Monday, March 4, 2013

Key West, Florida

Odometer 29330 miles
Trip meter 0

Today the weather was forecast to be sunny but not terribly warm.  The high today would be 67 with a cool breeze that encouraged us to keep our windbreakers with us.  This was the perfect day for us to drive down the Overseas Highway to Key West, the southernmost point  in the continental US.  This is an exciting day for us, because we have been dreaming about this day since we started planning our retirement trip from Oregon.  This is the closest to a tropical city as you can get in the US (I know its still sub-tropical).  The trip is only 30 miles south from our RV park on Ohio Key, and the traffic was light and the scenery was excellent- blue water bays and stunning houses and yachts!

Key West is larger than we had thought it would be, both by land mass, and population.  The town is home to 26,600 full time residents on about 5.9 square miles of land.  Key West is also home to a US Naval Air Station, and to the Truman Annex, a former submarine base, closed in 1974 with the advent of larger nuclear subs which no longer could use the facility.  The Truman Annex was named for President Truman who loved to vacation in Florida (residing at the Annex)  and called it his winter White House.

The two iconic streets of Key West are Duval Street and Whitehead Street.  Duval Street is lined with tourist shops, restaurants, jewelry stores, and bars- lots of bars.
Whitehead is a more residential street, and it is the location of Ernest Hemingway's former house. Hemingway lived here from 1931 to 1939, while he wrote "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"  and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber".  We took a look at the Hemingway house but did not brave the lines to get in and look around inside.

Directly across from the former Hemingway residence is the Key West Lighthouse standing 100 feet tall and sporting a third order Fresnel lens.

  This lighthouse was built in 1849, three years after the former lighthouse was destroyed in the hurricane of 1846. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 and now belongs to Monroe County.

Walking is the best way to see the old downtown area, so we had parked the car and plugged the meter before setting off to explore on foot.  After a couple hours of walking we had worked up an  appetite.  When we saw the sunny Roof Top Cafe on Front street we climbed on up for a great lunch special of conch fritters, black bean soup, and a Cuban sandwich- along with two frozen margaritas- Yeah! that's lunch.

Key West is a stopover for several cruise lines including these two monsters. The downtown population grows immensely when multiple ships are in port.

The ships can tie up here in Key West at the docks that were made deep enough at one time for the navy fleet that was stationed here. At the very end of Whitehead Street is a maker indicating the southernmost point of land in the continental US

There was a line of folks waiting to have their pictures taken in front of the marker!
Here is one last photo to leave with you. I We love that it shows that nature can reclaim anything. Beautiful and tough at the same time.

Jeff and Joan

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