Thursday, October 27, 2011
TO DO AND NOT TO DO IN KEY WEST – ALSO LEARN ABOUT A1A!!!
TO DO AND NOT TO DO IN KEY WEST – ALSO LEARN ABOUT A1A!!!
Key West Blues by Key West Chris Rehm
^ Click the track and listen to “Key West Blues”* as you listen to the track!^
Well, with largest Key West festival, Fantasy Fest underway, and two others hot on its heels, here’s a quick little guide of what to do and not do in Key West. This won’t be stuff that you read in all the tourist BS, but rather, the real deal. I always say, there are two kinds of folks who come to the Keys. There are those who come and go home and look forward to coming back again and there are those who come and want to move here, as soon as their situations and stars come into alignment. While we welcome everyone to our island chain in the Conch Republic, this particular blog today leans 65/35 in the direction of the latter.
The drive from the mainland to Key West is consistently rated as one of the top ten scenic drives in the United States. This isn’t hogwash either. With the Atlantic on your left and the Florida Bay/Gulf of Mexico on your right, it’s a stunning and unique experience hopping the bridges and islands! The absolute best way to enjoy this trip through the 126 miles of the Conch Republic’s main street, Overseas Highway, U.S. 1 (not A1A, as some incorrectly refer to it as) is to take two or three days in getting here. I spoke to a friend of mine from out of town the other day. He thought The Conch Republic was just Key West. The Conch Republic extends to The Last Chance Saloon in Florida City which is 126 miles from Mile Zero, on Whitehead Street, here in Key West. On how this came to be, check this link of Sir Peter Anderson’s Conch Republic site:
The Conch Republic also extends west through the Marquesas Keys heading west, and on to The Dry Tortugas, which are about 70 miles west of Key West. On the other hand, as The Conch Republic’s Secretary General, Sir Peter will tell you, the Conch Republic is also a state of mind.
The trip through the Keys I’ll save for another blog, as it’s far too involved and important to be anything but a blog subject unto itself. For the moment I will say that every Key has its own personality and feel. If one want’s to experience “island living”, in its true form, stop and relax for a couple of days en-route is essential. Check out a couple of places in The Conch Republic, be it Key Largo, Islamorada Long Key, Marathon,… ex. There’s no place like The Keys, just like Bogart said in the movie Key Largo.
Once in Key West, the very first thing to do is park your car and don’t get back into it until you’re leaving, unless you’re going to The Hogfish, on Stock Island, or Geiger Key Marina on Geiger Key. More on that later! However, be advised, Key West is not car friendly in any way, manor, shape, or form. Parking is a pain in the ass. Be rest assured, you will get a ticket if your meter runs out, no if’s and’s, or but’s. Park facing the wrong way on the street, you’ll have a ticket in the morning.
When you arrive in Key West by car, if you are staying in Old Town, do not take Truman Ave. Truman is the same street as N. Roosevelt Blvd. which you get when turning right, coming on to the island. Once you clear Garrison Bight (the water and harbors on your right) it turns into Truman at the Eisenhower St. traffic light. You’re now entering Old Town. What happens here is first is White Street, which is usually backed up and then there is St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, which has a school as well. Can you say “another back up”? Then, just after that is Simonton St, where there’s a light. There’s always someone who wants to take a left here. Regretfully, traffic is inevitably coming the other way, so they can’t go until the light changes. Consequently, the back-up from White St and St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, is only exacerbated.
The way to avoid all of this, is to turn left when entering the island. Now you are on A1A, also known as S. Roosevelt Blvd. A1A in the Keys is only 2.25 miles long and it travels along the Atlantic coast, passing Smather’s Beach on your left, down to Bertha St. where the road takes a ninety degree turn. Chances are good that you’ll take your first left at Atlantic Ave. and continue from there. Get a map of Key West and just come in the back way, it’s more scenic, less frustrating, and a lot more fun! That stretch when taking the left and driving the 2.25 miles to Bertha St. is the only stretch of A1A in all of the Keys, so enjoy it!
After you ditch your car there are a few ways to get around. Being such a beautiful, historic town, with all sorts of nooks and crannies all over, the absolute best way to see and explore is on foot. The little, subtle things are noticed on foot. The next best way is a bike. Bikes can be rented for about $8 - $10 a day. Bikes are a great way to see the island! Additionally, you’ll get some exorcize! Scooters are popular, although most people who rent them, don’t know how to ride them to begin with. Accidents are not un-common and the hospital thanks them for their support. The hospital actually opens an entire wing during the season, which started this weekend.
Peddy Cabs are popular as well. The drivers also have a lot of knowledge the island and its history, so you get a tour guide and transportation all in one.
Taxis are also available.
Things that are a must in Key West!
Friday night from 6 – 9 at B.O.’s Fishwagon and catch Barry Cuda and Bong Hits for Geezers. What a band, what a place! This is The Real Keys and one of the real types of music that has pulsated through the Keys for decades. Bary Cuda actually built a chassis for his upright piano and wheels it from gig to gig!!! The absolute best place to see him is at B.O.’s Fishwagon, 801 Caroline St. B.O.’s is a shack… I’m not kidding; it’s an open air shack, with his old truck buried to its axels out front. In days gone by, B.O. would sell his fish off the back of his truck on Duval. He later got this open air shack, with a corrugated tin roof, which they sell their fish (and burgers) at. Rachel will sit on the counter and take your order and Bong Hits for Geezers belt out old New Orleans tunes from the twenties, thirties, forties, and even as far up as the sixties. This is the real Key West. Don’t miss it for some pseudo, wanna-be, who wrote a song about his three days in Key West, before he retreated back to suburbia, in outside of some city, USA. Bong Hits for Geezers are the real deal and living it in the Keys 24/7/365, for decades.
One thing not to do: Ask me where to stay. I don’t know, I live here, so I don’t rent out a hotel, motel, B&B, or a Guest House room. I have a place of my own and I don’t sell hotel rooms on the side.
Thing to do: Go out to the airport and go for a Bi-Plane ride!!!! Scot Alan, a fellow Trop Rock musician (extraordinaire btw!!!) and I flew in one in September! I’d always wanted to go and Scot called me out of the blue and told me he was flying in and to meet me at the airport, here in Key West. What a blast that was! Check the blog I did a couple of blogs below this one. Check their site as well!
Thing to do: Get the hell out of town! On Stock Island, right next door to Key West is TheHogfish Bar and Grill. Fabulous place! The Hogfish is located right on the docks at Safe Harbor Marina. Not easy to find, but well worth getting there! This is where the Key West Fishing Fleet is these days and the Hogfish Bar & Grill has the freshest fish in town! http://www.hogfishbar.com/
Also, if you continue out U.S. 1, just past MM10 is a Shell station. Take a right on the road there and keep an eagle eye out for Geiger Rd. on the left, maybe a ¼ mile or more down. Take the left and you’ll be at the Geiger Key Marina in about 100 yards. This is a true, old time Keys local joint on the water. Great place! They also allow dogs!!! YEAH! Geiger Key Marina is owned by Michelle and Bobby Mongelli, who also own the Hogfish. The Mongelli’s are true Keys heroes in my book because they preserve Keys history and the traditions in both of their establishments. Geiger Key Marina is also a great place to stay if you have an RV or a camper. Check their site!
That’s enough for one day… Ha Ha Ha!!!
All the Best From Key West!
Key West Chris Rehm