The One With The Overseas Highway and Pie
I have a soft spot for road trips. I simply love driving. I find it soothing even. So when I get to drive on a section of asphalt that I have dreamed of since I have had a licence, the feeling I get is a good one.
The Overseas Highway is one of these roads I have dreamed of driving on. Frequently featured in movies, with the best example being the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, True Lies. The scene which features Arnie hanging from a helicopter yelling at Jamie Lee Curtis and her ridiculously pushed up breasts that “The bridge is ooout!”. Of course he gets his girl before watching a nuclear bomb detonate destroying Key West.
While Key West does interest me as a travel destination as much as a Hollywood plot point. Before Cancun, Mexico, all those stories of spring break used to come from here and with this being the southernmost point in continental United States of America it satisfies a lot of people’s interests. For me, it is the actual highway en route to Key West that intrigues me the most.
The Overseas Highway is part of Route 1. A main east coast highway that runs from the Canadian border in Fort Kent, Maine, all 2,377 miles (3,825 km) south down to Key West, Florida. The last 125 miles (200 km) is what is known as the Overseas Highway. Originally a railroad connecting Key West to the mainland, which was often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world, it was nearly completely destroyed by a monster hurricane in 1935. It was then rebuilt with 18 bridges and opened to vehicular traffic.
The longest bridge span is the Seven Mile Bridge. The new concrete bridge which sits alongside the original, is just a little shorter at 6.79 miles (10.93 km). An incredible engineering feat none the less and lifeline for Key West. Have I mentioned that I wanted to be a structural engineer when growing up?
Key West is the gateway to Cuba, being closer to Havana than Miami. Cuba is 90 miles (140 km) and before the Cuban Revolution there were regular ferries and flights between the two countries.
It is a beautiful blend of Cuban & American cultures, is very relaxed which is a nice change to party capital Miami. The locals were ever so friendly and helpful to this Australian who, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how to put petrol/gas in the tank. What interests me the most about Key West is the military presence here. The main purpose of the Overseas Highway, nee Railroad, was to provide supplies to the massive Naval presence in the area.
The funny thing when you get here, is that the southernmost point in continental U.S.A. is not THE most southernmost point in continental U.S.A. That claim is reserved for a military installation hiding behind a very solid fence right next to the weird shaped chunk of painted concrete stating you are at the southernmost point in the continental U.S.A.
After finding a nice café/restaurant with its own man-made beach facing Cuba, we grab lunch. I enjoyed my blackened catch of the day B.L.T. wrap very much, but it was the desert that I came for. Key Lime Pie.
Key Lime Pie resembles Lemon Meringue Pie, but the main ingredient is very local. Key Limes are much more tart and aromatic than traditional limes, rewarding your bravery with a little kick in every bite. That kick is as fresh as it can get, nowhere else in the world will it have the same rich, intense taste. It is delicious.
My biggest regret about visiting Key West, is that I didn’t allow enough time to experience this beautiful pocket of the world. I would have loved to stay here for a night and wake up with a rum hangover. It was not to be though. After driving for nearly three hours to get here, some of our group were eager to get back to Miami. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same interests and this is where group travel sometimes doesn’t work the best. The group decision is the usual victor.
The trip back north soon made up for my disappointment. The farewell that Key West gave us was incredible! With the sun setting behind us, the colours were intense. The beautiful turquoise water. The palm trees swaying in the warm breeze. Then, as we were crossing the impressive Seven Mile Bridge… Mother Nature one upped mankind.
Watching the sun set over Key West was breathtaking. I was in my own world from then on. It is becoming very apparent that I am a massive sucker for a beautiful sunset.
I would one day love to return to this beautiful place and experience it to the fullest extent, but something is telling me that a certain country 90 miles south may be a more amazing experience.
Have you been to Key West, Florida? What did you think of the area? Let me know in the comments.