DAY 52 July 15, 2009

Started out well before the sun was up this morning, because I could not sleep in the humid, hot room. Never did even use the sheet to cover up last night. It was just too hot.

I cruised around downtown Key West. Got a glimpse of one of the six toe cats at the Hemingway House. Then witnessed the glorious sunrise over the keys.

I got to Big Pine Key in time to have three sightings of the tiny Key Deer. The first I saw was a full size deer with antlers-he was insanely fast as he ran in front of my car. Next I saw two does just wandering and munching breakfast along the road. Finally, I saw a tiny one that still had spots on its back.

I wanted to check out the Hampton and found a beautiful “beach” area. It is not your typical beach. While there is "sand", you walk down the steps to a limestone bottomed beach that has a pier off to the side. I might not really want to get in the water.

The highlight of the day was the John Pennekanmp State Park. They have a nice aquarium and apparently a film-the staff was too busy with their "meeting" to help me with any information. I finally got a "we're not showing that today" response from one of them. Oh well, I did enjoy floating around both of their swimming areas. They have decent bathhouses with nice showers at the main bathhouse. I actually liked the smaller, less used, beach more.

I refueled in Homestead (three times on this trip!). I drove out to the Biscayne Bay National Park. I enjoyed the film at the visitor center, but the boats had already gone out for the day.

From the time I hit Homestead, there was solid development on US 1 north. Miami reminds me a lot of Houston-lots of expensive cars and signs in Spanish. I went to Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach. It was very upscale. They don't begin serving dinner until 6 pm. I arrived at about 5 pm and decided to enjoy their bar menu. I ordered the lobster cocktail "enhanced with crab salad". The crab salad was delectable. The lobster unfortunately was quite watery, and messy. I had a glass of Reisling which paired perfectly with the meal. The tab came to $28 with tip.

I was still a little hungry. Hadn't really eaten all day and an appetizer just didn't fill the space, so I decided to stop at Las Olas. I ordered the original Cuban sandwich made the standard way and then saw empanadas and had to try the spinach and cheese one. I could have eaten these jewels all night. The sandwich was equally delightful-crusty bread, large sumptuous slices of roasted pork, sliced ham, dill chips, tons of swiss cheese and finally mayo and mustard. Then to make perfection the ultimate sandwich, they grill this behemoth sandwich til it is crispy on the outside and melted inside. Oh my goodness-another must do experience for only $7 including tax and well deserved tip. I would order this over the other any day of the week and do so repeatedly given the opportunity.

After eating the empanada and just half of the sandwich, I took a stroll on the beach on the north end of the island.I liked the north beach area much better-cleaner, more upscale establishments, without all the touristy shopping areas.

Realizing that it was getting late (started at 5 am and the sun was setting 8 pm), I booked a room in Boca Raton hoping for the best. I was very pleasantly surprised. The room was very nice. The common areas were well maintained and I would have gone to the Tiki Bar and pool had I not been so flatly exhausted.

Here's your sign: just off the bridge on US 1 northbound "crocodile crossing" on a yellow diamond.

ROUTE: US 1 & FL A1A North to Boca Raton

Lodging: Plaza Inn

Meals:Joe's Stone Crab (***Food *****Service) Las Olas (*****Food ***Service)

Attractions: Hemingway House, Key Deer Preserve, John Pennekanmp State Park, Biscayne Bay NP, and Beaches

$$$: $47 Hotel $2 Parking $37 Food $21 Fuel $23 Souvenirs $5 Admission $12 Mask & Snorkel $6 Medication for bug bites = $153

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