One of my best vacations continues to be the New Year’s Eve Singles Cruise I took this year. Traveling with a singles travel group is a sure way to celebrate special occasions such as holiday, anniversaries, weddings, birthdays and any other reason for people to come together. My birthday is in early January, so it can be a challenge to follow something like the New Year’s Eve cruise with a meaningful experience.
I have to admit that at the ripe old age of 49, I have become rather cynical and pessimistic about the holidays and usually just want them to pass quickly or sleep through them. Then I started to have a dream about how I wanted to celebrate the last birthday I would ever have that began with a “4”. I became obsessed with what was lovingly dubbed the Sunrise/Sunset Tour. I often make an effort to see a sun rise or sun set as often as possible, wherever I am. I think it’s one of the most naturally beautiful things on earth. My birthday celebration obsession became the desire to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Gulf all on the same day. I guess this idea came about during conversations with friends over drinks and then it really started to become a reality. We talked about it every time we were together, about how we would do it, where we would do it, who would be involved. Their excitement was equal to mine!
There are very few places in the US where this could be accomplished with minimal effort. The lovely, sunny, unique state of Florida offers two choices:
A) Drive from the east coast of Florida (Atlantic Ocean) to the west coast of Florida (Gulf of Mexico) or
B) Drive to The Keys
The original plan was to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean in Delray Beach, near my home and then chase it across Alligator Alley to watch it set on the west coast (of Florida) over the Gulf of Mexico! Things changed when the condo we intended to rent in Naples (west coast) from a colleague was no longer available. This would have been the easiest and most economical way to share this trip with friends so I was disappointed but not intimidated by this challenge. We just switched to Plan B, The Keys. I am a huge fan of The Keys. When you are there you can completely lose yourself in the laid back, be happy, “everybody is on vacation”, and live in the moment atmosphere. I have even made solo trips to the Keys and left with the names and numbers of friends I had made that were also visiting or were even local! One of them drove to Islamorada for the birthday celebration.
The wonderful friends that wanted to join The Tour were in various stages of marital and financial status so I had to be creative and keep things simple. I chose a location in the Upper Keys, Islamorada, about half-way between Key Largo and Key West at the 82-84 mile marker and a 2 hour drive from home. I also found two lodging options; the economical option at the Key Lantern Inn on the Gulf side of US1; an efficiency full of charm and the not-so-economical option at the Islander on the Atlantic side US1; a gorgeous resort style hotel with a room was right on the beach. We decided we wouldn’t let these few early setbacks stop The Tour from going live which made it even more satisfying. Everyone was flexible and participated at a level where they were comfortable which is really what it’s all about; whether you are traveling with a singles group or a bunch of friends.
Saturday morning started with mimosas on the beach at 6:45 a.m. for about an hour, toasting the big ball of fire as it peaked over the horizon of the Atlantic.
Around 4:00 p.m. we gathered on the patio of the Lorelei Cabana Bar as the Light was leaving us. The Lorelei is a lovely Gulf-side establishment where locals, tourist and visiting fishermen gather for this celebration, complete with local music, food and beverage.
There are many other places we visited that night within walking distance of our hotels. We had a diverse group of people with varied interests; we were all open minded and adventurous. Our little adventure included drinks on the patio of the beautiful Islamorada Fish Company and a stop at Woody’s, the Gentlemen’s Club; this was a first for some of those in the group and a favorite of others!!
There really are no words I can use to help you understand how it feels to have a dream and to then to have that dream come true. Something so simple, so beautiful and so intangible, became my own special celebration that I shared with special people and will stay with me for a lifetime. A very fitting present as a celebration of the beginning of my lifetime! The Sunrise/Sunset Tour may have come to an end, but the Say Farewell to the 40’s Tour has just begun.
What do you dream of? It may be close to home and as big as seeing the country in an RV, or visiting a foreign country, or finding a cool new place to eat or have a drink in your city? Whatever it is think big, think with your heart and make it happen. It will change you and those that dared to dream with you!