The library had the nerve to ask for this back, just because it takes me two months to plan a trip. And by “plan,” I actually mean “extensively daydream,” so it’s a time-consuming process. Really, why do they want it back? Does anyone read travel books anymore? It’s summer in Wisconsin, for Pete’s sake: all the Wisconsin people go to Florida for the winter if they are over 65, or for spring break if they are 18-20, so there are months and months before the Florida travel season gets underway. Really, the library should ask to loan it to me, just to make space.
I did wonder why I was bothering with a travel book. I’ve found Yelp very useful with eateries (it has distances, food type, menus and ratings) and TripAdvisor has proven useful with ratings for area attractions and tour guides. But I realized the value in a travel book–if one finds the right one–is that it is information in relatively linear form that avoids the rabbit hole of the interwebs.
In this case, it seemed a great match. It could be Martone/Moon, or it could be the Florida Keys, but her focus seems to be on the outdoor attractions of the area, which is exactly what I wanted. She gives specifics on each park. For instance, National Key Deer Refuge is noted as having two nice trails, one of which is wheelchair accessible. Long Key State Park has a canoe trail where one can rent canoes from the park service (Martone said “cheap” but on the website it’s $17.50 for 2 hours). It’s also mentioned for the 1.5 mile “Golden Orb (Spider) Trail,” which I will no doubt avoid.
What I was really hoping for was ideas for snorkeling, and I did find adequate mention of places that do snorkeling as well as preferred locations. John Pennenkamp State Park is mentioned as a site not-to-be-missed (with the Christ of the Deep statue). Bahia is mentioned for having snorkeling trips to Looe Key, known for the staghorn coral.
Guides are also useful for the information on things that locals take for granted: although one always associates Florida with beaches, she mentions that most of the beaches are crushed coral, and takes care to point out the few major swimming beaches (such as in Bahia Honda State Park). There’s tips on bike riding trails, a recommendation to use bikes in Key West, and a strong suggestion to avoiding attempting it along the Seven Mile Bridge.
Organized by geography, she takes the reader from Key Largo down to Key West in five general sections of Miami/Everglades, Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and the Middle Keys, Big Pine and the Lower Keys and Key West. The beginning of each section gives an area overview that includes history and a mention of general attractions. Further information is then divided into types of attractions, such as parks, tourist attractions, cultural attractions, diving/boating and shopping.
Standard guide fare includes a restaurant listing with notes on what stands out, whether the Key Lime pie or the locals, as well as hotels/accommodations sorted by price. In my estimation, both sections of guides are made obsolete by the internet and often don’t stand the test of time. Format missteps include some annoying sidebars that would likely do better in their own section: for instance, in the middle of a section on Key Largo are general for safe diving in the Keys.
At the very end of the book is a section on the history of the Keys as a whole. I’m kind of fascinated by the pirate/wreckage history, as well as the creation of the “Conch Republic” when Key West decided to succeed from the United States. They still have an annual succession party with such events as a Zero-K run, a ‘drag race’ (in drag, naturally), a parade and a “5 Rum Salute”–If college spring break doesn’t fall in April, that would be a fun time to visit.
I started taking notes as I read on colored post-its, then used those to make notations on Google maps. When I took it back to the library, I suspect the evidence of my earnestness encouraged the librarian to take pity on me, allowing me another two weeks.