Journey to the End of the NEW World!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fiesta Key...Long Key...Conch Key...Duck Key...Grassy Key...Key Vaca...Boot Key...Bahia Honda Key...Spanish Harbor Key...No Name Key...Big Pine Key....Little Torch Key....Ramrod Key...Summerland Key...Cudjoe Key...Sugarloaf Key...Saddle Bunch Key...Boca Chica Key...Dredgers Key...Fleming Key...and FINALLY....KEY WEST! WOW! That was a lot of KEYS to go through to get to Key West. That was just from the campground. I had already gone through...Key Largo...Rodriguez Key...Butternut Key...Tavernier Key...Plantation Key...Windley Key...Upper Matecumbe Key...Lignumvitee Key...and Lower Matecumbe Key to get to the campground. I could start with all the Keys just off the main road....but I won't. I think you all get the picture by now. There are a lot of little "Islands" here.
I have made it to the southernmost spot in the USA. It also happens to be the spot furthest from Calgary that you could drive to in the continental USA (Hawaii doesn't count). From now on I will be slowly making my way closer to home. It's taken me almost 3 months to get here. I still have 5 months to go. So much left to see. Though Texas is about the size of the first dozen States I drove through on the Eastern Seaboard.
I drove to Key West this morning. The first 50 kms I drove through the Keys yesterday were disappointing. The next 100 kms I drove this morning were mostly disappointing. I think to really appreciate the Keys you have to be on a boat...or in an airplane. The drive did dispel my assumption about what I thought the Florida Keys were. I thought there were a bunch of individual islands with a bridge  (a very, very, very long bridge connecting them all). What I found was mostly roadway and narrow land with a lot of water nearby. A lot of the "Islands" are larger than I expected. What I found extremely interesting is that the largest "Island" is the one at the end...Key West. I haven't done any research on how much of the roadway has been created by dumping fill to allow the road to exist. I'm writing (most of) this while I'm still in Fiesta Key and without internet access I can't do any research. Most of the "bridge" parts had a smaller, older "twin" next to it. I found this odd as it didn't seem wide enough   for 2 lanes of traffic (even by '50s standards). Most of this "twinned" part is falling apart and is used as a bike path and fishing pier. My research (later) has confirmed what I believed in that the original connection to Key West was a railroad line. This rail line operated from 1912 to 1935 when a hurricane destroyed a large part of it. The railroad company could not afford the repair costs and so sold the right of ways to the government who then built a roadway. In 1980 a large portion was rebuilt..which explains the "twinning".
I get to Key West and head south towards the beaches. I quickly find the East Martello Museum. I figure that's a good place to start. I have no history on Key West...let's get some. The Martello was built during the Civil war to thwart any southern attacks on the mainland. Key West was a thriving one time being the largest city in the Union. I read about the history of Key West...industry....shipbuilding....sponges....Military connection...Cuban connection...etc. When I walked in the lady at the front desk asked me if I knew about Robert from the Ghost Tours TV show. I had heard of the show in Charleston and Savannah but didn't know anything else. I get to the first hallway and take a picture down it. I read some posters and examine some artefacts. Midway down the hallway I find Robert. Robert the doll...locked inside a glass case. There's a write-up about Robert's history and also there are letters written from past visitors. Robert seems to not like having his picture taken. Behind the display case, on the wall, are quite a few of letters written by past visitors who have made fun of Robert and have also taken his picture (without asking his permission).
Robert is a doll that was given to Gene Otto when he was a child. The history is a little sketchy, but it seems like Gene blamed Robert for everything that went wrong in Gene's life. The two different stories are that either the doll is some kind of voodoo doll or was possessed by a spirit living in the house prior to Gene's family moving in. Either way, Robert is possessed by a spirit that likes to create havoc in people's lives. (He also plays tricks on the museum staff.) Especially those who take his picture. The numerous letters that are displayed are written by people who have had a string of bad luck since taking Robert's photo. I told Robert I wouldn't take his picture but would write about him.
Within the Martello are various local artist displays. One are pieces of "junk" welded in various forms. Check out a few of the pictures.

From the Martello I stopped at the main beach. Then drove and parked by the southernmost spot in the USA. I walked around a while, then came back and had lunch. I drove to the other end of town, parked and walked around some more. I came across St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. I've seen a lot of Churches during my travels. From all denominations. I've taken a lot of pictures of these Churches. I found St. Mary's intriguing by its design.  There were numerous doors down each side that were open to let the air flow through. It gave a new meaning to an "Open Door Policy". The church's design is reminiscent of the Ruskinian or High Victorian Gothic style popular at the turn of the century. Its' character of construction is known as Ugden steel architecture (which is a lost style today). The Church has an interesting history as described on its website. The Church is next to the Convent built by the Sisters of the Holy names of Jesus and Mary in 1875. Between the Convent and the Church is a grotto containing the statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette that was dedicated on May 25, 1922.

  "Sister Louis Gabriel designed this artistic structure, made of natural rock gathered on school grounds. Sister Gabriel had survived three major storms since her arrival in Key West on August 25, 1897, the 11 October 1909 and the 17 October 1910 hurricanes and finally the 12 September 1919 storm. Because of the devastation and heartache she had witnessed as a result of these terrible storms, she had a deep desire to keep Key West and its residents safe from future storms; thus her passion to build the grotto to seek protection from Our Blessed Mother Mary. Tradition tells us that Sister Louis Gabriel is said to have remarked that day, that as long as the grotto stood, "Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane." And as all residents can attest, there has not been a severe storm on the island since the erection of the grotto in 1922."

From the Church I continued meandering around the streets of Key West. I ended up on Duval Street which is the main shopping and entertainment district. I knew it was time to buy another souvenir shirt. In one of the stores I met a young gentleman from Montreal. He's originally from Israel, lived in New York for a while, then the past 12 years in Montreal. He spends his winters in Key West working to avoid the Montreal winters. In one store I met these 2 orthodox Jews out shopping on their holiday day. They ask me if I'm Jewish. They were dressed in their black traditional clothing. I had seen them earlier on the street and thought they were Amish or Mennonites.

I was getting tired from walking and headed back to my truck. Now where was my truck? I had parked it down a certain street and checked the street names to make sure I could find it again. I remember the main street I had started walking down because it ended up at the Church. So I walked up that Truck! Then I remembered I had started by walking up the street I had parked on by one block to get to the uppermost point of those streets. I find the truck.

I wanted to get to a certain point on the route back to the trailer to try and get some good sunset pictures. That happened about 30 miles out. After I take my pictures I meet a gentleman who's stopped at the end of the bridge having a smoke and a drink. He rides his bike to work and coming back now he was facing the strong wind and needed a break. He was born in Las Vegas, came to Key West for 18 years, moved away (to somewhere he considered cold-Tennessee-I think), then has been back for about 12 years. I ask him about the heat and humidity, considering he was raised in Las Vegas. He tells me that the first summer he was in Key West, working as a roofer, he suffered a heat stroke. He figured he'd be OK because it wasn't as hot as he was use to in Las Vegas. He never realized what the humidity did. He says he's gotten use to it now.

That was my day at the End of the NEW World!
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