Key West

Trip Start Nov 01, 2009
Trip End Nov 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Leo's campground

Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, May 9, 2010

DAY 1 - We started the day in Florida City looking for cheap accomodation on the Keys. Everything was so expensive, in the range of $100 per night and upwards that we decided to go back to Walmart, buy a cheap tent and camp (although camp sites cost $40 per night!!). After buying a $20 tent we began our drive to Key West, with me as navigator. Luckily my job was made very easy as we basically just had to follow highway 1 south the whole way!

Driving over the Keys was fantastic, with the highway seeming as though it was 'floating' as we passed between each island.  Our first stop was at a little 'nook' beach just off the highway on Key Marathon, where we had a packed lunch from our new cool box.  For most of our lunch we had the little beach to ourselves and then a family arrived.  Doog and I watched on silently as the little girl paddled into the water and then started to do a wee.  At this point, any thoughts of going in the water myself vanished.  The family all spoke Spanish - we thought we would be leaving that in South America but it seems as though many people have Spanish as their first languae in the US too, well in Florida at least!

We then got back in the car and drove on to Sombrero Beach at mile marker (MM) 50 (because there is only one main road, all landmarks or streets are marked by their distance from the most southerly point on Key West using mile markers).  We got a little lost and ended up driving around some private roads first where there were some impressive houses on the bay front, each with expensive cars on their driveways and expensive yachts at their private moorings. 

On entering Sombrero Beach there was a sign saying 'Look out - Portuguese Man of War', which put us slightly on edge, but the beach itself was stunning and so we spent a few hours relaxing, soaking up the sun and reading our books. It was also a great beach for people watching.  Two gay guys set up camp next to us with their two chihuahuas.  One of the guys was wearing very tight speedos with 'Lifeguard' written across his bottom.  One of the dogs really like playing with his ball and every time it was thrown out into the sea it would swim after it and bring it back in his mouth, sounding like it was choking on every doggy paddle it swam.

This day was mother’s day, or as the American’s like to call it ‘mom’s day’ and there weere lots of families having BBQs and picnics on the beach.  Just as we were about to leave, a woman wearing the strangest bikini I have ever seen came strolling past us.  It was so tiny that it only just covered the bare minimum, with two teeny tiny triangles held together by thin string making up the top and possibly an even tinier triangle making up the bottom part. It caught everyone’s attention on the beach and everyone couldn’t help but stare at her.

After the beach we drove to Key West, crossing over the huge 7 mile bridge from Key Marathon. We checked into our $40 a night campsite, put up our 2 man Walmart tent and were pleasantly surprised by the size of it, you could fit another person in there easily! We then decided to drive into the centre of Key West and have a little look around.  We found a car parking space in a road near the main pier and after 2 attempts Doogal successfully managed to reverse park into it only to find out from a  woman who lived on the street that we could not park in that direction.  We then noticed that all the cars were facing the same way on our side of the road and facing the opposite direction on the other side.  We didn't want to get a parking ticket for parking in the wrong direction, so Doogal turned around and did his reverse parking again – this time he managed it first time around.

We walked around the pier and looked at all the big boats there.  There were lots of restaurants and bars lining the pier and everyone walking past us seemed to be holding a beer or some other drink, we decided to have one another night and so after looking in a few shops (run by overly tanned women) we decided to head back

Throughout our time in South America we had resisted the often easiest option of McDonalds, but now we were in the US we had given ourselves permission to embrace this part of the American culture.  On the way back we stopped off to have our first Big Mac and Quarter Pounder with fries and refillable sodas! We sat outside eating our burgers underneath a flag pole flying the Golden Arches flag and a Stars and Stripes flag – we really felt like we were in the states! We had read that Key West was very isolated and so we had thought that maybe this also meant that there were less amenities however along the highway there were loads of fast food restaurants, hardware stores, massive supermarkets that sell everything you could possibly want and tonnes of clothes shops, living in Key West would be very easy.

Back at the campsite we climbed into an absolutely roasting tent and had a very uncomfortable night’s sleep on our thin carry mats which you could feel every stone through (not good when the site is made from gravel!).  Doog faired slightly worse than me and seemed convinced that he had broken his hip!

DAY 2 – In the morning we tried to have a bit of a lie in but it was just too uncomfortable and too hot to stay in the tent any longer.  We got showered and dressed (at least our $40 a night meant we got hot showers) and then drove to the local petrol station to get milk for our breakfast cereal.  In the petrol station I struggled to find a milk suitable for us (there’s no semi-skimmed option) and ended up buying a gallon (there was nothing smaller) of skimmed milk with added vitamin D, which was really watery but okay for cereal.  Doog managed to drink most of the remaining milk as we thought it wouldn’t keep for the next day.

After breakfast, we told the guy who ran the campsite that we wanted to stay another night (despite Doog’s hip complaints) and then drove back into the centre of Key West for a proper look around.  After finding somewhere to park and parking in the right direction, we walked down Duval Street, which has lots of bars and shops. On our way we saw what we consider very typical American houses, made from wooden panels with porches around the front and with the USA flag flying proudly. We walked to a large buoy that marks the most southerly point of the USA where everyone was having their photos taken.  There were two guys there wearing stars and stripes bandanas who had obviously been biking everywhere and had brought their Harley Davidson’s with them to be in the photo. One was also wearing a T shirt that said ‘I love USA’ on the front.

