Other Keys, Key West
Fondest memory: This picture was taken during our first trip to the Florida Keys back in 1997! This was at the Bahia Honda State Park, which you will drive by right after you cross the Seven Mile Bridge heading toward Key West. Very beautiful ocean scenery can be found here. There are also picnic tables for an enjoyable lunch.
Fondest memory: On the way to Key West be sure and stop at Bahia Honda State Park. It is located right around Mile Marker 37. It is one of the best beaches I've ever been to. It is without a doubt the most natural beach I've visited. The water is warm and crystal clear. Best of all when we went we virtually had the beach to ourselves (a weekend in June).
Though Key West is a prime destination for most visitors to the Keys, it certainly not the only reason to explore these shores. In fact, many would say that Key West is rapidly losing its charms. Having lived there in the early nineties, I must count myself in that group. Over development and skyrocketing rents are making it a cookie cutter tourist resort with the ubiquitous Hard Rock Café and now even Taco Bell right on the once timelessly funky Duval Street. Don’t get me wrong, Key West is still a fun place to spend some time, but to rush down there and miss the rest of the Keys would do the area great disservice. Certainly make a stop at Bahia Honda State Park and perhaps do some diving at John Pennekamp. If you’re smart, spend a night en route so you can slurp down a few rumrunners and catch a sunset.
Fondest memory: Having lived in Key West and still having a good friend down there, I have seen my share of Fantasy Fests. The once a year event celebrating the outrageous coincides with Halloween and culminates with a parade where most of the town walks in drag or half naked down crowded sweaty Duval St. The term anything goes takes on new meaning as spray paint artists set up booths and emblazon women’s breasts and everyone’s faces with decorative flair. A gender bender town anyway, on this night, cross-dressing seems almost the norm. And fortunately, I have left such photos safely tucked in Ft. Lauderdale. Hey, maybe next year. Sorry. ;-)
On a more wholesome note, I finally followed my own advice a few years ago when taking the trip with Ina, a German girl I’d met in Nepal. It was her first trip to the States and after picking her up at the airport, we whisked down the Florida Turnpike to the Everglades and then a few days later, made our way down the Over Seas Highway, camping overnight at John Pennekamp State Park to do a snorkel trip and again at Bahia Honda to enjoy the serenity of the undeveloped Key that I’d rate as most beautiful. One day while exploring out by the old abandoned bridge that was a cornerstone of initial and now defunct train travel to Key West, we sat to relax and soak up some sun and mild tropical breezes. A small lizard happened upon us, and with Ina unaccustomed to the common South Florida sight, I found myself paying more attention than I normally would. It was just a small chameleon after all, but through her eyes I could appreciate it, as I hadn’t since my first trip to Florida so many years before. And as chance would have it, another one appeared on the scene and what came next was right out of one of those wildlife programs you’ve undoubtedly seen countless times. It became obvious immediately that the two were ready to mate, as the male put on a show by pushing out a red appendage from his throat, in rhythmic thrusts to attract the cautious though intrigued female. Ever closer they became, but never rushing. It seemed to take ages, but we never grew bored, as the male made his way first behind and then on top, of the waiting though seemingly reluctant female. The actual pairing was comparatively short lived, though not anticlimactic. It was over in a matter of minutes with the two scurrying their individual ways. Elated at what we’d just witnessed, it was in ways the highlight of the whole trip. Sometimes the best things are unexpected and right beneath your nose if you care to look. As in life, often the roads we take are more interesting than the final destinations. It’s good to look ahead when there’s somewhere you want to go, but don’t forget to stop sometimes to take a look off to the sides. You might smile at the things you find.
Favorite thing: This must happen a lot if they have a sign for it, so watch out. Check out the sign on how to save your keys. Very helpful information to save the wildlife and preserve the echo system