Leg: 3 Gilbert's to the Tiki Bar at Holiday Isle
This leg takes us on the sheltered west side of the Keys, where the water is flat but the hazards are everywhere. Drain the ocean about five feet and a lot of this would be dry land. For our own safety and that of the citizens of Florida, I won't be helming the boat around here.
We log a few minutes of 80-mph cruising before Bud follows the channel into a stand of mangroves. He throttles back and leans the Rider into big, sweeping turns, the impenetrable foliage crowding in on both sides. I feel like we're searching for Colonel Kurtz. "Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat . . . "
We round a corner to find a family fishing off a small center-console boat, and Bud slows to idle speed. No point in antagonizing the populace with our not-inconspicuous vessel. After a brief run back up to 70 mph, we throttle down again. Bud gestures to a waterfront edifice that looks vaguely dour and official. "That's the Coast Guard station," he says. What, we can't just buzz the Coasties at a buck-twenty? It's not like they could catch us.
We pass under US-1 and back out into the open ocean before hanging a hard left to dock at the Tiki Bar. Lorio arrives almost simultaneously. By my calculations, we still have the lead, but whether it will hold up depends on the final leg of the race.
I have yet to beat the boat, but I supposedly have a better chance on these last two legs. I'm feeling hopeful heading out from the lunch spot, but immediately there's a holdup. A delivery truck is unloading, partially blocking the way out of the parking lot, and cars are inching by it one at a time. The SLS is one wide machine, which you really notice only when looking at it from the rear. But unlike many supercars, you can actually see out of it pretty well, and I get past the truck without making any really expensive scraping sounds.
This leg is only twenty-two miles, and, according to the Cigarette guys, the car should start to have an advantage. That's because the boat will be slowed by mangrove swamps while the car will have a straight shot. Unfortunately, that straight shot is on US-1, which is more like a straight slog.
We pass the Caribbean Club, which claims to be where the 1948 movie Key Largo was filmed, and also some other tourist spot with a giant crustacean in the parking lot. One advantage when you travel by car: you have more opportunities to buy T-shirts, although I resist the temptation. Then construction narrows US-1 to one lane, and I wonder if there's any construction out on the water. Probably not.