Tigerboy's Domain
MZ Florida Trip to Key West : Jan 15 - 19, 2011

Lakeland - Miami : Jan 15-17   |    Florida Keys : Jan 18-19    |    Miami - Lakeland : Jan 19

Now I am officially on the Florida keys. To be honest so far it's boring. Just like more of Florida, flat two-lane road in each direction with the usual residential/commercial stuff on each side. That would be Key Largo. Here's a typical shot of the boring stuff.

I'm hoping the riding will get more interesting. Meanwhile I stop to check out the landmark of a seafood restaurant (that's one BIG lobster)

When I reach the first bridge, about 1/3 the way down, that connects one key to the next, things finally get interesting, and now I feel the trip was well worth it. It's kind of neat the way they get the electric power from one key to the next.

And looking back. Note there is definitely some traffic but it isn't ridiculous, at least.

Coming up on another bridge in the series, this is a longer one, and has a place where I can park my bike to get a good view, and rest.

After taking this photo, I notice my MZ casts a much cooler shadow than the SUV parked next to me (more on that point later)

This bridge has a walkway next to it, which does not connect to the other side. I think this might have been the old railway bridge that existed before the highway system was put in place.

I know, it's tempting to ride my MZ Baghira through that. I did not chance it. No use getting busted, I'd rather make it to Key West than to Jail.

Now I am on Long Key, where the land is noticeably tinier, and you can see the ocean from at least one side.

Which not co-incidentally leads me onto the first really long bridge.
By now it's getting late in the afternoon and I make a mental note that it is better to ride to Key West earlier in the day.

Yeah if I was riding in the opposite direction, I wouldn't be having the sun in my face.

Which brings me to my next point. I'm so glad I'm riding. I wouldn't be able to stop on the bridge and get these shots if I was in a car.

Now to fill up at a Shell station in Marathon.

Just down the road, is Keys Cycles

Now dig my MZ shadow late in the afternoon.

After leaving Marathon, I come up on the 7 mile bridge. It's a long one.
Late in the afternoon, the photo turns out better, looking the way I came, at the top of a crest.

After the crest it flattens out and all you see is the bridge, the power lines, the old railway bridge, and water.

Pretty annoying to be staring at the late afternoon sun by now.

Down the bridge a ways, I come across a gap in the old railway bridge.
What? No make-shift ramp there for someone to do a little Travis Pastrana jump? *Damn*

Okay, now moving on.

Towards the end of the bridge, I notice another railway bridge that takes you to some distant key not on the main drag.

I pass Big Pine Key, a nature preserve, a warning to watch for deer, then a nice motel, which I take note. This looks like a great place to stay, I think about stopping in to make a reservation, but I decide against it, because I'm not sure how much time I'll end up in Key West. Maybe I'll stay there instead. Besides it's a weekday, so I figure reservations aren't crucial as they would be on a weekend.

Now I'm on Bahia-Honda key, where I get a picture-perfect opportunity looking out to sea. Man, I could get used this this life!

As I admire my MZ shadow once again, I notice a convenient way to get back on the road in the background.
(That was made for my kind of bike)

Back on US1, I soon find myself entering Key West with heavy traffic. Next I have an immediate decision to make:

Do I take US 1 which loops around the north part of the island, or A1A which loops around the south?

I figure I might as well keep on US 1. At this cross-road was a military veteran of some type, holding up a homophobic sign. Not exactly the welcome I had in mind. No picture, I was more interested in getting through this heavy traffic than face someone with an agenda.

So here I am, on the north side, which is nothing more than strip malls and restaurants, and this Yamaha dealership.
And there's just enough room on the side of the road for me to park my Baghira.

I notice a LOT of heavy traffic zooming by, people on scooters, no helmets, and people from all states imaginable, like faraway places like Vermont.
At this point I really wonder if going this far was really worth it. This place is NUTS !

Some pretty fancy yachts parked in the lagoon.

I continue on US 1, for what it's worth, negotiating heavy traffic all the way, glad I'm on a Baghira, and finally, the moment of truth ...

Mile marker 0. I figure lots of riders get their picture taken here, so what the hey. Too bad the sun is facing the wrong direction.

Yup, this is it, the only way out is North, and funny, they don't have a sign telling you how far Maine is (where the highway ends going the other way).
It's January, are you kidding me? I'm going to stay here for a while yet!

Before the sun sets, I want to explore a bit more of Key West. I haven't got time to check out any of the tourist traps, I'll save that for another trip.

I spot the Coast Guard (the boat that picks up the Cubans before they can reach US soil and claim amnesty) next to the Naval base.

Now I take note of the historic part of town (Key West goes back to the turn of the last century), this is Southard St, a nice tree-lined residential boulevard that also looks to be the expensive part of town.

