Live Trip Map Day 3: December 26, 2008
To the First Key
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It initially looked like Christmas dinner might be a problem. My motel was a little east of Naples and I cruised a few miles beyond it before deciding that my best chances were back toward town. I passed a couple dozen closed restaurants, including multiple McDonald's and Burger Kings, before I saw an open Sonic. That would be my safety net if all else failed. In Naples, I left the Dixie to follow an "Historic Downtown" sign. "Historic Downtown" Naples had some people and at least four open restaurants. One was a steak house with a long line and one was a sidewalk cafe that would have worked but it didn't appeal to me all that much. I sensed a winner when I found an Italian restaurant and an Irish pub side by side. The Italian place had a one hour wait for a table and the wait at the pub was almost that long. But the pub had a bar with open stools. It also had cold beer and soon had me.

Both beer and food were good but I enjoyed a conversation at the end of the bar even more. I couldn't hear it all but I could tell that the two men had just met for the first time. The one with the beard was telling stories with lines like "I had just finished the job in Mogadishu." At one point he told of meeting Mother Teresa and having a conversation with her. The other fellow was astounded. Of course, he was properly impressed with the story but this was the second time he had met someone who had met the saint in the making. What were the odds of that, he wondered. In all likelihood, everything both men said is certifiable truth but I can't help but wonder if "I've met two guys who..." was a preemptive strike. Since no one could possibly meet two Mother Teresas, meeting two guys who had met her sets a hard to top standard.

This morning I continued on US-41 towards Miami. I turned off at Everglades City intending to visit the Museum of the Everglades. It was closed but the town has a neat City Hall and bank.

I happened by the country's smallest post office while the day's mail was being picked up. I bought three picture postcards and mailed one to myself. My own, standard sized, post office will hold it for me until I get home. For some reason, I didn't even think of it until I was well down the road so I wasted the opportunity to photograph the postmistress or the building's interior.

The road itself isn't all that interesting. It's mostly a straight line that passes few structures. I'm sure there are alligators in the canal that flows beside the road but I didn't see any. I did see lots of egrets and other birds standing in the water or perched in the trees. The birds tend to go airborne when a car stops near them. That's usually just a bird or two but occasionally a dozen or so will launch simultaneously.

The road passes through the Big Cypress National Preserve. A wooden walkway at the visitor center provided a good view of a section of the canal and of the alligators that are somehow encouraged to hang around. All the photos in this panel were taken from the walkway.

Near a curve labeled "Fortymile Bend", the map shows a section of Old Tamiami Trail and I cut over to check it out at the first opportunity. It's pavement is older and it's a little narrower but it doesn't differ significantly from the current road. The Miccosukee Indian Village is at one end of the section. That's the old road that people are walking across in the second picture. Here, the area between the old and new roads is filled with a parking lot and air boat rides are available by walking across the current Tamiami Trail/US-41.

I wasn't particularly interested in a boat ride but had halfway planned on stopping at Coopertown, where the air boat was born but the place was packed. Before that, the road leading to Shark Valley had a "Lot Full" sign posted and cars lined the side of the highway for some distance. I had skipped it, too.

Miami traffic begins not far from Coopertown. I had read that, south of Naples, US-41 is signed as east-west but this is the only such sign I noticed. There may be others but I know for a fact that signs read "south" well beyond Naples. US-1 is what was once Dixie Highway East and the Tamiami Trail and Dixie Highway West end here.

Traffic got worse before it got better and was still fairly heavy when I came to the accepted entrance to the keys. The new Jewfish Creek Bridge opened just before Memorial Day this year. Roads on both sides of the creek allow access to businesses there and allow a view of the on going removal of the 1944 drawbridge.

In Key Largo, I paid more than I wanted but less than I feared for a bed. The bed was in a two story space that was more like an apartment than a motel room; a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a balcony overlooking a marina. It's on the right side of the first picture; just past the palm trees. The place with the blue rails in the second picture is Sharkey's Pub & Grill. I never did get there but I didn't have to. The last picture is from my balcony where I listened to some really good live music while working on this page and a bottle of rum.

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