Walking back down Duval Street, we treated ourselves to a slice of key lime pie from a place called ‘Blond Giraffe’ which had won awards for this local speciality.  It was really tasty but so sweet that we were glad that we had only bought one to share. It was so hot at this point and we were really struggling with heat, but we continued to Mallory Square. We had heard this square was really busy at sunset, but in the day it was completely deserted apart from a few homeless people who had taken up residence in the few shady spots available. We decided to get a drink, and then feeling completely drained we walked back to the car to have a late lunch.  We had prepared a packed lunch but decided to go back to the campsite where we knew we could find shade and a table to eat at.  Doog had a little nap whilst I finished my book, which I was finding hard to put down.

At 6.30 pm we headed back into Key West so we could go Mallory Square again for sunset. This time there were loads of people there and lots of entertainers.  One guy was performing as a ‘one man band’, which may have been visually effective but was tough going on the ears.  At one point one of his strings broke and we were all given a bit of respite before he managed to repair it. There were also fire eaters, acrobats, jugglers, people making balloon animals but the most impressive was a dog that collected dollar bills in his mouth from people and then dropped them into a bucket whilst his owner sang and played his guitar. The sunset was beautiful and after we walked along the board walk to a point where there was a massive yacht moored to the pier which we spent ages looking at.  We were trying to see what the people looked liked that could afford such a thing!

For dinner, we went to one of the massive supermarkets and got some pasta and chicken from the deli counter, which had actually just closed but the nice lady opened it up again to serve us. After eating back at the campsite it was time for another night’s sleep in the tent – Doog slept very badly again!

DAY 3 – This time it was Doogal’s turn to try and buy something equivalent to semi-skimmed milk for cereal. He came back with a carton that said ‘half and half’ on it which was actually an equal mix of full cream and milk.  It felt very strange eating cereal with cream on it – and not very healthy! Whilst we were having breakfast we heard leaves rustling and things dropping into the little lake/pond that ran behind our tent.  On closer inspection, we spotted a huge iguana in the tree (looked more like a miniature dragon with spikes running all down its back). We were relieved that the small lake as between us and it, but It then climbed down the tree and jumped into the water where it swam to the boardwalks and climbed up onto them behind our tent to dry off in the sun.  We very happy to have seen it on our last morning at the campsite or else we would have had an even more uneasy sleep in our tent! We then left for our drive back to Florida City.

Our first stop along the Keys was at a ‘Bondock’s’ miniature golf course at MM 27.5.  It was a lot of fun and especially for me as I managed to beat Doog by a healthy margin, who never really recovered from his disastrous start at the first hole.  Our next stop was at ‘Daffy Doug’s Dollar Store’ at MM 30 where everything in the whole shop cost $1. 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t filled with usual tack you might expect and we saw lots of things that we could have done with buying at that price at earlier times in our travels. I also found a place called ‘Pretty Joe Rock’ on the map at MM 47.5, which I thought might be a nice place to stop at, but it turned out to be a construction yard which wasn't pretty at all, so we kept on driving to Coco Plum Beach.  We had once again prepared a lunch in Ella the cool box, so we set up camp underneath a tree and enjoyed chicken sandwiches, Pringles and cherry tomatoes.  Doog had another little nap whilst I soaked up a little sun and walked in the shallow sea trying to avoid all the sea shells which covered the beach.  There were a few people walking their dogs and a lady fishing for crabs and it was great to sit back and relax for a while. On the way out, as I was taking a photo of the beach sign, Doog nearly ran over a little Yorkshire terrier who had run over to me to say hello.  She was really cute and very friendly and I would have loved to take her with us, but her owner came over and told ‘Moonshine’ to come back to their camper van.

Our next stop at MM 77.5 was ‘Robbie’s Marina’, where we could feed these huge fish called tarpon.  We bought one bucket of small fish to feed them and walked out on the pier where all the hungry tarpon had gathered. I was a bit of a chicken and opted out of feeding the fish so I became official photographer as Doogal bravely lowered each fish from the bucket and held it in his hand just above the water. We had seen photos of the fish jumping high out of the water and enclosing their mouth around a person’s whole arm to get the fish and so I was after the same kind of shot from Doog.

Doog, however started well but soon got a bit jumpy (and a bit scared) after seeing one guy on the pier have a tarpon close his mouth around his arm almost up to his elbow. Whenever the tarpon made any attempt to get the fish Doog was holding he just dropped them into their mouths! I didn’t quite get the shot I was after but I don’t blame Doog as I really wouldn’t want one those huge ugly tarpons hanging off my arm!  The guys who did hold onto the fish long enough for the tarpons to ‘eat’ their arms had blood from above their wrists down – although the fish didn't have teeth, they had a kind of sandpaper mouth which resulted in what looked like very nasty abrasions! This was Doog's favourite thing by far on the whole Keys.

We then continued back to Florida City where we checked into the hostel we had been staying at previously. 
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