So we stumbled our way onto the Keys without making long-range reservations during their very busy “peak season” time. For any of you out there looking to visit the Keys, their busy season starts waning in March, so non-reservation RV visits will be a little more successful in finding space. We lucked into a 3-day span at a place called Jolly Roger RV Park in Marathon, about half way to Key West. And being the peak season, prices are exorbitantly high everywhere you look. We paid $94 per night for our stay, taxes included. Most of the private RV parks can lay claim to having waterfront sites, but they all seem to be cut from the same cloth and come with the same types of complaints. The sites are stacked up on top of each other; the interior roads are skinny and include very tight maneuvering space; the lovely aroma of raw sewage seems to hover over the Keys in areas of the RV parks; many have long term residents with rigs in all manner of repair and disrepair; and the prices are absolutely outrageous! It is a cryin’ shame that just due to location and popularity, RV parks can charge these high rates for less than average facilities. But, you can’t blame them, they are backed-up busy and people are willing to fork over the dough, even for sub-par parks. Now, one alternative is to try and get reservations at one of the state parks along the Keys. There are several, but some are not possible in bigger rigs. Of the parks we drove by, I would venture a guess that Bahia-Honda State Park is the crown jewel of the series. It had numerous waterfront sites and appeared to have a little more foliage between a lot of the sites, giving one a feeling of privacy even though these parks also have the sites packed in like sardines. And their $40 nightly rates are much more reasonable.
Our first day we took Woodrow Wilson with us to Key West, about an hour’s drive from Marathon. We hung out in the area of Old Town and let Woody take us for a walk down the very pedestrian-busy street. This area I would describe as a cross between San Francisco’s Castro district and the French Quarter in “Nawlins.” Lots of rainbow motif and posters advertising drag queen contests on the one hand and the VIP Gentleman’s Club (with one of the girls sitting on the front porch next to a chalk board advertising their different services provided) on the other hand. Some of this stuff I had to cover Woody’s eyes, I did not want him to get embarrassed… We got to see the marker for the southernmost point of the continental USA, the southernmost house, and the southernmost beach. The beach was laughable, see the picture below.
The next day we took the bicycles for a spin. They have some nice bike lanes scattered along the main highway and we found a couple of bicycle/kayak/rental/everything shops were down the road from us. We needed some parts and pieces for the bikes and decided to ride in their direction. We found Wheels 2 Go and the gal there was very helpful. What we could not find there, she told us the Overseas Outfitters was just down the road and would probably have the other things we needed. O.O. took very good care of us and we got everything bicycle related squared away. If anyone is in the area and needs bike work or parts, those two outfits are outstanding! Anyways, we rode our bikes to the 7-mile bridge, then to Sombrero Beach, and back to the park. Don’t laugh…my butt still hurts from that ride 2 days ago, it was 26.2 miles round trip done in about 5 hours total (go ahead, runners, laugh! Yes it was a marathon in Marathon. Yes, you could have clocked us with a calendar. Yes, I understand you real marathon runners can do it in the 2 hour range). It was a good ride, at least for us. Gotta love the views.
On our third day we decided to drive to Key Largo to check it out a little better than just driving through it to get here. Key Largo turned out to be nothing spectacular, but on the way back we hit the Go-Anna (aka: iguana) jackpot. Them little (some not so little) buggers seemed to have crawled out from everywhere. We stopped several times and got some photos of the mini-dragons and my one regret was on one stop for a particularly spectacular specimen with a flaming orange “sail” and various matching body parts, the little creep was actually too fast for me, he shot back into the brush like a dart. But I still got some good shots of others…
Our stay here gave us lots of opportunity to see critters other than the Go-Annas. Between watching an awesome sunset from the dock area and walking along the sea wall, we saw things such as a sting ray, nurse shark, barracuda, parrot fish, lobsters, crabs, and a few nasty-mean looking eels.
All in all, we were not blown away at all by visiting the Keys. Other than getting to see the critters, the cost here is ridiculous for what it is about. There are basically no real beach areas anywhere, the “beaches” here are the size of postage stamps. The main attraction here is the consumption of alcohol, some folks enjoy happy hour all day. It is a GREAT place to come if you want to fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, jet-ski, take boat tours, or eat. Other than that, the area is junky, there are lots of “pigs” (not of the porcine variety but the 2-legged kind) roaming freely as evidenced by all the garbage strewn about. The constant sewer smell is overwhelming at times. And during peak season, the traffic is miserable! If we had our “druthers”, anywhere from Cocoa Beach south to Miami, or the Florida panhandle, would be more preferable to visit. One of our favorite areas, so far, is the area of Hollywood Beach. Another is the panhandle area around Pensacola and Destin.
That about covers it for now. Now we head up the Gulf side to all points north. Until next post…