Driving to Key West takes a while. Even if you’re already well into Florida. We left Palm Harbor Tuesday before 6 am in our rented van on the next leg of the current phase of the gap year adventure. Then we start biking up the Atlantic Coast of the U.S.
I have to say that we really liked our rental van. It was a brand-new 2015 Ford Transit. We fit two bikes in the back and the third one between the first and second rows of rear seats. It was easy to drive and rode quite smoothly. We were so impressed that all of us were motivated to consider the purchase of such a vehicle for our own travel purposes.
We crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge while it was still dark, so we didn’t get the full experience. However, there are lights on the cables, so it still looked pretty cool. Sunrise was spectacular. I don’t usually get to say that, as I don’t often experience it. We came around a bend in the road, and boom, there was the sun. Fortunately, another nice feature of the van was extra-large sun visors. I tried for a photo, but my attempts failed to capture the magnificence of the moment.
Google maps estimates drive time for this trip at about 8 hours. Uncle Bill said it always takes ten. Trust Uncle Bill on this one. Once you leave I-75, travel gets much slower, even if Google thinks you can go 45 or 55 mph because the signs happen to say that you can.
The scenery is great, of course, with birds in the Everglades (no gator spottings today) and incredibly blue water throughout the Keys. We didn’t stop much, since we were motivated to just get to Key West.
Once in Key West, we checked in, dropped most of our bags at the hotel, and headed for the airport to return the van. We rode back to the hotel (without much help from my Garmin, which couldn’t figure out in which country it should look for the address) in time to enjoy the second half of their wine and cheese happy hour. Then we headed for Mallory Square to watch the sunset. Sunset was OK, scene was OK, we got a few photos, but I think what we most needed was some food. We went in search of that next. It took all three of us to locate a restaurant that we had actually passed on the way to Mallory Square, but we finally found it. It was actually a bar, Grunts, with a food truck (our goal destination, Garbo’s) out back. You grab an outdoor table and go order the food and drink you want. The tacos and hot dog were very good. This must be the reason it’s highly rated on trip advisor… (Side note: While looking for the link, I discovered that this seems to be the same taco truck I made a point to visit in Key West last January, but at a different location!)
After dinner we biked back to our hotel, reorganized, and settled in for the night. The hotel, NYAH (not your average hotel), was quite nice. They have rooms with multiple bunks that they configure (read: pull down) to meet your needs. Each room has an en-suite bathroom and all of the decor is new and modern. Each bunk also gets a reading light, an outlet, and two USB charging points. And there is complimentary coffee, tea, and filtered water 24/7. Though the pools looked nice, the evening was cool and we did not test the water 🙂
Report on the first riding day coming soon!