03 January 2013

2013 SOUTH & EAST COAST Key West 9 - Good Morning Key West

THE STATS: Weather forecast for today is high of 79 and low of 71 tonight. Mileage is 93 to our destination in Key West. A casual drive today. No crazy speed limits or drivers. The posted limits are between 45-55 all the way. Pretty much one lane except over the bridges, so no option but to follow the vehicle in front of you. Takes the pressure off. Elevation zero feet in Key West at our motel parking lot. No surprise because we can see the sea before our eyes. Filled gas tank along the way at $3.29 a gallon and average MPG is 49.5 for this tank.

Before leaving, we took a little stroll along the marina board walk. Saw the original boat used in The African Queen movie with Katherine Hepburn and Bogey. Got some great pix of pelicans and a tall white egret.

On our way at 10:47am. Scenic views of all kinds en route. Fifty million shades of blue in the water and sky, green mangrove clumps, white coral beaches, abandoned bridges paralleling our route, hopeful fishermen with lines in the ocean, and birds resting on rusty iron railings, beaks to the wind. A lot of au natural mixed in with too-the-max commercial, eateries, and lodging.

Got stopped for a few minutes by a draw bridge. Noticed whole coconuts on sale for 50 cents each on the roadside. Lots of palm trees and tiki bars. Saw an old mini-sub for sale by the side of the road and an Ozark DC3 airplane at a small airport. That airline hasn't been around since the early 70's. The only animal warning signs we saw were for deer on Pine Key.

One of the things we noticed was, this is the land of big animal statuary, I guess to catch your attention. We saw a gigantic lobster at least 15 feet high and maybe 20 feet from head to tail (we'll try to catch a photo of him on the way back), as well as stone crab, dolphin, conch, rhinoceros (?!), various tropical fish, and a lot of mailboxes surrounded by manatee statuettes. Also, utility poles are made of concrete instead of wood. Stand up better to hurricanes, I guess.

Bruces had recommended a breakfast place called The Stuffed Pig on Marathon Key. As we pulled up we were a little skeptical, as it looked like a pretty run down tiny café, but we trusted our friends and entered this humble abode. No one else inside! Hmmm! Ok, just sit down and order. Once we looked at the menu, we started to believe. Mike ordered pancakes and eggs and I ordered LOBSTER fritters, hash browns, eggs. Oh man, oh man, oh man. Everything was delish-i-oso. Thanks, Bruces, for a great recommendation.

On full bellies, we made our way down to our destination for the next couple of days. Entering Key West, there was much road construction and much that we did not recognize. Well, we hadn't been here for ten years, so that made sense.

Made it to our hotel, the Orchid Key Inn, without incident. We had seen this motel many times over the years, but it was pretty run down. By the looks of their Internet site it is still a 50's style motel, but totally refurbished. Again, we hoped the pix on the site were a true reality of its current condition and again we were not disappointed.

The exterior is bright white stucco and rooms are sand colored walls with lime and sea blue highlights, shiny white terrazzo floor and counters. Bathrooms are updated and VERY nice. Rooms are a bit small (like in the 50's) but with creative arranging we found a spot for all our gear. The pool is just the right size for a tad bit of swimming, but mostly lounging around the patio. There is a sleek bar open in the afternoons with a happy hour from 4-6pm. This place screams 50's, but with current amenities. A super combo. We feel right at home.

First stop after unpacking was a jaunt down Duval Street. As we trudged into the heavy masses of cruise ship maniacs, I thought "this is too much, not sure I still like it, too crowded, too commercial, mistake, leave early." Later we learned that the cruise ships have to depart 20 minutes before sunset unless they pay an extra $60,000 to hang around later. Brian, our office manger, says Disney is about the only one that pays to stay. So the key is shop early, lounge mid-afternoon to avoid the cruise ship insanity, party late.

Anyway we made it down to Mallory Square (where sunset "ceremony" is held each night) and found the Waterfront Theatre. Bought tickets for The 39 Steps for tonight, even though we will be seeing the Kazoo version in a few weeks. Returned to the motel for happy hour and relaxing. We weren't very hungry (after that big, bold breakfast), so we decided to dine after the play.

The play was hysterical. It is a farce on all things Hitchcockian and we are anxious to see another version soon at home. Sat next to an ex-teacher who comes down for the month of January every year. She gave us the low-down on some restaurants and places to see. She is a theatre buff, so we mostly talked plays and playhouses. This playhouse was made of limestone walls, quaint and small in size, nice red velvet curtain, very professional. I'd volunteer here, for sure, if this was our home town.

On the way home, STILL weren't very hungry so we stopped in a little dive for a slice of pizza each. Then meandered back for an excellent night's sleep on a really comfy bed (mattress also for sale--this must be a new money-maker for hotels).


Key West now has a Ripley's believe it or not. That is a clear sign to us that it's a bit too touristy.

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