19 Oct

GatorMOG Key West Road Trip Report (Oct 2021)

Key West, Florida!!  Some sort of Paradise!! At least for us in the Southeastern portion of the USA. We went, we saw, and we came back!!  Another indescribable Morgan Road Trip!!  This was the third MOGSouth/GatorMOG Road Trip to Key West, FL and they just keep getting better!   It took us a week this time and we circumnavigated a good bit of the Florida Peninsula.  We stuck to the back roads, shunning the highways.  You miss too much of the good stuff if you always travel the highways!!  We saw the coast, we saw agriculture, we saw swamps.   We saw museums, beaches, restaurants, and of course, we saw Citrus.  And surprisingly the weather cooperated.  A few pop-up showers (yes, I had the top down!) . . . mostly it was just hot!!

A wonderful collection of cars and even better group of people!!  We had quite a few older cars this time . . . two late fifties Plus 4 4 Seaters and an early sixties Plus 4.  Add these cars to the newer Roadsters, Plus 8s and a new Plus 4 (with a dog?) and we had a very nice and diverse array of Morgan cars!!  And no major breakdowns.  All the car problems experienced were weather related and plagued the newer cars, not the older ones?  A few hot cars, mine included!  I developed a coolant leak and had to add coolant a few times.   One Plus 8 ran without a fan all week, and one car developed a minor misfire due to some overnight rain.  Other than that, we were just fine!!  Speaking of groups, we limited the number of participants on this trip.  The last two trips we had way too many cars. It is almost impossible to keep everyone in line and restaurants look at you like you are nuts when you say you have 50 or so folks for lunch!  Twenty is a much better number!!  

We started our trek with travels from where-ever to the Daytona, FL Morgan dealer, Christopher John LTD.  Chris Sylvestri welcomed us all to the dealership and hosted an amazing open house with lots of tasty goodies and sampling of beer from the brewery next door.  Great hospitality, Morgan parapenalia and cars for sale!!    What a way to start our adventure!! 

After the open house we ate dinner at a local spot on the water and adjacent to our hotel.  In the morning we all headed south down the Florida coast. 

We finished the day with a block party in the Singer’s Cul de Sac in Palm Beach, hosted by Bennett and Mary Shulman and Eric and Joanne Singer.  

JN – Block Party in the Singer’s Cul de Sac in Palm Beach (hosted by Bennett and Mary Shulman and Eric and Joanne Singer.)

I started the day with fan problems (coolant leaks) and overheated so Andrea and I had to leave the convoy while we got our problems sorted in Daytona and then traveled the highways to catch up.  We arrived in West Palm Beach a bit late, but the group was still there and having great fun.  We joined right in.  That beer tasted great!

BS – Mark adding coolant. Necessitated by the weather. It was hot!

Then in the morning a scenic run along the amazing overseas coastal route (US 1) all the way to Key West.  We did stop for lunch in Key Largo.  At a marina looking at the water!  The aura of the Keys was already settling in. . .   

We finished the day with beer and pizza, provided by the Club, at the hotel in Key West.  Yes, that beer also tasted great!   A quicker run South this time than previous trips but we wanted more time in Key West!  Too much to see and do!!  We parked the cars in the hotel lot and scattered somewhat.  We all had our own agendas and interests!  The hotel shuttles and free municipal buses proved quite convenient, and the price was right!!  Wednesday’s big event was a Sunset Cruise on a Catamaran with open bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres and an oldies band.   Who knew these folks could dance??  

Before we boarded the boat a few folks went to the butterfly museum and reported a great time! Others of us worked on the cars some and visited a few of the more notable bars downtown.  Then it was lunch and off to the catamaran.

ALB – Oooh ‘there’s a butterfly!’ And another!
ALB – A few Pubs / Bars . . . Now where are the boys?

The drinks were flowing before we left the dock!  Orange juice like concoctions with other things to lubricate the crowd.  The all-female crew called for assistance in hoisting the sails and many in our crowd responded!!   

MNB – Mike and Lois

Then the music kicked in and the crowd erupted into frenetic dancing!!   Finally, the sun went down with a spectacular blaze of orange, and we were dazzled.

MNB – Sunset from the Catamaran. Key West never disappoints!
MNB – Dancing on the Catamaran.

Kind of hated to leave the catamaran for the bus ride home.  It was a bit anticlimactic but necessary.  Today more excitement.   More pubs and places and of course . . .  ‘Mallory Square.’

Mallory Square is just nuts!!  It always is!!  It is an area of free spirits, entertaining souls, fire eaters, unicycles and what not!!  If it is atypical, it is probably there.   It is also ‘the’ spot to watch the sun go down in Key West.  You have to get there early and camp on the edge of the dock or you will never find a seat to watch the ‘best show’ in town.

Something that must happen each day and something you have to witness on each and every trip you make to the Keys.  The sunset. While we were sitting on the dock waiting for the sun to set, Ron Gricius and his son joined us.  Ron is a Morgan (2003 +8) man from Florida’s west coast.   He was sort of with our group, but car problems delayed his arrival in the Keys and he was on his own path having been to Key West many times before.  It was good to see him however!!

