The drive up US1, over the bridges and across the islands, is as much a part of visiting the Keys as seeing the sun go down at Key West. We always enjoy it. This time the journey had the added zest of not having to end at Miami International, as it usually does. The single road allows no alternative route and always throws up an unexpected delay such as road works or the police stopping traffic because of a local fund-raising event. Inevitably, you end up making a mad dash for the airport and changing in the car park. We had changed our flight to leave from Orlando and would stay overnight in Stuart, on the Atlantic Coast north of Palm Beach. So it was OK to take our time and OK to stop for coffee in the comfortable sea-facing armchairs in the Cheeka Lodge and Spa on Islamorada. This place describes itself as the most luxurious on the Keys and is home to the Presidential Sailfish Tournament. This reflects the long-term affaire d’amour that George Bush Senior has with sports fishing; he is a constant visitor and the halls are decked with photographs of him growing older far more graciously than his idiot offspring.
The route north was clear and easy to drive until we hit the afternoon rush-hour at Fort Lauderdale. The traffic was moving and, I expect, was normal but when you see all those cars, four lanes across and bumper to bumper for mile-upon-mile you just have to wonder where all the fuel is going to come from. Most of the vehicles – maybe 80% – had only one occupant and the car pool lane, which we gradually moved into, was virtually empty. Often there were no cars in sight ahead or in the rear-view mirror.
We took the Florida Turnpike on from there and followed it up as far as Port Salerno, which is just south of Stuart. In two words – pretty and sleepy, especially the part beside the coast. I had the strongest impression that the world could pass you by without a murmur if you lived out your life here.
We checked in to the Marriott and were recommended a place by the river to eat. It was rather imaginatively called The Prawnbroker because, I found out later after some intensive detective work, it specialises in prawn dishes. Although prawns are shrimps in America and Shrimpbroker doesn’t quite catch it, does it? I had ribs anyway and cold Sunset Ale. The place was actually very pleasant and the staff more so.