Week Nine - Road Trip and Reconnections

November 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hello everyone!  What an exciting week!!!  This week we hoisted our sails, turned our ship (car) south and headed down to Key West,  a road trip we had been wanting to do for years. We decided to spend one night in Miami so we could get an early start on the Overseas Highway (Hwy 1) and take our time stopping in couple of areas we had wanted to visit.  Miami was busy, crowded, and loud - Everything I had expected it to be.  We did NOT explore the "Art Deco District" nor did we go to "South Beach".  We were here to kick back and rest up for the drive to Key West.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami which was downtown near the cruise ship terminal.  It was also right across the street from the Bayside Marketplace, a touristy outdoor shopping mall with a Hard Rock Cafe and some good views of the city. 

Downtown Miami Posing at Bayside Park

Bayside MarketplacePart of the crowd at Bayside Marketplace Hard Rock CafeMy obligatory Hurricane and Hard Rock glass to add to my collection. Miami EveningDowntown Miami at dusk. Used a long exposure and my "Gorilla Pod"

Starting fresh the next morning, we checked out of the hotel and began our trek through the Florida Keys.  Our first stop was in the city of Homestead where we found the Coral Castle. This little museum contains the works of Ed Leedskalnin who constructed the castle (containing many stone walls weighing in excess of three tons) by himself.  This place was inexpensive and interesting.

Coral Castle EntranceEntrance to the Coral Castle and NO it wasn't just 10 cents. More like $15

Coral Castle Tour GuideThe tour of the Coral Castle is guided and lasts about 45 min.

Coral Castle SculpturesThe tall one with the hole near the top was his "telescope"

Theresa and EdTheresa is the same height as Ed Leedskalnin

Next we began our 100+ mile journey down the Overseas Highway (U.S. Hwy 1) to Key West. We stopped at a couple of scenic spots along the way including the Seven Mile Bridge and yes, I tripped it out (like a nerd) and it is indeed seven miles long.

Our First StopThe first scenic spot we stopped at on the Overseas Hwy.

Seven Mile BridgeSmall park on the side of the road before crossing the Seven Mile Bridge Seven Mile Pedestrian BridgeThis is the old bridge that runs along side the new seven mile bridge. This one is open to pedestrian traffic, but due to a break at the mid span, you cannot walk the entire seven miles Old Bridge

We were told that we need to stop and find a "Key Deer" and while we were at it, stop in the No Name Pub. So we made a lunch stop on Big Pine Key which is home to the National Key Deer Refuge and the No Name Pub.  The Key Deer are small versions of White Tail Deer and are unique to the Keys.  Full grown, they are only around three feet tall.  The No Name Pub is a bar/grill that is tucked off the beaten path and has been popularized by various food and travel programs for the food and all the dollar bills attached by patrons (us included) to the walls and ceiling. We had lunch at the pub and figured we would set out and do a brief search for a deer.  The bar tender told us that the deer liked cooler temperatures and our best luck would be early morning or dusk, so we figured it was a slim chance we'd find one.  We were in the car in the parking lot and I was just about to put the car in reverse, so I checked my rear view mirror and as if on queue, there was a deer!  A little over three foot tall buck, grazing on some leaves right there in the parking lot!  Mission accomplished.

No Name Pub BarDue to the crowd, we sat at the bar at the No Name Pub No Name SignLots of dollar bills in this place

Leaving Our MarkAll you have to do is ask, and a member of the staff will hand you a basket of markers and a staple gun

Theresa and the DeerThe Key Deer we found roaming the parking lot. This one is full grown

Next was the final leg, Key West!  We stayed at the La Concha Hotel which was right in the heart of Duvall Street (the main drag in Key West). After checking in, we headed straight down to Mallory Square to experience the "Sunset Celebration".  This consisted mainly of local street performers juggling and tight rope walking for tips along with locals selling wares and food from booths.  Of course there was the sunset as well, but there was a lot of boat traffic and it was pretty hot since there was no shade.  The views were still spectacular and it was fun.

