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Gracious Donation By John V. Howard

6140654434_8e7b980ef6_bA beautiful million dollar private home and luxury hotel sprawl the 137 acres of what use to be wetlands… OK, that’s what it would’ve been if not for a change of heart and gracious donation by developer John V. Howard back in June 1994. When you finally arrive at the sign please take a minute and visualize the home and hotel and then take a long look around ending your view with a resounding thank you. Now you know the rest of this fantastic story! Oh yeah, look to your right atop the telephone pole which now houses a roosting bird’s nest now calling the John V. Howard Tract their family home.

You can find this gracious donation of land and its wildlife at Mile Marker 32.8 oceanside on US-1 upon entering the Key Deer Habitat on Big Pine Key.


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Islamorada’s FREE Tarpon Pool

What a great FREE attraction! You can spend 30 minutes to an hour here just looking around never realizing time was marching on.

Islamorada Fish Company’s tarpon pool is open to the ocean at one corner allowing wild Gulf Of Mexico & Atlantic Ocean tarpon to enter freely. Though the tarpon are wild, they’ve been conditioned to arrive at pre-arrange feeding times over years and years of repetitive hand-fed rituals.

The pool, as you can see is very large measuring a good 100 feet on all sides with a pedestrian walk bridge diagonally cutting across the open ocean side (as seen below). The absolute best time for viewing is at its evening feeding just before sunset to watch the frenzy for yourself.

There’s so much here to see that you may underestimate your time allotment needed… that my friends is OK… it’s worth every extra minute of it! OH YEAH… the food here is GREAT TOO! 🙂

You can find the Islamorada Fish Company’s FREE tarpon pool by traveling on US-1 to Mile Marker 81.4 bayside. While here, go next door to the Worldwide Sportsman store where you’ll see the Key’s LARGEST FISH TANK on display also for the amazing price of FREE.


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True Lies / Schwarzenegger & Curtis

Literally straight out of the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘True Lies’ with Arnold Schwarzenegger & Jamie Lee Curtis comes a scene shot in the Florida Keys on the old 7-Mile bridge.

Without a doubt the most famous & unmistakable tourist sight in the entire Keys is the 7-Mile Bridge (measures 6.9mi). As you can see by the scene below with Jamie Lee Curtis atop the limo roof that there are two bridges side-by-side, the old 7-Mile bridge being used to shoot the scene and the new 7-Mile bridge to the right that everyone else uses 365 days a year.

The old bridge has been closed for years and has several sections removed to ensure that no one travels upon it even if they were to break through the barricades (gaps shown below). It’s here that one of the most famous and exciting scenes is filmed where the limo goes flying off one of those missing sections and crashes into the water as Jamie Lee is rescued by on-screen hubby secret agent played by former disgraced California Governor Arnold “Yes, I’m your daddy” Schwarzenegger. 🙂 I’ve included several photos below that shows both bridges side-by-side as in the Jamie Lee action scene and 3 that shows the famous section of bridge removed where the limo crashed into the sea.

You can find this historic 7-Mile bridge’s northern end at Mile Marker 46.8 on US-1. Unfortunately the missing section of bridge used in the film can only be accessed by boat but can be seen clearly from the new 7-Mile bridge as you travel across it. Stopping on the 2-lane bridge is forbidden so have your passenger take the photo for you. I promise… a future blog will highlight the history of the 7-Mile Bridge itself so stay tuned!


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Eat It Raw Boys!

The Half Shell Raw Bar is one of the best and most popular seafood restaurants in Key West whose slogan is “Eat It Raw”. Half Shell Raw Bar has a smorgasbord selection of some of the freshest catches of the day that can be ordered sauted, blackened, baked, broiled or fried.

Your dining pleasure is enhanced by the ocean side view of one of Key West’s most popular & beautiful harbors (photo below). It’s also home to one of the best photo-head boards in town that sits right outside the front door and is always a tourist favorite with someones noggin sticking through it as seen here! Another not miss is the brightly painted red wheelhouse from the boat “Salte Sea” that’s now part of the building sitting to the left of the front door. A wheelhouse for those that don’t know is the enclosed portion of a boat that the captain steers from (photo below).

