In the winter of 2013 (2013-2014) I lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was amazing; if you’ve never been to Florida in the “winter” I highly recommend it. Unlike summer there is very little humidity, which makes the temperatures much more pleasant, but also means that it rains MUCH less. Anyway, while in Florida I took full advantage of the perfect weather and went on some really awesome trips. One such trip was my ill-timed trip to Key West.
It was February and I had just been hired back on at the Hogle Zoo in Utah. I was excited about the job, but sad to leave Florida. I started thinking about all the places I hadn’t traveled yet, and Key West was at the top of that list. I had never been, but heard an inordinate about it. I knew that even if I didn’t make it to any of my other desired destinations in Florida I had to make it to Key West. I was working as a Dog Trainer at the local PetSmart which makes it difficult to take time off, what with rescheduling of classes or finding someone to cover. Determined, I found a time I could make a “three-day” weekend and adjusted my Saturday schedule to work super early and be able to leave around noon.
Saturday I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM, grabbed all my gear, and headed to work. After my last class I almost ran to the time clock and ducked out of the store before anyone could stop me. I loaded up my gear and started to gear up when I realized I couldn’t find my headphones. I searched my saddlebags, backpack and jacket, they were nowhere to be found. Rather than go home, or look in my big packed bag I ran to a nearby Big Lots and found some cheap headphones. When I got back to my bike, unpacked them and plugged them in, they didn’t work. I was SO annoyed. I headed back into the store and made an exchange. I made sure this pair worked while still in the store, and finally was ready to leave. It was approaching 1 o’clock, hot, and I was irritated I was still in Hollywood, but I reassured myself it was still only 4 hrs to Key West.
I, stubborn person that I am, had decided not to map the route, after all everyone knows Route 1 dead ends in Key West, so how hard could it be? You head South on 95, and when that ends you get on route 1 and ride until the end of the road. And that’s what I did. Now anyone from Florida will be more than happy to tell you HOW STUPID that actually is. I mean it will get you there sure, but it will take at least 30 mins longer, and that’s NOT accounting for traffic… in Miami… on a Saturday…I realized my mistake when I reached the end of I-95. Traffic had been heavy up to that point, but this was normal for Miami. After Exit 1A (the last on 95) traffic came to a standstill. I was annoyed but excited to be sitting at the end of Interstate 95, the Highway that defined my youth and arguably one of the most important and most traveled interstate in the US. Traffic was barley moving, but moving enough that I couldn’t snap a photo of the “end 95” sign. Finally we all got merged onto Route 1 and traffic began moving again albeit at a slower pace. I was excited but also annoyed it had taken much longer than expected to get here. I was getting hungry, and Key West was still pretty far. I thought about waiting to eat in Key Largo, but as traffic dredged on I chose to find somewhere to eat along the way. I eventually stopped at a Panera Bread in Palmetto Bay. It was 2:30 and I was only just south of South Miami. I was REALLY hot and pretty frustrated with traffic. By my calculations I should have been halfway to Key West by now. While I ate, I looked for a faster way to Key West.
According to the GPS the fastest way was to cut across and hop on I-595. I didn’t want to deviate from my simple route but traffic was only getting worse. I once on my bike I headed down Route 1 to 152nd street and cut over to 595. I pulled off to check my EZ-pass balance and then was finally on my way. 15 miles later 595 dumped back on Route 1, but traffic wasn’t so bad down wasn’t so bad.
The scenery was more desolate and less populated, the billboards advertised excursions in the Keys and finally signs were telling me how far to Key West. Soon there was no city left, I was surrounded by shrubs indicative of the Everglades, of the coast. The road narrowed to one lane. I was close now.