End of the line…Key West, Florida (2010)

In May 2010 I decided to leave my job in Australia and travel around the world before moving to the USA. This journey ended up involving travelling in 18 countries on 4 continents (North America, Europe, Asia and Australia) and taking me around the world 1.5 times over a 12 month period! I wrote a number of travel emails from that trip and I thought it would be fun to revisit them with some additional info and photos. The following blog is Part 1 of that journey (USAFlorida).

May 11th, 2010

Hi All

Well have been in the US for nearly a week now (Florida), the first few days have been a mix of seeing family, relaxing, catching up on lost sleep, sightseeing and driving.

So what have I seen so far? First up was a visit to the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, owned by pilot and obviously very wealthy Kermit Weeks– yes that’s his real name! The museum has an incredible collection of aircraft (many of which still fly) from the early 1900’s to 1940’s. I quite liked going inside a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which simulated a bombing run over Germany (lights, flack, shuddering airframe – very well done).

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Martin B-26 Marauder
PBY Catalina

A highlight was when he took a German WW2 Fiesler Storch up for a flight – this thing can almost stop in the air whilst still flying and can take off and land in a matter of metres. An impressive flying display! The Germans lead by the notorious commando Otto Skorzeny “The most dangerous man in Europe”, used a Storch to rescue the captive ex-Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from mountain top imprisonment in 1943.

Skorzeny, Mussolini & the Storch rescue 1943

After a rest day, drove about 4 hours south of Winter Haven to Homestead, not much here other than an airforce base and its close proximity to the Everglades National Park, rang Mum for mother’s day, but had to cut it short – she probably thought I was about to get mugged or worse , was more that I was about to get caught in a downpour – had to run! Anyway, all was ok, got an early start to the Everglades the next day, first stop and I saw 7 Alligators up really close, one just floating below where I was standing, checking me out every now and then, pretty cool to be so close to wild ones.

Everglades NP
Everglades NP
Everglades NP
Everglades NP
Everglades NP

I also saw heaps of birds such as storks etc. Went to a number of forest walks and water holes, drove to Flamingo…no Flamingoes though. Then decided to do a longer hike, it was hot and the mosquitos were unbearable! Kind of like the flies in Central Australia, but they bite constantly, oh to think of it there were flies in the Everglades that were biting me too!!! Apart from the insects, it was a great day (I must admit I did snap and lose it completely over the insects…hey it was hot!).

Everglades NP
Everglades NP

The last few days I have been chilling out in Key West (although it is bloody hot here) – last town on the Florida Keys (about 3 hours south of Homestead). Key West is famous for those who just want to drop out for a while (or forever!), but also the one time home of Ernest Hemingway and many other authors; and President Harry S. Truman spent a fair bit of time here too (US President 1945-1953).

Harry S. Truman

I visited Hemingway’s home  (he lived there in the 1930’s) – there are weird six toed cats (polydactyl) living there (descendants of cats he had apparently which had some quirky DNA. The sixth toe is normally on their front paws which looks like a thumb)! Another funny part of the house is an incredibly expensive swimming pool said to have cost $20,000 back in 1938! There is a penny embedded in the pools stone patio because Hemingway in response to the exhorbitant construction cost put it in the wet cement and jokingly said “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!”

Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s House
Six Toed Cat!

President Truman’s “Little White House” – occasionally used as a summer retreat in Key West but also an acting substitute for the actual White House made for an interesting tour. Other attractions here are an old civil war fort, Pirate Soul a pirate museum celebrating the history of the Caribbean pirates such as Blackbeard. There is a point here, the southern most of the continental USA that is approximately 90 miles from Cuba, they have a big marker there.

Little White House
Cuba’s that way!

Other than that just been hanging out in famous places such as Sloppy Joes Bar a Key West institution since 1933 (Hemingway’s favourite apparently), or the Sunset Pier. Just taking it easy. Tomorrow its a drive up to Miami, from there to Indian Harbour Beach to catch up with cousins and to see the second last launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Sloppy Joes
A Key West sunset

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