Tired of reading about the plight of the poor old man with his sunburned feet? Ready to get in the truck, hit the road and see something down here in South Florida? OK, let’s go.
Today, was going down to ‘The Keys’ day. From Florida City down to Key West and back on U.S. 1, the one and only road you can take (there is a secondary route to Key Largo). Nothing in depth, just wanted to do a little reconnaissance. After doctoring up the foot for the day and easing into the slippers, I Left the park at exactly 10:05 am (early for me). It looked to be a good day for sightseeing. Warm and humid meant putting the A/C on in the truck. Even though the sun, heat, and humidity are nice, you can sometimes get too much of a good thing and need a break, today, I needed a break.
Made it to U.S. 1 in Florida City by 11:00 am and immediately, bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic, not a good way to start. There were a number of police cars in the area so I thought ok, maybe something happened causing this backup and as we get going, it will break up. Getting clear of the squad cars and the traffic didn’t break it up, it stayed bumper to bumper, stop and go, halfway to Key Largo.
Maybe because It’s Saturday that’s why it’s so busy I reasoned, and if that was the case and this was going to be the norm all the way down to Key West, I didn’t want to continue. I was disappointed but resigned, thinking oh well, maybe I can spend the day checking out Miami. To continue, would have made for a lousy memory. I didn’t want it to be of fighting traffic for three hours in each direction, not being able to look around, take photos, etc. I’d just be watching the traffic ahead of me the entire way.
The only thing that persuaded me to go as far as Key Largo before turning around, there was no place to turn around on U.S. 1. The sides of the road had chain link fence and the median was a never-ending strip of concrete. (I liked how it was painted a pastel blue). There were no roads intersecting, no off ramps, no nothing.
Made in into Key Largo and stopped for gas. I paid $2.45 per gallon, not less than three months ago it was under $2.00. Why is it continuing to go up? Because the bastard speculators can get away with it that’s why, and nobody (as a group) says anything. Shrug our shoulders and crumble, what can we do about it anyway, greedy SOB’s.
I also found out what was causing all the traffic tie-up. It seems some sort of bicycle rally was going on. A whole lot of ‘Tour de France,’ ’Breaking Away’ wannabes (that’s not nice) were out sharing the road with weekend automobile traffic. I shouldn’t say anything negative, they were out there riding hard and enjoying themselves, and isn’t that what it should be about.
I decided to take a secondary road back to Florida City, maybe I should have taken it when I left for the keys, and I might have missed all the traffic. It was a nice, but nondescript ride.
One thing I did notice (other than a whole lot of bikers) was traffic was much quieter and free rolling, no delays, no nothing. Made it to the end of the road which was the entrance to what seemed to be a very private, very exclusive club and turned around. I could have taken the secondary road and headed back to the mainland, but something propelled me to continue straight, back into Key Largo.
Back in Key Largo, I thought, I’m going to go a little further south and see how things are moving, and made a left turn onto U.S. 1, fingers crossed that things would move along smoother. Driving across the key (island) I did notice that while still busy, traffic had become much more manageable. I was able to look around without running into the back of anyone, and even able to put the cruise control on from time to time when speeds allowed it. I decided to carry on down to Key West.
One observation from the time spent in this area, by far, the majority of the convertibles you see are Ford Mustangs, with Chevrolet Camaros a distant second.
Most of the Keys (islands) the highway slices through are fully developed and have a look suggesting that their heyday was from another era (like the motels in Florida City). Absent were the ‘new and improved’ communities and high-rise condos along the beach. Many of the buildings had a 1950s, 1960s look and feel to them. You could still find a “Mom and Pop” motel along the beach to stay, and the restaurants tended to be locally owned, rather than some cookie cutter corporate iteration (there’s still no shortage of McDonald’s). There were places where you could go arrange to go diving and/or fishing inter spaced alongside places fixing mufflers and managing pain. There was not much in the way of what I would call, tourist traps. It looks like (to me) its had its fifteen minutes of fame and has now settled down to the task of day to day life. It seems to coexist with tourism, rather than having been consumed, or grown dependent by it. It’s little disheveled, and maybe, even a little shabby in parts. It felt like someplace where the average man/woman/family could still afford to live (and want to).
Rolling down U.S. 1, watched the water turned from a sky blue to turquoise the farther south the road went, playing off so well as the backdrop to the pastel hued, distinctly simple homes along the way. The water was busy with boats of all shapes and sizes, and people fishing off the piers running alongside the highway. it was a beautiful, low wind, calm day. There is a vibe to the area, and it’s one of a tropical flavor, laid back and lived in. One could easily lose themselves and become a beachcomber if that’s what they wanted.
The drive down/back to Key West was about three hours each way which didn’t leave me a lot of time to get off the main road and explore around the various Keys. Since I’d been to Key West a couple of times before and time was at a premium, I passed on spending any time on the island this day (it’s worth spending the day there). One stop I would have liked to have made was on Big Pine Key. The island is known for its tiny deer. I saw a lot of signs warning drivers to look out for them but didn’t get to see any in person.
What I was able to do in my excursion was to get a glimpse of what the area offered. I’d like to come back, stay in one of the old-style motels on the beach, and spend about a week just exploring the islands in depth, now that would be a vacation!
The ride back was nice but uneventful. Coming back into Key Largo (The name sounds cooler than the town actually is) I decided to veer off the highway and take the secondary road back to the mainland. I’m glad that I had passed on taking it earlier. It turned out to be a toll road that I didn’t know about until I got to the point where a photo is taken of your license and the bill ($1.50) is sent to you. Continued on and kind of a cool road. Mangrove growth along both sides of the road and literally, nothing else.
Another 45 minutes through the Everglades and I was home for the night. My legs and feet were about twice their normal size, but made it through the day, and a nice day it was.