01.04.2016 91 °F
Day 24 – Bahai Honda walkabout. After our day in Key West we decided to take an easy day and just hang around the campground, but that pesky laundry needed to get done. So, after a morning walk around the campground and trip up to the railway bridge we thought we had better run into Lone Pine Key, just 8 miles away and get our laundry out of the way. We headed out around 10:00 am figuring to be done and back by Noon. We’d looked on-line for a laundromat but could not find one listed, so we stopped at an information kiosk and got the bad news. Due to the extreme cost of water here, all laudromats locally had shut down. The only choice was Key West, 37 miles west or Marathon, 45 miles east. Well we could live another day and we were planning on going to Key West anyway on Day 25 so we would just incorporate laundry into our second trip to the end of the keys.
A quick bit of grocery shopping and we headed back to Bahai Honda. Much to our surprise, the road into the campground/day park was absolutely full of vehicles, all trying to get into the park. Even though we were registered campers there was no quick way in. Each day visitor must stop and pay the entry fee, so the line-up moves at a snail’s pace. It was exactly 30 minutes for us to get back into the park. The employee on the gate says most campers just avoid going out during the peak period. This park fills up with day visitors almost every day, as many as 1500 of them. There are numerous beaches, boat launches, snorkelling tours, kayak rentals, etc. The day visitors all have to be out at sunset leaving the place quiet for the campers.
The railway bridge is quite interesting. It was built over 4 years or so beginning in 1900 and was only in use as a railway from 1905 to 1912, but spans the entire length of the keys. It was later converted into the road, but was essentially destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. The remaining trestle is closed to foot traffic as it is not safe.
We took an afternoon swim to cool off, once again it is about 90 degrees here and the lovely heat just bakes your bones. The rest of the day was relaxing and reading in the shade.
Day 25 – Key West, evening version, the disappointment of the key lime pie
We headed out fairly early for Key West. We had laundry to get done, and Jenny wanted to get a haircut as well. We’d found the Truman and Grinnell Laudry on-line and headed there first. The owner is a Cuban who bought the place a year ago and said he is doing well enough with the business. He has a contract with the US Navy that gives him enough money to cover his basic costs and the rest is gravy. He says he does not want to be rich, just comfortable. The wash was $9.75 for all our laundry and another $3.25 to dry...very reasonable. We chatted with a local woman who works for the food chain Winn-Dixie, which would be very similar to our Sobeys back home. She said it was an OK employer and she was happy to have a job that allowed her to live comfortably in Key West.
Jenny had made an appointment with a hair salon just out of downtown and we headed in that direction looking for a place for lunch. Sometimes you find a hidden gem and Key Plaza Creperie was all that. A family owned and operated breakfast and lunch place. We shared a whole wheat crepe with smoked salmon and brie and a Mediterranean Salad, for a total cost of $26, including tip. Seriously, if you go to Key West, you should try this place out...excellent food and service.
Jenny got her haircut, $50 including tip, and looks great. We did an afternoon walkabout, after finding a place to park downtown, again $11 for 4.5 hours of parking time. We popped into the Library for a bit of internet time. Libraries are great for this kind of stuff and this one was very good.
It was now 3:30 pm, 93 degrees and full sun. This is when we began our walkabout and a made a couple of errors in direction that cost us time to visit the Audubon Gardens. We walked at least a mile in the wrong direction and got caught in a dead end and had to walk a mile back to get where we were supposed to be. By that time it was too late to tour the garden as they were closing to host a wedding. We were baking at that point and decided to stop for a margarita down on the harbour, at El Meson de Pepe, a Cuban restaurant right at Mallory Square, where the nightly sunset celebration takes place. This celebration is a Key West tradition and people gather here to celebrate the setting of the sun and the beginning of a wild night of bar hopping, eating, etc. The margaritas were good, but $17 for two was a bit steep. We decided to take a walk along the harbour and then come back to El Meson de Pepe for supper.
We walked along the waterfront, where there are boat after boat taking tourists out for a sunset cruise. There must have bee 30 good sized boats, all loading up for the trip. Really touristy. The rest of the waterfront is restaurants and bars catering to the sunset crowd. There is every conceivable tourist shop along Duval Street and in the area surrounding Mallory Square.
We returned to El Meson de Pepe at 6:00 pm for supper. We figured an hour to eat and then we would check out the lead-up to the sunset in the square. Supper was just OK, we tried a platter of sorts, roasted pork, a shredded beef stew, served with plantains, yellow rice and black beans. Adequate, but not as spicy as we would have expected. The worst was yet to come. Our Key Lime pie dessert was served and we were quick to discover that the crust was burnt, which gave a pretty awful aftertaste to an otherwise excellent tasting desert. The waiter brushed off our complaint and said just to eat the parts that were on top. Thus ended the prospect of a good tip for this guy!! Supper was $51.88 and the tip a miserly $4.
The lead-up to the sunset is a bunch of street performers, doing the usual lame stuff you find along seashores everywhere, and hawkers of crappy tourist stuff. I lived in Victoria for 20+ years and this is no different that what you would see on the inner harbour there. Cruise ships also stop here. There were several thousand people in the square and we hung in to close to sunset, decided to head off back to the campground. We walked almost a mile back to the car and the bars and restaurants were hopping by 7:45 pm when the sun had set. We left Key West to the young people who would likely party long into the night. Those days are long gone for us.
Our final impression of Key West is a good one. The daytime is for people like us who want to see the old city and its attractions, the night is for the young, who want to drink and party and enjoy all those things we used to when we were young.