Sharing Stories Over a Couple Drinks

Comments and support continue to roll in; thank you all so much!  I find myself checking my email frequently eager to read the next comment; each is like receiving a card.  All of the support gives me so much energy.  No matter how humiliating or painful this disease becomes, you have all given me the support I need to get through it.

After several long days, it was nice to take it easy this morning.  I slept in, had breakfast, then slept some more!  Sadly, this afternoon was goodbye again to Ryan, Makiko, Evan, and Owen.  They are headed back home to Rochester, NY.  Enjoy the snow Evan and Owen; sorry Ryan and Makiko!  We’re going to miss you guys going forward.

Ryan, Makiko, Evan, & Owen

The plan for today is to head for the Florida Keys.  Once again, due to the cold weather, we decided it would be best to trailer the bikes and head straight for Key Largo.  Still exhausted and nursing a swollen leg, I relaxed in the back of the Volvo Cross-Country while Aaron drove, Mom and Dad navigated, and Shannon distributed the snacks and supported all IT needs.  This is not the typical car trip; the Volvo is equipped with all the extras; we have two power strips, an MP3 Player auxiliary connection, Mi-Fi internet, and several iphones/ipads/laptops.  We are all hard at work!  We also have two-way radios to communicate with Bob, Brendon, and John in the truck behind us.

Not the Typical Station Wagon

We arrived in Key Largo around dinner time.  However, we decided to do things in reverse order and hit the bar, then get dinner.  We had several drinks at Coconuts, a bar right across a canal from the hotel.  I started with the long island iced teas; seemed appropriate for the Keys.  Either the drinks were strong, or my tolerance is low, because this is all it took to start sharing some of my best drinking stories.


Next it was time for some food.  Wendy’s was open and close to the hotel, so it was the best option.  However, only the drive through was open.  Even without a vehicle this didn’t stop us; we walked through the drive through.

Wendy's - Open Late??

Wendy's Drive Through - No Vehicle

We have not had too much time to check out the scene but are anxious to find some authentic local spots.  I need some recommendations; anyone who has spent some time in the Keys, what are some good places to hit??

Day 8


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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39 Responses to Sharing Stories Over a Couple Drinks

  1. Denise says:

    I was going to go to the Keys when I visited Florida in November, but I never made it. This was from my research online and some travel book that I bought. The book had Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester and Duff’s in Buffalo, so I figured if they hit the good spots in my town that hopefully it would suggest good places in Florida as well).

    -Blond Giraffe or Blue Heaven for Key Lime Pie in Key West (From a food competition over Key Lime Pie that I think I saw of the Food Network.)
    -El Siboney- authentic Cuban food (book food guide)
    -Half Shell Raw Bar- fresh seafood- not just a sushi place (book food guide)
    -Croissants de France (book food guide)
    -Conch Town Cafe in Key West- (It’s from No Reservations, a Travel Channel Show with Anthony Bourdain. It’s about a famous chef that goes around the world and eats at amazing places.)
    -Bar Crawl per Travel Channel:
    (It has quite a few different bars that serve food. One bar literally has a turtle crawl. I definitely wanted to see that, if you go- take pictures please!!)

    Hope this helps!! 🙂

  2. Mike says:

    Key Largo police bulletin:
    “Be on the look out for the infamous ‘Hoefen Gang’. It’s reported they’re up to their old tricks–walking through drive throughs without a vehicle after late night drinking sprees. Last seen at the local Wendys… do not attempt to confront them. They may make strange arm gestures and stand in formation, as evidenced by the above surveillance picture. The leader appears to know martial arts. Or he is possibly unstable, and thinks he is Ralph Macchio from the karate kid. Repeat, could be extremely dangerous. Proceed with caution as they are looking to to head south in search of new adventures.”

    • Aaron says:

      You rock Mike! Good call on the signature Macchio Crane move! And a few days ago, it was Bret and I imitating CHIPS flying down US1. Just a little short on Polyester! You would love the ride! Man, that late night Wendy’s is kicking and screaming at 6:30am!!!

