Key West

Okay, before I get started with a look at Saturday, Feb 17th, I need to go back to yesterday.

3 Things…what do they have in common?

1 – Earl’s Dead
2 – Cadillac for Sale
3 – Tamiami Trail

Well, if you are a Parrot Head, you will know, but if not, click the link below to reveal the true meaning of yesterday’s blog title!

We now return to our regularly scheduled program….

 

As I said before, Key West.

We left the Hotel in Florida City after a brief breakfast of cold cereal and a banana, in what turned out to be a crazy breakfast area. No offense, but when did everybody become so self centered, expecting to be waited on, and totally non observant of what’s going on around them?? Holiday Weekend, remember? I don’t know who’s worse…the Americans who decide that one person on the phone can take up a table for six, or the foreigners who knock you over or just stand in the way of everyone? And please folks, when you’re done, put your dirty dishes and garbage in the area provided! Needless to say, we had a quick breakfast and were out of there!

After a couple of showers, we left, filled the Sonata up with gas, and proceeded south on US-1. As we were in Florida City, it didn’t take long for us to run out of civilization. We don’t know if it was because of it being the Saturday of Presidents’ Weekend, or a normal Saturday occurrence, but traffic was sporadically heavy. We’d go along at a nice clip for a number of miles, and then grind to a halt for a mile or two, then open up and move again. Hard to tell why, but as usual, there was no shortage of the jerks who have a need to get there a few minutes before you, and make everybody’s life miserable. Saw a couple of near accidents for that exact reason. Please, life’s too short!

So anyway, we were on the Overseas Highway, which is a 123 mile highway carrying US-1 through the Florida Keys. Much of it is built on the former right of way of the Overseas Railroad, the Key West extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Another one of Henry Flagler’s Florida rail projects. The railroad was heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1935, and the roadbed and remaining bridges were sold to the state of Florida. Over the years, improvements were made, and during the Second World War, the Navy wanted better access to the Keys, and further improvements were made to the route and roads and bridges. In the early 80s, more modern bridges were completed, and today there are only a few of the original structures remaining. Several have been turned into fishing piers, but others just sit next to the current roadway, as a reminder to the past. One such bridge, is the original Seven Mile Bridge, which you may remember being featured in the movie True Lies.

As you continue south of Key Largo, you come to Islamorada, Florida, which describes itself as a, “village of islands’. The village was not incorporated till 1997, and for us, this is when the road turns into what we really expected the Overseas Highway to look like. As it was about 12;30, both of us had our eyes out for the perfect kind of spot to have lunch. You know, a grass shack, kind of place, where we’d eat fresh fish, listen to the perfect kind of music, and look out on some of the best views Nature has to offer. Guess what? It exists, and we were lucky enough to spot it in a place that was easy to turn around and go back!

The Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant was the place. A fresh fish store, fronting US-1, and exactly the kind of place and the kind of food we wanted out back. The sky was blue, the water was green, the temperature was perfect with a nice breeze, the music was right, and the company was the best! Take a look at these pictures, and tell me you don’t agree with us!

If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this video, and then tell me what you think!

You probably remember that back on September 10th, Hurricane Irma ravaged the Keys, and for several days, the entire area was cut off from communication with the rest of Florida. The overseas Highway didn’t reopen till October 1st to regular traffic, and when we were planning this trip, we wondered if a visit to Key West was really going to be in the cards. We were lucky enough to have several Facebook friends who were either vacationing down here or reporting on the aftermath of Irma, and they all said that there was damage, but that the people of the Keys needed visitors. It is, after all, a $1.6 billion a year industry that employs about half the Key’s work force. So plans went ahead.

Did we see damage? Well, the good thing is that the Overseas Highway, and all it’s bridges are fine, but yes, we did see damage. We saw houses that were being rebuilt, destroyed house trailers sitting on the side of the road, buildings with no roofs or with half walls, lots filled with tangled plants and other debris, and sections of the highway that were surrounded by walls and fences that were lying on their side. So yes, there is damage, but as we commented, it’s almost like you have to look for it. To us, it looks like one of their biggest issues is getting rid of the remains of the damage. For the most part, we had great views and the usual Florida Keys Creatures.

We are staying in the Best Western Hibiscus on Simonston Street. We’re a block off Duval, and about 3 blocks from the Southern Most Point Marker. A little quieter area than down by Sloppy Joes Bar, but still with lots around. Old Key West, rather than one of the new chain hotels that look like you could be in Atlanta!

