The Florida Diaries


Florida Sunset. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.

On December 20th, 2020, I traveled a little over 2,000 miles from Los Angeles to Miami, Florida.

For some context, the reason for making the trip was to visit my extended family and attend my late grandmother’s memorial – not exactly the picture of a fun family vacation. Regardless, I was still excited to go, as I’ve been coming down to Florida since I was out of the womb, to visit my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. However, with the pandemic, flying down to Florida did not sound like a pleasant experience, so I was pretty nervous while packing the week leading up to my departure date. 

Traveling to Florida. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.
View from the airplane window. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.

Funny enough, the flights were much less anxiety-provoking than I was expecting. My mom and I only witnessed a couple of people without their masks on for prolonged amounts of time. Also, when I said “flights”, I meant flights plural. Yes, we had to take a connecting flight that landed in Atlanta to get to Miami. Did you know that Atlanta, Georgia’s airport is the biggest in the country? The thing is the size of like 30 something football fields. You can imagine that my mom and I got lost multiple times tirelessly trying to find a bathroom and our departing gate. Once we had arrived in Miami, a driver took us to get something to eat, which was very much needed, and we were on our way down to the Keys!

Islamorada. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.


^Insert Picture and video of Islamorada / scenery

If you don’t know what or where the Florida Keys are, this paragraph is for you. According to Wikipedia, they are a “coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida.” In my opinion, they are one of the most beautiful and serene places in the world, with the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico on each side of Overseas Highway, aka the boulevard-Esque highway that connects the first Key, Key Largo, to the last, Key West. My grandfather lives in Islamorada, which is closer to Key Largo than it is to Key West, and has a total population of 6,317 people, according to a population estimation done in 2019, by the Census Bureau. Islamorada is small, and much of it is untouched, which leaves the scenery clear and pristine. 

Angel on top of a Christmas tree. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.

Finding higher angels

Once we had made the 2.5-hour drive to Islamorada, we settled in and unpacked at the house. It was the 20th of December, so Christmas was only a couple of days away; we had a lot to do to get the house in shape. The days to follow were filled with me getting presents together, writing cards, and taking out decorations. One of my main jobs was to put the angel on top of the tree, as a result of my being the tallest out of my mom and aunt. Although I was only chosen for this task because of my God-given height, I took it very seriously. However, there were a few complications along the way. Number 1, I could not find the angel for the life of me. The thing was literally nowhere to be found! I looked anywhere and everywhere, and I just could not seem to find it. The thing was, my grandmother knew where all of the tree decorations were, and had handled it every single year previously, meaning no one knew where the thing went. Fast forward to the twenty-third, I was getting a little more nervous about finding it because my grandpa kept asking me where it was and everything else had already been completed as far as tree decorating went. With what I believe was my guardian angel guiding me, I found the Angel that afternoon! I was overwhelmed with joy and got out the step ladder because it was on the top shelf of a cabinet in the laundry room. I tried to maneuver the angel to a little closer however, this was not the move. BAM! The angel fell down on the floor of the laundry room and cracked her head. I literally decapitated this poor angel that I had been trying to find for days! I got down from the step ladder and assessed the damage. Luckily, I did a pretty good job at decapitating her, so her head was off in one piece. Quickly, I realized that I would need to fix her without anyone knowing, and thankfully enough, there was no one in the kitchen. I grabbed the gorilla glue and ran back to my room to perform surgery on her. After gluing her head back on, I moved the step ladder to the tree and placed her right on the top; she looked beautiful and you couldn’t even tell she had been beheaded. Needless to say, I was relieved. However, on Christmas morning, more like afternoon, right as we were praying the rosary for my grandmother; the angel fell down and decapitated herself again! My uncle simply picked her up and put her to the side so we could continue praying. Everyone was shocked and disrupted, but in my heart and mind, she will forever be remembered as the headless angel for all her troubles of continuously falling down at the wrong moments.

Photos taken while bike riding in Florida. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.
Photos taken while bike riding in Florida. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.