  3. Scott Rigby says:

    Hey guys! Was just told about your blog yesterday and as I sit up here in snowy Rochester (why do I insist on traveling here in the winter??) I wanted to suggest “Louie’s Backyard” restaurant and bar in Key West. They have an amazing outdoor deck and fantastic mojitos. Jasmine and I sat back there for three hours one afternoon just watching the waves roll in!

    The second big recommendation in Key West is “Blue Heaven” restaurant. Brunch there was one of the best we ever had!

    And if that weren’t enough, Key West is one of the only cities I’ve been in where chickens and roosters roam around the streets freely like squirrels. So there’s that…

  4. Nanette Hance says:

    Good Morning … So glad that you are making Key West a stop along your adventure … a great place to ride, rest up and kick-back! I hope you have the best weather ever so you can enjoy Mallory Square, Ernest Hemingway’s Home and Museum, Sloppy Joe’s, Louie’s Backyard, the Haitian Art Co., and an Old Trolley Ride all around town. ENJOY all the sights & sounds, and the most beautiful sunsets in the world! Thanks again Bret and Shannon for sharing your travels as you go!

  5. Caroline Borrelli says:

    Hey Bret,
    I LOVE THE keys…..if you get all the way to key west you definitally have to have breakfast at BLUE HEAVEN…they have outdoor seating with chickens running around…and awesome food!! If your looking for an adventure and have never been you should try pairasailing….but make sure you use PARAWEST it is a small local company and they are located on the docks it is pretty cheap and they make a video of you for a keep sake….If you guys drive back through Islamadora Key you have to stop at Hog Heaven Sports Bar and Grill!! When you are in Key West go down to the pier and watch the sunset it is so beautiful! One more thing….don’t forget to try some gator and conch and try to hit every bar on duval street in key west!! Love you and hope you have a blast!!

  6. Reggie & Mary Lee says:

    Bret – I have to comment on the tatoo question of yesterday… I am not big on tatoos – wouldn’t have one myself but if you do go that way remember your art training – NO UNICORNS, MUSHROOMS, RAINBOWS, FROGS, TURTLES or any other trite thing! You are more creative that that!!! (And your mom is one of thebest designers around!)
    Love, Mary Lee
    P.S. Reggie had one cut out a few years ago… becareful what you write!

  7. david says:

    louis back yard for sure, also you can’t go wrong with duval street. If its not too cold, go hit the sunset party at mallory square, but be careful, i ended up in this really sweaty magicians show getting a bunch of pipes juggled over me. Also, catch one of the sunset sails (not in the same day, you wont have time), they are hopefully still running. the one we were on had about 12 people, and wine and cheese… and cheeeeeesssseee……. You might be able to get the whole boat with your gang! Highlight of my last trip down there.

    oh yeh, put on some jimmy buffett,

  8. Don Cotton says:

    I just typed a message to you with all my fav Keys things to do. I think it got swallowed up by Cyberspace, so I will try and recreate it!

    Anyway, you are South of me now, I live in the Stuart, FL area. As you are seeing it is chilly down here right now, but they say that it will warm up again this weekend.

    Here is a general site to get started:

    There is a Key Largo Christmas Boat parade this weekend, very cool, different thing to do for a family from Rochester :-):

    Key West Trolley Tour is a great way to start off in Key West where you will see all the hot spots, including Margaretaville, cool houses and Hemmingway (Papa’s) house.

    Definately get to Duvall Street and get a drink at the Hogs Breath Saloon( and the Original Sloppy Joes (

    Also further North, Bahia State Park is incredible with alot of fun stuff to do.
    Cabin Rental: (800) 326-3521

    Have fun, take lots of pics and give us all the details!


  9. Ryan says:

    We hated to leave yesterday, Bret, but if I have to miss part of the trip, I’m glad it was the Long Island Ice Teas! Not to mention posing for silly pictures in the Wendy’s drive-thru! You guys are crazy.

