Today, we drove through the Florida Keys to Key West. On the map, it looks like a short drive from Allan and Jane’s home, but actually, it’s around 170 miles – a good drive. It was our first time here and we didn’t really have much idea of what to expect but looked forward to some stunning seascapes and wide, open spaces. To me, Key West conjured up images of Ernest Hemingway and of fishing, particularly from those boats with high chairs on them. How accurate these mental pictures were, I had no idea, but I was about to find out.
We woke to bright sunshine this morning but the scene through the window was a little misleading because there was a stiff and rather chilly breeze. Not that it worried us in the comfortable car though. Having driven through the lengthy Miami suburbs and the southern tip of mainland Florida, the road narrowed to just two lanes, then one single lane in each direction and I looked for the water. Actually, all I could see at this stage was the concrete central reservation, painted a swimming pool blue which was very much in keeping with the palette of the landscape.
Shortly afterwards, though, the road rose high enough for me to see over the barrier and sure enough, there was the water and one or two – or rather more - mangrove swamps.
Realising that I had no real concept of where we were in relation to anywhere else, we stopped at the Visitors Centre and I took a photograph of this beautifully clear map. There was quite some way still to go.
We made a couple of stops so that I could hop out and take a photo here and there. We were following highway number 1 – well, of course we were, because there wasn’t any other. This was it.
In places it was easy to see how shallow the water is around here, in fact in places the sandbanks were plainly visible above the water level.
The road was well maintained and in a few places, fairly traffic free, though in others we were in a single lane convoy, all travelling together with one destination in mind,
The remains of the Florida East Coast Railway, built in the 1920s but destroyed by a hurricane in 1936, appeared alongside the road. Quite an amazing undertaking to try to build a railway in this place, don’t you think?
We just kept on driving, occasionally spotting rather interesting features ahead, for example the Seven Mile Bridge.
The view from the top was rather interesting, with the remains of the railway and the electricity supply running alongside the elevated road.
It was the mid afternoon when we finally arrived in Key West, then. Allan had booked us rooms at the Westin hotel, right on the waterfront and we were lucky to have the most marvellous view from our balcony. The yacht “Outta Here” parked right outside our window, was too big to fit in the photograph and was creating quite a stir down there on the quayside. For now, though, it was time to catch our breath, to close the window and to set out and see what’s what in the town which had taken so long to reach.
I’ll share some of the curiosities we encountered in the next post so you can get a flavour of this very individual place. For now, though, it’s time for bed.
Goodnight from Mile 0 on Highway 1!