A cyclist’s words of advice

My biggest Christmas gift I received, and am exceedingly grateful for, is a bike. My mom and I really wanted to get bikes to keep so when we are in Islamorada, we can bike places. The bike paths here are wonderful and as previously mentioned, the scenery is breathtaking–those two combined and I was sold on bike riding. When I first got my bike, I decided to go on a morning ride down to this side street called Sapodilla, and back. I was doing just fine until the wind started to pick up and I fell right into a puddle of mud. Despite the embarrassment I felt from onlookers, I picked myself up and finished my ride. Vowing to work very hard on bike riding over the course of my trip–I picked up a new schedule of dedicating myself to bike riding morning, noon, and night. And without fail, I kept up with my rigorous schedule, doing around 15 miles a day blocked up. I hadn’t had another experience with a crash until January 8. It was around 8 am and I got my things together and headed to the garage to get my bike out–immediately, once I stepped outside I noticed a drizzle. I headed back into the garage to check my weather app which told me that the drizzle would only last for 9 minutes. 9 minutes? I thought it would be fine, after all, a little drizzle can’t hurt anyone. And oh boy, I was wrong! I’m not quite sure if the weather app was playing a practical joke on me or something but after two minutes of riding, torrential rain came pouring down and my shirt, bag, and freshly washed hair were soaked! Defeated, I turned my bike around to go home and as I was headed up to the driveway, I was multitasking and struggling to retrieve the gate opener out of my bag. Before I knew it, I had crashed right into the mailbox and onto the wet lawn. At this point, I was fed up with the rain, bruised, and just wanted to go back inside. I clicked the gate opener, but for some reason, it just wasn’t working. Now, I was convinced that someone was playing a prank on me. I kept clicking the gate opener and nothing happened. I was standing there, drenched in the rain, that mind you, was still pouring down, fearlessly, trying to make this opener open! Around 5 minutes later, the rain stopped, and because I knew that no one else was awake yet in the house, I made the decision to go back out on my bike and finish my ride. The moral of this story is that you should never go out biking in the rain, even if it’s just a drizzle, and never close the gate behind you when it’s raining, even if it’s just a drizzle. 

Islamorada in Florida. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.
Avalon’s grandfather’s house. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.
Avalon’s grandfather’s house. Photo courtesy of Avalon Dela Rosa ’22.

A Californian’s journey: from swamp to safety

Now, my friends, it is time for the stories to top all stories–my story of getting home. Now, I want to preface this section by explaining my mother and I’s travel failures in the past. Not only do I think they are important, but they are also pretty funny, in a “wow–I cannot believe that happened to you!” kind of way. As previously stated, my mom and I have been coming down to Florida for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember those trips–I can remember the various ways we have been held back from coming home. Now, the drive down to Islamorada is around 2.5 hours, 3 if traffic is really bad. But, the drive up to Miami is a whole other story–the drive can take up to 5 hours in holiday traffic, 3 if you are really lucky, if you decide to wake up at the crack of dawn, or if you levitate there. When I was younger, my mom always made the decision to take the late afternoon flight back home. Her justification made sense–it was so we could have enough time in the morning to pack and say our goodbyes. However, those goodbyes always took an hour longer than expected and my mom’s packing always ended up with my cousins sitting on her suitcase and trying to get the thing closed. Once we were in the car, it was around 2 hours later than we had planned and we were drawing closer and closer to being late. And all of a sudden, we realized that we’d have to move our flight to the next day because we couldn’t make it. Those evenings made for some fun hotel nights and dinners–I hated missing our flights but I loved the outcomes. There are other stories of us missing our flights, of our seats getting taken, and of course, having to make landings in other places that were not our final destinations. Anyway, this time around was a little different. A driver was taking us to the airport and my mom and I were both relaxing and listening to music when she got a text from Delta saying that our flight was going to be delayed. Essentially, this meant that we would not make our connecting flight so we had to make a decision to either take the flight from Miami to Atlanta and stay in Georgia overnight or turn around and go back to Islamorada, as staying in a hotel was not an option. We outlawed the idea of staying in Georgia overnight because the day we would have flown out would have been Tuesday, the day of Georgia’s senate run-off elections, so we turned around and went back to my grandfather’s house. 

As I am writing this, I am still in Florida and will be here until further notice while the corona cases in California are soaring, they are relatively non existent in the county I’m in. Although I know that being here is safer for me physically, I cannot help but miss my bed and my room and being in the same time zone as my friends. And on that note, I hope you enjoyed my Florida diaries and got a chance to laugh a little during these difficult times.