I'm not done yet. My next conquest is to find the most southern tip of the island, for that is the most southern part of the continental US.
Another famous landmark. (I know, Hawaii is further south than this...Someday I'll ride that)

And here I am! Mission accomplished! And just in time too, before the sun set.
Cuba (Havana) is only 90 miles south of here, though you can't see it from this vantage point.

The place is teaming with tourists, I must have heard at least 5 different languages being spoken, mostly European.
I met two ladies, on rented Harleys who were from Switzerland. Neat, I once lived there for a year when I was a kid.

You know it occurred to me that I was now as far South as I have ever been in my life. I've never done anything further south than this, believe it or not.
And it was nice. Definitely t-shirt weather. Low 70s. You really couldn't ask for a better day. I don't want to think how cold it is back home.

At this point, I couldn't help notice this boarded up commercial building. Just think, you could have the most southern offices in the entire Continental US!

After the sun set, it's time to move on. Not much daylight is going to remain at this point!

I continue along the southern part of the island, meeting up with A1A (unlike US 1, this highway only goes as far as Jacksonville, following the Florida East Coast). Check out the full moon.

It is along this stretch that I notice this is where all the beaches lie. No traffic here, which is a refreshing relief.
I wish I wasn't so short on time, I'd love to go swimming just to say I've done it. That will have to wait another time.

I'm on the right road, heading north, as you can see, it's almost dark.

What a great shot with the full moon and reflection on the water. This alone makes me really happy to have done Key West.

A1A soon merges with US 1 and I find myself saying goodbye to Key West. The riding with the full moon out is awesome and I wonder how far I should continue. I decide on that motel I passed by earlier on Big Pine Key (so I don't end up crossing the 7-mile bridge by moonlight, which admittedly would have been cool).

Anyway, I'm not sure what I'd find in Marathon, and this place looked nice, though a tad expensive ($100 for a night).
But any place in the Keys, I figure will be expensive! Plus I could get breakfast at the diner right there, which is convenient.

Next, to get some chow. They tell me there's a Chinese Restaurant in town, just off US 1, in the Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza. As I park my bike, I can't help notice, along the same row, cars from Maryland, Ohio, PA, Michigan and Virginia. Hell I could be right at home and see that! No wonder this place in general is pretty crowded.

While I'm at the Winn-Dixie, I pick up a nice stack of Key West Postcards (cheaper than at any of the souvenir shops in Key West, I'm sure)

I then pack it in, and it's warm enough that I need to run the air conditioning once again. I'm thinking in a couple days when I'm back home this will not be the case, so I'd better enjoy it while it lasts.

On TV there's this bizarre game show I've never seen before. Called the Million Dollar Money Drop, it features bundles of money that goes down the tubes whenever you place it on the wrong answers to a muliple choice question. A military couple thought Jefferson was on the dime (he's on the nickel, silly), and lost everything in one shot. That's a lot of cash. I was thinking, hell, for a measly 10, they could have pulled a dime from their pocket and gotten the answer correct (Roosevelt), saving themselves that $1,000,000 for that turn. It's not every day a dime comes in that handy, I said to myself.

The last thing I do before hitting the sack is write out all those postcards. Unfortunately I'll be home before my friends and family get them.

The next morning, I note the 60s architecture, and the 1962 car (which I later learned, thanks to a helpful reader, was a Chevy Impala) that blends in quite nicely. What a blast from the past. My bike is the only thing that looks out of place here, otherwise we could be in the 60s.

After a great breakfast, I'm ready to move on at around 8:00am.
I've got a lot of ground to cover since I need to be back in Lakeland by the evening, and I figure I've got 350 miles to go.

First to find a post-office, but unfortunately the one in Big Pine Key is not yet open. Instead of waiting for it to open, I figure I'll get the one in Marathon.

Leaving Big Pine Key, I note a bunch of Pelicans roosting on the old railway bridge. I remembered these on the way down, but I did not stop.

It's a nice foggy morning, as I cross the bridge to the next key.

Once I reach the 7-mile bridge, I start to see some blue sky. Awesome!

I've already stopped to photograph my bike on the bridge on the way down, so no need to duplicate that effort. I cross without stopping.

Next, I reach Marathon where I mail off my postcards at the Post Office.

Continuing on, I stop at the Dolphin Research Center. This is a place I noted on the way down, but didn't stop due to lack of time.
Figure I might as well get it on the return trip, just for the great photo op.

Here's another thing I noticed on my way down, a neat island resort entrance sign.

Eventually I reach the causeway to the keys where I also stopped on my way down.

Looking east you can see a vast swamp area where fresh water meets salt.

Okay, I am back on Florida's mainland, so

Click here to follow my trip the rest of the way back to Lakeland

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Page created Feb 26, 2011