broken key with me on the board as it still could open the car door…just not start it.

I returned to the hotel where I took a quick nap before heading back out on the bike to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S. When I arrived a storm was coming in off the Atlantic Ocean. I took a few pictures there and began heading back to the hotel hugging the ocean. I found a neat place to take a few more pictures overlooking the ocean with an amazing contrasting dark, stormy looking sky in sunshine.

As soon as I got back to the the hotel room it began to pour. I took the opportunity to pack my things to make it easier for my exit back home Tuesday morning.

I then ventured back to a location where I could watch the sunset but it didn’t happen as the skies were full of clouds from the passing storm. I decided to walk the famous Duval Street where shops and restaurants line the road from one end to the other.

I had a really good veggie burger at The Banana Cafe, returned to my car and drove to the hotel. I had a restful sleep before heading out early back home. I left Key West wanting more and that was a great feeling…I will go back…

This was a great start to begin my offseason disconnecting from competition, exploring a new place, and trying a new hobby. Even the key issue was just a thing to deal with…it happens…and make the best of it.

In these crazy times I hope you can find a way to do something that brings you life. Prioritize this now as we never know…

Thank You

  • Thank you Celia and Joel Dubey for introducing me to Stand Up Paddle Boarding when you took me out in Weeki Wachee with Jerry Nap (SUP Weeki). Also for all the ideas for me to consider in the Keys. You are pros! Check out SUP Weeki…fantastic time and super easy for beginners.
  • Thank you Leo for letting me demo the Stingray Paddle Board in which I ended up purchasing. Many fun explorations to come and getting fit while doing it…
  • Thank you Mike and Lori Dunlap and Lynne Cooke for answering my questions about your experiences on these boards and ultimately helping me decide on the appropriate size.
  • Thank you Lauren Nolan for your ideas to explore in the Keys and trouble shooting options when I seemed stranded with a useless key.
Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean
Waiting for tow truck #2…
Car resting at the dealership…
Storms coming off the Atlantic…
Fished out right after I exited the water day one…
Sunset day one…
Loving this exploration…
I finally made it to Key West…

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