The 100-mile drive from Miami airport took me about two and a half hours. My route, which may not have been the most efficient, seemed to consist of three segments: it began in urban traffic through the streets of Miami, segued onto a thruway, and then abruptly narrowed in a merger with US 1. Now down to two lanes, the highway ran almost due south first through farmland and then in a straight line between two fences as it traversed part of Everglades National Park. But then the mainland began to dissolve into narrow filaments of land, at times barely wide enough for the highway itself, before bridging Jewfish Creek and descending into the heart of Key Largo. From there it heads southwest, as the Overseas Highway, picking its way from low island to low island all the way to Key West.
Duck Key, home to Hawk’s Cay Resort, is roughly halfway down the chain, stitched to the Overseas Highway by its own tiny bridge. By the time I arrived it was dark, so as I pulled up to the hotel, I remember tiki torches and the dark outlines of palm fronds, though the pillars of the porte cochere had been wrapped with pine boughs and strings of tiny white lights–this was right before Christmas. There was a Christmas tree and pine boughs with ornaments inside and the recorded music of a steel band playing Christmas carols. I was not in New York City any longer.
Tired and hungry, I dropped by luggage in the room, pausing only long enough to notice a decor I’d call elegant old Florida Keys—a walnut colored two-poster bed, marble topped dresser and end tables, and wrought-iron lamps—though I doubt the old Florida Keys had flat-screen televisions, Bose iPod docks, wifi, or a Keurig coffeemaker. After freshening up, I walked to the harbor for an outdoor dinner of snapper, black beans, and Caesar salad washed down with a Key West Ale. Picking up an Emack & Bolio expresso ice cream for the road, I walked the five minutes back to my room and called it a night. The tennis would begin at 9:30 the next morning.