We Drive to Key West and Back
March 15, 2009
Miami, FL, Thompson Memorial Park, Pod 6, Site 4 — 14 days
Sunday, March 15, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 10 Months
Thursday, March 12.  We drive to Key West — and back.
We stop for breakfast at Mrs. Mac's Kitchen.

We stop for breakfast at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen.

Today we decided to make the big effort to drive a long ways to see as much as possible of the keys — Key Largo and points south towards Key West.  I don’t want to leave Miami without seeing something of the famous causeways stretched across the ocean between the long, narrow string of islands.  Also we want to scout for possible RV parks that work for us.  Next time we could drive down on the bus and stay for awhile.

This time we got on the toll road to head south towards Homestead where it merges into FL-5 & US- 1 in Florida City and then passes south along the eastern edge of the Southern Glades Wildlife & Environmental Area. It took us 48 minutes to arrive in Key Largo at Mile Marker 105.  Here we stopped at the very helpful Visitor’s Center.

By 10:20 am we were five miles down the road by a marina at Laguna Beach and seated in Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for breakfast.  Owned and operated by the Wittke sisters, this restaurant is a long time landmark in Key Largo.  Casual and crowded, the atmosphere reminded me of Alice’s Restaurant up on Woodside Rd and Skyline Blvd. in Woodside, CA at the La Honda Crossroads. http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/

The mile marker number describes locations on the keys.  On Key Largo, Mile Markers start at 106 on the north and end at 91 in the south.  Bearing the name of the 1948 Humphrey Bogart movie, Key Largo is called the Diving Capital of the World.  It is most famous for its beautiful offshore reef, found in John Pennekamp Park and the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. We left Mrs. Mac’s at 11:20 and  admired the lovely blue-green hues of Key Largo’s waters as we passed through the towns of Tavernler and Plantation Key and started over a series of narrow island strips called Islamorada.

Is that Conch Island?

Is that Conch Island?

We passed Windley Key and Upper Matecumbe Key and then stopped at noon by the Teatable Key Channel, MM 80, to look at the water.  Heading south on the causeway we saw the two tiny islands of Indian and Lignumvitae Keys and then passed onto the Lower Matecumbe Key.

On Islamorada, Mile Markers start at 90 in the north and end at 65.  Islamorada, or “the Purple Isles” was named by Spanish explorers centuries ago.  The area is known for world-class sport fishing.  We passed Anne’s Beach and started on another long causeway to Marathon, passing the tiny islands of Conch and Duck Keys and crossing Tom’s Harbor bridges along the way.

At 12:40 pm near Grassy Key we stopped at a Big K/Shell station for fuel.  We had a 75° partly cloudy, breezy day for our drive.

On Marathon, Mile Markers start at 64 in the north and end at 43.  Marathon is known as the “Heart of the Keys” because it’s the midpoint of the island chain.  The town’s roots go back to a fishing village and it has evolved into a quiet family vacation place.

At 1:00 pm, we continued south past Crawl Key and Key Colony Beach, Vaca Key, Boot Key and Knight’s Key to MM 45 where we entered the Seven Mile Bridge to Lower Keys.

Detail of Lower Keys

Detail of Lower Keys

On the Lower Keys, Mile Markers start at 36 in the north and end at 5.  Seven Mile Bridge ends with a series of bridges over small round islands.  From Little Duck Key & Beach, we crossed on the Missouri-Little Duck Bridge to Missouri Key and then crossed the Ohio-Missouri Bridge to Ohio Key where we stopped to see an RV park at MM 39.

We went into the office and drove all around Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina to get some idea of what you can expect of RV parks in the keys and the price ranges.  Ohio Key is bisected by US-1 and Sunshine Key on the Bayside is, in effect a 72-acre peninsula that takes up all of that side of the island.  For an RV site, we were astounded to discover that they are charging upwards of $1,800 per month, depending on the season.

I was not impressed because at that particular time and place there was a wide strip of mud exposed between land and water on much of Marathon and the other keys.  It had the rank, gassy smell of rotting vegetation, the sort of smell you find in marshy areas.  It was very strong in the sites at Sunshine Key RV Park.

We crossed the Ohio-Bahia Honda Bridge and stopped at the Bahia Honda State Park.  However, we couldn’t enter without paying the $6 fee.  It wasn’t worth it because we didn’t have time to stay so we missed seeing this RV Park.  Prices aren’t listed on their brochure.

