June 22, 2008

In the Shallows of the Florida Keys
Key West, United States

Most of the family's gone back home, but the Heimburger boys are in the Florida Keys. No wives, girlfriends, or baby—just my dad, brother and me.

We've certainly been looking forward to these three days together, with nothing on the agenda but a much-anticipated guided fishing trip into the nearby Everglades National Park on our last day.

We sauntered southwest through the islands, towards Key West. Dad had been down here as a child, generally only recalling memories of a glass-bottom boat ride from the trip decades prior. I had no preconceptions of the place, apart from the dramatic bridge scene from the movie True Lies (which I've come to find out was actually part 80-foot model, part on-location shot).

True Lies bridge "blowout"

It turns out that the missing, blown-out section of bridge in that movie (where the vehicles go tumbling over) was an old swing span that had been removed years prior so that taller boats could pass through without the need for a drawbridge. Wheeled traffic now moves between the islands on a new series of bridges (most notable Seven Mile, competed about 25 years ago). Some interesting photos of the bridges can be found on DelmarvaHighways.net.

Truthfully, driving though the Keys is an anticlimactic experience. Not only is it speed trap central, but much of the highway seems to lack any view of the ocean at all, and at times, it's easy to forget you're actually on an island. It's only when you take the time to glimpse down the occasional street running perpendicular to the main thoroughfare that you notice they dead-end at a horizon of water and sky.

We three jumped out of the car at one point on the way down and walked around in the warm shallows that seemed to stretch for a hundred yards or more before reaching a waist-deep level. Families and dogs played many meters offshore, leaving a muddy, sandy slurry in their wake.

Key West is about what I expected—reminding me of a tropical version of the heavily touristed beach cities in the Pacific Northwest. It's not a big island, and easy to get the gist of it real fast (not anyplace I'd want to hang around for more than half a day).

The southernmost point in the continental U.S. (accessible by civilians)

I think the three most memorable encounters that I'll take away from this place will be the postcards that illuminated the existence of the particularly interesting Fort Jefferson inside the Dry Tortugas National Park, the most powerful hand dryer I've ever experienced, and the southernmost point monument, which is said to be a replica of buoy, but I think bears a striking resemblance to the nose cone of a Titan ICMB.

Wouldn't that be a kick? This monument that's arguably one of the biggest attractions in Key West is actually a nuclear warhead—waiting for Cuba to make its move.

Comments:

The United States

Monica

June 15th, 2009

I have lived in the Keys for 18 years and can't believe your comment about views of the ocean lacking on the Overseas Hwy! Were you sleeping from Islamorada south? There are over 40 bridges, all with sweeping views to the ocean and gulf. Also, a half day in Key West is not nearly enough. It is very historic - having more examples of different types of architecture than anywhere else in the US. Lots of small museums too. The Dry Tortugas is one of my favorite places and requires a whole day. Maybe you need to come back and do a little homework ahead of time…
p.s. it's not a speed trap if you obey the speed limit (maybe that's why you didn't enjoy the views - you were going to fast and looking out for cops!)

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