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2003 Florida Vacation - October 22 through November 1


Road Trip Map
My 2003 (Southern) Florida Vacation. 11 days, 3675 miles.

Background / Planning

Well, it was late October, it was vacation time, and it was too late to go West. Snow, doncha know. So let's go someplace warm. Let's go South.

So, we went way South. All the way to Key West. Just to say I was there. Just to drive the Overseas Highway.

Yes, there was a visit to Disney World on the way to Southern Florida, and a stop at Universal Orlando on the way back. When you have annual passes, it's not that expensive. :-)

Sunrise the day we left WDW...
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Everglades Airboat Swamp Tour - October 27

In 2002, I did the tourist thing to do and did a swamp tour in New Orleans . This year, I was in the everglades. The thing to do was an airboat ride! They're loud, crude, and an amazingly fun machine. You sit elevated above the water, with no roof, glass or A or B pillar. It's probably the closest I've come to flying without a plane. A genuine E ticket ride, with alligators.

You're taken through the cypress swamps, and to open tidal areas within the Everglades, a fun and informative tour...

Everglades Airboat Swamp Tour...
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Marco Island - October 27

Jo had a thing about the Gulf Coast beaches, so on the way down South we stopped for the night On Marco Island. In 2009, we would visit Venice and Siesta Key.

I do have to admit, a sunset over the Gulf is a wondrous sight...

Marco Island
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Everglades National Park - October 28

To quote from The Complete Guide to America's National Parks,
"Mosquitoes and other biting insects make camping and backcountry use during the summer rainy season virtually unbearable by all but the most dedicated outdoors person."

How's that for a rousing endorsement? True, it wasn't the summer rainy season, but there isn't a season down here that doesn't have mosquitoes. I was out of the car for maybe a minute taking the panoramic below, and some damned mosquito dined on my leg. In October. Go figure.

The Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of southern Florida. I think there are 1.5 million mosquitoes per acre. You do the math.

There are two types of places. Areas with trees, and open flat areas. The park is so flat, that there aren't any areas higher than 8 feet above sea level. Oh, them skeeters are worse in the tree area.

Am I obsessing over mosquitoes?

Everglades National Park
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Overseas Highway (US-1) - October 28

On January 21, 1912, a guy named Henry Flagler completed the Overseas Railroad from South Florida to Key West. Henry assumed that the steamships coming out of the soon-to-be completed Panama Canal would need to refill their coal bins at Key West.

Unfortunately for Henry, this thing called oil became the fuel of choice, and the need to stop for frequent refueling was eliminated. As was Henry's fortune.

When a category 5 hurricane blew through the keys on September 2nd, 1935, it destroyed some 40 miles of railroad track, ensuring that the railroad, already in receivership, wouldn't run again. The government decided instead, to build a highway. For cars.

The 119 mile Overseas Highway was officially completed on March 29, 1938, completing the 2200 mile road named US-1. By 1982, the road and all bridges were upgraded, the old bridges left behind as walking trails and fishing bridges.

Today, some 42,000 cars per day travel the Overseas Highway. There are 51 bridges, and 20% of the road is over water. The crowning achievement of the highway, is the Seven Mile Bridge. It's 35,000 feet (6.7 miles) long, and reaches a height of 65 feet.

Overseas Highway (US-1)
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Key West, Florida - October 28

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Key West, Florida
Key West was fun. Our hotel was on the East side of the Island, and we decided to take the shuttle and go to Mallory Square for the evening, where the performance artists hang out. Saw a beautiful sunset, had an excellent dinner at a Cuban restaurant that served some very good pig, then a Papa Doublas at Sloppy Joes, which really isn't the real Sloppy Joes, but there you are. Didn't care for the Key Lime Pie.

Oh, and the cats roam freely, and the chickens are a protected species. Really. Actually all birds on the Island are protected, and the chickens happened to be loopholed in...

Conch Republic (aka Key West, Florida)
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On the road home... - October 31

We left the next morning, taking the Overseas Highway East in much better weather. We got on the Florida Turnpike at its start, and took it all the way to Universal Orlando for a couple of days at the theme parks.

Then I got sick. Probably some darn kid at Disney World gave me a cold. Anyway, we got a pretty good Sunset over Chattanooga, and some fall colors through Tennessee.

On the road home...
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Final Thoughts

Having grown up on brown sand beaches, the white beaches of Florida was sort of startling. However, I have to add that I've only experienced the Florida beaches during the off-season. I might have a completely different view of them when there are a bazillion tourists there.

I really should get back down to Key West and explore the rest of the island, if nothing else but to get a picture of me next to the Southernmost Point of the US sign...

  • 08/18/2013 - Rewrite and updated to v3.11
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2