“In for a penny, in for a pound.”  It was 1:30 pm and we were 35 miles from Key West so we decided to make it to the end.  We passed the Keys of Big Pine, Cudjoe, Saddlebunch, Big Coppit, and Boca Chica Key and at Stock Island we wound our way down the last five miles to Key West.

A Key West Victorian B & B.

A Key West Victorian B & B.

In the Lower Keys, Mile Markers start at 36 in the north and go to 5.  Anchored by Big Pine Key, the Lower Keys are the largest and least developed in the island chain. Famous for Key Deer and an abundance of other wildlife, the Lower Keys are sought by those who truly want to get away from it all. The trek through the Lower Keys is a sedate preface to the busy clamor ahead in Key West.

By the time we turned around on Eaton St. and Truman Ave. it was 2:45 pm and we had 142 miles ahead of us to return to the bus.  No time to stop and look around but we got the general idea and I’m glad we got a fast survey of all the keys.  We made it back to the bus by 6:10 pm.  Our poor Cotons had been alone for nine hours.  They were fine and had held their water so they were good little dogs.  If we’d known that we would not be leaving the car but driving all day, we could have taken them with us.

Saturday, March 14.  We see the film, “Revolutionary Road” and discover Cocowalk.
Yesterday we did a big grocery shopping but otherwise we staid “at home” and rested.

Today we drove back to Coconut Grove and found AMC Theaters Cocowalk 16 where we saw a mid afternoon showing of “Revolutionary Road”.  I read the book and I was very anxious to see how the characters were portrayed.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a wonderful film.

AMC Theatres Cocowalk 16 is located in this mall.

AMC Theatres Cocowalk 16 is located in this mall.

Cocowalk turned out to be a three-story outdoor mall that offered stores and restaurants as well as the theater.  It was a lovely, warm early evening and we enjoyed walking around the patio and the two decks above looking at the people and all the sights.  We finally settled on a little outdoor bar that served delicious quesadillas.  It was great fun to enjoy good food and participate in the lively, colorful ambience.  I loved it.

Sunday, March 15.  I plan our summer, eastern seaboard itinerary. 
Today I walked the dogs and then I sat outside in the shade.  I got my Reader’s Digest book, “The Most Scenic Drives in America; 120 Spectacular Road Trips” and spent hours making an itinerary for the rest of the summer on the east coast.  There are so many beautiful places to see.

So far I’ve got Cumberland Island and the other islands on the coastline of Georgia to Savannah.  We will see Hilton Head Island and move up the South Carolina coastline to Charleston.  We will stay at Huntington Beach State Park to visit friends and then move up past Myrtle Beach to Jacksonville.  We will see Cape Lookout National Seashore and up the North Carolina coastline to the Outer Banks Highway and Cape Hatteras.

In Richmond, VA I have the James River Plantations planned for Virginia Historic Garden Week at April 19th to the 25th.  After seeing Williamsburg, we will go over to Cape Charles and up the cape to see the Assateague National Island Seashore.   In early May we will spend a week in Washington DC.

After that we will move to the mountains to take Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and then continue south on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Appalachians and the Carolina countryside to Nantahala National Forest, the Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee Foothills in the southern Appalachians at the Georgia border.

From the mountains we must quickly retrace our path north to see the Brandywine Valley with the Dupont mansions and the Wyeth art museum near Wilmington, DE.  This puts us near Philadelphia during fourth of July week so perhaps we can be near the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the Concert and Fireworks.

There is a mango grove by the office and the pool.

There is a mango grove by the office and the pool.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten but I think our summer sightseeing tours will be fantastic.  We’ve never seen any of these places.  I hope it works well for us in terms of roads and finding RV parks, etc.  I love planning stuff like this and I had a good time with my maps.  When I get a chance I will type it and make improvements.  If you have suggestions, please let me know.

I saw my wild dog at the fence so I got a pizzle stick and went to meet him. Much to my surprise I met two dogs. One is smaller and is subordinate to the larger dog.

Tomorrow we will begin to drive north to visit my brother and sister-in-law in St. Augustine, FL. On our way, I thought we might stop near Okeechobee Lake to get a better look at it. It’s very big.

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