We managed to navigate our way out of Miami and onto the famous 'South Dixie Highway' or US-1, which goes all the way to Key West, the southernmost tip of America
. Once we reached the start of the Keys, the drive was gorgeous, with ocean views on either side. The southern stretch of US-1 is also known as the 'Overseas Highway' as it spans the ocean joining all the Key islands together and at one point even becoming a 7mile long bridge. Large parts of the road were built on the remains of the 'Overseas Railroad' completed in 1912 that ran from Miami to Key West. The route was largely destroyed during the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935. The rail company that owned the railway could not afford to rebuild it and so sold the remains of the route, and its bridges, to the State of Florida (or so Wikipedia tells me!).
We stopped for lunch at a roadside diner called 'Mrs Macs' - quirky place with good food and great service on Key Largo, the first island. We also had our first taste of Key Lime Pie here, a delicious biscuit based pie made with Key Limes and condensed milk.
We carried on another 20 miles or so to our resort, 'The Pines and Palms' on Islamorada, known as the 'Fishing Capital of the World' - needless to say Jim had been looking forward to this part of the trip for months. The lovely lady at reception met us with the news that we had been upgraded to a 'cottage' instead of the 'studio' we had booked - bonus
! The resort is absolutely beautiful and feels more Caribbean than American. It lies on the Atlantic Ocean and has stunning views over miles of ocean as far as the eye can see. A welcome change to the high-rise blocks of Miami.
We settled in, got some shopping and went out for dinner. The restaurants here are obviously big on fish and the local specialty is Dolphin, also known as Mahi Mahi, which we thankfully discovered was actually a fish and not a dolphin! Most places will also 'cook-your-catch', so basically any fish you catch, bring it along, and they will cook it for you and serve it up for your dinner! Here's hoping Jim doesn't catch anything tomorrow...I hate fish!
03/10/2009 - Woke up full of anticipation - we were finally going to leave our safe haven and continue our journey on to the Florida Keys. Packed everything into the car and we were off, well sort of. Jim decided we needed to go via the garage, so that we could pump up the tyres on the car. Unfortunately, once Jim had blown up the tyres and jumped back in the car, he proceeded to reverse into a metal post and scrape up the side of the car (see picture). We almost couldn't believe it had happened, we hadn't even left Miami! Just our luck when driving abroad. We decided that we would contact Alamo tomorrow and to just focus on the 100 mile drive ahead. As soon as we drove out of the gas station, a cuban guy came racing after us beeping his horn. Jim wound his window down to hear what the guy was shouting as he pulled along side us - 'Hey Man, I fix your car, make it reeaal nice for you, come on, nice price too!'. We politely declined and sped off - only in America!