Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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The end of the road Key West, FL, Sunday, 21 October 2012 11:45pm

Before leaving Key Largo, I decided that I wanted to see what was at the local coral reef state park. Since time was limited and my dive computer seems totally broken, I signed up for a snorkeling tour instead of a diving tour. It turned out to be on a huge boat with a lot of people, but when the crew realized I was a diver, they encouraged me to not wait for everyone to go down the ladder at the front of the boat, but just jump off of the side. I did that and then swam to the far side of the reef, and didn't run into any other snorkelers until it was time to return to the boat.

I did, however, see a pretty good variety of wildlife. The part of the reef that I swam past was dominated by sea fans and was only about 15 ft underwater, and there were a variety of the usual suspects: striped grunts, sergeant majors, stoplight parrotfish, spotted trunkfish, bar jacks, and so forth. On the far side of the reef, there was a drop off to a sandy bottom and some hard coral. There I found a sea turtle, which let me follow it around for ten minutes or so. When I circled back to the drop off, a southern stingray was working its way along the sandy bottom. There were also some medium-sized black groupers, and hogfish, and a bunch of small jellyfish. On the way back to the boat, I ran across a large greater barracuda.

The ride down to Key West was fun. There were a number of causeways between the keys (US-1 is called the Overseas Highway for a reason), which gave nice views of the islands and the beautiful waters between them. I made a short detour to visit No Name Key, where there's a key deer sanctuary. Key deer are whitetail deer that, after many generations on the small islands, have adapted by getting smaller and smaller. I saw one buck with a comically big rack of antlers, but he saw me getting out my camera and darted into the brush. A smaller male and a couple of does were more cooperative. I was able to photograph them staring at me as they munched on someone's lawn.

I ended up at my hotel in time to watch the sunset at Mallory Square, where street performers congregate. I noticed jugglers, acrobats, a sword swallower, and a fire hooper. This is the place where Love 22 used to perform.

Key West is in the early part of their Fantasy Fest, which seems to be a little like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As I was was walking to dinner, there was a zombie bike parade processing down the main drag.

I was distinctly unhungry, so I decided to go for the most touristy thing I could find: a cheeseburger at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. It was exactly what you'd expect. The fries were good, though. While I was eating, the fire department showed up with an engine crew, and firefighters came and went up some stairs. It was never clear what, exactly was going on, though. I also stopped at one of the Key Lime Pie places for a slice. It was pretty good, and oddly cold, as if they were keeping it in a freezer instead of a fridge.

After dinner, I stopped in at the Rum Bar and tasted a number of interesting rums, and then walked along the main drag for a bit, watching the Fantasy Fest crowd in their costumes and body paint.

So. I've made it to Key West, and seen the southern end of US-1, which was the first of my goals for this trip. Now I have to figure out what else I want to do before returning to Austin...