Saturday, February 18, 2006

Key West

We are at Boyd's Campground on Stock Island, part of Key West (map). There are three commercial campgrounds clustered close by here, and they are purported to be the closest camping to downtown Key West, about five miles from here. I say purported because we passed something claiming to be an RV resort on our way into town yesterday, but I can find no reference to it in any guides or on the 'net. Today we will stop in to investigate.

Boyd's is representative of everything we absolutely detest about commercial parks. The sites are crammed together -- we have only about ten feet between us and another coach on either side, and less than five feet from the coach behind us. Unless we ascend to our rooftop deck, we have a view only of other rigs -- we could just as easily be in Arizona as in the Florida Keys. We have no privacy -- dozens of people have wandered by to check Odyssey out, and they ask endless questions if we are anywhere in view. (When we are not in view, we often get to overhear them talking about us.) No one bothers to first read the FAQ we have posted prominently in the front window. Mostly, the other guests are not our demographic. Furthermore, as is common here in the southeast, there are a good number of smokers (including cigar smokers), and the proximity of the sites means that some of the smoke comes in to our home. For all this we have the privilege of paying $95 per night, plus tax.

Yesterday we rode the motorcycles in to downtown. To its credit, Key West provides specifically marked, close-in motorcycle parking, which is free to boot (the car spaces, in contrast, are metered). We spent the afternoon cruising Duval Street. Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the atmosphere of Key West's main drag has the effect of making the city into a caricature of itself. Whatever eclectic charms the city held in the years when it was relatively undiscovered and difficult to reach have now been eclipsed by an endless array of cheesy T-shirt shops, major tourist-trap restaurant chains, and big-name boutiques that are anything but unique to Key West.

After sampling some of the shopping, lunch at a local restaurant, and some good people-watching, we rode around some of the other districts, and came back home along the Atlantic beaches, with the obligatory ride-by of the "southernmost point" monument. Much hoopla is made of the southernmost designation, for reasons not clear to me considering:
  1. The actual southernmost point in the United States is on the big island of Hawaii, a full 4.5 degrees more southerly in latitude (in contrast, Key West has the tip of the Florida peninsula beat by only half a degree, or the tip of Texas by about a degree).
  2. The marker isn't even on the southernmost point on Key West. That point lies behind a locked gate on the Truman Annex of the Naval Air Station reservation.
  3. Since Key West is, itself, an island, technically it can't even claim southernmost point on the continental land mass of the US.
I suppose what they really mean is "southernmost point to which a civilian can drive from any of the 49 continental states." A feat only possible, of course, since the development of the overseas highway.

We came home in the early evening, thinking we would try to take a city bus to dinner, but the bus ride would be an hour each way -- hardly worth it for the ability to have an extra drink or two. We instead rode back downtown and had dinner at one of the old-time local establishments, the A&B Lobster House. The food was tasty, but, like many things in this town, a bit overpriced.

I will say that the weather here has been fabulous, with daytime highs around 80 under clear skies. The sea temperature, though, being still below 70, is not conducive to sampling the snorkeling or other local water sports.

Today we will spend some more time downtown, possibly taking one of the tram tours to save our feet and our clutch hands. We are wait-listed for a sunset diner cruise tonight, but I am not holding out much hope. Perhaps, instead, we will have another local restaurant meal and take a sunset cocktail cruise. Tonight is our last on-island. We checkout by 11 tomorrow, and tomorrow night we will be at the Elks Lodge in Tavernier, between Islamorada and Key Largo.

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