December 19-26, 2003 - Florida Keys

The drive December 19th from Miami to Sunburst Sugarloaf Key Resort on Sugarloaf Key was 120 miles.  It was a very scenic and interesting trip.  Most of the trip has salt water to left and right and there are many bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge that is the separation between the Upper Keys and the Lower Keys.   We stopped for lunch by finding a wide spot and the atmosphere was quite laid back, the Keys were not Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

We were almost too big for the campsite, which was on a salt water pond that used to be a rock quarry.  We made it into our campsite and had enough room  for the car, here is the campsite:

The rear was on the pond:

The hitch was actually above the water and we did get some rust corrosion from being this close to salt water for eight nights:

We could see other campers on this side:

We could see the dock and a causeway on this side:

In front was the office/clubhouse.  We had just enough room to get the satellite dish working:

The campground was at milepost 19, so it was 19 miles from the end of highway 1 in Key West.   It was (and still is as we write this in May 2006) the most expensive campground we have stayed at and we had a deal.  Other campgrounds had higher rates, including a KOA just up the road which was twice as expensive.  We expected to only visit the Keys once, so we were willing to pay for the experience.

We still had time that day so we drove into Key West and parked.   We went down to the dock and here was the small cruise ship, Radisson Diamond, which we had heard of but this was the first time we had seen it.

This island is where the people with real money live who have to commute by boat:

We watched the Dominique and his Flying House Cats show, which was great fun.  There is free entertainment every day at sunset and Dominique is probably the most famous of the entertainers.

On the 20th we drove back up the Lower Keys and did some touring.  Here is an endangered Key Deer:

One of the common chickens:

We made it all the way to the edge of Bahia Honda State Park:

These are the kind of views you have all over the Keys:

Mangrove islands:

December 21st we ventured back into Key West.

There was more to see so we went back to Key West December 22nd.

We sampled Key Lime Pie from various places and the favorite was one we bought at a Cuban bakery in Key West, the woman who sold it to us didn't speak English but knew how to take our money.

We tried food at various places and liked Capt Bob's Grill in Key West enough to repeat it.  They also had good Key Lime Pie.  

Our best find was Baby's Coffee at milepost 15, which we mention on our espresso webpage as the best we have tried.  We went in to get some espresso beans and the woman who sold them to us expected to see us again, she was that confident in their product.  She was right about their product.

There were supermarkets in both Big Pine Key and Key West, along with the Cuban and specialty markets in Key West, so we had no trouble getting groceries.  Gas was reasonably priced just up the road in Summerland Key, we had been told it was much more expensive than in Miami.  The post office was in Summerland Key also.

The weather was not as warm as normal much of our stay, in fact it only made it to 62 degrees on Christmas Day.  The locals were freezing and it was too cold to snorkel. 

One night they had a lighted boat parade in Key West so we went into town.  It was breezy and cold, but we had a good time.  The bars were very busy, the boats and ships were lighted quite nicely, and judges for the lighting contest were getting quite drunk.  It was too dark to take pictures.

We really started to like the Keys.  We realized that maybe we would be back even though we paid more per day at the campground that we ever expected to pay anywhere. 

December 24th we spent much of the day at Bahia Honda State Park.

The campground supplied turkey and ham for Christmas and everyone else brought potluck dishes.  The day was cold at 62, which is "cold" in Key West, so we all came with jackets on.  Even most of the Canadians wore long pants.  It was a strange Christmas away from family, but we were happy to be somewhere so interesting.

December 26th we decided to see everything on Big Pine Key.

Late in the day of the 26th Bill noticed a bird on the dock (the tent campers came with the holidays):

Here is a close up of the bird (sorry it's not in sharp focus), it's a Great White Heron, which is a white version of the Great Blue Heron.  We know it is a Great White Heron and not a Great Egret since it has yellow legs and a large head, while the Great Egret has black legs and a smaller head.  Great White Herons are only found in the Florida Keys.

Seeing a rare and beautiful bird on our last day was a treat.

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