Tuesday, October 21, 2008
19/20 Oct – Florida Keys
The further south you go on the Keys the more the environment starts to remind you of the Pacific. The palms, the flowering trees, the gentle breeze off a turquoise sea, the smell of salt spray and of course the heat and humidity. It's kind of like being able to drive to Fiji – the only thing missing is the smell of Fiji and the smiling brown faces. Key West is the town of Ernest Hemmingway and there is a tour of the writers former home and drinking establishments. It was also the preferred town of President Harry S. Truman but they are quiet on his drinking holes. The old town centre is well preserved thanks to some community endeavour and is currently eagerly awaiting the invasion that will come from Fantasy Festival this weekend. Fantasy Festival is a strictly adults only affair I am told. Being a week early, I have had to make do with cut-outs of pirates. Key West is also a very small place (about a mile by a mile and a half) and everywhere you look there is endless sea. Cuba is 90 miles away and is also another influence on this island. This morning it is eggs and bacon on Cuban bread with a cup of Cuban coffee at Anna's Cuban Cafe. Now that the past industries of plundering wreaked ships (referred to locally as “wreaking”), sponge harvesting and tobacco (the cigar industry was wiped out by a hurricane) all there is left is tourism. Some of the past glory can still be found. Tonight I am staying in Islamorada at a classic 50's/60's motel painted flamingo pink and azure. The rooms are large with panoramic windows looking out onto a pool with loungers in a centre courtyard. This has been a fine place - once. Sadly it now lacks customers and maintenance. Shades of Route 66 – nostalgia seems to be the domain of old farts wanting life to slow down and it does not appear to pay.
Key West is as far south as I can go and it stands in stark contrast to Alaska's Dead Horse with its freezing temperatures, mist and the Arctic Ocean where I was in Jun. I've now been to the most northern and most southern points of the USA. Sadly I've not joined the dots in the middle. Like academics who always recommend more research, I can see a need for more travel.
My GPS tells me I have 3,800 km back to Arizona.