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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Friday, March 5, 2010

Calais to Key West

A few years ago we drove US Route 1 to its near-northern end, in Calais, on our way to Nova Scotia. A few days ago we drove Rte. 1 from Miami to its southernmost end, in Key West, on our way to Margaritaville. Well, America is at least predictable.

Thinking kindly, one wonders how many businesses call the 2,000+ miles of Route 1 home. Thinking unkindly, one wonders if there are rules that say that each and every one of them must be built to the lowest possible standard, that signs must exceed fifty feet in height, that twice as many parking spaces are paved as needed, that there must be a minimum of twelve franchises per mile? There are some spectacularly ugly sections of Route 1 - southern Maine, Revere, MA, all of New Jersey - but for sheer rigid adherence to the above rules, I'll take Florida.

There are 150 miles from Miami to Key West, and only a few of them escape the carnage: the 15 or 20 miles that border the Everglades (although the road is being widened to four lanes - earthmovers aren't much prettier than Burger Kings); the several miles traversing Bahia Honda (the only key where development is prohibited); the Seven Mile Bridge; and the many little causeways of the Overland Highway linking the keys. The rest of the miles feature the worst of America. Which worst is apparently popular, judging by the streaming, constant traffic.

On the other hand: the Everglades, what is left of them, are spectacularly interesting (I can't say they're beautiful, nothing like a Maine wilderness), and the ocean around the Keys, in its iridescent greens and blues, is spectacularly gorgeous (sorry, north Atlantic, although the Florida tides are puny and it's disconcerting to see the water basically level with the shore and the shore is pretty boring, sand and/or mangroves and/or stones, OK, north Atlantic, you actually do win). Or is it just the contrast with unbridled development?

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