(Editor’s Note: This week’s Keys Voices is a personal invitation to readers from Diana Nyad, famed around the globe for her incomparable 2013 swim from Cuba to Key West.)
My head handler and expedition leader Bonnie Stoll and I lived in various charming corners of the island each summer, with the rest of our crew sequestered around town also, during our daily training.
All the magic Key West is known for blossomed for me and Bonnie. One can’t walk down the street without a friendly hello from every local, every tourist. We found the merchants of every stripe quick to offer us assistance.
And when we finally made it to shore, at Smathers Beach on Labor Day 2013, after a non-stop grueling effort of 52 hours, 54 minutes, with thousands of Key Westers crying and screaming to applaud us, we knew this town was going to forever be our home away from home.
The city has honored us with a bronze plaque at Smathers Beach and also an installation at the Custom House Museum. A bronze statue is next. Oh my.
Bonnie and I have come back to visit our friends and spend time in conch paradise several times since the swim. There was our moment as official Grand Marshals of the Fantasy Fest parade. That was one rowdy, unforgettable evening! There was the swim year anniversary when the city bestowed us with the plaque.
And now Bonnie and I are thrilled to be returning under the auspices of our new initiative, EverWalk.com, whereby we envision inspiring a million Americans to make walking part of their daily lifestyles.
Monday through Friday, April 2-6, we’ll have a group of EverWalkers with us from around the country and we’ll set out each morning at 8 a.m. to walk 10 miles, finishing by 11 a.m. We were just in town a couple of weeks ago and our Cuba swim teammate Katie Leigh helped us map out five scenic routes.
By all means, we want locals and visitors to join us each day, whether for the whole 10 miles or any part. To join us, meet at 202 Admirals Lane in Key West at 8 a.m. daily or find us along the route. The daily routes will be posted on our Facebook page on March 31 for the entire week.
Our second mission in town will be for an EverWalk/Habitat for Humanity service week. We, along with millions worldwide, have been admirers of the good work Habitat does and, our love of the Keys in our hearts, want to lend a hand to their mission.
The Habitat of Key West and Lower Florida Keys affiliate is particularly strong and we are privileged to work with them for at least a few days.
We’ll finish walking each day at 11, have a quick lunch, and then leave en masse for Big Pine Key to join Habitat crews up there on the rebuilding work they’re currently doing.
We welcome any of you to join us for that part of the day as well. We have about 22 extra seats, as of this writing, in our vehicles (but we may have to ask non-EverWalk folks to drive their own cars up to Big Pine).
You can also join Bonnie and me at a meet-and-greet hosted by Habitat for Humanity at Key West’s gorgeous Gardens Hotel from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, April 7. It’s a great chance to learn more about EverWalk and Habitat’s work in the Lower Keys — and all event proceeds benefit Habitat.
After our recent two days of a recon trip, prepping for this April Walk/Habitat Service week — Bonnie and I strolling those idyllic streets, greeting and being greeted by each and every soul, taking in the magnificent nature, tasting the scrumptious Key West varieties of food, having an absolute ball — we just can’t wait to experience our home away from home with our EverWalkers … and to be back home again ourselves.
The hospitality toward us is already flowing. We can in advance thank Jimmy Weekley and his family at Fausto’s for, typically, stepping up to help us.
Come walk with us. Come hammer some nails with us. We can’t wait to be with you.
— Diana Nyad