Day 26 & 27: Florida Keys

Trip Start Jul 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, July 27, 2008

We left Orlando not knowing what a Turnpike was, but after travelling down to Key Largo, we are now very well acquainted. Tollroads!, and it struck us as we pulled up to one after another paystation quickly depleting our cash supply, that the US still favours (very friendly) Toll Collectors rather than E-tags. Matt would have chatted all day to the ladies in the booths had we not been on one of our long driving days.
We arrived at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo late-ish, but still with enough light to put up the tent and cook dinner. From out of the mangrove swamp, which was basically our bed-head later that night, emerged an iguana to see what was in our esky (beers and milk), frightening the women of the camp. Aviva and I agreed we preferred our iguanas in the Animal Alphabet books rather than right beside us, but the boys carried on playing soccer completely undisturbed. Tom would have had the iguana play goalie if he had his way. We had great tent neighbours, a couple and their 3yo, so we merged camps & food - we gave him a beer & their son our 3 kids to play with, and they gave us marshmallows, fire wood, a pack of UNO cards, and bacon & eggs for breakfast.  It was a shame they couldn't stay another night.
Our guide book lured us to the Florida Keys with this: 'Imagine a narrow ribbon of asphalt and concrete hovering between emerald seas and azure blue skies, lined by swaying palm trees and gorgeous, white-sand beaches. Add a generous taste of exotic wildlife, including alligators and dolphins, the country's only tropical coral reefs, and a romantic history rich with tales of buccaneering pirates and buried treasure. Hang it off the far southern tip of Florida, and you have the Overseas Highway, one of the country's most fascinating scenic drives.' Mmmm, fascinating it really wasn't, but it wasn't altogether disappointing either.  The waters did turn green by the time we stood peering in at Mallory Square at Mile 0, we enjoyed wandering aimlessly in Key West (found the pirates were not yet history, they are alive and popping up in photos along with a big noisy Tip jar), had a very tasty lunch/dinner and a couple of beers and devoured the best, ever, slice of Key Lime Pie. We nearly missed seeing the Southern most point in the US, but luckily we thought we could navigate our way back to the only road in to Key West without the GPS, and then discovered we couldn't. But we did find ourselves in a dead end, which by chance had a great big painted buoy with the words ... Southern Most Point in the US. So I jumped out  and took a photo of some other family standing in front of it, which confused them as they weren't sure which camera to look at, but it was easier for us than finding a parking spot in the vicinity and getting everybody out.
Day 2 in the Florida Keys we spent at John Pennekamp Coral Reef, the only tropical reef in the (lower 48 states) US. We took the glass-bottom boat tour, which was interesting and we saw a lot of fish out there, but when asked how it compared to the Great Barrier Reef by the tour guide, Matt decided to tell him the truth. We've been explaining why fish would want to switch from being female to male ever since, but that's okay ... the kids are curious! We then had a swim - it was time to test out the Atlantic Ocean - but we needed thongs (flip-flops) to protect our feet from rocks on both the beach and in the water, so we stayed in only as long as it took us to convince the kids that the water would be much cleaner in the hotel pool in Ft Lauderdale.  And off we went, our next 4 nights in Ft Lauderdale/Miami.
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