Monday, March 30, 2009

Cow Key Bridge

There is one bridge in and out of Key West and it crosses a span of water known as Cow Key Channel, which is not surprising as that river of salt water separates Key west from Stock Island, which as I have noted elsewhere was the place where cows were raised to feed Key West. The channel itself isn't so terribly wide, and looking south the key west bank is home to one of the more scenic Veteran's administration clinics in the US:Indeed the entire span of the channel towards Hawk Channel is actually pretty narrow when you realise the navigable portion hugs the left hand side of the waterway looking south:There are some live aboard boats anchored off the old houseboat row on South Roosevelt, but to the north the channel is entirely empty out towards the Gulf of Mexico. The white building to the right is the Headquarters of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department and the jail known to some as the Stock Island Hilton.As far as I can tell the two islands have been connected by bridge for a very long time. I've seen early pictures of Stock Island (keyshistory.org) which show a blasted heath of white pea rock and tufts of grass and a few despondent cows, but the age of the automobile required bridges, and make no mistake, Key West got cars as soon as they were available. It may seem odd these days but long before the road bridge to the mainland was completed in 1938 people were driving cars and parking them on Duval Street. I got this picture from the book Charlotte's Story which I highly recommend. It's labeled Boca Chica but if it's not the Stock island bridge it must have looked very much like this:After World War One it was possible to drive a very circuitous route from Key West to No Name Key where there was a car ferry to haul one to Knights Key (Marathon) where the journey continued to somewhere around the Matecumbe Keys where there was another ferry and so on. It was an all day job getting to Homestead. Nowadays it's rather simpler, and Cow Key Bridge is four lanes of busyness:And alongside the very modern bridge is the very modern hose pipe feeding the city drinking water from the South Florida Aquifer in Dade County. The Navy built the original pipe in World war Two, ending the city's dependence on rainwater and cisterns, and then a newer and bigger pipe was built alongside the new, wider roadway which opened in 1982:The bridge itself is massive enough there are ample paths on either side of the traffic lanes, protected from the traffic by cement barriers, for pedestrians and cyclists of which there are tons crossing the bridge at all hours:On the water there is always some traffic too, especially as Hurricane hole marina on the Stock Island side rents center console boats and kayaks like this one:It was a warm day but not toasty and I was forced to wonder how the poor dears would be getting along if it were really hot. Summer hot... Other boaters just abandon their rides and there they sit, not rotting because fiberglass doesn't rot, in the mangroves:As I leaned on the parapet of the bridge enjoying the afternoon sun I saw a couple of boaters doing something weird in the water. He seemed to be towing her across the current as she hung on for dear life. But as the perspective changed it looked more like she was pushing him:I never did see the end of it so I expect they made it home, wherever that is. Home used to be under the bridge itself to a group of homeless people who flew the flag from the bridge, a sign of patriotism perhaps but it didn't do them any good. Old Glory is gone as is their encampment under the bridge:Other people complained about the people living there and several agencies intervened and now the space is empty. Weirdly enough they've left the trash can down by the water and there is of course plenty of trash still lying around but of regular upstanding citizens not a one, even though the area has been cleared of undesirables in an attempt to render it park-like...and I have to say the prospect out under the bridge is fairly gloomy even on a bright sunny day:The only other thing the social deviants left behind from their life under the bridge was bumper stickers glued on the water pipe, another slice of keys history:
Back above ground as it were I couldn't depart from the Cow key Bridge without one picture of the trees surrounding the Hyatt Beach Resort, a positive forest I say and most picturesque even though it's just a buffer between the hotel and the highway:And then, once across the bridge and in Key West one reaches the triangle, written about elsewhere. A right turn (don't stop at the yield PLEASE!!) on North Roosevelt and the "business district" or take a left on A1A, South Roosevelt to Smathers Beach. The choice is yours when you are approaching Key West.