Realizing that tonight was going to be the Saturday of President’s weekend, I thought it might be a good idea to have a dinner reservation. Thanks to Open Table, finding a great restaurant in a strange town is an easy task. Tonight we dined at La Te Da Restaurant, which was just a few blocks away from our hotel. We ate outdoors (what three wonderful words to say in February) and had a great meal. We started with a nice bottle of Rose, then 2 delectable shrimp cocktails, then we split a burrata cheese caprese salad, and believe it or not, for our entrees we both had meat loaf! We figured that when a restaurant this elegant has meat loaf on the menu, you gotta try it! It was good…not as good as Susie’s meat loaf, but for restaurant meat loaf, pretty good. This from someone who never eats meat loaf out, because I know it wont compare with my wife’s! Here are some pictures. I didn’t include any food pics, because they love blue lights in this restaurant, and blue food doesn’t look too appetizing, but trust us….it was!

Then we decided to walk a bit down Duval, and see what we could find. There were a couple of bars we passed, but nothing caught our fancy till we came to Grand Vin Wine Bar. We sat basically on the street, and each had a couple of glasses of wine. Reminded us both of the Tini Martini Bar in St. Augustine, that we loved many moons ago. We watched people walking by, watched people in the place, and I even had a brief dance with the bar tender! A good time was had by all!

Then we walked the 5 blocks back to our hotel, changed clothes, poured a couple of vodkas, and here I am writing away to keep you up to date, while Susie texts with Krissi and Mike who are at a wedding on Long Island in the snow! I think we’ve got the better situation.

Tomorrow we plan some Key West exploration, some bar visits, and having fun in the warm weather! Tomorrow’s forecast…high of 79! Have a good night………

 

Earl’s Dead….Cadillac for Sale

It was with great sadness, we pulled out of Indian Rocks Beach, and headed south this morning. We hated to leave the town, our hotel, and our new friend Lindsey. It was a great 4 days, and we are so happy that we extended our stay from our original 2 to 4 days. Indian Rocks Beach…we will be back!

Because we extended our stay in Indian Rocks, and decided to enjoy doing nothing yesterday, if we wanted to make a stop at Sanibel Island, today was the day. So we headed south this morning, traveling I-275 over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay, to I-75, through Fort Myers, past the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, right onto the Causeway to Sanibel Island.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a beautiful day, and we saw some beautiful sights….then we got to Sanibel Island. The traffic on the island was beyond belief. I mean, it made changeover summer Saturday traffic at home in Ocean City look like child’s play! We’d heard that it was hard to find parking on the island, but we didn’t expect the bumper to bumper traffic to and from the causeway. So we stopped for lunch at the Sanibel Fish House. Susie and I split a Crispy Grouper Basket, and a Coconut Shrimp Basket. Lunch was good!

After lunch, we tried to drive around the island a bit, but the traffic seemed to be everywhere. We drove to the light house, but there wasn’t a parking place to be had. So, we decided to leave the island, since our day of traveling was not over.

6AE1A92C-A66C-4B47-9F09-F261AF242906

With today’s travels, we were done with the Gulf Coast of Florida, and we used the Tamiami Trail to traverse the state from west to east. If you look at the map above, you’ll see that we crossed the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and several smaller preserves as well as an Indian Reservation as we headed to the East Coast.

BAADE4FC-911C-4EB4-A2E6-CCDADB30572EThe Tamiami Trail is a road that looks to have not changed much since I was a kid, and we came to Florida each summer. One lane in each direction, little traffic, and all we passed along the way was camping grounds, entrances to state parks, picnic areas, and signs like this!

 

B5AFA368-72C7-4958-AFBB-6F7827B8FB9F

I don’t know about you, but we decided picnicking or camping was out, if there were Panthers in the area!!!

By the time we got to the East Coast, the sun had set, and it was getting dark. Susie and I both agreed that we’d hate to drive across the Tamiami Trail in the dark. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction at the east end of the road, and the estimated arrival time to our hotel kept getting later and later. By the time we pulled in at 7:30, it was totally dark. Glad we had a reservation at Florida City’s Home 2 Suites, as there was a gentleman in front of me trying to get a room. Seems like the whole area is sold out, and he was out of luck. I’d forgotten it was the Friday of the President’s Day Weekend, so I was even happier we had a reservation.

Since we’d had a large lunch on Sanibel Island, we decided to go Fast Food tonight. Take-out Taco Bell, back in our suite, washed down with Tito’s Vodka was our meal of choice tonight!

Tomorrow, it’s US-1, the Overseas Highway, down the Keys, to Key West! Hmmm…Presidents Weekend in Key West. Mistake or a good move? Tomorrow will tell. See you then!

