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A Wedding Trip to the Keys

If you think of a wedding trip as a honeymoon, here are some other points of view. Our daughter Catherine and her fiancÚ Adrian Murkey planned their wedding for Septemper 23 in the Florida Keys. Adrian's grandparents built the first home on Sugarloaf Key and his family have had homes there ever since. The wedding would be on their dock facing Bow Channel. Sound ideal?

Driving down US1 just watching the water and the sky change colors is fascinating.

Rita was due to hit the Keys on the Tuesday before. But Adrian and Catherine checked with his father and were driving down on Monday while half of the residents were driving up to the mainland. "No problem," Catherine told us. "We'll be fine."

Thank God, they were. But they found that getting ready for the wedding suddenly became much more of a problem than they had hoped.

Meanwhile, back in Brandon, the bride's family were preparing to follow. Yes, the wedding was still on. Yes, they still had power. A call to the motel assured us, "No damage here." The first two cars were planning to leave on Thursday morning. These were what we once referred to as the crying car and the sleeping car. Tony and Gretchen (our daughter) and their two young sons left in the wee hours of Thursday morning while the boys were sleeping.

They found the "undamaged motel" was quite a wreck and had to find a room elsewhere.

Our traveling car ( the other is too old) had spent much of the last week in the hands of a good and trusted mechanic. He had worked on it until Wednesday at 10 pm. I got up Thursday at daybreak and started picking flowers to take. Before I got the last batch picked from my friend Nancy's garden, the car had a relapse and had to go back to the shop where the good man worked on it until after dark that night. But it was in good shape as we packed on the morning of the wedding and left at 4 am. The drive down was most pleasant and when we got to the Keys, David was happy.

We saw some trees braced either lest they fall or because they had and were raised back. There were some leaves on some of the trees, but we were told those were more from Dennis and Katrina than from Rita. Overall, the Keys were not as neat nor as colorful as when we saw them in February over a year ago, but they were not badly damaged. We could see one stretch where the road had been flooded, but it was dry by then.

Blue Hole is the largest body of fresh water in the Keys, vital to the Key deer and home to turtles, birds, and a variety of fish

The water around us changed colors from jade to purple while the clouds hovered. At one point it rained, just to get it out of the system we hoped, and there was a perfect rainbow over the water. Of course, it faded by the time I got my camera ready.

We got there by 11 and checked into Parmer's Resort on Big Torch Key, a lovely place that our scouts had found for us. I started making the bridal bouquet and the bridesmaid's at once. Thanks to the handles with oasis on the end, it was not such a job. And thanks to Nancy, there were red and pink roses and white cat's whiskers for the bride's, yellow thyrallis and "red" (actually orange) bauhinia for one and purple Mexican sage and deep orange firebush blooms for the other. There was even a refrigerator in the room to hold them until evening.

At the home of the groom, they had brought in truckloads of gravel and spread it to make the lane from the house to the dock passable for walkers and caterers. Tents covered the food. "We borrowed orchid plants from everyone," said the grooms's stepmother, a Master Gardener. Palm fronds, conch shells, and blooming mums decorated the dance floor that they worked so hard to build. Even the family dogs were decorated with wreaths around their necks.

It was a beautiful wedding and everyone enjoyed dinner under the stars. We old folks got tired and turned in early, but the young folks put their children to sleep and gathered around the resort's pool until late.

The next morning David and I set off to see the Key Deer Refuge. We found Blue Hole, a former rock quarry created during railroad construction and now the largest body of fresh water in the Keys, vital to the Key deer and home to turtles, birds, and a variety of fish. The trails through the area were closed off, perhaps due to flooding, but we enjoyed the observation dock and saw large turtles and fish in the water-no alligators or snakes.

We didn't get to see any deer, but next day one was kind enough to walk right across US1 just far enough in front of us to keep all safe, and we saw her up close. More about Key Gardens and plants next week.

Blue Hole is the largest body of fresh water in the Keys, vital to the Key deer and home to turtles, birds, and a variety of fish. We saw three turtles in the water at our feet. This trail sign gave one something to think about.