You can find Eat It Raw at one of my most favorite hangouts on Key West’s western side of town in the area called Harbor Walk. If you haven’t eaten here, put this high atop your seafood list, your taste buds & partner will thank you I’m sure!


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Key West’s Civil War… Is It North or South?

Here’s what EVERYONE knows about the Civil War (April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865). It was a war between the Northern and the Southern states that seceded from the Union. Northern forces were led by Abraham Lincoln while the Southern by Jefferson Davis.

Here’s what hardly ANYONE knows about the Civil War. Despite your first thought or what you learned in High School History class, Key West, Florida was the southernmost outpost for the Northern Yankees during the American Civil War! History books and teachers I’ve found seldom tell you the little known exceptions to the rule… in this case, it’s Key West! Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America while Key West remained in U.S. Union hands. However, most locals were sympathetic to the South, and many flew Confederate flags over their homes.

Key West’s stronghold consisted of four defensive forts; the larger two were Fort Zachary Taylor & Fort Jefferson along with two smaller defensive fortifications only half the size of the others named East & West Martello Towers. The Martello Towers (called Towers, though actually forts) served as side armories and batteries for the larger forts and were connected at the time to Fort Taylor by railroad tracks for movement of munitions. Fort Jefferson on the other hand which saw only minor skirmishes during the war is located about 68 miles west from Key West in the Dry Tortugas (Turtles in Spanish) which also served after the Civil War as the prison for Dr. Samuel Mudd & other convicted conspirators of the John Wilkes Booth assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15th 1865 just 6 days after the END OF THE CIVIL WAR!

Your History Professor for this on-line course has been me…  Mr. 365 Days 🙂

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Mangroves… They’re Our Friends!

7175546648_ec56931d84_bBlending land and sea, mangroves form and interesting environment along our coastline. Hardy, tropical plants, mangroves are one of the few trees that thrive in salt water.

Once considered useless, the many values of mangroves are now evident. A variety of wildlife finds food and shelter in the mangroves. Their roots help stabilize the shoreline and also filter pollutants. Graceful long-legged wading birds build tree-top nests in their branches.

Seen below are a shoreline view along with a lone ocean view of a mangrove calling that local his home. Imagine, there are entire islands made up of thousands of those individual mangroves. So the next time you see what you think is an island… look closer, it just might be a large group of mangroves.

Oh yeah, don’t even think about cutting one down… that is unless you like paying fines! 🙂 I’ve heard stories of property owners going out under the cover of darkness and removing their own mangroves limb-by-limb over a period of time to not be reported by their neighbors. That my friends is 100% TRUE!

Let me see… you can find these mangrove trees throughout the entire Florida Keys from Mile Marker 127 to Zero… just look towards open water! 🙂

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John Pennekamp’s FREE Aquarium

Welcome to the John Pennekamp State Park, a smorgasbord of things to do are abound but I’ll be focusing on the FREE aquarium inside the visitor center.

Seen to the left is a photo of a portion of the many exhibits that can be found on the aquarium side of the dual purpose building. Children and adults alike will enjoy the cool AC confines on any hot Florida day watching nature’s sea creatures swim and frolic about totally oblivious to the scorching heat beneath the noon day sun. The aquarium’s self-guided tour can last as long as you like gazing in amazement at some of its unique species. One little creature featured below kept us laughing for 10 minutes as he’d continually look out of his sandy den to see if we were watching him or not!

Though the aquarium visit itself is FREE, the park does change an entrance fee per car’s occupants… if I recall, maybe the $3 to $4 range. The park is so well worth the price, bring a picnic and make a day of it, there’s that much here to do!

You can find dozens of day-long activities along with the FREE aquarium all over the John Pennekamp State Park on US-1 at Mile Marker 102.3 oceanside.


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