    We miss you guys. Owen has gone back to standing near my computer all day asking for pictures of “Uncle Bwet and Shanny.”

    We’ll catch up with you again soon.


  10. Michelle Lindsey Piedmonte says:

    Just be sure not to leave the Keys with Key Lime pie!

  11. Debbie says:

    Good morning Road Warriors!

    I wish I had been there to see you guys walking through the Wendy’s drive thru. But then, you are now in the Keys and you’re going to see some pretty interesting things! Good thing you’re all adults–that’s a hint.

    If you get to Marathon–that’s halfway between Key Largo and Key West (pretty much in the middle) and it is right before the 7-mile bridge. Traveling over the 7-Mile Bridge is breathtaking, over the caribbean blue waters and there is a marker somewhere near there–where the Gulf Of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean and the waters just swirl in these amazing colors and shapes.

    My favorite place to eat in the Keys is The Wooden Spoon in Marathon-a small restuarant that has the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever had. And if you get to Key West–you MUST go to Sloppy Joe’s Bar and Grill.

    Things of COOL interest to see in Key West:
    Look for the 6 toed cats that roam the island–they are all descendents of the cats that Earnest Hemingway used to own. They’re kinda considered sacred around Key West.

    Check out the Earnest Hemingway House Museum–you’ll see the cats there too.

    The Pirate Museum on the pier is kinda cheesy, but fun!

    One of the coolest things to see–back in the 1800’s a group of nuns built a “grotto” made entirely of seashells as a request to God to spare the Keys from a direct hit from a Hurricane. Since the grotto has been built, Key West has not seen a direct hit from a hurricane. It’s simply beautiful.

    And if you’re up for it–do the Duval Crawl–that’s all the bars on Duval Street. And yes, you MUST SEE THE SUNSET at the end of the pier in Key West. It’s a mini-celebration nightly with music and street performers. Look for the “Green Flash” as the sun slips past the horizon.

    I love, love, love the Keys–one of my all time favorite places in the world to visit. I know you’ll have an exciting time and there is no better place to get a Tat than Key West (hint, hint).

    So proud of you guys!! I can’t wait to see some pics from your trip over the bridges. Love you more than words can say. Keep it in the road!

    P.S. Shannon–get a tat of a unicorn riding a Harley. I bet no one else in the world would have that 🙂 LOVE YOU!


  12. Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon says:

    Hey Guys,
    So neat to read this morning’s post and see the “line-up” outside Wendy’s Drive-up window! You rock Hoefen Gang! (Mike, loved your post too!)

    Sounds like you already have several great suggestions of places to go in Key Largo and the Keys but I had a thought after reading this that we wanted to share. Your Mom may have thought of this already but what about contacting our cousin, Patty Beshiri Pond. We’re pretty sure she lives in Sebring but we know she could probably give you a wealth of info. about places to see, best restaurants/eateries, etc. Her years of newspaper reporting and research could be helpful. We think they have lived in Miami in the past and maybe also the Keys at one point. Anyway, I’ll call your Mom with the phone # this morning.

    ENJOY every moment and someone PLEASE have an extra piece of keylime pie for me!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Terrie Applin says:

    Hello Hoefen Family! What a fabulous trip you’re on! I am so jealous reading the about the BBQ and bike stories- all of my favorites. Loved the family picture, the whole family needs tattoos, and better you than me on those crazy rides! If you send me some of your upcoming destinations, I will look for some wineries to tour. No trip would be complete without a taste or two! Its 24 degrees here…enjoy!

  14. Ray Ferran says:

    The Volvo has been transformed into the bridge of Starship Enterprise……

  15. Mike Gratz says:

    Bentley’s Raw Bar in Islamorada…great oysters and seafood. El Soboney in Key West. “Jimmy” at Mallory Square for the best Mojitos. The little beaches along the drive south, are amazing….stop and swim! Don’t forget to eat some Key West Pink Shrimp….delicious! I sent you and email with the locations of the these great stops! Enjoy the ride!