MNB – Mallory Square Key West, Florida. A good time and a great view!

There are many restaurants on the peripheral of the square and we found a good one.  An unplanned Group dinner at Mallory Square with ‘Better than Sex’ for dessert?  Cuban restaurant was just the ticket for Key West.  Lots of good things to eat and plenty of space for a moderate sized group like ours. 

ALB – Bennett Shuldman’s ‘birthday’ cake.

We started with a few folks on the reservation and ended up with most of the Morgan folks at one long table.   We even convinced the staff that it was Bennett’s birthday and they found him some dessert! 

Friday morning eventually came, even in Key West, and we had to leave our little bit of paradise.   We headed back north along the same route we came, the only road available, US Route 1.  Once we reached the mainland, we headed a bit northwest, and then right into the middle of the Everglades.   

We stopped for lunch at the Everglades Safari Park, a bit of a tourist trap, but they had what we needed.   Lunch and Air Boat Rides.

JN – Looking for Alligators!!

We grabbed a quick bite and headed to the Air Boat. They had a large air boat without mufflers on the engine, that could take the entire group.   We piled on, got the safety briefing and ear plugs.   You need the ear plugs.  Those things are loud! Then we headed out amongst the saw grass, turtles and supposedly alligators.   Our guide gave us a good ride over the wetlands, with water only a foot or so deep. He maneuvered the boat through the designated path and took the corners a bit like a ’drifter’ sliding the boat sideways into the turn.  

We saw quite of few species of birds, some large turtles, but not a lot of alligators? Our guide informed us that the alligators were all at the bottom of swamp water getting cool.  Kind of made me want to be there too!!  It was hot!!  From the Everglades Safari Park we headed West to a party at John Pokorny’s house in Cape Coral.  John was on the trip with us but traveled home just in time to help his wife with the party.  What a lovely house and tremendous hospitality!  In addition to the Morgan, John had some interesting toys in the garage!  Not that the garage was the center of attention.  The house was absolutely lovely, lavishly decorated and perfectly located along the water in Cape Coral.  After filling up on wondrous food and drink, the road trip folks all left . . . just in time to miss the torrential downpour.  Well, almost all!  We didn’t, thinking it would soon end, but it didn’t.  We ended up leaving our car in John’s driveway overnight.  We picked it up early the next morning.  Thanks Peter for ride back down to John’s. 

Hard to beat John’s lovely garage but Friday morning was spent at the Revs Institute.  The Revs Institute, in Naples, Fl., is a car museum of sorts, but really a very special place (well, that is if you like cars!)   The Revs Institute web site states it ‘institution dedicated to the study, preservation, conservation, and restoration of historically significant automobiles. Explore the rich historic materials and images that define the automobile’s role in society and sport. Step into another world at Revs Institute.’   Primarily it is two special automobile collections – the Miles Collier collection and the Briggs Cunningham collection, melded into one in the late 1980s.  

MNB – 1952 Cunningham C-4R
MNB – 1935 MG PA/PB ‘Leonidis’
ALB – 1948 Ferrari 156 Spider Corsa

Yes, the cars are quite significant, but the vignettes and displays are exceptionally well done.  And there is a full library for research and study.   Numerous folks indicated a desire for a full day or more to peruse the displays.  I have been there three times and have yet to see it all.  I will go back!!   

MNB – 1948 Ferrari 156 Spider Corsa
BS – Morgans at the Revs Institute in Naples

After a morning drooling at the Revs Institute the group motored north to Winter Haven, where we had a lovely dinner on the lake that is now Legoland (for those of you old enough, it used to host Cyprus Gardens!)  We were joined by MOGSouth members Kathy and Tom Coryn who came out to see us and wish us well.  They were originally going on the trip with us but life got in the way.  That happens sometimes. 

ALB – ‘Monster Truck’ through the Citrus fields and swamps.

In the morning we  had another short drive to ‘Showcase of Citrus’.  It was a typical roadside vendor in Florida, all about tchotchkes and Citrus.   We rode the monster trucks trough the fields and learned lots about Citrus.  The yields, the seasons, today’s challenges and the bugs!  Some forget just how much agriculture there is in Florida.  As Floridians, it is good to remind ourselves every once in a while that Florida is more than Disney and Snow Birds.  

This one vendor diversified through the tough times with retail, recycling (poop!) and ranching.   This is probably why they are still in business in spite of the challenges.  We did see citrus, we saw alligators, we saw just a few cows, but did see some Zebras?  Zebras?  Now was this retail or ranching??  

ALB – Zebras?

MNB – Les Neumann.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye.  We chose to do this in style and took over the back room and bar in a local Irish Pub.  (Liam Fitzpatrick’s Irish Pub in Lake Mary Florida.)  It was just across the street from the final road trip hotel. Another great trip! The planning hasn’t started for the next one, but don’t be surprised when the calendar comes out. Cheers, Mark

(Photo attribution. ALB – Andrea Braunstein, MNB – Mark Braunstein, JN – Joan Neumann, BS – Bennett Shuldman, my apologies if I have missed anyone.)