Friday, January 20, 2012

Conch Republic

In the context of the Florida Keys, it’s pronounced ‘Konk’. Apparently, back in 1982 the American authorities took it into their heads to stop and search every vehicle leaving the Keys, just in case someone was importing illegal immigrants or drugs to mainland USA. Seventeen miles of traffic jam on the only road ensued, and residents of the Keys were obliged to carry their passports. Obviously, then, the Florida Keys were being regarded by the US as a separate country, and so independence was declared. Hence the Conch Republic.

There were no such problems when we headed south from Miami. The toll roads in and around Miami have all been converted to SunPass or License Plate recognition only. Either buy a pre-paid smart card, or pay when the bill drops on your doormat in due course. The latter is insidious: a 25c toll plus the $1.50 admin charge is going to mount up. I instructed Clarissa to “Avoid Toll Roads” and this she did, even though we ended up driving through some less salubrious neighbourhoods.

US Route 1 is a single carriageway that threads the length of the Florida Keys. Each island has its own collection of roadside dive shops and boatyards, and bridges connects adjacent islands. Speed limits are low and variable, but that doesn’t matter because it gives tourist motorists plenty of opportunity to take in the views of blue water, small islands and the myriad of people fishing.

The various bridges have been replaced over the years, and most of the old bridges remain in place, which afford plenty of places to toss a fishing line into the oggin. Seven Mile Bridge is exactly as advertised, with another slightly broken version running parallel and slightly to the north.

Having found our hotel on Key West, we checked in and then headed into town to explore. It was clear that New Year’s Eve was going to be pandemonium so, after checking out the jugglers, fire eaters and escapologist, we watched the last sunset of the year, retrieved the car from its expensive parking space and returned to the hotel. The plan was to get washed and changed, take a hotel bus to the northern end of Duval Street, and then commence a Duval Street pub crawl.

The last sunset of 2011

The correct answer to “Whatcha wearing under yer kilt?” appears to be: “Lipstick!” 

Kilted Pirate

The Brazilian restaurant, purveyor of unlimited meat, more or less filled us up, and the beer and G&T filled any spaces.

There’s something of a tradition, dating back to the early days of rail when a big ball was dropped to indicate the precise hour, to have a similar thing happen at the stroke of midnight. A famous one is in New York’s Times Square; in Key West a giant red shoe containing a bloke in a frock (Transvestite? Drag act? Pantomime dame? We never got close enough to tell) drops to the ground. The crowd of people was crushing, and we withdrew before someone got hurt. So we never actually saw the Dropping of the Red Shoe. In fact, our party saw in the new year in a quiet street, greeting the locals who were sitting on their verandas watching the world go by.

Somewhat surprisingly, everything was open on 1st January. Also a pleasant surprise was finding a free car parking space. We visited the Hemingway home and the 44 polydactyl cats that live there, purchased hot sauces from a specialist shop that bans the word ‘T@basco’, ate out, and the ladies purchased shoes.

Polydactyl cat

The Hemingway house

Ernest Hemingway wrote here

Apparently, he used to get up at 6am, write between 300 and 500 words, and then spend the rest of the day fishing. Good work if you can find it. Of course, the correct words help, as does getting them in the right order.

Spider in the garden
This shopper has no need for shoes

It's either a special tool for removing the last olive from the jar, or else a witty response to anyone asking for some Tabasco

Following the New Year celebrations and allowing a day to clear up the mess and return to some semblance of normality, we had a vast breakfast at the hotel and checked out. It occurred to me that the American southern tradition of biscuits and sausage gravy meant that there were scones, or at least scone-like products to eat. Over at the waffle station there were various sweet sauces, syrups and – crucially – strawberries and cream. Yes folks: scones with strawberries and cream for breakfast. Decadent or what?

Instead of simply heading in the generally eastbound direction, we first drove down to Mile Zero for pictures, and then pointed the car up the road at Miami. “Engage!” 

More pictures here.



Mme Cyn said...

Actually, my dear British Goat, US Route 1 goes up and down the eastern seaboard from Key West to the Canadian border in northern Maine. It's about 4000 km of highway that runs along the coast, with a few inland turns here and there. It may be falling apart in places, but US 1 is an adventure in and of itself.

Grumpy Goat said...

I know, I know that US 1 goes beyond Miami! But that was our first stop.

Mme Cyn said...

Oh, OK. I wasn't sure you'd twigged. =)

Anonymous said...

all in all, a most satisfactory road trip diary -- and so tactful about the in-laws. tmil

Mme Cyn said...

tmil -- Beloved Wife may complain about the inlaws, but the GG knows she is fiercely loyal. What is it my brother always said? "Nobody beats up on MY sister but ME!"


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.