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Adventuring and Getting to Know the Florida Keys

Even though I spent a lot of time in Key Largo years ago, the bulk of it was at the essentially self-contained Ocean Reef Club. Just about everything one could possibly want to support their lifestyle is right there, so the tendency is not to leave the place very often.

Sure, we would go shopping, and hit the bars and restaurants in Key Largo and Islamorada, but it was a lot less hassle to stay put. Sometimes I would take the 23' Mako, and head over to one of the many waterfront establishments that provided dockage.

The problem was the drinking restrictions I placed on myself, i.e., one drink or none, which tended to put a damper on things. I held a 100-ton Ocean Operators' License from the Coast Guard, and I took my boating very seriously. Alcohol is involved in a huge percentage of boating accidents and fatalities, because the nautical lifestyle just goes hand and hand with entertaining and drinking. It never fails to amaze me when people will "raft-up" with several other boats, drink endless beers or Margaritas, then lift their anchors and speed off in their multi-ton missile. The results are too often tragic. I can assure you that I love my black rum- sometimes more than I should- but never when I'll be running a boat.

The result was that, although I had a home in Key Largo, I really didn't spend much time away from Ocean Reef and didn't see much of the other Keys. A few times I took the big boat to Key West, Hawk's Key, or Marathon, but I really missed a lot. Now that we are hoping to buy a home there, I am being a lot more open-minded in my investigations of where exactly to buy. One thing I have learned, is that there is a universal ratio of real estate prices and their distances from major population areas. In New England, the prices of second homes totally reflect this.

Landscape of a River during the Fall Autumn with Trees that are Turing Color

For over 60 years, I have been vacationing in the small town of Rangeley in northwestern Maine. It is approximately a five-hour drive from the greater Boston area. It has a year-round population of about 1,100, which has remained stable for a hundred years. There are no traffic lights, no chain restaurants, and no "big box" stores there. The village looks essentially as it did when I first saw it as a boy in 1958. Why? Because it is too far away for the "weekend warriors." When I first took Cindy to Rangeley, she complained about the roads north of Auburn (100 miles away) and the length of the trip; however, after a few trips, she understood that those secondary roads and long trips are the main reason the place has remained so pristine! And why real estate prices are so much lower than in southern Maine and New Hampshire.

Well, duh, it eventually occurred to me that a similar situation exists in the Keys, and their various distances from Miami. Key Largo is a little over an hour away from Miami and its major airport, with good roads. Islamorada and Tavernier are a bit further, but still not too bad. Things change when one is heading for the mid and lower Keys, as is the case when traveling north in Maine. The road gets narrow, and the going is slower. Route one offers a liberal dose of Florida State Troopers, always delighted to hand out a fat speeding ticket to the driver who gets fed up with the slow pace, and stomps on it. But the lower in the Keys one gets, the slow ride is reflected in real estate prices AND availability. For one thing, while building lots in the upper Keys are becoming rarer, there are considerably more of them as one goes southward. They also tend to be larger. Properties for sale in Marathon, Big Pine, Sugarloaf, the Torch Keys, Cudjoe Key, etc., are more plentiful and less pricey than their upper neighbors. I'll readily admit that I am no expert on the middle to lower Keys, but I plan to expand my horizons way beyond Key Largo, in search of a Florida home. I suspect that the highly touted laid-back Keys atmosphere will be more apparent further south. I'll do my research and get back to you soon!

Missed the last two chapters? Read chapters 9 and 10.

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