Sunday, March 3, 2013

Exploring the Keys

Odometer 29330 miles
Trip Meter 0

I wanted to share a few pictures of the Sunshine Key RV Park where we are going to be staying for the next month.  The park is located on Ohio Key.   In the chain of islands heading out towards Key West, Ohio key is about 2/3 of the way from the mainland to Key West.  Ohio Key is bisected by Florida's Route 1 otherwise known as the Overseas Highway.  The RV park occupies all the land on the Gulf side of the island, and the Atlantic side of the island has been left all wild and natural.

The RV park has it's own marina, which makes sense when you think we are surrounded by water on all sides.

Having all this warm, clear water all around me is giving me boat envy!  I love to row and paddle, and I supremely wish I had a kayak or inflatable, like so many others here in the park have.  
The weather today is improving.  The last two days have been cool and we have had clouds and rain showers on and off which kept me mostly out of the water.  In Fort Myers, we had crowded beaches and red tides- here we have neither and I am champing at the snorkel to get wet again!

The islands in the keys are sometimes very close to one another, however there are a couple stretches that are a more formidable distance and the water tends to get deeper.  The very first form of ground transportation to, and through, the Keys was the railroad which completed in 1912, and hailed as a great engineering feat.  Most of the inter-island bridges were poured concrete arches like the ones in the picture below.

This bridge type could only be used in relatively shallow waters and proved perfect for most of the passages.  This design is very hardy and the spans have weathered many hurricanes since they were installed.  Unfortunately the rail beds were not as sturdy and were damaged by each successive hurricane.  A massive hurricane in 1935 began the death knell for the railroad.  A decision had to be made- would the highway or the railroad get priority funding- the highway won out.  In some areas the railroad bridge survived intact where the road bridge did not- so the obvious short term solution was to use the RR bridge and adapt it to cars.  The section of rail bridge from Bahia-Honda to Spanish Harbor Key crossed  a particularly deep section of water, averaging about 24 feet deep, and required a different type of construction.  This bridge was built with steel trusses.

The engineers had to think out of the box on this conversion.  The trusses were too narrow inside for a two lane road, so they decided to ramp the road up and built the bridge deck on top of the steel trusses leaving the railroad tracks in place.

This photo shows how part of the rail deck was removed to make room for the ramp section to get the road to the top of the bridge trusses.  This work-a-round stayed in place until the new road bridge was funded and built in 1972.  Each world war helped to spur improvements to the Keys highway system, as the Navy needed access to their essential  naval ship and submarine yards in Key West.

Some of the parallel spans of RR bridge that were not used for road bed, were eventually re-purposed as walking/ fishing bridges, after removing the railbed and installing guardrails.

This part of the keys is home to the endangered Key deer, and we were really keen on seeing a few of the 400 to 800 that now roam these islands.  We saw one doe on a side road, but before we could get the camera out, she had melted into the shrubs.  Turns out we needn't have worried- we spotted this buck that was more than happy to pose for us in the Winn-Dixie parking lot, on Big Pine Key.

 This diminutive species of deer average only 26 to 30 inches tall, and exist nowhere else in the world.

One of the other animals we saw cruising around town were feral chickens!  Lots of them, and they are protected by local law.  They are very colorful and look like the Bantams we used to have as kids in Montana.

We are having a blast exploring around in this beautiful and relaxing place.

Joan snapped this photo tonight as the sun was setting on this cool and windy day.

Jeff and Joan

No comments:

Post a Comment