Headed towards the Florida keys!

KEY WEST OR BUST!!!! We figured it had been at least 20+ years since we’ve been in the keys and the time was right to head back to the southern toe of the state.

It’s definitely a haul to get down to the very last key.

It all starts with the Florida turnpike. Since we were on the turnpike for such a long time, I got interested in its history. Man! You could do an entire blog post just on the turnpike!

Sooooooo, here we go.

The years following WWII Florida experienced unprecedented growth in population and tourism along with a revitalized citrus industry after a hard devastating freeze. These things combined for a reason to build a better road to connect parts of Florida, top to bottom. There was an individual considered the ‘father of the turnpike’ (Thomas B. Manuel) and was chairman of the turnpike from 1955 – 1961. His belief and dedication to this mission won over many of the current-day detractors and the idea of a turnpike was hotly debated in the legislature. Ultimately he was able to convince all but 4 to pass legislation for the road.

It was opened in stages from 1957 to 1964 going through eleven Florida counties. Total length was 309 miles stretching from Miami Gardens to Wildwood. Construction began July 4, 1955 and they use the slogan ‘The Less Stressway’. It was built on a northwest-southeast axis.

You might notice in the photo above another nickname for the toll road – Ronald Reagan Turnpike. In 1998 the legisture decided “he was one of America’s most beloved presidents and a true world leader”.

We couldn’t believe we saw this paper ticket. We got off for a brief time and had to grab this before getting back on the turnpike. We’re accustomed to transponders or coins. In the 1990s congestion was so bad in Miami and the Orlando metropolitan area they both went to coin. Now we’re (central Florida) strictly electronic either by transponder or license plate photo.

Research says the turnpike averages 6.7 cents per mile. Service stations (8) are about 45 miles apart and we were stuck in the middle when we needed to jump off thus picking up the paper ticket. Okay – I’m done.

Lunch was on our agenda and we googled top resturants in/near Homestead, FL prior to leaving home. Havana Spice was highly rated.

The cuban bread looks so simple yet is so tasty. We didn’t really need the plantain chips, but, we did. There was nothing left on the plate OR in the basket either.

What else could I order but a cubano sandwich. Easily the best cuban sandwich I’ve had. What made it special??? The roasted pork sandwiched in with the ham, cuban bread and cheese – and then pressed. There was a garlicky aoli that was part of the sandwich – yum.

Eric also had pork, but in a different way. He had more of an entre’ with black beans, rice and fried plantains. Both of us had waaaaaaay too much food. If we had been home, there definitely would have been leftovers for another meal.

Don’t think I mentioned the decor – very kitschy. We were lucky enough to sit outside under cover from any of the short-lived passing rain showers.

The car pictured above is part of their charm. There were a number of older cars parked around to give you the ‘Havana’ feel.

This guy watched us eat our delicious lunch.

Dessert?!? This was something we had already planned while still at home. We headed to Robert is Here. It was a short 5 minute drive from Havana Spice.

It is a family institution that has (seriously) grown and expanded since the last time we were in this area – 20+ years ago. Have I mentioned that already? Truly, it was a corner fruit stand where all the locals picked up their fresh groceries and the fruit stand made shakes out of the excess fruit. They still have plenty of fruit and veggies. Here’s a small sampling.

Interesting story about the name ‘Robert is Here’. Google it. And yes, Robert is still working, he’s the one in the dark green shirt.

So you’ve seen a few shots of the fruits, now take a short look at their products. They have row after row after shelf after shelf with their own bottled product. The shot below is a small snippet of their items.

Along the front of the market, they had buckets and buckets of sunflowers. Loved them!

Let’s get to the REAL reason we came – the shakes…….actually we all ended up with smoothies! Ha! The smoothies were sweet enough. I can’t image how sweet the shake would have been. It was a process as you can see on the sign.

Walking to the front of the market, there was a l.o.n.g. line, just to order your desired drinks. I wandered off and heard someone say ‘that’s didn’t take long’. I’m sure that Eric was ready to turn around and keep driving but he had come to the same conclusion just watching the line. We ultimately ended up with three different flavors. Mine was the bright orange cup in the center (mamey sapote). Eric’s was the creamy cup on the left (guanabana) with Adrienne getting a mango smoothie.

Back on the road, we continued south. We expected traffic and we got it. 😦 Luckily we had stretches where 4 lanes existed and we could pick up the pace. Eventually we got to the source of this back-up ……….gawkers checking out a group of boaters on the water. Really people?

Regardless, we made it to our hotel with plenty of time to drop off bags and still head all the way to the bottom before sunset – next post!


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