3:30 pm update: The fabled Miami-to-Key West drive along Route 1 felt like a letdown. After you leave the south-of-Miami mainland (i.e., Homestead) and start your journey south from Key Largo, the downscale tourist vibe starts to seep in.
With the exception of two or three longish, concrete-piling causeways over the water, the Overseas Highway is just a slowish, congested, two-lane graytop with very little to recommend or be intrigued about. Unless, you know, you want gas or some seafood. Most of the time there are no passing lanes, and there are too many traffic light stops. It’s real America, but in a proletariat downmarket sense. At times it almost reminded me of Elvis Presley Blvd. in Memphis.
The local municipalities are naturally trying to clear the roadside of Hurricane Irma damage — tree limbs and brush, destroyed chunks of foundation concrete, piles of soil and…what am I saying? I’m saying that after a half-hour on the O.H. I was muttering “this is it?” I’ve been hearing about this must-experience route since I was ten or thereabouts, and to realize there’s just not much there — nothing above and beyond the natural longing of local merchants to make money.
No subtle aromas, no yesteryear echoes, no samplings of Bahamian architecture, no “culture.” (Or not much of it.). I was so lethargic that I decided against stopping in Key Largo to see Humphrey Bogart ‘s original African Queen river scow. Maybe on the way back.
Earlier: “It’s 12:35 pm, and we’re two-thirds of the way to Key West. Arriving around…oh, 2 pm or thereabouts. At 6pm we’ll be catching the Key West Film Festival‘s opening-night attraction — Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water. And then a nice after-party somewhere. Unable to attend himself, Guillermo recently taped a special video introduction that speaks specifically to KWFF and the locals who’ve been cleaning up since Irma tore through. Thanks to Fox Searchlight for providing the film.