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Key West

A Great Place To Start A Trip

This Is Where I Actually Began My Trip

Haley and Cooper

Every trip has to begin somewhere. Mine began with a vacation in Clermont, FL, not Key West. These two cuties are my grandchildren Cooper and Haley. We had just gotten back from the lake and gotten them ready for bed when they wanted to go for a ride. This is probably the stillest they were for the whole vacation.

This was also the place where I set my book, The Jillian Factor. The walkway on the right goes to the duplex where we stayed. It was big enough to sleep 10 people…we had eight.

Sunset through the Cypress trees.

This is a picture from the dock at the lake. We same in the area before the trees. There were multiple boats and jet skis everyone used. I loved the cypress trees but they do turn the water a red-brown color, so don’t wear that white swimsuit to swim here.

Key West

This was the official beginning. I love the quirky city which is old and new all at the same time. Getting there is half the fun as you go through all the famous keys like Key Largo and Islamorada. But before the keys, there is Card Sound Road and Alabama Jack’s found in the middle of Downtown Card Sound.  Actually, it’s the only business there. The open bar is a favorite destination for anyone who like the water, conch fritters and country music. You will find it packed with cars, trucks and motorcycles every weekend.

Alabama Jacks

No, it doesn’t look like much, but you can sit and look at the mangrove swamp where the boats come in to stop and eat and have a few.

After a meal of conch fritters and a rest from the steam bath which is Florida, I headed south again through the keys. Along the way, you go across the Seven Mile Bridge. Off to the right will be an island with part of the old road going out from it. That is where they were filming True Lies and I got to see part of the helicopter scene on one of my trips to Key West. It was on the road on the right in this picture.

The  7 mile bridge

The Buoy

While in Key West, you have to visit the buoy marking the southern most point in the USA. The money is George. He was made by my daughter and has been on every major trip I’ve gone on, including to England, France, Italy, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Key West

Zero miles, formal start of trip

This was the main reason I went there. My plan was to follow US 1 to the end in Maine. I had to get the beginning of the road which goes up the east coast.

Fire Juggler

Mallory Square

You can’t go to Key West without a trip to Mallory Square. The weekends are best as that is when all the performers are around. Each time you go, there are different performers. This time, there was this guy who juggled fire, a bagpiper, a man who swallowed swords, and dancers. But that isn’t the real reason you go to Mallory Square.

Sun has set Mallory Square

This is the real reason. The sunsets off the Island are consistently beautiful. You can go out on a schooner so you are able to see the sunset without the spit of land in the way, but I like the land. You can see the palm trees, the colors on the bay and the beautiful contrast between the dark land and the sky and water. Unless it’s raining, I’ve never been there when they haven’t had a lovely sunset.

Time to Leave.

I spent three days in the Keys before heading back north. One night was Mallory Square, the other evening was visiting my favorite bars along the Duval Street strip starting at Captain Tony’s. Each place is unique with different music and people. Sloppy Joe’s is family oriented, while Killigan’s is off color and caters to the young adults. Then there is Margaritaviille where I actually got to see Jimmy Buffet while staying there on a previous trip. If you like dancing, there is the Blue Parrot. If you go further down Duval street you can find various shows. Scattered across the Island are all sorts of restaurants and stores.

Just a word of warning, if you go during any of the festivals, have a reservation, and plan on walking or using the pedicabs since they do block off Duval Street for most of the festivities. It is a place where you need to let your inhibitions go and just enjoy the place. If you are off Duval, you can relaxing in the old city, take a tour on the conch train or a glass bottom boat out to the reefs. Then there are all the museums and art galleries there. Wyland has two with a lot of nautical, tropical themed paintings and sculpture, but don’t pass up the smaller places as they have cheaper are, some of which are a lot of fun.

Facts about Key West

Fun Facts about Key West

Key West is a coral archipelago. It is only 3.977 miles long and is the southern most of the islands. There are 1700+ islands. Most are uninhabitable they are so small. It also is home to the longest coral reef which is 160 miles long.

To get to Key West, you travel the Overseas Highway which was built on the Overseas Railroad bed in 1938. The railroad was abandoned after the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane which destroyed the bridges and the train, leaving 500+ people dead in its wake. The road is 113 miles long, starting in Homestead.

Key West was originally Cayo Hueso which is Spanish for Island of Bones. The Calusa and Tequesta Indians used the island as a graveyard, so it was filled with bones, not the fountain of youth Ponce de Leon wanted to find when he landed there.

Famous people and businesses

Most people know Ernest Hemingway lived there, but so did Robert Frost and Tennessee Williams. President Truman, Eisenhower and JFK spent time there in the Little White House. Thomas Edison spent time there in WWI where he perfected 41 weapons in 6 months.

Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was founded in Key West, with its first flight on October 18, 1927 to deliver mail between Cuba and the United States under a contract with the with the United States Postal Service.

The city’s early economy was based on fishing, salvaging shipwrecks, and cigar making. The island attracted Cubans who left Cuba and settled in Key West. It is still where you go to get true Cuban Cigars. In the 1930s , Key West had the highest per capita income in the US.

Throughout its history Key West has been a center of military activity. It played an important role in the Spanish-American War (1898), and a U.S. naval air station has long been nearby at the northern end of the Key.

Bahamians also came there to escape their island country.  They were called conchs (Pronounced Konks) and became the name of the people to lived here. On April 23, 1982, Mayor Dennis Wardlow declared Key West independent of the US in protest of the naval blockade which was hindering tourism. It was renamed the Conch Republic and many still feel it was wrong to rejoin the US. True to the spirit of the Republic, they have their own rules as to life and fun.

The original Key West settlement on the western part of the island is called “Old Town” and includes Mallory Square, Duval Street, the Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor.  Most of the buildings in this area are wood-frame construction and date from 1886 to 1912.

Another thing about the island is how many haunted areas it has. If you go to  https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/key-west/   you can find photos of ghosts. The most haunted spots are the East Martello Museum, the Audubon house and gardens, Marrero’s Guest Mansion and Ft. Zachary Taylor. You can take the ghost tours where they take you to the various places and give you the background for the ghosts who haunt the venues.

There are several ways to see the main areas of the island. One is the Conch train which gives the history as you ride the train through old town. Another is the buses which allow you to get off and on to see the sites. You are able to rent scooters, but make sure you know how to ride them since the roads are narrow and full of traffic. Then last, but not least, it the bike taxis. They stay mostly on Duval street and a few streets on either side, but it is a fun slow way to get around when you don’t want to walk which is the way most people see the sites.

Also, if you go, try out some of the B&Bs on the island. They are in old houses and give you a flavor of  island living. Most are only a block or two off Duval Street. There are a few hotels, but check where they are located prior to booking. They may be on the opposite side of the key from where you want to be.

 

 

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