For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
I bet most frequent travelers have one or two destinations that harbor special memories. Here is the story of one of mine.
In 1989 my cousin and I took a weekend Bahamas cruise aboard Carnival’s M/S Fantasy. Just placed into service, this was her second voyage so everything aboard was squeaky clean and brand-new. The real adventure began, however, after disembarking back in Miami. We were off the ship by 9:00 that morning. Given that our flights home didn’t leave Miami International Airport until 7:00 that evening we had a full day to explore the greater Miami area. With a whole day to kill, we decided to rent a car and explore the boulevard Jimmy Buffett made famous: Florida A1A.
With the aid of our AVIS rental map, we easily found A1A and headed north towards Fort Lauderdale. We were in search of the idyllic beachside pub to catch some sun, enjoy some people watching, and enjoy a few adult beverages. Around midday, we happened upon O’Malley’s on the beach in Hollywood, Florida.
For a couple of single guys in their late 20’s, O’Malleys fit the bill. Situated along a busy pedestrian walkway alongside the beach, O’Malley’s offered cheap cold beer, a nice variety of pub fare, great people watching, and friendly patrons. We befriended a group of tourists at the next table and the afternoon flew by quickly. Conscious of our 7:00 departures, I asked our server what time we would have to leave O’Malley’s to get to the airport in time. “Oh, it’s only a 25 minute drive. Leave here by 5:30 and you should be fine!”
A couple of beers later and we were at the brink of 5:30. I asked our server if there was a quicker route to the airport than A1A. She assured me that there was, and began giving directions. Head west on Florida 820, then north on I-95…. “North? Isn’t Miami to the south?” I asked. You’re going to Miami? With traffic it will take you at least an hour to get to Miami airport. I thought you were flying out of Fort Lauderdale. You’d better hit the road!” Thankfully the traffic cooperated and we arrived at Miami International Airport just in time to catch our flights home.
I love this bar, It’s my kind of place.
Just walkin’ through the front door puts a big smile on my face.
It ain’t too far, come as you are.
Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar ~ Toby Keith “I Love This Bar”
As simple and ordinary as it was, that afternoon at O’Malley’s remains one of the highlights of my travel career. I have been fortunate enough to return to South Florida on business many times since then. Each time, I make a point to revisit my favorite beachside pub, and each time I have an incredible experience. Last night the pattern continued.
Now called Ocean Pub 101, the pub formerly known as O’Malley’s is under new ownership. Upon arrival just before 5:00 I took a corner seat at the bar – the perfect spot from which to see all of the televisions and watch the people come and go. Unbeknownst to be as I sat down, the president of the condo association in the building adjacent to the pub was seated at the corner with me. I told him about how my cousin and I had happened upon O’Malley’s 20-some-odd years ago and how I keep coming back when I’m in the area. He introduced me to another condo resident seated beside him and a couple from Toronto who are time-share owners visiting the area on three-week holiday. We talked about how the area, and O’Malley’s in particular, has changed over the years. Under new ownership the pub has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts, “he hired kitchen help; we hired a chef,” he said. I thoroughly enjoyed my fish & chips dinner. The couple from Toronto said they have never visited Texas, but after regaling them with stories about my favorite Texas city, they said they would seek out a timeshare trade in San Antonio for their next holiday. Before I knew it my watch said 7:30. Time to hit the road.
And now I must confess, I could use some rest. I can’t run at this pace very long.Yes, it’s quite insane, I think it hurts my brain. But it cleans me out and then I can go on. Yes, it cleans me out and then I can go on.
~ Jimmy Buffett “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”
So what is it about O’Malley’s that keeps me coming back? Why is this pub any more special to me than similar venues I have visited all over the country? I ponder these questions after each visit, and I’ve decided it’s the people. There is no pretentiousness here. The staff and patrons are consistently friendly and approachable. They’re in shorts and t-shirts; many are fresh off the beach in bathing suit covers. They lead ordinary lives, and for many of them, O’Malley’s is their social gathering place. They welcome new blood and easily engage in conversation. Succinctly stated, I have always felt welcome here.
As I write this, my mind recalls many of the faces I’ve met here over the years. Many are blurred by the passage of time and names completely escape me. I have a smile on my face as I remember these good times and great people. We humans are meant to be relational; we’re intended to engage one another as we walk through this life together. I’m thankful for O’Malley’s, the people I’ve met there, and the good times I’ve had over the years. Oh, I know. It’s not O’Malley’s any longer; it’s Ocean Pub 101. They can call it what they like. I’ll be back.