Sunset CelebrationLocal performer tossing knives for the sunset celebration

Sunset Tall ShipA nice warm sunset silhouetting a ship on a sunset cruise The next morning we set out to see some of Key Wests popular sights.  We started with the Key West lighthouse since it was on our way to the "Southern Most Point".  I love lighthouses and was truly disappointed when we were told the lighthouse itself was closed for renovation!! Bummer!  I did get some nice shots of the exterior and I guess this gives me reason to return?

Key West LighthouseThe Key West lighthouse that is closed for renovations till sometime next year

At the end of the road (Whitehead St) sits the "Southernmost Point" marker.  This marks the southernmost point of the continental U.S. (The actual southernmost point of all the U.S. is Ka Lae in Hawaii on The Big Island).  Its actually the southernmost publicly accessible point because there is a spot a bit further south, but it sits inside of the navy base.  Nuff said.

MarkerSouthernmost marker. Was much more crowded than this leads you to believe

There was actually a line formed along the sidewalk to take your picture with the marker. We opted to forego this and took shots of the marker itself since theres no need to be in the shot (It's obvious we were there, we took the picture!!).  There were also locals there selling trinkets and coconuts for you to drink out of.  We decided to share one and it was, well.... A coconut.

Queue UpPart of the line of tourists waiting to take their photo with the southernmost marker CoconutTheresa holding her coconut. She was upset they didn't crack it open so she could eat the flesh of the coconut

Right around the corner from our hotel is the beginning/end of U.S. highway one.  Hwy. one runs along the east coast of the U.S. from here (Key West) up to Calais Maine.  Its popular to snap a photo of "Mile Marker One" and I must oblige.

 

Mile 0Mile marker 0 marking the end of U.S. 1 south. Of course a crossed the street is marker 0 marking the beginning of U.S. 1 north

The highlight of our trip came on the last day.  We booked a flight on Key West Seaplane Adventures to the Dry Tortugas National Park to spend the afternoon at Fort Jefferson.  The trip included the round trip flight, a cooler of bottled water, and snorkel gear.  The flight is only thirty minutes (versus a three hour boat ride), everyone gets a window seat, and the pilot points out various points of interest on the way.  We got some spectacular views and the experience itself was amazing.

Adventure BeginsChecking in at Key West International Airport Seaplane PilotAt the controls taking us to the Dry Tortugas On Our WayOne of the many keys we pass on our way to Dry Tortugas SightseeingEveryone gets a window seat. We were able to see many sea turtles swimming along the way ArrivalUnloading after our arrival Fort JeffersonSign marking the entrance to the fort ​If you ever plan on going to the Keys, we highly recommend planning a day for the Dry Tortugas!

Arriving At The FortGetting ready to land at this remote location Moat Around the FortThis wall goes around the entire fort creating a moat, but mostly to block the surf from the walls DepartureAfter a fun afternoon of snorkeling and exploring, we head back to Key West Loggerhead LighthouseLoggerhead key is about three miles from Fort Jefferson and home to the Loggerhead Key Lighthouse

This marked the end to a great road trip.  The next morning we gassed up and made the seven hour drive home.  All the photos from our Key West adventure are in my Key West Gallery

We wrapped up the week with another reconnection with two of my classmates from grade school whom I haven't seen since... well.... grade school!  We met up at Disney Springs and even though our time together was brief, it was nice to see them again and to know they are doing well.

NLS AlumniA quick snapshot from our brief meet up. great to see Amy and Rachel again.

What an amazing week!  We got to see some amazing places, fly in a seaplane to remote islands, and actually pet a member of an endangered species all without leaving the state!  Lovin this Florida lifestyle!!

-Tom

If you have any questions about some of these places or want more detailed info on our Key West trip, leave a comment/question below and I'll smuggle you the essentials

 


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