Updated on May 28, 2020
Day 6 of 2019 Florida Spring Break, leaving Key West
Sixth day of my spring break Florida road trip. After visiting some attractions in downtown Key West (which I picked “Ernest Hemingway Home”), I would be leaving the beautiful island of Key West for mainland Florida, which didn’t go as planned.
It was a stormy morning as we were loading up our cars with luggage, which wasn’t the most pleasant morning workout. Even more to our dismay, it seemed that the rain turned into a drizzle just as we were finishing packing.
While I was in Dry Tortugas the previous day, my friends had visited Ernest Hemingway’s Home, which they highly recommended. So I said goodbye to them in the morning as they set off for Everglades, where I planned to join them later in the day.
As for my visit to Hemingway Home, I only managed to find parking a few blocks down the street, followed by a stroll in an uplifting drizzle.
That’s when I found this lovely chicken family hanging out.
It seemed that the mother chicken was in charge of looking after the babies. A few hours later, I found a male chicken by himself down the block, which chicken feminist would certainly describe as gender inequality.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
During my visit, Hemingway Home was charging a special “spring break” rate (only a few dollars) for students. They were cash-only, which my friends told me earlier, so I paid ATM a visit on my way here.
It’s a small home with a lot of visitors, so they organized guided tours for the house and some of its surroundings.
The house was built by Asa Tift, a famous salvager in Key West in the 19-th Century, which, given how treacherous the surrounding waters were, was a quite lucrative vocation. The following fountain at the entrance was designed by him.
As for Hemingway, he and his newlywed wife Pauline arrived in Key West in 1928. Due to delay in delivery of a Ford Model A, they stayed in Key West for an extended period of time. The island fishing life offered Hemingway inspirations for writing, and they decided to stay here for the long term.
Hemingway was intrigued by the six-toed cat brought by Captain Harold Dexter, so Dexter gifted him with one. Nowadays, the many descents of that roamed the entire house. (It seemed they were more owner to the house than the people tending them.)
Then there’s this pool, which was another highlight of the tour, in addition to the cats. Despite it was Ernest Hemingway himself who planned the pool, he had been complaining about expenses relating to it. It’s rumored that he told his wife that the pool had consumed “all but his last penny”, so she “might as well have that”. And indeed there was a coin embedded by the pool.
That concluded the guided tour, yet the house offered many other areas for exploration.
A quick conclusion of Hemingway Home, the living heritage of a wordsmith full of personality.
It was noon when I got back to my car. After a quick lunch at Subway since my food columnists friends weren’t with me, I headed back to Florida mainland.
Then there’s the worst part of my entire spring break trip. It’s half an hour after my lunch and I was sensing some tiredness. So I pulled over to a small parking lot at the side of the road and took a brief nap. And when I was ready to go, I drove over this field of puddles.
That’s probably where one of my tires got punctured by a sharp object. This is what things looked like a few hours later in a garage.
Well, the car didn’t feel any different, and I drove on for a few additional minutes, until a warning on my dashboard told me I had low pressure in one of the tires.
Then it’s a long and frantic story. I attempted the tire sealant kit in my trunk, which, probably because
I didn’t know how to use it the puncture was huge, didn’t work. (And by the reaction of garage mechanics, I probably shouldn’t…)
Then I called my insurance company (amazingly T-Mobile had cellular coverage in Big Pine Key) for a tow truck. While I waited, they advised me that it’s up to me to find a tire store that carried tires of my size.
So I google searched “tire store” and called, from the closest ones first. After getting denied by two of those, the insurance company guy certainly ran out of patience, and advised me there’s a Ford dealership on Key West, and I should try that. Bingo.
By the way, my insurance covered tow trucks for 30 miles, and that dealer was 29.2 miles from where I ran aground. And my tire was changed just in time before the dealer’s closed for the day. As a result, I didn’t need to spend the night camping on the keys. From such a disaster, that’s a lot of silver linings.
So after a delay of four hours, I left the island of Key West, for a second and final time.
I even managed to find the valve cap that I left behind a few hours earlier, on a gravel field where I pulled over.
There’s a parking lot near Bahia Honda Bridge with beach access. That’s arguably the best place to view this icon of Overseas Highway.
Then, I was back on the move.
Once on Bahia Honda, I found myself on the tail of a police car. Since Seven Mile Bridge was coming up, I pulled over again to create a gap.
In the spirit of adventure, I decided to take a different route back to mainland. Instead of Route 1 / Dixie Highway, I decided to take the detour of County Route 905 / Card Sound Bridge.
But sadly, apart from that I was a few bucks poorer from the toll of Card Sound Bridge (it did have fewer traffic, probably due to toll), the new route didn’t turn out to be interesting at all, with no views along it apart from lines of trees and bushes.
Then I reached our overnight lodge in Homestead and joined my friends, with a legend to tell.