Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

OK. So one of our friends back in Kansas once described us as excessive. Perhaps.

Or perhaps we just like to do the job right!

And so it could be said with our manner of ringing in the New Year 2011.

Kona Joe's ~ New Year's Eve ~ Cedar Key Florida

It all began Thursday when we packed a small bag with overnight necessities, gave Gator Bait her treats, hopped into the truck and headed south and west to Cedar Key for a gulfside adventure.

We’d heard a little about the town, located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, which is said to be reminiscent of Key West about 40-50 years ago – prior to high rise development and a huge influx of tourists.

One thing for sure, we were ready to get out of the woods and into the sun for a while.

Little did we know that we would have such a wonderful time, meet some interesting folks, and secure an opportunity to play at the King Neptune Lounge at the Island Hotel!

We’d booked a room at the historic Island Hotel in downtown Cedar Key. Built in 1859, it has a wild and varied story, and is said to be haunted by at least 13 ghostly apparitions.

The Historic Island Hotel Bed & Breakfast

After checking in to room #32, we were handed the keys to an electric golf cart, and sent across the bridge to Kona Joe’s for a light lunch. Joe’s is famous for sandwiches, coffee, ice cream and Joe – who gives a hearty greeting to all who enter the door, and who takes the time to chat a spell with anyone interested.

Joe loves Cedar Key – he chose this place as his home, over all others in Florida.He says he has the best of both worlds…a house in the woods and a business on the Gulf bay. And when I say “on” the bay, I mean it literally. Kona Joe’s is built on a wharf directly over the water! We talked to Joe about our music – turns out he is a drummer – and we hope to get together for a jam the next time we’re in town.

Kona Joe and Keith

After lunch, we strolled the streets of downtown Cedar Key, visiting quaint art galleries, gift shops, bookstores and re-sale shops, ending with a stop at the local grocery store for a bottle of Peter Lehman wine: Clancy’s 2007.

We took the wine back to the hotel, and enjoyed it while relaxing on the upstairs balcony, watching the townsfolk pass by below, until it was time to appear at the restaurant for our 7:30 reservation.

We dined on steamed clams, stuffed grouper, and a wonderful mix of sauteed artichoke hearts, scallops, shrimp and mushrooms in a rich cream cheese parsley sauce. No room left for desert ~ so we opted for a stroll to the pier, to look out at the water, and listen to karaoke from a bar at the edge of the pier.

After returning to the hotel, it didn’t take long to fall asleep, and as no ghosts appeared in the night, we awoke refreshed to start the day with coffee and a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuit for Keith, and bacon and quiche for me.

Keith struck up a conversation about music with the proprietor, which resulted in an offer to return and play at hotel lounge, famous for it’s hand-painted mural of King Neptune and Mermaids,circa 1948.

King Neptune Lounge at the Island Hotel

After breakfast, we took another walkabout through town, sat on the beach taking in the sun, and dreamed of how cool it would be to actually live in that slow-moving island town with its friendly residents and so much to do.

In the end, we had to say good-bye, so we took the two-hour drive back to White Springs, arriving in plenty of time to take a nap and prepare for the campground New Year’s Eve Part at 7 p.m.

The owners had decorated the Rec Hall with silver and purple balloons, and the tables with white cloths and silver centerpieces. Everyone was decked out in their holiday best, and the buffet table was covered with wonderful snacks. We ate and drank champagne, chatted and danced, and rang in the New Year early – at 10 p.m. so the “old folks” could get to bed.

It’s been a wonderful two-day celebration in honor of this new year, and we hope that all who read this post were able to celebrate in your own style, and that 2011 brings you good health and happiness, and whatever your hearts desire!

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