On Sunday at 11:00 am, Laura and Joe picked us up at the Miami airport right on time.
We hopped in their SUV "like the Secret Service" as David likes to say. It's a black Suburban. Tinted windows -- bells and whistles, including a GPS, of course... and it's big. Real big.
Joe was driving out of the airport and refused to listen to the GPS, which Laura calls Agnes Moorehead.
Joe: I don’t think we need to go this way.
Agnes: *ding* turn left .2 miles ahead.
Joe: This can’t be right.
Ignores GPS. Drives straight ahead.
Laura: She knows what’s she’s doing.
Agnes: *ding* Make a legal u-turn at the next intersection.
Joe: I’m not doing that.
Agnes: *ding, ding* [resets] Proceed 1.4 tenths of a mile and make a right.
Joe: I need an aspirin.
Laura: Trust Agnes.
And so it goes.
David: I’m hungry.
Laura scrounges in the cooler and throws salami and provolone cheese at us -- we grab it like we hadn't eaten in days and follow it with bottled water.
Agnes takes us out of the Miami airport, south through Homestead and Florida City to mile marker 127 where we pick up US Highway 1 to Key Largo and on to Key West.
Me: What is that song about Key Largo? -- sings "We had it all... Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show... Sailing away to Key Largo."
David: Bertie Higgins.
Me: How do you know that?
Laura: Don’t be writing down what I say.
Me: I need it for the blog.
We head down Highway 1 watching the mile markers click off from 116 and hoping to catch lunch in Islamorada at mile marker 81.5.
Highway 1 is mostly two lanes -- and folks poke along on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I mean poke.
A sign along the way tells us: Patience pays. Only three more minutes till you can pass.”
Me: [flips through guide book and reads]
Henry Flagler, born in 1830 and educated only to the eighth grade, became a well respected businessman through buddying up with John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. In 1885, he purchased a short line railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine with big plans to extend it to Miami, a small settlement on the tip of Florida. By 1904, his railroad was completed to Homestead.
His vision went beyond Miami -- he wanted to extend it to Key West.
Known as Flager’s Folly, he wished to construct the railroad across 128 miles of rock islands and open water. Since all the keys could offer was mosquitoes and sand flies, every item had to be brought in by steamship -- cement, sand, gravel, crushed rock -- and fresh water -- . His idea seemed ludicrous at best.
Me: Men. Always got to be puttering...
Joe: Look my I-phone can tell me whatever I want. Look -- it's showing me the water on either side of us right now.
Laura: Like Agnes?
Joe: Not exactly.
Me: Google Henry Flagler.
By 1908, the first segment was completed to Marathon, Florida, aptly named by Flager as he at one point called the building of the railroad to this point. After that, up next was a 7 mile gap of water….
And so it goes…
By 1912, Flager, at age 82, rode his railroad from Flager to Key West. He changed the course of the Florida Keys forever.
As the four of us ride the Overseas Highway to Key West, it’s hard to imagine the construction that went into a project of such magnitude. It’s great to have men with vision --- who understand the need for forward progress.
I would have taken one look at that -- and said -- hmm -- I think I’ll stop here while I have land.
Me: Hey, bartender? Pass me a mojito.
Laura: Light weight.
We headed down Highway 1 in search of lunch.
We passed Shell World, Tarzan’s Tree Service, Theater of the Sea, and other things all Florida like. One sign read Adult Super Store -- and we all laughed.
David: No doubt what you can get there.
We all glance sideways at David who is gazing out the window at the water.
The sun blazed, the water surrounded us -- blue, green, light yellow -- the boats were everywhere -- being pulled behind trucks, on the water on either side, under tarps, high up in the air on dry docks, and being repaired in little garages and marinas.
Me: I’ve never seen so many boats.
Laura: Uh, if you live here, you kind of need one.
Me: Good point, but I have still never seen so many boats.
David: I like boats.
We headed into Islamorada in search of the clever name of our restaurant, recommended by friends of Laura’s from NSB. The name -- the Islamorada Fish Company -- LOL
Joe: Those people will eat anything.
Laura: They said it was good; they were here a couple of weeks ago.
Joe: I said they will eat anything.
David: Me too.
The Islamorada Fish Company boasts in the guidebook as having “an award winner grouper sandwich.”
We arrived, got ourselves a table on a huge veranda out over the water and thought -- “aww, so pretty and it’s crowded. The food must be good.”
We ordered conch fritters and ice tea -- cause we were headed for the land of the conches --- a friendly native brought us the appetizer so quick we thought they knew we were coming.
Yeah, they knew we were coming as they had been, according to Laura, “under the heat lamps since nine am” and were chewy and inedible.
Our award winner grouper sandwiches were just as disappointing ---. After leaving our food mostly uneaten, we walked back to the car with our first, but not last disappointing meal of the day. I, however, was loving the straws.
The sun blazing on our backs we passed a group of loud young kids who were trying to hit golf balls into tin cups.
Laura: I'd rather do anything that stand in the hot sun with those people.
Me: What kind of gimmick is that?
Laura: Apparently, a good one -- look at the line.
We crossed back over a bridge where some kind of ugly fish swam. Torpor fish? Torpon? I don't think you eat them or wanna eat them.
As we headed back out on Highway 1, we saw Dolphin Research Center: Bikers Welcome and laughed out loud.
Only 81. 5 miles to Key West and mile marker 0.
Laura was driving now -- and with the Suburban humming -- we pulled into Key West at 4:00...ready for the Duval Crawl and all things Key West.
Coming up -- the Conch Republic and the Conch Train.
BTW: Conch is pronounced "konk."