Florida Keys (high 81, low 71)
Happy Easter everyone!
We decided to drive down to Key West yesterday.
Key West is the last Key and the southernmost point in the United States. If you keep going south, you’ll be in Cuba. There is a big Cuban influence visible in some areas of Key West, with cigar shops, and Cuban Restaurants. Of course you can’t buy any actual Cuban cigars any more due to the boycott.
The last time we were down in Key West, was the day before New Years Eve and the place was packed. Yesterday, it was crowded, but not too bad.
On the way down we noticed the infamous Keys blimp was grounded. We’d never seen that before so we found “Blimp Road” and figured that would be the correct road to get a close up of the blimp.
This blimp is known as Fat Albert and is tethered to a truck on the blimp base.
It’s used as a part of the continental US air defense network. It’s part of NORAD, it carries a radar and monitors suspected drug smuggling flights, fast boats smuggling Cubans, weather, any low flying plane and other potentially harmful activity. It costs $500 dollars per hour to operate this low level radar surveillance.
Fat Albert is helium filled. It can be raised to a maximum 15,000 feet, but it stays at 10,000 feet tethered to the blimp base by a single cable with a maximum breaking strength of 26,000 pounds. It measures 175 feet long, 58 feet across and the tail wing from tip-to-tip is 81 feet. It can lift a payload weighing 1,200 pounds.
So after locating and photographing Fat Albert, we headed south towards Key West.
We found a paid parking lot right down by the famous Mallory Square. We were right in the thick of things. The parking was $4.00 an hour.
Mallory Square is where people go to watch the sunsets and also where the cruise ships dock.
Right across is a nice little private island. Someone owns a nice yacht, huh?
We walked into a building that housed a gift shop, some interesting hand carving and a wonderful smelling Cuban restaurant.
On the way in, we saw some of the infamous Key West Chickens. There has been a debate for years on whether to allow them to stay. They are part of the history and in the end, they won out and are allowed to stay. They are everywhere and obviously breeding. Aren’t they cute?
There are also Key West 5 toed cats that were descendants of cats belonging to Ernest Hemingway. They roam freely too. We only saw one yesterday….and NO, we didn’t bring it home.
This next picture is of Ernest Hemingway’s house. I don’t know who this guy is, but it looks like he was posing for me, doesn’t it? I took the shot out the window as we were driving by. Maybe he saw me and decided to ad some local color to the photo?
There are lots of interesting buildings in Key West.
It’s a great place to people watch. You just never know what you’ll see next. Yesterday it appeared there were still plenty of spring breakers there.
The worlds smallest bar.
It’s a very bicycle friendly town, but I’d never ride mine there. There is way too much traffic and the roads are often narrow. There are tour trains and trolleys, there are all kinds of rental scooters and golf cart like vehicles. Mix that in with the cars and people walking every where and it seems dangerous to ride a bike.
Key West has a large Gay population and there is even a Gay Tourist Center. I understand it gets pretty wild there on Gay Pride week.
There is a artsy feel to the city with some beautiful galleries. We went inside one yesterday that had some beautiful had carved horses. Too pricey for our budget though.
Of course there are all sorts of little shops, filled with interesting and nice things, but mostly over priced.
Still, it’s a fun city to explore. There is a lot of history in the city and the next time, we want to take one of the many trams that give you a tour.
There is one particular point that is known as the southernmost point in the United States. People stand in line to have their picture taken there. I snapped a few pictures as we drove by.
Many places advertise that they are the “southernmost” bar, hotel, Harley Davison dealer, bike shop, whatever….
We finished up our afternoon in Key West at the “southernmost” Outback Steakhouse.