We Did Nothing

So, what did we do today? We did absolutely NOTHING! We got up, checked our iPads for mail and the like, threw on some clothes, and went over to the restaurant for our included breakfast. Then we came back to the room, got ourselves ready, and headed to the pool. We proceeded to sit poolside on an incredibly gorgeous day for the better part of 4 hours. The temperature was great (think high 70s), the humidity wasn’t too high, and there was a nice breeze and shade from the palm trees. We had our Kindles, and iPads, we read and texted the kids, I slept, and we had a wonderful afternoon! If you don’t believe me, look at these pictures, and you decide!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now it’s about 4, and we are back in our room. Our plan for the rest of the evening is to shower, get dressed, and head down to Jimmy Guana’s, and sit at the Tiki Bar, where our favorite bartender Lindsey will be holding court. We’ll have a couple of drinks, order some food for dinner, have a couple of more drinks, and enjoy our last evening in Indian Rocks Beach (sad…). We have really loved our 4 days here, and Susie and I are so glad that we extended our 2 day stay into 4. We’ve fallen in love with Indian Rocks Beach, and are seriously considering finding a condo rental in this area for a couple of weeks next February.

So, I think that’s about it for today. Tomorrow we leave and head south. We hope to make a short stop at Sanibel Island, before heading across the Tamiami Trail, and our stop tomorrow night in Florida City. That will be our jump off point for our Saturday travel down US-1 (The Overseas Highway) and our weekend in Key West! The last time we were in Key West was in 1997, we had all the kids with us, and were driving a huge full size Ford Van. We think this will be a very different kind of stay for us, as our hotel is but one block from Duval Street. We’re looking forward to taking advantage of everything Key West has to offer!

See you tomorrow, when I promise to have more to say, because we won’t be doing nothing!!

Some Bad, and Some Good

If you are of a certain age, and ever vacationed in Florida as a child, you immediately will know the name, Weeki Wachee. Started in 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs was a tourist attraction featuring “mermaids” performing in an underwater setting, viewed by the audience in an aquarium like theater. I remember coming to it when I journeyed to Florida as a kid, (and Susie remembers coming with her grandmother in the early 70s), and know that when our three kids were small, we took them there, In fact, in 1959 the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) bought Weeki Wachee, and I think we got in for free when we came with our kids…just showed my ABC ID card!

Well, Susie and I stopped by today, and it’s nothing like we remember. First of all, it’s now a state park. Can’t find any information about how it stopped being a private attraction and became a ward of the state, but it was in 2008. I assume that like other Florida attractions, it couldn’t compete with Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Universal Studio and the like, and whoever owned it at the time, turned it over to the state. In fact, if you remember Weeki Wachee, you also may remember Cypress Gardens, which was known for women dressed as Southern Bells, the Botanical Gardens, and it’s water skiing shows. Well, it’s now LegoLand!

9B7FA971-9F77-4264-AF0C-D776BFD6FF0A

 

 

7B1C4549-8F29-4AEA-9CD9-03D1A9CA5D8AWe were excited when we arrived, but soon discovered that the last time anyone spent any money on the upkeep of the place was probably when it was owned by ABC. Broken sidewalks, only 2 Mermaid shows a day, a lame Animal Show, and a limited schedule of boat trips on the river. We spent a little more than an hour there, and then decided that sometimes trying to go back in time isn’t the smartest thing to do. I wouldn’t recommend a visit to anyone who has been there before.

Then we journeyed to Pinellas Park, Florida, where Susie’s Grandparents lived. She remembered visiting them there, and had a pretty good idea where they lived, and in fact, remembered that we found it once, when we were in the area with the kids 20 years ago. Guess what? Things change, and she couldn’t find any trace of what she found 20 years ago. Progress!!

64B48CE6-BD80-4DC3-82B9-5DA0D5C292C5Then we traveled a short distance to our hotel. A very unusual Holiday Inn, on the Intercostal Waterway in Indian Rocks, Florida. It’s called the Clearwater Beach Harborside, in Indian Rocks Beach, and now we are in the good part of the day!! It’s a little more expensive, but oh so worth it! The hotel is built in a Key West Style, and even has a Key West type bar/restaurant called Jimmy Guana’s. Once we checked in, we decided to walk the place and explore, and we immediately gravitated to the Tiki Bar at Jimmy Guana’s, where we had two delightful Martinis! Then we unloaded the car, found our PJs,(so we could crawl into them later!), and headed back to the bar at Jimmy Guana’s, and the delightful bartender Lindsey!

3A36FF96-EFB3-4F7C-9E6D-435BA7B3CA6E

Our Original Drinks! (and no Michael…its not Windex)

We drank, we ate, we drank, we listened to music! We had a wonderful night. Our bill was just over a $100, and we’re considering seeing if we can stay here, and use this place as our base of operations for the next 4 days! Stay tuned, and see what we decide tomorrow.

886FE895-D7FE-4002-AED8-B3D783F8C6B4Our Room

 

08FC634A-0C5D-4AE6-AA31-A95D4C4B7346Our Rum Drinks

 

9C416012-42D0-4F3E-B651-834286AFEE75Our Dinner – The Guana Tower (and Lindsey in the background)

2611F59F-8AFF-4851-897D-3E35BB2AD490Great Entertainment