Key West 12/06

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Road trip to the Conch Republic...

Thursday's sunset from Mallory Square

After an early December business conference on Marco Island, Florida I grabbed the opportunity for a solo two-day road trip. I drove across the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail and then south to Key West on US Route 1 - the Overseas Highway. The weather for the drive down was nearly perfect - 80F with clear blue skies. I'd heard a lot about the drive on US 1 before my trip - too much traffic, make sure to stop along the way to see the sights, something to do just once. I found it both beautiful and rewarding.

Thursday December 7th

My trip began on Marco Island on the southern Gulf Coast of Florida around 9:30AM. I headed directly east to catch 41 east, the Tamiami Trail. The Everglades offered a lot of the same scenery for the 100 miles across toward Miami, but "Alligator Alley" as they call it, was worth seeing at least this once (first picture below). Turning south toward Florida City around 11:30AM the scenery changed from swampland to sandy coastline (second picture below).

 

End of the road: Southernmost point marker

I didn't encounter any traffic to speak of all the way down and the speed limits were mostly 45 and 55mph. The road is not isolated at all, with plenty of gas stations, shops and restaurants along the way. The northeastern Keys seemed to me to have a different flavor than the southwestern ones. In the north, Key Largo is built up to the point that it looks more like a Miami suburb than an island. Stretching south toward Marathon the road had many picturesque spots (third & fourth pictures above). Marathon is a large island with a lot of development. Leaving Marathon the "7 Mile Bridge" (first picture below) defined the changeover to a more laid back tropical island feel characteristic of the southwestern Keys. Nearing Key West I took the advice I had been given ahead of the trip to pull over every so often and look at the sea life visible just below the water surface (second picture below).

I had been to Key West once before in December 1999 and much was the same as I drove in around 2:30PM. I stayed downtown on Duval Street at the historic la Concha Hotel, which was very good. After walking up and down Duval a couple of times to see what was new I grabbed a late lunch at the landmark Sloppy Joe's Bar (third picture above). As sunset approached, I and what seemed like most of the rest of the town walked up to Mallory Square where the sunset festival was in full swing (fourth picture above). Every evening a variety of street performers ply their trade on the square as the cruise ships, light blue Gulf of Mexico water and the sunset itself form their backdrop. The first picture below (which doesn't really do him justice) is of Dominique and his amazing flying housecats. The sunset itself was excellent (second picture below and large picture top left of page). I tried out Duval Street's live music spots through the evening before grabbing a late dinner at the Hog's Breath Saloon and calling it a day.

Friday December 8th

My "walkabout" day began at 10AM when I left the hotel armed with a local map and a good pair of walking shoes. I started at mile marker 0 on Route 1 which was on Whitehead Street right behind my hotel (third picture above). Heading south I passed the Hemingway House and the Key West Lighthouse (fourth picture above) before posing by the "Southernmost Point in the Continental US" marker (large picture top of page right). Turning east I hugged the coast along South and Atlantic Streets to the White Street Fishing Pier where an AIDS Memorial was set into the walkway (first picture below). Rain was threatening and the wind started blowing hard at that point but I kept walking east until I got to Smathers Beach where I turned north to head back into the main part of town. By the time I sat down for a late lunch at Cheeseburger Key West Restaurant I had covered about 8 miles. I spent the rest of the day reading, enjoying live music and bar-hopping Duval Street.

Saturday December 9th

Awaking to another cloudy day (view from my hotel room toward Mallory Square in second picture below) I grabbed a "breakfast of champions" (a Rum Runner and a Sloppy Joe) at Sloppy Joe's Bar when they first opened (third picture below) before heading north on US Route 1 (fourth picture below) to Miami for my return flight to LA.

Home Up Boston 5/01 Grand Canyon 11/05 Hawaii 11/00 Hawaii 2/08 and 3/08 Hawaii Big Island 9/13 Maui & Kauai 12/12 Kauai 10/14 Key West 12/06 Key West 12/09 New York City 12/04 Orlando 12/02 Pacific Northwest 4/02 Philadelphia 8/02 San Francisco 12/05

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