  16. Terry Concessi (F) says:

    What a great blog, loved the Wendy’s picture, got a great laugh out of that one. I love following the blog, but my hearts cry’s everyday for you and your family. My son-in-law is in Key West right now and an avid biker, I am going to tell him to watch out for your “gang” Her are a few bars for on your way to Key West:
    The bar with the $1.00 bills was the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key
    Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar – Islamorada
    Rumrunners at Holiday Isle – Islamorada
    Burdines Waterfront Cafe – Marathon
    of course “hogs Breath”!!!!!! this is a must! great website for this one, live web cam so you can say hi to everyone at a certain time!
    Duval street and mallory square.
    my thoughts are with you and your wonderful family and friends during this journey
    keeps us updated on the tattoo too…LOL..

  17. Don House says:

    Brett when you were sharing drinking stories did your mom and dad share the one when they had a wine tasting party at thier house.One of my fondest memories of your mother was the smile on her face as she waved good by

  18. Makiko says:

    Ha ha ha ha! Love that picture of you all in a row at Wendy’s on the “down low,” being totally shady for a Hoefen family!

  19. Rich says:

    Your request for places to visit while in Key West has brought back some good memories…Thanks. It’s been over 25 years since I’ve been there and most of the places mentioned by others don’t sound familiar to me. The Green Parrot, as I recall, was off the main tourist path and had more of a local feel to it. Mallory Square at sunset is a must. The main show is people watching, but the sunset can be nice too. I have never taken one of the sunset cruises but would still recommend it on what I’ve heard from others. Weather permitting ride the bikes across the main bridges of the lower Keys. The view of the water cannot be matched from a car. Enjoy your time in the Conch Republic.

  20. Aunt Bo says:

    Loved Mike’s blog this morning…I could not write anything (right away) after reading that..the smile on my face lasted quite awhile….guess I am glad I am a Greisberger now..I am a little afraid of the Hoefen gang…they look tough with their arms and legs in the air. But if you get in trouble…Mark will be glad to bail you out!
    Terrific blog Bret…look at all of the enjoyment you are giving us…Thank you!!!
    Love the idea of drinking first and then kind of night!
    Hope you are finding warmer weather. I have only been to Key West once–off a cruise ship so I have no interesting places for you to go. Sorry.
    What is the final verdict on the tattoo?? Can you believe how much chatter that one word caused?
    Maybe your dad will join you with a tattoo too….don’t you think? Maybe a Hoefen gang tattoo!
    Enjoy the day.

  21. Danielle West-Chuhta says:

    Love the pictures! You guys crack me up – 🙂 Definitely have to hit Sloopy Joes in Key West if you get out there! Have fun!

  22. Elise Smith says:

    It looks like you guys are living it up and having a blast. I think you are doing a very awesome thing. Keep making memories with your family and friends you truly are an inspiration. I wish you all the best of luck on your travels be safe on the road and if you make it all the way to southern california let me know i know some sweet taco shops and fun things to do.

    P.S. your mom was the best art teacher ever 🙂

  23. JoEllen Fahy Schubmehl says:

    My vote on the tattoo is YES!!!!

  24. Gina Mathis says:

    Tattoos. Hoefen Gangstas. Motorcycles. Oh myyyy! 😉 To have been a fly on the wall in that Wendy’s breakroom after your gang “drove” away. Har! But no worries, your cover is safe with me. Those Crazy Canucks!!! Sheesh…. 😀

  25. Maryann Gilbert says:

    You guys rock! I’m having a riot reading about your adventures, it breaks up the work day. Walking through the drive-in line, priceless!

  26. Lisa says:

    Brett and Family, I wanted to let you know that many of us, are just along for the ride…You and your family are very special people. We want to Thank You for taking us with you. You have shared your SPIRIT and your soul. Your story and adventures touch each one of us. Your bravery and courage has tought us many lessons about life and ourselves. Your words mean so much and the legacy of this trip will go on forever. I thank you Brett Hoefen from the bottom of my heart. Your words of wisdom from such a young man are very powerfull. Continue to Make the best memories and enjoy the love of ALL your friends and family.
    An Old friend of your Mom

  27. Kathi says:

    Wow you guys are having a great time! That’s awesome! I vote YES for the Hoefen gang tatoo! I am sure Betsy can design something special. Can’t wait to see it.
    Have a great time in the Keys!

