This morning we ate breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s (a block south of La Jolla Resort) and then drove both trucks north to John Pennekamp State Park. Joyce and I biked south while Ed and Ron purchased glass bottom boat tickets and parked one of the trucks at the state park. After 10 miles, we met them at the Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory. Since the pie factory was not open yet, Joyce and I continued riding south while Ed and Ron waited for the store to open.
We stopped to take photos of the giant lobster in front of the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery. Our next stop was the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (MM87.7). Ed & Ron met us in the parking lot, and we ate our key lime pie slices at a picnic table behind the visitor center.
Walking to both the Windley Quarry and the Flagler Quarry, we saw several hundred feet of exposed coral. The formations were very intricate; in some places, you could see outlines of fish and other ocean creatures carved in the coral.
We resumed our bike ride south toward Islamorada where we met Ed & Ron at the Hurricane Monument – a tribute to the 200+ individuals who lost their lives in the 1935 hurricane as they tried to escape the islands by train. This hurricane destroyed many of the railroad bridges through the Keys, and the haunting remains are a vivid reminder of this tragic storm.
Ron decided to join us on the last leg of our bike ride from Islamorada down to the Channel 5 bridge. This 10.1 mile portion of the trail remained bayside and crossed five bridges. Although four of the bridges required that we bike with the traffic, the scenery was so gorgeous that we did not mind. At the crest of the bridge over Lignumvitae Channel, we spotted Robbie’s Marina, which is a popular kayaking launching spot for those wanting to paddle out to either Lignumvitae Key or Indian Key state parks. Just beyond the marina, the trail turned away from US1 and passed beautifully gated homes with lavishly landscaped lawns.
Approaching the Channel 2 bridge, we caught a glimpse of kite surfers at Anne’s Beach. If I was younger, I would have loved to try this sport! The pedestrian bridge over Channel 2 was lined with fishermen, but I hardly noticed. This was our last bridge, and I decided to savor the moment. On the other side of the bridge, we biked about a mile to where Ed was parked. We loaded our bikes and drove back north to John Pennekamp State Park for a picnic lunch before our glass bottom boat tour.
We thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour ocean tour of the coral reef, located six miles offshore. We spotted a shark, stingray, and several other types of fish. I was amazed at how clear the water was, and I was sad when the captain turned the boat back toward the coast. The sun was setting as we pulled into the dock, and we saw a few majestic herons perched along the mangroves.
Joyce and Ron drove north to Miami for the night, and Ed and I returned to Islamorada. We ate dinner at the Lazy Days Restaurant (excellent) and spent one last night at the La Jolla Resort. The following morning, we stopped briefly at the Everglades National Park on our way to Clewiston where Ed and I met almost 40 years ago.
The town had changed dramatically, but we were still able to locate the church, our apartments, and the home where we lived for one short year prior to moving to south Georgia. We drove back to the Miami Airport, turned in our rental truck, and flew back to Atlanta. I enjoyed the Keys and understand why many folks, including several presidents, have made this a frequent vacation destination.