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Touring the US East Coast - Day 6

Written By:
Alain Kasteleyn
February 7, 2014

Today we’re planning to head south, along US-1, to the end of the road – Key West! As we woke up there was an almighty storm above Islamorada; the lightening was pretty impressive, particularly as it was dawn. We waited until the rain had stopped and then checked out of Cheeca Lodge at about 09:00. After a few miles heading south we came upon a restaurant called IHOP (International House of Pancakes) and could not resist the temptation of calling there for some breakfast. Whatever you ordered was served up with three buttermilk pancakes, and food-wise we were set-up for the day!

Our plan was to stop at the ‘Turtle Hospital’ in Marathon en route to Key West. We found it, and pulled into the car-park. We thought we just had to see the turtles that had been found along The Keys, either injured or ill, and see how this non-profit organisation cared for them. Entry was 16 dollars each, and we were given a presentation about the different types of turtles, what the issues were, how they got injured, and what the Turtle Hospital did for them. The main problem is that these poor creatures basically eat anything and more often than not swallow plastic, fishing hooks and fishing line.

After the presentation we were taken out to see the turtles in their tanks. It was amazing. They were of various sizes ranging from a few inches to three feet and more in length, and all had names. One turtle, called Captain Hook, had been found to have a three inch fishing hook stuck in his throat; he was on the mend however. Bernie had weights attached to her shell, and had a purple bandage wrapped around her; she’d been hit by a boat propeller. There were some sad stories, and one turtle in particular was in a very bad state, and the staff were fearing the worst for this one.

This visit over, we continued onto Key West. We headed to the ‘Inn at Key West’, where we planned to stay for two nights. We left marathon, passed through Big Pine Key and then crossed over onto Key West island itself. The hotel was situated on the north coast, away from the main centre of town, and we found it with no problem.

Ten minutes after checking in we were sitting on a couple of sun loungers, around the pool. The Inn at Key West boasts the largest swimming pool in the town, and we made use of this in the glorious sunshine. The rain first thing that morning in Islamorada seemed an age ago!

The afternoon soon passed and it was time to think of dinner. We had received a recommendation to go to ‘Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery’. This was about a three mile drive, so we jumped in the car and headed into town. It was quite busy despite being a weekday, and we managed to park in a parking lot just to the north of the most famous street in Key West – Duval Street. The restaurant was a ten minute walk, to the west of Duval Street, along Caroline Street. The building was famous as it was a former Pan-Am office. The Pan American airline opened this office up way back in order to support its first international flights. These were flights to Cuba, which at the time was the American playground. The office was now a restaurant, and had a nice big quiet terrace where you could sit and enjoy a dinner al fresco. Perfect! The food was good, the service was good and the atmosphere of the place was great. So relaxing, and also nice to have a laugh and joke with the server.

After the meal we headed onto Duval Street and found a bar that took our fancy and had a quick beer (not the one driving, though, that had to be a Sprite!). Then the same old story, the day caught up with us and we had to slowly head off back to the hotel and call it a day. So, there we were, at the end of the road (the US-1), in Key West, all chilled out and relaxed!

**Alain’s top tips**

Driving in the USA (if you already know these pointers, our apologies):

  1. Cars are automatic. Your left leg basically becomes redundant. If you’re not used to automatic cars, you soon will be. They are easy to drive.
  2. If you arrive at a traffic light, and you want to turn right, you are allowed to do so on a red light – Providing it is clear of cars coming from the left, and there’s no sign saying otherwise. Odd to do this at first, but certainly beats cars behind you honking their horns!
  3. Always watch the speed limit. The police are pretty hot when it comes to speeding drivers, and are quick to issue a fine. They are also seen on roads more frequently than back in Europe. If you get a fine you need to arrange payment prior to leaving the USA, otherwise the car hire company has to pay, and they in turn will bill this to your credit card, along with a large administration charge. PLEASE BEAR ALL THIS IN MIND!
  4. Be sure to check how to open the fuel tank before pulling up at a petrol station (note – they are ‘gas stations’ in the USA!). There may be a small button on the driver’s door, or a small lever to the left of the driver’s seat, or to the left of the driver’s foot-well. Just be sure you know how it opens!
  5. At the gas station before doing anything you need to go to the cashier, leave say 20 dollars, or your credit card, prior to attempting to fill your car. Return to the pump, select the fuel (generally ‘regular’ is what you’ll need), fill as required and then go back to the cashier to sign, collect your change or pay any additional amount.
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