Throw away the Key (West)
Sept. 27-28, 2009 — Key West, FL
I don’t like Key West. There, I said it. Didn’t like it the first time around when I had the privilege of visiting during the Harley-Davidson sponsored Poker Run. And didn’t like it much this second trip either. I do like Key Lime pie though. I also like the story around the founding of the Conch Republic.
But first, a little story about my first visit to Key West. We were staying at a charming B&B that was gay-friendly (as much of Key West is) and clothing optional (this was a bit of a surprise to me). When we first arrived, we headed out to our private veranda to chill out. The view was of the pool below – did you catch the part about “clothing optional?” – and all the naked men sunbathers. After our siesta, we headed back into the room, only to discover we were locked out. After a half-hearted attempt at picking the lock, it was clear we needed to get the men’s attention below to come and rescue us. Now as the only heterosexual couple in the place and fully clothed, we were being tuned out, especially given the constant roar of the Poker Run participants and the blaring 70s music.
Finally we garnered some attention with wild arm gestures and screams. Luckily, a sunbather alerted the front desk and a maid came to save the day. By this time, we had turned permanently pink, due to a combination of sunburn, exertion and embarrassment.
On my second trip to Key West last week, I learned about the founding of the Conch Republic. In 1982, Key West declared itself a micro nation and seceded from the rest of the United States. This declaration of independence was in protest over U.S. Border Patrol roadblocks, where residents and travelers were stopped and searched for illegal immigrants and drugs at the one and only road leading into the Keys. (These roadblocks were severely hurting tourism, the basis of the Key West economy.)
In their view, the residents of Key West believed they were being treated like foreign nationals so the city council of Key West rebelled and voted to secede from the U.S.
As an official act of war, the new Prime Minister of the Republic broke a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a gentleman dressed as a naval officer.
While the Conch Republic is now little more a tourist gimmick, at the time the city’s antics did help to shed light on the Key West residents’ civil rights infringements and the blockade ended later that year.
For more info on the founding of the Conch Republic, check out these sites:
For recommendations on:
- • Where to stay: Chelsea House, complete with private sunbathing decks and the Pier House Resort, we had two fabulous meals here
- • Where not to stay:
Southernmost House Grand Hotel
- • Where to eat: Louie’s Backyard:
The view is better than the food
This entry was posted on Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 and is filed under North America.