I admit, I often have terribly preconceived ideas about things. I'm old enough to have thought a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, and if you say a word to me, I am likely to immediately tell you my thoughts. On that word.
Twice now, I have had instant ideas about what a certain place would be like, and twice now I have been proven wrong. The first one was Dawson City, Yukon. I thought it would be campy and fake and it was awesome and fun. A little campy to be sure, but that's what made it so awesome. In Dawson City, I played pool on a pool table that looked like someone had been murdered on it. Actually, it also looked like someone might have had sex on it, but in Dawson City, you kinda want to go with the murder scene. The ick factor is a little less. Tells you everything you need to know about Dawson City. It's where I also learned to only order a beer in a bottle. I mistakenly had a gin that I think was lighter fluid.
Anyway....I had similar ideas about Key West. It would have to be a corny tourist trap, right? Oh my, no. I love Key West. Touristy, yes. But remarkable and lovely and crazy. I was down there with Kia last week - driving some terrific Optima Turbos - and spent one night in South Beach, and the next in Key West. South Beach had some...interesting...people watching. But after spending 40 bucks for a really big bad daiquiri thing, the best part was trudging back to the hotel on the beach. Totally dark, the tide coming in, I cranked up my jeans and waded through the surf. Fabulous. I also made a sand angel, and then took all that sand back to my room. I forgot that sand gets everywhere, especially when you lie down and thrash around in it.
But on to Key West...my favourite part of Key West was before the sun came up. I snuck out early and drove around in the quiet and dark. It was just....lovely. Roosters and chickens running around, and me worried about running them over and pulling over. I watched the sun come up; no small feat considering I'd gotten to bed at 2:30am.
Back in Miami, I'd made the mistake of telling some colleagues that I'd always wanted to ride a mechanical bull. I babble. One of them, Brad Horn, piped up. "There's a mechanical bull at a bar in Key West! We'll all go! You can do it!" I nodded that this would be great. Sure. After a day spent at Homestead Raceway in Miami, I figured everyone was as tired as I was. The cocktails and dinner that night on the boardwalk of Key West were really nice. And calm. And as it drew to a close and I reached for my room key, a group of 20 or so announced we would be walking up Duval Street - to hit the bars.
I don't hit bars, much. I'm past it. But my blathering about riding a bull had not been lost in the tide, as I'd hoped. I was ordered upstairs to change from my rather lovely dress and back into jeans. And off we went. I will note at this point that Brad Horn knows the words to every Johnny Cash song ever recorded.
Key West is very cool, and very relaxed. You can just trundle along from bar to bar, wandering in and out holding a traveler. They don't get crazy if you're holding a beer from another bar; they realize you are likely to buy another one from them. The music was insanely good, and we walked along, popping in and out as the music drew us in. And then I heard the announcement I'd been fearing. "There's the bull!"
Yeah. I rode the bull. We watched for an hour or more, as one person after another was tossed into the pads. It didn't look painful to fall, but it did look humiliating. There is no graceful way to have your arse over your head, and these people were half my age with far better arses. A colleague who shall remain nameless (Michael Bettencourt) promised me that if I went, he would go. So, I went. I reminded myself of two things: I'd always wanted to do this, and I didn't know anyone here. What's to lose?
8 seconds. You have to last 8 seconds to 'win'. I lasted 8 seconds. Bettencourt never went. I shall remember this, Michael.
A few hours later in the shower (remember, I had that 6am call), I discovered bruises in some very odd places. I'd been so determined not to be flung off, I hadn't realized how hard I'd dug into that bull. Fake bull. Whatever. Thank you, Key West.
There is video, which I don't have. Yet. If I get it, I'll post it.
In the meantime, I have a physical tomorrow. I think I'm gonna have some explaining to do.