Thursday, February 5:  Across the Keys

A Florida Key

This morning we headed to the Keys, and the further south we went, the colder it got.  Some snorkeling would have been nice, but it was out of the question.  Instead, we looked for roadside oddities and attractions.




Big Pine Key is home to the endangered Key deer, a miniature deer species.  They stand just over two feet tall at the shoulders and weigh around 75 pounds, so they're not super tiny, but nothing you'd be proud to hang over your fireplace either.  In the National Key Deer Refuge, we left the warmth of the car long enough to visit the Blue Hole, a former quarry that's now filled with freshwater that attracts wildlife, though we saw none.  We also walked two short nature trails, seeing no deer, but enjoying the interesting flora.

National Key Deer Refuge nature trail

Back in the car, we drove around in a neighborhood on Big Pine Key to see how the local folks live, and there we saw a deer around every corner.

Key deer

After a big lunch of Reuben sandwiches and fries at Big Pine Restaurant, we continued on our way, venturing off on side roads from time to time to reconnoiter Keys life and imagine what it would be like to live here.  I think we'll stick to the Paradise we have rather than trade for someone else's.

Overseas Highway from Big Pine Key

At 4:45 we checked in to the El Rancho Motel, 830 Truman Avenue, Key West, Florida.  Once again, I'd read some really bad reviews on the Internet about this hotel, but we were ecstatic.  Less than a hundred bucks in Key West within walking distance of Duval Street and Mallory Square, free parking, clean and neat, a refrigerator, and coffee in the morning.

El Rancho Motel, Key West

We bundled up as best we could against the frigid Key West weather and walked to Mallory Square for sunset.  It was quite a scene with the street performers and dolphins swimming by and such, but we did not see the famed "green flash" at sunset.  My theory is you have to stare directly into the sun for way too long, and then the green flash appears just as your corneas blow out.

Waiting for sunset

Jana chilling (literally) in Key West

After sunset, we saw a mini-performance of Dominique & His Flying House Cats, very fitting since Key West is overrun by cats.  It was either too late or too cold for Dominique to put on his full show, but we saw the grand finale, a cat jumping through a hoop of fire.  Just try and get our cat Carlos to do that and see what happens!

Cat braves hoop of fire!

Right behind Dominique and his cats was the Key West Art and Historical Society’s Custom House Museum, and on display around the museum are a number of interesting sculptures, many of them quite lifelike, others not so much.

The Daydream

The Sweeper

The famous Duval Street on Key West reminded me of a cross between Bourbon Street in New Orleans and the tacky touristiness of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Gatlinburg with liquor, the best of both worlds!   

Shark attack!

It was too freaking cold to hang out in the street drinking frozen daiquiris, like we should have been doing - our bad luck at visiting during Key West's one day of winter.  But we again made the best of it, ducking into the Bull & Whistle Bar.  We were inside the bar, but it was still open air, so we quickly ordered some Jack & Cokes to warm ourselves.  A group of four old couples seated next to us had obviously been "warming themselves" for quite some time, and Tom and I were way behind.

Interesting art at the Bull & Whistle

There was semi-live music tonight at the Bull & Whistle consisting of two singers and their karaoke-music backup.  It was pretty bad, but the oldsters were up dancing and stumbling to every song.  Each one of them had on a different ridiculous "Key West" sweatshirt.  Little did they know that they were the main entertainment for the rest of us.  It was Old People Gone Wild!  For once, we were grateful for the cold, because it meant there was little chance the old folks would be headed to the clothing-optional "Garden of Eden" bar on the roof.

Continue to February 6, 2009

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