Day Twenty-Seven: Turtles, Key West, a little laziness

We woke up in Colony Beach, Florida, midway down the Keys. When we got into our room last night, we could hear the ocean lapping, but it was so dark that we couldn’t see a thing. When I woke up abut 6:30, I hurried to the window to see what was there.


I wisely waited an hour or so to wake Dawn up, but I think my first words were, “I never want to leave here.” Then I stepped outside, where the temperature was in the upper 80s, and knew that was wrong. A quick dip in the Atlantic restored my equanimity.

The Glunz Ocean Beach Resort was a terrific place to stay – incredible location, reasonably priced (for the Keys) lovely room, and friendly people. For the first time on our trip, we delayed leaving until checkout time at 11:00.

Just a few miles down Highway 1, we saw a sign on the side of the road that read, Turtle Hospital. For one thing, that sounded interesting. For another, Dawn Adele loves turtles. She loves all animals, but turtles occupy the top spot on her adoration scale.

Like everything in Florida (which has been by far our most expensive state to tour) there was a cost ($22 pp) but The Turtle Hospital is a non-profit, so all the entry fees go back to caring for the turtles. Unlike The Big Cat Rescue that we visited earlier this week, these turtles don’t come from homes that they have outgrown, but instead, a wild environment that nearly killed them.

Turtles are injured in many ways – by ingesting litter that ends up in the ocean, by getting run over by boats, or by contacting diseases they cannot survive. When someone spots a turtle in distress, they call The Turtle Hospital, and they do the rest. Oh, and whoever spots the sick or injured turtle gets to name them. One fisherman has found so many of them that he has used up the names of all the characters on Gilligan’s Island.  They are serious about nursing these turtles back to health and releasing them back into the wild. Here’s their turtle operating room:

img_1466If you look closely, you’ll notice that the current patient is of the stuffed variety. By the way, I love the way that The Turtle Hospital started. It all began back in the eighties, as a tourist attraction at a roadside motel. Being the eighties, the kids who went through the attraction asked about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When the man who owned the place investigated, he found out he needed to help turtles before he could display turtles. The rest is history.


This is Smalls, as in “You’re killing me, Smalls,” from the movie Sandlot. Almost all the turtles are named after pop culture figures. There’s even one named “Smelly Cat,” after the song Phoebe sang on Friends. If you look at Smalls, you’ll see weights attached to the back of his shell. That’s because he suffers from an unfortunately named condition called “bubble butt.” Bubble butt occurs when turtles get micro pockets of gases trapped inside their shell, which causes the back of their shell to be lighter than the front, which causes it to rise in the water and makes it difficult to swim. Eventually, it leads to exhaustion, stress, and often, death. The weights help them to swim more normally, but there is currently no cure for the condition, so they are not eligible to be released back into the ocean.


I admit, I love this face!

Here’s a turtle that had a run in with a boat and had to have a front flipper amputated just a few days ago. She’s in recovery now, and is still eligible to be released back into the ocean, as they can learn to swim if they are missing a single flipper.



In all, we spent about two happy hours wandering around with the turtles. On the way out the door, we saw our second iguana of the day (the first one wandered along the edge of the water when we were swimming at our first hotel) and this time I grabbed a quick shot of him. Or her. I admit, I have no idea how to tell.


We saw a number of them as we drove on Highway One toward Key West, as well. They’re everywhere!

We got to Key West in the mid-afternoon. Since we consider this the halfway point on our Lap, we thought a celebration was in order. We celebrated by being lazy for a few hours. We checked into our cute little hotel room (the hotel building was built 120 years ago) and spent a few hours swimming in the pool and doing a whole bunch of nothing. We like doing that occasionally. 🙂

Eventually, we got dressed and wandered down to Mallory Square, where there is a celebration of the sunset every night. In a high-tech world, finding a group of people that want to get together to watch a sunset seems like an anachronism. We saw it with our own eyes, though. here’s a small slice of the crowd, waiting for the sun to go down:

img_1520People have been gathering in Key West to watch the sunset for many years. These days, there is a “sunset celebration” every night. I was afraid that, like so many things, it had become too popular for its own good, and was commercialized within an inch of its life. I was pleased to see that although there are jugglers, sword swallowers, artists, and food vendors galore, there is still a nice, mellow vibe that permeates the whole affair. Yes, there were drunk people, but we really enjoyed the atmosphere. And, in the end, there is the sunset. These might be the last two sunset pictures I post from the trip. We shall see.


This was a party boat. If you look closely, you can see a number of people doing the YMCA. So glad I recorded this moment for posterity.


Tomorrow, for the first time since we left home, it will feel like we are heading for home. A long way to go, many states left to visit, but it feels like we’ve crossed an invisible line.

This blog has grown a lot since I started it a month ago. I hear from many of you every day, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that you are coming along on this journey with Dawn and me. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

Cheers, and safe travels!




  1. Great piece. When I lived in AZ there was a huge pond on the property I managed where turtles were brought after people abandoned them in the desert to die. Most people don’t know the difference in turtle types.


  2. Oh wow, what a view out your window this morning!! Yes, I think it would have been hard to leave first thing in the morning. Excellent turtle photos! It’s nice to see there are compassionate people helping those creatures who can’t help themselves. Your sunset photos are spectacular! And I agree with Al, thank YOU for taking us along with you! Safe travels!


  3. I’m so enjoying all of your entries and adventures. Thanks know you for letting your fans in your lives. I can’t wait to read the next day’s adventures. Enjoy every moment, live your dreams! Can’t wait for the book to come out.


  4. I have enjoyed this journey so much. The sunset ritual is quite interesting. By the way, I have a special folder on my e-mail and am saving all of your posts. I think I may read them over and over.


  5. I just wanted to drop you a note, Shawn to let you know how much fun I’m having reading your blogs every day. Don’t stop!! Hahaha!! I have been sharing some of your posts with my family such as, your vis to the Buddy Holly recording studio and around his hometown. Dad is a big Buddy Holly fan also. I’ve also been sharing your travels through Florida, she’s in Orlando and I wanted her to know about all the cool places you’ve gone that she and her husband would like to check out, like the BCR. I loved the pics. of the big cats and thought she’d be interested in seeing them in person. Can’t wait for the book!! Congratulations on reaching the halfway point, continued safe travels!!


  6. I predict, unless you move inland quite a bit, there will be quite a few more sunset pictures in your future. All the way up the coast we have beautiful sunsets. I even won a photo contest a few years ago with one 🙂


  7. So cool to see the sunset that is so famous. It is too bad that everything has to be commercialized. Take care of yourselves and I am glad you occasionally do a whole lot of nothing! Cheers, Laura


  8. What a adventure…. I’m going to vacation to Florida next year. I have to admit, I can’t wait to dip my feet in the warm ocean & sit and watch the sunset! Thank you for taking the time to blog your travels… You’ve inspired me, can’t wait to retire & start the journey around America!!! (I have 10 years, but what sights im looking forward to seeing, because you & Dawn have shared your journey with all of us!!! 😀


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