  28. jon marcus says:

    Hi Bret,

    I heard about your trip as I was checking for updates on We met a couple years ago, as I was a co-intern with Ryan and Makiko. I think we had a few beers on your porch.

    In anycase, I decided to make a post here, as a relative stranger, but a Floridian nonetheless.

    I have several reccomendations for when you are in the Keys/South Florida Area.

    There are already lots of great Key West suggestions. But there is only one way out of Keywest on US1 and you need to have places to visit on the way out.
    Robert is here is fruit stand in Florida City, FL. Where you cross through when you get back to the mainland, it really is in the middle of nowhere, but they make truly wonderful fruit milkshakes. My favorite is the Keylime and Strawberry.
    The knaus berry farm in homestead, fl. About 10-15 miles north of Robert is Here. Is a true family favorite of mine. This mennonite run fruit stand bakery makes wonderful sticky buns, and great strawberries, though it is a bit late in the season.

    Post back if you are headed north to Miami area. Many more suggestions.

    Enjoy the road!

  29. Bree Miller says:

    The Wonder Wagon…

  30. Steve C says:

    Greetings Bret and the whole Hoefen Gang. It looks like an amazing trip. Even up in NC there is still a dusting of snow from last Sat. Soak of those sun rays and vitamin D for me. So sorry I missed you guys during your fly-by-night tour of the triangle. Glad you are traveling in style!

  31. Mary Beer says:

    It is amazing that I have watched you grow up from such a beautiful baby into such a fine man and really know so little about you….that is the way of families. Reading your blog has been more inspiring than words could ever describe. You have certainly been blessed with a loving family and a beautiful wife….did you know that my family refers to Shannon as “the spark”? Your love story is as moving as your current journey. I vote with the others for a tatoo but I would consider designing one that meant something personal to the two of you…I recall that you were very talented with art like your Mom.
    It looks like your whole gang is having a blast every day and creating unbelievable memories. Thank you for taking the time to document your journey…it is wonderful to read….Carol Ann is right, you are a great writer! We can’t wait to power up the laptop everyday to read your adventures. We will continue to pray that you have the time of your life and that your travels are hassle free and everything you are hoping it to be. Please give my best to your mom and dad.
    Mary Beer

  32. Lisa (Moore) Boomhower says:


    I faithfully read the blog everyday. I find myself looking forward to what the next travel plans are….

    Everyone looks like they are having a great time!

    Safe journeys ahead…..and yes to the tattoo….


  33. Karen (Ellis) Chapman says:

    HaHaHa!!! Absolutely Hilarious Pic rollin through the Drive thru, Way too Funny!!! Can’t wait to see whats next! Take it Easy Bret but have lots of Fun!
    Betsy~Just Love Ya!!
    *HuGs* and wishes for a Great Adventure For All!!! *Love*Love*

  34. Jlag says:

    My god….the picture of you all going through the drive thru is simply priceless! I love love love loved seeing the joy in you all.

    And because I missed posting yesterday… all means GET A TATOO, “Night Hawk” ….BTW I think that is much more apropos than Fat Bob =) !!!

    Thinking of you all the time. Love to you all!

  35. Carolina DeHond says:

    We LOVE your titles!! LOL.. I am still laughing m y head off over the picture of you all WALKING through the Drive Through.. LOL..
    We are sorry to hear your leg has been swallen 😦
    Hope you got my e-mail last night!!
    Continue making funny and awesome memories…

    Sending warmer weather vibs your way!!!!!

  36. Mike says:

    Where are you headed next? Can you go more south? Looks like you’re running out of islands down there. I heard a friend say it was 60’s in Texas–it’ll be neat to see where this adventure turns…

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