In May 2022, our friend and colleague Dennis De Roover travelled for the first time in his life – solo – outside Europe. He set his sights on a road trip in Florida in the United States. He’s so kind to share his story.
After some gay and eye-opening encounters in Miami, I left for Key West, the most southern island of an archipelago off the southern coast of Florida.
On my way there I stopped at Coral Castle in Homestead. From 1923 to 1951 Edward Leedskalnin, an immigrant from Latvia, created an oolite limestone structure here. The man was just over 5 feet (152.4 cm) tall and didn’t dispose of modern cranes to lift the heavy blocks. This led to legends of Leedskalnin having supernatural powers.
1,100 short tons of stone form a castle tower, an accurate sundial, a polar telescope, a table in the shape of the state of Florida, rocking chairs and other furniture. Edward Leedskalnin and Coral Castle inspired Billy Idol for his song ‘Sweet Sixteen‘.
But to be honest: the castle didn’t impress me too much. For some reason I compared Coral Castle to the Palais idéal du facteur Cheval in Hauterives, France. Which was built before Coral Castle and left a much bigger impression on me.
I took the car and continued to Key West. It took me to one of the largest overwater roads in the world. In front of you the highway and on both sides nothing but water. It is a unique experience.
I also passed by the Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge, a derelict railroad bridge. They removed two parts of the bridge to prevent pedestrians to access unsafe parts of the bridge. It is a spooky sight.
I checked in at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Key West at the Keys Collection.
There I received some cards for free drinks at the pool bar. To relax from the long ride to Key West I took place at the bar. The Georgian bar keeper gave me plenty of free drinks and I started chatting with a friendly Californian woman who had moved to Florida for work. She and her colleagues were on a business trip to Key West. Before I realized it, she invited me to a drag queen show they were attending that evening in the city center.
We went to Aqua Bar and Nightclub in Duval Street. They had a drag queen show which felt like a theatre show with chairs aligned towards a small stage. An older drag queen came on with a golden dildo to the tunes of the Shirley Bassey song ‘Goldfinger‘. What she did with the dildo to the audience, I leave entirely up to your imagination.
We had a laugh and some drinks. Later on, back home, I found out on YouTube that this drag queen was already doing this ‘Goldfinger’ act nine years ago. Those one-trick ponies!
I was woken early in the morning by a rooster. This comes as no surprise because all over Key West you will find roosters and mother hens. People have been holding chickens for a long time in Key West for food.
But when cock-fighting became illegal roosters were released. Their population grew and now you find them on every street corner. It’s illegal to feed the roosters as there are already so many of them.
That day I went to visit the Ernest Hemingway House. The Nobel Prize in Literature winning author lived in Key West for several years before moving to Cuba.
For fans of literature this house is definitely worth a visit. You can see the bathroom, sleeping room and writing room of the famous writer with its original furniture. All over the house there are cats with more than the usual amount of toes on its paws.
You can even have a close look at a typing machine the writer used. Hemingway was not only a writer and a journalist, but also a serious alcoholic.
Not far away from the Hemingway House was his favorite bar: Sloppy Joe’s Bar. You can still have a drink at this historical bar. It opened in 1933. Go raise a glass to the spirit of Hemingway!
The most famous attraction of Key West however is the southernmost point buoy. It’s a colorful buoy that marks the southernmost point in the continental US.
The buoy is painted in black and red stripes and decorated with the image of a conch. Roughly 90 miles (144,8 km) southern of this buoy is Cuba with only the Gulf of Mexico in between.
You haven’t officially been to Key West if you didn’t have your picture taken leaning against or standing in front of this buoy. Facebook and Instagram need visual proof you’ve been there! During the day there is often a queue leading to this free tourist attraction.
Being a solo traveler is so easy in Florida. People were very kind and willing to take my picture with the buoy.