W^2 – history

WARNING: it’s Wednesday so I titled the post W^2, but it’s hardly wordless.

It’s spring break and we’ve escaped then blustery chill of a midwestern early spring for the Florida Keys and sun, wind, and sand. Mostly sun.

I remember my first visit to the Keys with my in-laws in 2002. Our son had recently turned four and my wife was pregnant with our daughter. We arrived in Miami and were picked up by my in-laws at the airport.

Until then, my only experience with Florida had been passing through the airport on the way to somewhere else: Venezuela or England to spend the summer or Christmas with my dad and stepmother.

With my father-in-law at the wheel we wove our way through Miami traffic to Homestead and US1. US1 is the only road from the Florida mainland at the tip of the Florida peninsula to the Keys where it terminates at Key West.

US1 travels along the path of the defunct Miami to Key West extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Construction of the railroad began in 1903 and was completed in 1913. The railway operated until 1935 when the Labor Day hurricane washed out the rail bed in Islamorada and the railroad abandoned the railroad. Two years later the Florida Highway Commission purchased the right of way and began construction of a highway to Key West. They used the old railroad bridges constructing roadbeds atop the concrete viaducts and bridges built by the railroad. Over the years, the highway has replaced the original railway bridges with wider end more modern concrete bridges.

The view from the bridge to the Atlantic Ocean

The first several miles of the two lane road travel along the path of the old railway. First through the thick mangrove swamps and across Lake Surprise before reaching Key Largo where the highway opens up to the Atlantic Ocean on the left and Florida Bay to the right.

As the highway bridges were replaced, the original railroad bridges were left in place. Most have been repurposed as fishing platforms or observation decks and others have been left to decay and breakdown in the elements. The Seven Mile Bridge has a two mile extension from Knight’s Key Key to Pigeon Key open to walkers and bicycles with breathtaking sunset views.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon my buddy and I (we are here with another couple) took off on an adventure stopping at the western approach to the Bahia Honda Bridge.

The original railroad bridge on the left and the new highway bridge on the right. Looking west from Bahia Honda State Park – photo from 3/28/2017

The old bridge has been abandoned since the present bridge was completed in 1977. The original railroad bridge is an iron trestle bridge which was only wide enough for a single railroad track and the passage of a single train. The highway engineers decided to construct a two lane road atop the railroad trestle to connect the two keys, or islands.

After almost sixty years, the abandoned bridge and old roadway is slowly disintegrating and falling into the sea. The pounding of wind, surf, and sun are slowly breaking the old bridge apart. In addition to the tropical storms and hurricanes.

I climbed along the rocks to the top of the roadway to explore, before climbing down to sea level and heading home.

It was an adventure and I created the video below.

We are having a good time and we are enjoying ourselves. The time passes quickly and there is plenty to keep ourselves engaged.

When I look left or right and I can see my beach mates along the shoreline reading, napping, or simply gazing at the sea.i a, fitting in creating.

It’s already been a fabulous day. I jumped up, jumped in, and seized the day hours ago. There are a few more hours of sun, time to read, edit and polish before I get back to my book. Making the days COUNT one day at a time being curious and full of wonder.

Where have you wandered or wondered recently?

Note: This post was created entirely using my iPad and my iPhone

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

5 thoughts on “W^2 – history

    1. Margaret, bridges are what make our world more connected and until your comment I hadn’t made the connection. I’ve posted about these bridges many times and another bridge in Bosnia almost 12 years ago….. also you increased my vocabulary (again) this morning with use of the word apposite… it seems we are more apt to break down bridges than build them of late. Stay well and strong. Keep building bridges and I will, too. Peace.

  1. With my first husband I travelled all the way down to Key West in a VW van in bad shape. I was terribly young then and it was in spring 1975. All I remember was the truly endless road going on and on and on…. I don‘t remember much but we sat down to the most amazing sundown which happened and was over in less than a minute (or so it felt). Wonderful memories, apart from zillions of mosquitos.

    1. Thank you Kiki for popping in! We are in the middle Keys and I have been to Key West, but for me there are too many people there. A couple of years ago we explored Key West with the same couple we are sharing our adventure this week. Here is the W^2 post from then… after exploring the fort, we had dinner near Mallory Square and witnessed the most amazing sunset. Like most amazing things in life, it was gone in a minute. It would be amazing if mosquitos could be gone in a minute! Stay well, Peace.

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