Florida - USA - Florida Keys & The Everglades
Jul 26, 2014
|When we left you it was Saturday 19th July and we were just about to pick up a hire car.
We caught the hotel shuttle bus and returned to Miami international airport.
There we got an elevated train to a special building that is totally devoted to hire car companies. We joined the masses at the "Alamo" hire car queue and were directed into a car park where we were given a choice of several vehicles. After a quick look around we selected an almost brand new Chevrolet sonic automatic (you don't seem to be able to hire a car with a manual gear box in the US).
We chose this car for its large boot, that takes our large travel bags quite easily.
As we've reached our last country on our travels we've become soft and because of the high temperatures and humidity we'll probably be staying in air conditioned Motel rooms during our stay in Florida.
Our first day in the car involved a short afternoon drive straight out of Miami and down to a hotel in Florida city, which is the gateway to the Florida keys.
After arriving from Bolivia we're quickly realising that no one walks anywhere, even a short distance.
The road layout doesn't seem to lend itself to pedestrians, as there are often no sidewalks (pavements) and crossing the highway involves a quick scamper to avoid the speeding traffic.
Everything seems to be designed so that you can drive in air conditioned comfort either to it or through it.
We drove during our visits to the west coast of the USA and while in Alaska so we're getting used to driving on the right again and being allowed to turn right on a red traffic signal. We are just a little confused about the speed limits. While driving and keeping to the speed limit (for example 55 mph) if you travel at that speed or even slightly over the limit, it seems to frustrate other motorists.
As we anticipate quite a lot of driving it would be interesting to know from our American readers any tips on what is generally expected/accepted on the road and what speed limits the police will enforce? (email to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The following day we continued down to Key Largo where Nigel was booked in for his diving course.
We moved into our marina based hotel and whilst just strolling around we discovered a very nice little Italian restaurant, the original boat used in the Humphrey Bogart movie "African Queen" and a house used in the filming of the Julia Roberts movie "Sleeping with the enemy".
Monday and Tuesday were spent either in or under the water.
Helen went snorkelling off the dive boat and Nigel successfully passed his Advanced Open Water diving course
He can dive a little deeper, he knows a little more about neutral buoyancy (hovering underwater), underwater navigation, identifying fish species and drift diving (using currents).
A special thanks to Rainbow Reef Dive Centre and Meredith, Nigel's instructor.
Meredith had just passed her teaching qualification. Nigel was her first pupil (poor woman).
We spent our last day in Key Largo relaxing.
Nigel got his totally out of control hair cut and we did a little shopping.
We equipped ourselves with a US cell phone and completed a few simple chores - filling the car with gasoline and buying some snacks for our longer driving days.
On Thursday we headed down to Key West at the end of the Florida Keys.
Helen took control of the driving on the way down and we drove over the "Seven mile bridge" which links the Key's together.
We went to the southern most point in the USA and took the picture to prove it.
We decided not to stay in Key West as the accommodation was prohibitively expensive possibly due to the cruise liners frequenting this harbour town or it could be that everything has to be transported in.
We headed a few miles north and stayed in a delightful wooden bungalow in a town called Marathon.
On Friday we had a 4 hour drive to get to the Everglades.
We left Marathon, headed back the way we had come and had a brief stop at a cafe in Key Largo for the local delicious Key Lime Pie (like a lime flavoured cheese cake).
We both thought of a scene from the 90's TV series "Twin Peaks" as we sat in the cafe eating "mighty fine pie"
We then finished the drive ending in a small town called Everglades City (definitely not like any UK city) where we spent the night.
Today is Saturday 26th July and we went on an Airboat ride in the Everglades. Unfortunately a massive thunderstorm had planted itself over us and as we approached the Airboat company the heavens opened followed by thunder and lightening. It would have been a little foolhardy to take a metallic boat out in the water with this storm and we were quite relieved that the company had postponed any boat rides. We did get our first glimpse of a local Gator - underneath the decking at the airboat company.
We headed back into town for coffee and waited for the storm to pass over. We got our ride a couple of hours later.
We celebrated our Airboat ride with a lunch of local crab cakes and coleslaw. Delicious!
Tomorrow were heading for a trip to see the Manatee and continuing to head north.