Seven Mile Bridge. Driveway Escapes. Bear.

I somehow left the keys. They say many make it to the seven mile bridge and turn around. I didn’t want to be one of them. I sat at Veteran’s Memorial Beach that morning, still contemplating what to do. Did I want to stay to prove everyone wrong, I could make it here? Or do I go and do what I do best, drive.

It was just around noon and there was a slight drizzle. I looked out onto the water, searching for an answer. Ironic it was as this was the same beach Zig & I had spent our first official day in The Keys. I had just bailed her out of doggy jail two months earlier in Miami. I knew the perfect place to bring her to celebrate us reuniting.

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A friend of mine, Mark The Weaver, watched me on this very day, the first day we met. He saw Zig & I run like a pack of wild wolves into the water. I remember the day, so elated to have my best friend back and be in one of the most sought out destinations in the world. Zig ran after me into the water, barking as I dove head first into those waters.

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I saw Mark not too long before I left. He told me,” You know, I don’t ever tell people how to go about their lives. Yet I feel compelled to tell you something Hunny. You have been abused , it’s all over your face.” I knew he was right, my soul had withered a bit since my time in The Keys. Why though?

The Keys is a different world, The Conch Republic is what the locals say. People find themselves planted there for many reasons, yet each one finds themselves at a dead end road. I enjoyed the sense of community; waving to Hippy Dan as he strolled down the bike path along US 1, the withered  man in front of Winn Dixie reading a new book every day, the bums in front of Dion’s Chicken every morning, the crazy women at 2AM at Coconuts, and we can’t forget about the Ramrod swimming hole… ”The Hole”. All these characters mold the islands, without them there wouldn’t be a place for the weird to be just that… weird.

I shouldn’t have had a difficult time swimming with the fish, yet as the days went on, I found myself drinking more like a fish. I was lonely and worn down, almost 500 days on the road and I was cashed out. The perverts, lack of women to chat with, and abundance of single men didn’t lighten the mood either. My driveway “escapes” became a weekly endeavor.

I had what I call a nervous breakdown one morning. A pounding headache as a result from the night before only aided to my moment of insanity. I was parked in Keith & Tarp’s driveway absolutely crawling in my skin. An image of crawling in my bed at my father’s was the only warming thing I felt even with the sun pouring into the van.

I was teetering on a dangerous edge by staying, back into my old ways. I knew it was time to move on, but had nothing to get push me back onto the lip of sanity until I met Bear. We had agreed to meet at Veteran’s beach that morning. A rusted navy blue Volvo pulled alongside me and I watched as three guys popped out. I wasn’t sure which one he was, as we had never met, a moment you must get used to meeting people off Craigslist.

I could smell Bear from five feet away. His tattered yellow shirt had seen better days and his dreads could have used a good wash. “Hi, I’m Bear.” He had a killer smile and I giggled as I shook his hand.  He was exactly what I needed and if it wasn’t for him showing up, I may have never had the balls to leave.We took a few pictures with his departing friends and piled his guitar, pack, and random trinkets travelers carry with them on the road.

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As we speeded up over the infamous hump on the seven mile bridge, I remembered why I live this way, this up and down lifestyle. I was back on the road with yet another stranger with no particular destination in mind. I became me again in one flicker of a moment; the traveler, the vagabond, the transient, the girl who lives in her van. The world was ahead of me and I could do with whatever I wanted with it. I looked over at Bear sitting in the passenger seat knowing he was feeling the same thing.   The road was our home, this is where we belonged.

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