All the way South and back again

to the most southernmost tip of the United States of America and back into the Florida cauldron. We didn’t actually go there. The Southernmost tip. What with the parking in Key West and all. $10 per hour and an hour it was as Pookaverse flashed it’s time-keeping device at the young, good humored  and very Russian car park attendant. “We will be back at 12:06 and no later”. He was amused.

Alison encounters kitsch to set you watch by in Key West, Florida

But before we got to Key West we have to cross  the 127-mile (204 km) stretch of the Overseas Highway from Florida City across the main settlements of Key Largo and Marathon an across many bridges including the ‘new’ Seven Mile Bridge.

One small section Bahia Honda section of bridge. The State Park service constructed a ‘safe’ section for visitors to approach the remains…

The term ‘new’ is relative when used to describe the incremental development of this link.  Henry Flagler (founding father of modern Florida)  built the Florida East Coast Railway all the way from Jacksonville Florida to Key West with the Overseas Railway section spanning the keys started in 1905 and completed in 1912.

Just a step away….the road deck of the decommissioned Bahia Honda bridge

Flagler and oil tycoon saw the potential within Florida when visiting with his convalescent wife in 1883. He built hotels, invested in local fruit production, attempted to drain the Everglades and laid the foundation for Florida to be, at that time, the Tourist destination of the early 1900’s

View of the beach at Bahia Honda State Park

Once described by Flagler as the ‘8th Wonder of the World’, one section of the rail bridge extended at a distance of nearly seven miles connecting Knight’s Key with Little Duck Key – adjacent to the city of Marathon where Pookaverse stayed. Following Flagler’s death in 1913, the East Coast Railway Company fell into bankruptcy due to the ‘perfect storm’ of the 1929 stock market crash and loss of tourist revenue to the less than perfect storm of the Labour Day Hurricane in 1935.

The first hundred yards across the ‘Old Seven Mile’ Bridge decommissioned in 1982… the ‘new bridge took 4 years to complete and bypasses Pigeon key… unlike it’s ‘old man’…

The railroad decimated, the remaining bridge structures were sold to the State of Florida who converted the infrastructure to road bridges. The the Seven Mile Bridge, the Bahia Honda Bridge and the Long Key Bridge were eventually superseded and decommissioned by  comprehensive bridge building projects in the 1980’s. These vast structures still stand and can be easily seen from the new highway.

The famous Seven Mile Bridge now referred to as the ‘Old Seven Mile’ was built with intermediate struts across Pigeon Key where at the time of it’s construction nearly 400 workers resided. Various sections of the bridge including the swing span have been removed.

Sections of the bridge are failing – as can be seen when crossing from the Knight’s key side. However, it is still possible to walk 4 miles along the span from the Duck Key side to Pigeon key and back again.

The brave little soldier marches past the 1 and 3/4 mile mark…Onwards to Pigeon Key

Pookaverse undertook this crossing on Friday after visiting the terminal remains of the Bahia Honda bridge span at the newly created Bahia Honda State Park – regarded and awarded twice as the best beach in Florida.

This far and no further…one of the many breaks in the ‘Old Seven Mile’ bridge….

There are an Erie sight. Flaking, precipitous structures hanging rather than supporting themselves above the water. Pookaverse imagined what it would be like to camp out on one of the old roadways? What sounds it would make? Creaking. Rasping. Clicking. would it sway under the stars? Of simply fall?

On the approach to Key West, keys of various sizes and increasingly evocative names weave more wildly and scraggly in the straits of Florida. Some large perhaps a mile square. Quite a few less than that. The  size of a putting green to the size of snooker table. Some smaller still. One with a three trees.

A tree and a bush and a bird. A single tree. Through which the  cycle of life over uncounted centuries can be squinted at through the myopic vision of the modern age. Imposing,  evocative and yet wistful and fey. One hour is enough for Key West. One timed hour at $10. No sadness. There was much to look forward to. The journey back to Marathon, back to the Everglades and beyond. Across that highway, across this keys. Across that sparking sea without end.

Nothing left to do but turn back…the end of the line at Piegeon Key of the walk across the ‘Old Seven Mile’bridge…

Travel Info 11/11/2012:  Florida City –  Back to Everglades National Park to visit the decommissioned HM69 Nike Missile Base – then heads dropped in shame, we leave the National Park to go for a ride on a Coopertown Airboat looking for ‘gators – then to Cocoa Beach for a one-night stopover.

Before visiting ONLY THE  John F Kennedy Space Centre. Pookaverse likes Mondays.

Life finds a way…it’s only a matter of time that people will be allowed to walk this crumbling stretch….unless…visit the campaign here

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5 Responses to “All the way South and back again”

  1. Terri and Andrew Says:

    Hi Ali and Rohan,
    Great as ever to read of our adventures! Next adventure the moon!!
    Keep well and safe travels
    Lots of Love Terri and Andrewxx
    Ps sent you an email with photos Ali of our tree work!

  2. Anne Says:

    I think it was very nice of them to put the election on just for you – seeing as you had only just caught up with “The West Wing” – Did you spot all the characters? I thought it was quite interesting to watch – but you do worry just a wee smidge about the massive cost – and the fact that it seems you could save a lot of money by not actually asking anyone else to vote other than the people in Ohio!!!! Radical suggestion – but perhaps you could mention it whilst you are over there?

    I could have lent you a book all about Florida (the development of / the impact of the railways) if you had done your research properly before you left – have I mentioned this sort of thing to you before? – I think I might have!!!

    Hope that the cought gets better Alison (and indeed that it isn’t something dreadful out of one of Rohan’s films!!!). Hopefully you have appropriate insurance and can get to see the great American health systems (do a spot of comparison with the NHS). Particularly seeing as that is one of Obama’s key bits of policy.

    Not sure that much is going on over here. The news is still all about Jimmy Saville and the BBC. Missed SCD last night as I was out at a Charity Ball (ooh, errr – get her missus). 007 themed and actually great fun – especially as I don’t drink – everyone else was quite amusing – for a while at least!!! We were on a table with some very posh and pretentious people – I have a sneaking suspicion that Rohan would have been bopping a couple of them (yes even the women) on their rather stuck up noses in no time at all!!! I am now a very tired bunny as I didn’t get much sleep at all – so will watch the results for SCD and then head off to bed – can’t have too much excitement in one year.

    Lost my first match in the Chairman’s cup to Rachel (I didn’t even turn up for the first game – lost it 9 – 0!!!) What was going on there eh?? Not enough excercise recently and too much chocolate / too many biscuits. That’s the problem when work gets busy – too much pressure and the naughty nibbles call too me a little bit too much!!! Made another promise to myself that this week when I am back at work there will be no naughties and I will get some exercise – my arse!!! Speaking of which – how are you both doing? Are the American gyms turning out as you expected? Are you going to be fitting in to those checked shorts when I see you next?

    Can’t believe that you are nearly done in America and that the dance lessons are soon on the horizon. I know that Hilary is dead jealous. Trish and I were talking today about sorting out the squash Christmas meal – thinking about Rossini’s in Wendover – it has now been reopened (we think by the same people) but under a different name. I’ll let you know what it is like. I’ll give you a heads up on the date and you can pop in to a suitable establishment over there and we can sort of all do Christmas together!!

    Take Care.

  3. Anne Says:

    Forgot to say – thanks for the card – appreciated!! The cat is cute – but not as cute as Molly (that’s what I have told her!!)

  4. jose Says:

    What a fabulous journey to key West, did you actually see any crocs back in the everglades?

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