Riding Down The Keys

They say the Florida Keys is a state of mind. So I decided today that I’d get into that frame of mind as soon as I left the mainland. It’s only about 120 miles down to Key West but I thought I could stretch the 3 hour trip into 6 by making frequent stops at pubs and restaurants. The weather was very cooperative and I left the mainland at 10:00 am. Locations on “Route 1 South – The Oversea Highway” are traditionally located by their highway mile marker (MM).


First stop: DJ’s Diner in Key Largo (MM 99) for breakfast. The food was great at this family-run place and just across the highway for your visiting pleasure was the original boat from the Bogart- Bacall flick, The African Queen.


Next, I pulled into The Lorelei Tiki Bar and Restaurant (MM 82) in Islamorada for a quick libation. Like many along this route, the open air bar is built out over the water and features a thatched roof and fantastic view. The water flanking the road, by the way, is such an incredible blue color!


At The Island Tiki Bar in Marathon (MM 56) I was introduced to a drink called “A Pain In The Ass”. This bit of heaven in a cup is half Pina Colada and half Rum Runner and absolutely fantastic. The name comes from the fact that until the era of slushee machines at bars, it was very difficult for a bartender to make one serving of this drink as it really involves making two different blender drinks. I subsequently discovered quite a few bars in Key West without the requisite slushee machine and they would not make the drink unless you agreed to buy two of them.


I stopped at the 7 Mile Grill (MM 47) for lunch, which involved my first tasting of Conch Fritters. My long time friends recognize my limited sea food palate and I have not yet decided what I think about conch. Perhaps a few more tastings in other formats are indicated… The 7 Mile Grill was an open air restaurant with a great view and excellent food. It sits at the northern end of a seven mile long bridge, which in itself is a pretty interesting driving experience. Incidentally, the speed limit down through the keys varies between 45 and 55 mph and there is surely no reason to make the trip go by quickly.


Finally, I stopped at the Sugarloaf Lodge and Tiki Bar (MM 22) for a libation and had a very interesting talk with Nancy, the bartender. She is leaving next Monday for a first time visit to Paris and has been to Venice already, so we were able to trade tips and advice about our mutual upcoming European trips. 


I finally rolled into Key West at 3:30 and made an end-to-end ride up and down the main drag, Duval street, first thing, capped off with taking a picture of my Harley at the marker for the southernmost point in the U.S. All in all, it was a really terrific ride and put me in the right frame of mind. I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting a few places on Duval just to get the lay of the land. The laid back Key West attitude is obvious and pervasive and I look forward to a few days off the road soaking it up.

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