DNA X #2

June 23rd, 2010 by

7Mile Bridge

The Discover North America Expedition (DNA X) is officially underway. We will seek out the predictable attractions but will be on the lookout for the unusual. We will take back roads and try to avoid the interstates when possible. We
will talk to the locals to understand issues of importance. We hope to discover the true DNA of this continent.
DNA-XLeaving Key West, we head north on the Overseas Highway. We travel over the shallow Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Henry Flagler, a wealthy tycoon and developer of many of Florida’s first upscale hotels, originally built this path for trains. The tracks came down the east coast during the late 1800’s entering then wild Florida. Eventually the tracks stopped at Miami but Flagler saw Key West as the ultimate destination and proceeded to build bridges connecting the rocky keys in what was an amazing and costly feat of engineering. After many lives lost the first train pulled into Key West in 1912 and tourism soared. Not long after a deadly hurricane destroyed much of the track. Automobiles took over as the preferred mode of transit and the tracks were asphalted over. The longest bridge crosses 7 miles of crystal water south of Marathon and hosts a ‘run’ every year that closes the bridge- result? Traffic gridlock –Check for annual events through out the keys and be aware that any traffic accident in the keys usually shuts down US 1.
Try a stop along the way in the middle keys- for the complete getaway call Little Palm Island where a vintage yacht picks you up from Little Torch Key and transports you back in time to the island where PT109 was filmed. Your personalized thatched roof room tucked into the jungle will remind you that there is still a quiet place to escape the modern hubbub. The near-by Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary has a beautiful reef for snorkeling or diving. Further along the road Duck Key offers a big resort and numerous activities for all ages.

There are some great seafood restaurants in the keys so be sure to stop and sample the local fare. In the upper keys The Islamorada Fish Company, Morada Bay, and the Island Grill in Islamorada are casual and on the water. The beautiful Cheeka Lodge is a upscale stop which has recently been rebuilt after a devastating fire. Nearby back-country fishing in Florida Bay and Everglades National Park are not to be missed even if you don’t like fishing. Hang up the rod & reel and go bird watching. Key Biscayne is the last ‘key’ as you head north.
DNA-XFrom there the mainland is protected by a series of barrier islands- narrow strips of sand that run parallel to the coast all the way to Maine. Miami Beach, Palm Beach, Jupiter Island are some of the famous islands but on our expedition we will be exploring some other islands in other states. Summer is sea turtle nesting time on these islands. Although Florida has the bulk of the nesting activity, sea turtles nest on the beaches up to Virginia. As sea turtles are protected species disturbing them or their nests is a felony. Watching them nest is a wonderful experience so join an organized ‘turtle walk’ which occur at night to observe safely.
As we wander north, Blackie’s on board temperature sensor is charting new territory. 103F? 96F? 98F? Her black paint is so hot we start to see mirages in the distance- palm trees don’t make us feel any better. Wait- snow capped mountains? Cool northern lakes? Our resolve strengthens and her pace quickens. It’s time to leave the steamy south.