Wednesday, March 2, 2022

[KEY WEST] Caribbean 'MERICA!


My fascination with Florida is just a recent phenomenon. I’ve been to the Sunshine State before, in Fort Lauderdale, in an extended transit. Anyone who transits in that effing airport knows how horrible the waiting times are, pandemic or not. In any case, I enjoyed what I could of FLL’s beaches without going down to Miami. When I finally did years later, it was love at first sight. It must be the sun. The beaches. The prevalent Latino culture. All of the above? After that, I just knew I wanted more Florida.


And as any traveler would do in trying to get to know a new place, I looked at the map. Florida is weird. Most of the cities are in the coastal areas. In fact, if you look at Miami, it seems like a really narrow strip of land sandwiched by the Everglades to the west and the Caribbean to the east. What got me really curious, though, was a long strip of what looks like a highway protruding from the panhandle all the way down to what I guess is halfway between Florida and Cuba. I looked at the name. It said KEY WEST.


Okay, fine. Let’s go there. I didn’t know that my go-to low-cost bus in Europe has already made its way across the pond. Flixbus connects Miami to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Key West. Prices are relatively cheap. Travel times are kind of long, though. Don’t let that simple stretch of highway fool you into thinking that it’s going to be a short journey. It’s actually almost four hours of driving, but don’t fret. The ride is probably one of the most scenic I’ve had in a while. How was it, then?


I’m not so familiar with the nomenclature of the islands’ names down there, but I’m guessing KEY refers to some sort of sparsely populated island land mass in the middle of the sea. As the bus goes farther south, the Caribbean shades of blue start to multiply. The scene becomes repetitive after a while. One long road with the sea on both sides approaching a small island every 20 minutes or so. The last island in that chain is Key West, which if you look at on the map, appears to be halfway between Miami and Havana.


I Googled it, and some folks do claim that you can, theoretically, reach Havana from Key West in 4 hours on a speedboat, politics and lack of ferry routes notwithstanding. Now we know how a lot of Cubans escaping from the dictatorship back then made their way to ‘Merica. I wonder if some of them swam all the way up? I guess that remains an option for the adventurous. As for me, a bus ride should suffice. Key West has its own airport, but given its popularity as a spring break destination, good luck with the airfare.


How am I to describe Key West? Well, for one, it’s expensive AF. Some people do say, though, that this depends on when you go. I came at the beginning of March, and the dorm room I found which happened to be one of the cheaper options cost me $200 a night. I know, right? WTF. As for the island life, it’s Caribbean ‘Merica, y’all. An awkward mix, perhaps, but this is probably the closest thing dem 'Mericans could have to a Caribbean-island getaway of their own. As if Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were not theirs? Well, unincorporated territories. I’m referring to the Upper 48.


Of course, you also have Hawaii if you can bear the 5-hour travel time by plane from the West Coast. That’s the Pacific for you. If you want a little bit of Caribbean ‘Merica, then just go to Key West. Fly to Miami or FLL. Take the scenic bus ride. Maybe just go during low season if you are low on funds. If not, there’s always the many island nations littering the Caribbean. They are not ‘Merica, though. I’d say the vibes is rather similar to the Pacific territories such as Guam. Island life, ‘Merican flavor.

[KEY WEST] Caribbean 'MERICA!

1 creature(s) gave a damn:

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