We were up at 7 AM, showered, dressed, and went down to breakfast, which consisted of fruit and potatoes. We went back to our room and gathered up the stuff we would need for the day. We loaded the car and headed south on the Florida Toll Road to its terminus at US-1. We headed south on US-1 and stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank before continuing our trip to the Florida Keys. We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on the north end of Key Largo where we got a map of the Florida Keys and a few suggestions on what to see and do. We continued south and found ourselves in a massive traffic jam. The problem turned out to be construction work on the drawbridge. Most of US-1 is a 2-lane road from the mainland all the way to Key West, and there are a few drawbridges along the way. Anything that impedes traffic, be it a drawbridge, construction, or traffic accidents, can create huge traffic jams.
We stopped on Big Pine Key and found the National Key Deer Refugee Visitor Center. We drove down Key Deer Lane and stopped at a small lake where we talked to a volunteer naturalist but did see any deer. We decided to return to this spot on our way back north in the late afternoon and then drive out to No Name Key in the hope of seeing some of the small, unique deer.
We eventually got through the traffic congestion, continued south, and finally reached Key West, albeit a bit later than we had planned. We drove along S. Roosevelt to the southernmost point in the Continental United States. There was a long line of people waiting to go to the actual point, and no obvious place to park so we kept driving. We finally found free street parking on Turner Avenue near the Catholic Church.
We walked part of Duval Street, found Southard St., went the wrong way, turned around, and walked the other way, and finally found The Café restaurant. Linda had located The Café when looking for vegan dining options on Happy Cow. Linda had the Udon noodle bowl and I had the Kung Pao Tofu. Both were excellent vegan fare and the servings were huge.
We spent a couple more hours walking the historic part of town, walking past the Hemingway house, the lighthouse, and the Truman Community that includes The Little White House. We did not pay admission fees and go in anything as we did not have enough time to really see them.
We were back in our car around 4 PM planning to return to Big Pine Key to see the Key Deer. Traffic was very heavy getting out of Key West and did not get any better once we were headed north on US-1. It turned out that there was an accident on US-1 about five miles before our turn on Big Key, which was 18 miles from where we first encountered stopped traffic. It took us two hours to finally clear the reported accident location and be able to resume driving at posted speeds.
By the time we reached the Key Deer Habitat it was too dark to see anything and we kept on driving. We stopped at a filling station in Florida City before returning to the hotel just before 9 PM. Our round trip today put about 260 miles on the car. It was a hard day, but we were glad we made the trip. Even on our brief drive-through visit we found the Keys to be attractive and charming and someplace we would probably enjoy spending the month of January or February some year. It is a very expensive place to stay, with nicer (not luxurious) RV parks running $100 per day, but the Keys are a unique place with unique things to see and do, and a very agreeable climate in January. We will save our pennies and perhaps plan a month in the Keys into our winter 2017-18 travels. As of now we plan to return to the southwest U. S. for winter 2016-17.