For a while I had the dream of driving a convertible through the Florida Keys. I cannot remember where this desire came from but figured this adventure was the best opportunity to do it!
At the end of July I packed up my things again and headed out in my 5.0 litre Mustang (have I mentioned the Mustang before?) to see the Keys, a collection of islands linked by road US 1. The night before I had rapidly Google’d ideas to plan out activities for every day.
The first realisation is that the Keys, although islands off the Southern coast of Flordia, do not have many beaches. The surrounding reef system prevents any big waves and the shallow floor around the islands means beaches are not formed.
The second thing I realised is that, like a lot of America, the vast majority is privately owned with no public access. If you want to stop and explore you are very limited.
The first day was disappointing as everywhere that looks fun to walk around is fenced off with strong warnings of vehicle towing and prosecution for trespass.
There was one pleasant surprise in the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary which is free to the public (although they do ask for a donation), a charity which looks after injured and ill birds. They had a selection of birds including pelicans, owls and hawks which was fun to walk around.
It was around this time I realised my next mistake. Travelling in July in Florida is very uncomfortable! It is mid-hurricane season and the weather was extreme. Temperatures started at 35c each morning rising to the mid 40s by lunch with high humidity. After a few hours you would have the daily thunderstorm before everything heated up again. It was so hot that walking into the water felt like walking into a bath.
All this together made walking around or having the roof down in the car were unbearable at times! In the end I think I spent more time with the roof up and the AC on than making the most of the convertible. I did discover the joy of air conditioned seats though.
The next day, still feeling despondent about the situation, I drove to one of the middle islands, Big Pine Key, and it’s neighbour No Name Key. These islands are the primary home of the endangered Key Deer. As you could probably tell by my Instagram feed not only was I fortunate enough to find one it was friendly enough to say hello and pose for hundreds of photographs and even nuzzle my hand before wandering off back into the undergrowth.
The next day I returned to No Name Key and found families of deer who grazing at the roadside. Once again they are friendly enough to approach and give you a sniff before deciding you are not food and walking off. If you ever go you stand the best chance of seeing them around sunrise or sunset. Having tried being outside in the midday sun I can fully understand their desire to avoid it!
I then carried on South to the last island, Key West, which holds the Southern Most Point of the Continental US, only 90 miles from Cuba. After the mandatory photo next to the monument I ventured off into town and came across the second highlight of the Keys, the Butterfly and Nature Reserve. This beautiful tropical conservatory holds hundreds of butterflies of different species, a variety of birds from the parrot-like to two flamingos, and even a turtle or two. It is a truly relaxing place to sit and appreciate nature. I am still trying to work out how to have a garden like this at home!
One thing that also stands out about Key West is the free range chickens that roam the island. With no natural predators they have taken over the town.
After my time on the Keys I headed back towards Miami to return the car and take a plane for the next part of my journey. Along the way I saw signs for the Everglades Alligator Farm and decided to stop. I am very glad I did. They have hundreds of alligators from tiny babies to 16 foot 50 year old adults. I took an air boat ride through the everglades, learnt how to catch an alligator (a skill I do not want to put to the test) and saw a host of unexpected animals like bobcats and emus.
Finally I made it back to civilisation and rested up before my flight the next day. I was due to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Anchorage, Alaska stopping overnight in Seattle, Washington (a place I had the good fortune of visiting only a few months ago so didn’t need to stop properly in) and decided to save money on accommodation for the night and sleep in the airport.This was a truly stupid idea.
There is no where to sleep in an airport, the seats all have arms to prevent you laying down, the floors are cold and hard, constant announcements on the tannoy and I couldn’t even rely on coffee to see me through as Starbucks closed overnight. In the end I was awake for about 30 hours before finally getting to my bed in Anchorage and falling into a long sleep.
I am writing this having spent the day seeing what Anchorage has to offer. It is a small city and the Downtown area is very easy to walk around, a rarity for America which seems to enjoy making walking almost impossible at times The city is surrounded by the Pacific ocean to the South and mountains around the rest. The scenery is beautiful. I am hoping to visit the countryside tomorrow. I only have a few days here before flying off again to more tropical surroundings.
I have found the key to avoiding home sickness and loneliness from travelling on my own is to keep busy. With that in mind I have been trying my best to fill the whole day with activities. What I have also found, however, is that this constant “doing something” together with having to pack and move almost every day has resulted in a feeling of exhaustion and homelessness. A feeling I have decided I need a holiday from!
I have updated My Journey So Far and have now passed over 7500 miles on planes, nearly 12,000 miles driving and have walked over 100 miles and I am only 2 months in!