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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Florida Road Trip Day 20 - The Florida Keys: Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugus National Park

Today was a gigantic epically very long day. We set the alarm for 5:00 am, even earlier than my usually baby alarm clock. And then it hit me that I haven’t set my alarm since I became a mother… kids do that too you. Anyways we woke up too early, put a grumpy baby in the pre-packed the night before car (thank God) and started our hour and a half drive to the docks. Mr. Rogue was super excited, the only thing that was on his must do list for this trip was to visit Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugus National Park.

We made it to the docks, parked and got in the long line to board the ship. Finally on the boat, a little early but early for boats that don’t wait is better than late. And finally we had breakfast.

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It was a two and a half hour boat ride out to the fort and that boat was trucking. Mr. Rogue and I took a few turns standing out on the bow of the boat enjoying the wide sweeping views of the ocean and all the beautiful clouds while the other stayed inside where it was nice and cozy with the baby.

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Finally we were there, the orange bricked structure looked small far out in the distance but as we got closer, it got big. I couldn’t believe how close it was to the water, in fact much of the building was actually in the water. Super cool.

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We spent the first part of our time on the island walking around on the moat wall. One side was a beautiful jewel green and the other (the moat side) was a soft emerald green.

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After walking around the entire fort it was time to go inside. The building was commissioned by the government to act as a important post for ships patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. That and its convenient location on one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes made it a great military asset. Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Americas and it also happens to be one of the largest forts ever built. Construction started in 1846 and continued for 30 years sadly to never be finished. The fort, during Civil War the fort was used as a prison for Union deserters.

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After looking around inside we decided to carry the stroller up the three flights of winding stairs to the top. In hindsight one of us should have climbed the stairs first and checked to make sure the top was accessible for the stroller. But we didn’t. Which led to us getting to the top and then being confused, because the top of the fort was dirt, and vegetation with little dirt paths totally not sutible for the stroller… sigh.

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Mr. Rogue took a few minutes to walk around while my Little Cricket and I enjoyed the sweeping views. The fort is a four-tiered six-sided 1000 heavy gun fort. It was hugely epic and pretty cool. Mr. Rogue was in rapture over the awesomeness.

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It was time to go snorkeling. Mr. Rogue offered to stay on the beach first with my Little Cricket as I went out to snorkel. I didn’t last long. The water was a bit murky and my mask was being temperamental. But neither of those things would have deterred me from reaching the pylons 200 feet from the beach where the snorkeling was said to be good. The real problem were the jellyfish. They were everywhere, and even though these were a beautiful pink and maroon color, therefore easier to see, it was still really dangerous. After almost running into my third jellyfish and having my heart rate stay accelerated out of fear of getting stung I decided to turn back.

After getting back to Mr. Rogue he opted to not even try snorkeling. He wasn’t interested in getting stung either. So we both just chilled in the shallow water playing with the baby until it was time to go.

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We got back to the boat only to realize that several of the people who decided to snorkel anyway got stung by jellyfish and were nursing some pretty bad stings. I was really glad now that I turned back when I did and managed to not get stung in the process. Bad jellyfish.

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We were all salty and but I had brought a change of clothes for everyone. As an added bonus the boat had quick fresh water showers where we could at least quickly rinse off the salt water. Sadly those showers were VERY WARM. And on a hot day very warm super sucked. It did reinforce the rule to take a quick shower though. No one wanted to stay in that shower for long. My Little Cricket wasn’t happy at all in the shower, rather than fight him wet and unhappy into his clothes I just let him air dry in the stroller for a bit.

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Getting off the boat after our not so great catered breakfast and lunch on the boat Mr. Rogue and I were starving. We asked a few questions, looked online and then walked a short distance to the best steak place around. We were hardly dressed for fancy dining, and with a slightly grumpy my Little Cricket in tow I wasn’t quite sure how this dinner would progress. We did some speed ordering asking the waiter to just bring the food out as it came out as quickly as possible, which I am sure he thought was a little ghetto. Mr. Rogue and I managed to get halfway through our meal before my Little Cricket started melting down. He had had enough, poor Little Cricket. So Mr. Rogue and I both handed him our phones. He was RIVETED for the remainder of our meal. We got the check and while Mr. Rogue paid I excused myself to the restroom telling my husband that I would meet them outside.

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Walking out of the restaurant to meet my two boys I did a double-take. Mr. Rogue was holding my Little Cricket out away from his body and he had a weird expression on his face. Apparently while we ate my Little Cricket had the biggest blowout diaper in the entire world. We didn’t want to go back into the fancy restaurant to clean him up… besides I had already asked they didn’t have a changing table. But then I spotted a restroom across the courtyard. So we scurry across only to find that that restroom also didn’t have a changing table. So we ended up changing him standing up, using every single last one of the wipes that I had with me all the while cringing and laughing at the horribleness of it all. Mr. Rogue carried my Little Cricket to the mens room for a little extra cleaning in the sink and then we finally had a clean tired baby boy. It was a proud parenting moment.

Be happy I didn’t take any photos… although to be honest I did think about it.

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