The Conch Republic

When we were sailing in Marathon, many people asked us if we would go to the Conch Republic as well.  I didn’t really know what they were talking about till someone told me the funny history…

The Conch Republic

The Conch Republic

Back in 1982, the president of the United States suddenly decided to open it’s borders to their neighboring countries.  The result was that Cuba opened all its prisons and sent their convicts to the United States through Key West, only 90 miles away.  When the government noticed a increasing crime rate in Florida, the US Border Patrol suddenly and without warning set up a roadblock at the point where all road traffic from the Keys crosses into mainland Florida.  They were apparently looking for illegals and contraband, but the consequence was a seventeen mile traffic jam.  When the word got out, tourism came to a complete stop.  This heinous act effectively isolated Keys Citizens from the U.S. mainland since the blockade was on the only land artery to and from the mainland. This roadblock portrayed Keys residents as non-U.S. citizens who had to prove their citizenship in order to drive onto the Florida mainland!

The Conch Republic

The Conch Republic

Frustrated, the locals first tried to get an injunction in Federal Court, making the argument that since the Keys were part of Florida, you couldn’t have a “border crossing” between the two.  When the court refused to grant the injunction, they took their argument to the next logical step.  If the Border Patrol was stopping people entering and leaving mainland Florida, then the Keys must be a foreign country!  The mayor of Key West then signed a proclamation declaring the Conch Republic to be a free and independent country!  ‘Conch’ because it’s the Key’s most famous seafood.  Of course, all this was done with lots and lots of TV coverage.  

The Conch Republic

The Conch Republic

The Feds weren’t as amused as the TV reporters and the rest of the world.  At noon, on April 23 1982 at Mallory Square in Key West,  Florida, Mayor Wardlow read the proclamation of secession and proclaimed aloud that the Conch Republic was an independent nation separate from the U.S. and then symbolically began the Conch Republic’s Civil Rebellion by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform.   Still today, Key West is ironically referred to as the Conch Republic. 

Yana showing us around on her boat 'SV Jaffo'

Yana showing us around on her boat ‘SV Jaffo’

It was hard to say goodbye to fantastic Jay but Chris & I had to explore the Conch Republic. Jay gave us some tips and off we were to Key West!
Our luck didn’t seem to end when Yana & James, a nice couple from Key West welcomed us in their sailing boat ‘SV Jaffo’. They stayed on a different boat in the marina, letting us the whole boat to ourselves! Unbelievable how nice some people can be!

The most southern point of USA

The most southern point of USA

Key West lies closer to Havana (90 miles) than it is to Miami (150 miles) & has known the best of times… It was America’s richest city in 1889, but it has also known the worst of times when it was America’s bankrupted city in the 1930’s. Through it all, Key West has retained its status as one of the world’s most intruiging cities. We couldn’t wait to explore it and with Alexander, who joined us for the day, we started with the famous ‘Most Southern Point’ of the States. After that we strolled in Duval Street, bisecting the Old Town & affectionatelty called the longest main street on earth because it goes from coast to coast – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Legendary 'Ernest Hemingway'

Legendary ‘Ernest Hemingway’

Key West is also known for its colorful cast of characters ranging from Spanish explorer Ponce de Léon to president Harry Truman who vacationed in the ‘Little White House’ on Front Street. Long a haven for creative spirits, the island inspired such acclaimed writers as Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost & Ernest Hemingway. One block away from Duval Street, we walked in the equally historic Whitehead Street, home to Key West’s lighthouse but more importantly home to acclaimed writer Ernest Hemingway. Very intresting place to visit where we also discovered the famous 6-fingered cats, besides Hemingway’s history & biography.

Charlie, Rex, Chris, Jessica, Max & I after some amazing days with Jay in the Keys

Charlie, Rex, Chris, Jessica, Max & I after some amazing days with Jay in the Keys

All roads in Key West lead to Mallory square with it’s Treasure Museum where crowds gather for the famous Sunsets Celebrations. Jay adviced us to avoid that crowd and enjoy the sunset at ‘The Top’, a rooftop bar in Duval Street with a fabulous view. We met Jessica & Manu again but also Charlie & Rex, 2 guys from Washington DC. Jay hosted them now and sent them to Key West to have a night out with all of us. It’s was a fitting end to a fabulous day!
To start an equally fabulous night, Jay adviced us ‘Sloppy Joe’ & the ‘Garden of Eden’. Great places although we were slightly shocked when entering ‘Garden of Eden’ Cellphones, camera’s, … were strictly forbidden. I understood why when we suddenly noticed some people in their “Adam’s costume” at the bar and on the dancefloor. Haha, right… We’re in America!

I'm in Miami Bitch !

After 49 days, 11 states & 13105 km, I finally yelled… I’m in Miami Bitch !

What an blast we had on this road trip through the States! 49 days, 11 states, 13105 km since L.A. along desert & oceans, mountains & valleys, lakes & swamps, cities & country houses, …  Without forgetting all the fantastic people we met along the way who made this road trip an unforgettable ‘one-in-a-lifetime experience’ ! 
But one thing remained on our list… crazy Miami! Chris would fly to Chicago, my next destination was Galapagos in Ecuador. But before going our separate ways, Chris & I had to enjoy the few things Miami’s famous for… Nightlife, beautiful people & Miami’s exotic beaches!  So after sayin’ goodbye to our dear friend Jay in Marathon, we drove to Miami Bitch !

3 Responses to “The Conch Republic”
  1. greenfae says:

    Reblogged this on Greenfae's Leaves and commented:
    This is a good story. I have always found outlying areas like the Florida Keys to be fascinating. I know there is a long history of countercultural expression there. Key West has a long history as a gay outpost. There is more to be written on this, I think.

    • I know but I try not to make it too long because in the end it’s a travel blog and I think people would lose intrest if I wrote too much history 🙂

      • greenfae says:

        I know, but this sort of story is much more in line with the sorts of things I am working towards writing. So it’s really more something for me to file away for later use, I suppose. Thank you for the bit of inspiration.

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