I wouldn’t have known about Lorelei’s or its famous pie, if my friend Larry-Bob hadn’t read this blog and suggested it to me. So seriously, folks … any suggestions for my road trip, please post them here! No guarantee I’ll follow your advice, but I’ll certainly keep an open mind about it.
Speaking of friends, I’m starting to think maybe Luke Thomas should have come on this trip with me. That way, he takes pictures of the gorgeous scenery — and I can just focus on my writing.
I reluctantly left Key West today around 12:30 p.m., and headed up the same way I came — U.S. Route 1, or the “Overseas Highway.” But this time it was in broad daylight, so I could capture the beauty.
There’s something truly spectacular about driving up a two-lane road with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. As you go hopping from one island to another, you just wish this road will last forever. I popped in the soundtrack of Beautiful Thing in the CD player, and the soaring vocal harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas got me into the mood. Technically they were singing about California, but it might as well have been the Florida Keys.
As Cass Elliot sang “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and I happily sang along, the words while I’m alone and blue as can be caught my imagination. I looked at the Ocean to my right, and the Gulf to my left and it was so blue! A perfect moment. The song has always had an iconic meaning for me, and it’s one of my favorites when I sing at piano bars. Now, the blue of the ocean gives it a whole new significance.
After the Beautiful Thing soundtrack played itself out, it was time for some Harry Belafonte classics from the 1950’s and 60’s. Besides calypso standards like “Day-O” that everyone knows, there’s just something very special about singing about Juanita, your “sweetheart from Venezuela” while you’re driving along the Seven-Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway.
I stopped once to go swimming off the highway. When I did this trip back in 2000, it was July … and stepping into the water felt like taking a hot bath. This time, it was cooler but simply refreshing. There are very few places in the country with such pristine beauty as the Overseas Highway … which is why (again!) it was infuriating to not have my new digital camera working. Although if you don’t mind me saying, it looks like my iPhone has been taking some really good photos.
Harry Belafonte kept me going until Islamorada, where I stopped at Lorelei’s to grab some of their frozen key lime pie. Wanted to blog from the cafe, but the staff seemed befuddled when I asked about free wi-fi. When I got back on the road, it was time for some of Bob Marley’s reggae tunes … as the tropical beat started infusing more righteous political tunes like “Buffalo Soldier” and “Get Up, Stand Up.” Bob helped the trip go past Key Largo, as the scenery became less and less beautiful — and I got stuck in traffic due to road construction.I’m now staying in Florida City at the Everglades Hostel for two nights, a charming traveler’s locale just outside of the national park.
But first, I had to grab a quick bite to eat … and couldn’t resist stopping at Sam’s Hideaway Bar, which prides itself as the “oldest southernmost tavern in the U.S. mainland.” When I saw “cheeseburger and chips” being advertised for $2.25, I just knew I couldn’t resist.
Coming from Key West, you’re used to hearing southernmost this and southernmost that. But Key West is technically an island connected to the mainland by the Overseas Highway, so it’s technically possible that Sam’s Hideaway Bar would be the southernmost on the mainland. I quickly learned, however, that it’s no longer the “southernmost” on the mainland … another bar opened just a few blocks down the street.
Sam’s Hideaway had the most charming, salt-of-the-earth barflies — such as “Hunky,” an elderly lady who’s lived in the area for 26 years. Her name is Lillian, but she’s of Hungarian descent so everyone calls her “Hunky ‘Lil.” Of course, she didn’t tell me that story … her sidekick Inga had to tell me that. A third woman told me she had just bought a 4-bedroom house in the area with a big yard for $170,000 … but the value has already gone down to $120,000. When I told her how much I had paid for my tiny studio in San Francisco, she nearly died …