Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Florida Keys Adventure

When we were planning our winter in Florida for this year, we debated whether we would take our 42 foot fifth wheel to the Florida Keys. I did quite a bit of research, and we decided we would not tow it down there. Rather, we would drive down for a few days and stay in a hotel.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we did just that. We left around 8:30 am and expected the trip to Key West to take about 5 hours. We had the choice of taking I-95 or the Florida Turnpike. I didn't want to pay tolls, so we took I-95. That was a mistake. Traffic from Palm Beach through Miami was terrible. We lost about an hour in bumper to bumper traffic. So, we decided to stop in Islamorada for the night and continue to Key West on Wednesday.

We stopped at a visitor center and got some recommendations of things to do. Our first stop was at a wild bird sanctuary where we saw lots of rescued birds. As you can imagine, lots of them were pelicans. This Little Blue Heron was sitting on a rock out in the bay.

Our next stop was Robbie's Marina. The place was crowded, and seemed to be a real tourist trap. They had an area where you could feed bait fish to large tarpon fish in an enclosed area. We each paid $2 just to watch. The tarpon weigh about 200 pounds. Plenty of people were feeding them. The pelicans were quite aggressive trying to get the bait fish from people, even nipping at their legs. An employee was using a stick to try and keep the pelicans at bay.

Here's one of the tarpon grabbing a fish from a guy. We were told the tarpon don't have big teeth, but I wasn't sticking my hand down there.

Our next stop was at a hurricane memorial. On Labor Day in 1935 a severe hurricane hit the Florida Keys. Winds over 200 mph and a barometer reading of 26.35, the lowest ever registered in this hemisphere, did severe damage throughout the Keys and killed about 500 people. The remains of 300 of them are buried at this memorial.

Next we visited the Islamorada Brewing Company where Kevin sampled some local brews. After that, it was check-in time at our hotel.

We had a reservation at the Days Inn in Islamorada using our Wyndham reward points. Our room was right on the ocean. Most places to stay in the Florida Keys are small and privately owned. Not many chain hotels. The Days Inn was clean, but showing its age. Our bed was comfortable and the view was great. The rate would have been $269 for the night, so this was a great use of our reward points. Here's our view.

We got settled and then headed to Lorelei's Beach Restaurant for dinner with a sunset view. This place was recommended by the bartender at the brewery and did not disappoint. Tables are set up in the sand on the beach with a beautiful view. There was even some very good live entertainment. We had a tasty meal, but the setting was the best part.

This interesting boat went by. It is actually for rent. I never expected to see a pink Cadillac driving on the water. Clever name, too.

The sunset was spectacular. I took lots of pictures, but here's one of the best.

These cool mailboxes were in a truck bed in the parking lot. Perfect for a house here.

We had a good sleep, and were up in time to watch a fantastic sunrise in the morning.

We enjoyed a bagel at the free breakfast included in our stay, and drove about two hours to Key West. We had actually been in Key West in 1995 with our kids as a cruise ship stop. One of the reasons I really wanted to drive down, was to experience the Overseas Highway, which is 126 miles long with 42 bridges. I was surprised how much land there was along the way. There are many more keys than I was aware of. The views were beautiful all the way down. The longest bridge is seven miles. Did you know the Spanish called the islands keys, and the name stuck.

We had purchased a City View Trolley Tour in Key West on Groupon. Finding parking for our full size pick-up truck in Old Town Key West was quite a challenge. We finally found a spot for $19 for the day. Most all parking costs a fee. Good thing we got a deal on the trolley tour. Key West is full of tourists and cars, making it quite crowded.

The tour was informative with eight stops to get on and off. Of course, we had to get off at the Southernmost Spot in the United States and stand in line to have our picture taken at the marker.

This is Hemingway's house. We weren't interested enough to pay for the tour, but lots of people were going in. Seems Hemingway was quite a character and made quite a few enemies in his time here.

Across the street is the Key West Lighthouse, which has been here since 1848.

The famous statue of the sailor kissing the nurse was on display in front of the Art Museum. It was just placed here last week. It had been touring around the country. We actually saw the same statue in San Diego seven years ago. It is named Embracing Peace, weighs 15,000 pounds, and was made by Seward Johnson. The original title for the piece was called Unconditional Surrender, but the name was changed for political correctness reasons.

We walked a few blocks to get a picture of mile marker zero on US Hwy. 1. It is the longest north/south highway running over 2,000 miles from Key West to Northern Maine.  Maybe someday we'll have to get a picture of the northern most point. Key West is very much a tourist town, relying on its 3 to 4 million tourists every year to support their economy. It seems fitting there is a shaved ice cart under the mile marker.

One of the stops was along the old wharf area which now has charter boats, jet ski rentals, shops and restaurants. We stopped at the Waterfront Brewery to quench our thirst. Kevin tried some local beers and I had a delicious apple pie hard cider. The outside of the building had a very nice mural painted on it.

We walked to the Truman Little White House which is a building on the decommissioned naval base in Key West. Truman spent over 100 days here during his presidency. Other presidents who have used the house during their term are Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton. It's near the water, but has large buildings behind it, so no water view.

We had dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant called Caroline's on Duval Street, the main tourist street in town. Of course, I had to order key lime pie for dessert.

While in the Keys, we stopped and bought a Sun Pass to use on the Florida Turnpike for our trip back  home We weren't going to deal with that traffic nightmare on I-95 again. The pass was $5, and the total tolls on the way back were $10.35. Well worth it.

We really enjoyed our two day visit to the Florida Keys. We saw quite a few RVs on the highway. We also saw some of the RV parks. We're happy with our decision not to take the fifth wheel down here. The RV parks we saw only had a few sites with water views. Most of the sites were inner rows without views. They also looked very tight with narrow roads. It was a good decision for us to visit in the manner that we did.

We're going to need a few days rest now after our mini vacation.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!