Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Low Key in Cedar Key


Wow, did we have a great time in Cedar Key!  For being a town we had never heard of before, our four days certainly were memorable.  The highlight was positively the people we met. One of our blog followers (and blogger herself who co-writes Retired Voyager with her husband), Gail, noticed we were going to be in Cedar Key the same time they were.  We chatted back and forth on email and when she said she was going to come by the tiki bar at the RV park we were delighted (yes, that is correct – our RV park had an awesome tiki bar).  Betsy and I were thrilled to get the chance to meet them.  We have never met any of our blog followers (except previous friends and family)!  Gail and Matt brought two other friends Janna and Mike (also bloggers who write the Tin Teepee/Log Cabin blog).  It looks like we are all planning on being in Montana this summer (Janna and Mike live there) so maybe we can hook up again.   Turns out they were all fun people and we had a great evening sharing stories.  We look forward to seeing them again down the road.
Mike, Janna, Me, Gail, and Matt enjoying a beverage (or two) at the Low Key Hideaway Tiki Bar.
We highly recommend it.
Cedar Key (the small yellow pin mark) hanging onto the Florida mainland.
Cedar Key was a bit like Everglades City where the city sits at the end of the road and teeters on falling into the Gulf of Mexico.  It seems these towns are where time stands still.  Maybe it happens when a town is situated at the end of a less traveled road, surrounded by water, and off the map to most people.  Historic  buildings still survive, fishing is not a hobby but a way of life, artists thrive, and the natural beauty is seductive.  Cedar Key owes its current existence to the clam industry and boasts that it is the largest producer of farm raised clams in the United States.  Evidence of this industry is everywhere from the smell of clam bags drying on the driveway, fishing boats racing around the waters, and restaurant menus offering creative dishes with these succulent little bi-valves.   

The six islands that make up the Cedar Keys never had a population higher than 1,887 in its heyday of the late 1800’s.  The Cross-Florida Railroad (which operated from 1861 to 1932) connected Cedar Key to the east coast at Fernandina and allowed the area to prosper.  Cedar Key is one of the state’s oldest ports and was a major supplier of seafood and timber products to the northeast.  One of the most important economic industries – the pencil – thrived due to abundant stands of cedar.  The Faber and Eagle Pencil Companies established cedar saw mills and provided the economic base for the town until an 1896 hurricane damaged the mills forcing them to close.  Who knew there was so much history about the pencil and they were made on an island in the upper gulf coast!
Don't miss the Cedar Key Historical Museum.  For
$2 you get a wealth of information about the area.
Cedar Key's history has always involved fishing and the bountiful waters.

Diagram of how pencils are made.  Who knew we would be so fascinated by pencils.
I love that quote!
Bustling Dock Street on a foggy afternoon.
Once we got the rig settled, we headed for the town to see what we were in for.  The town of Cedar Key is precariously perched on Way Key (confusing I know) and occupies any and all high ground.   The downtown area has great seafood restaurants, shops, and galleries that are a mix of colorful funk and historic character.  We strolled along Dock Street and found a beach where Spirit could swim.  She even found two kids who were dying to play with her.  One Nerf football + two energetic kids = one tired dog.  We weren't in town very long before we learned about Tony’s Seafood Restaurant and their famous clam chowder which is a 3- time winner at the national Great Chowder Cook-off.  If a guy from Florida can make chowder better than New Englanders, we needed a bowl.  We went for dinner, came back the next day for lunch, and bought a quart of frozen chowder to take with us.  It was that good!  Thick, creamy, perfectly seasoned, full of clams and potatoes.  We also hit Kona Joes for breakfast where they have great specials like crabmeat quiche and inexpensive mainstays like Belgian waffles with fresh fruit and whipped cream ($4.50) and egg and cheese omelet sandwiches ($3.50).  The place serves great food at a steal and Joe is a warm welcoming face when you come in the door and attentive to all your needs.
Tony's Seafood Restaurant shocked the competition by winning the Great Chowder Cook-off for the last three years.
Delicious chowder.
Town library.
Artistic tile sculpture next to the artists co-op.
This was a great store.  They had antiques, art, funk, furniture, curiosities and tons of other stuff.
Old historic buildings that now house the town bookstore and antique shop.
Very informative street sign that tells you where everything is.  Look closely and you will see which way
is the police station, courthouse, restaurants, beach, school, hardware store, etc.
Since Cedar Key is located in Florida’s “Nature Coast” there is plenty for outdoor enthusiasts to do.  We were bummed when rain, wind, and fog forced us to cancel plans to paddle out to Atsena Otie Key but we found more to do nonetheless.  Not far from the campground was Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve where we found miles and miles of trails that protect the ecologically significant scrub habitat and home to the threatened scrub jay.  We also took a 5-mile drive over to Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge where we saw the most fascinating “crab march.”  As we were walking toward a boardwalk through a marsh we saw the ground move.  There were thousands of crab’s scurrying about and we (including Spirit) were fascinated with the display.
Crab march across the marsh.
Nice claw little crab.
Bye, bye.
One of the really great finds for us was where we camped.  I made a believer out of Betsy after I told her as we approached Cedar Key that we were camping at a motel!  There were only 4 spots for RV’s and it sits right on the water.  We opted to nose the motorhome in towards the water.  It was a great decision as we were facing the west and had great views of the sunset.  The motel is owned by a young couple who also man the Hideaway Tiki Bar in the back yard.  The tiki bar is artistically decorated with action figures, beer bottles, license plates, flip flops and various other assorted obscure objects.  The 5-room motel is colorful and inviting with Adirondack chairs out front and porches in the back.  It was funky and fun.  We would go back there in a minute.  Our other 3 neighbors were close but they were also fun and we all hung out at the tiki bar anyway!  It’s called the Low-Key Hide Away and that it was.  
Tiki Bar.
Tiki bar nicely decorated with cowboy boots, beer bottles and action figures.
Low Key humor.
The Motel.
View from our window.
More scenes from around town...

Gail recommended we take Spirit to the cemetery because their was a boardwalk and beach
for her to swim.  She loved it and we found the cemetery fascinating.  Traditionally graves
would be covered with clam shells.  This one also has conch and other assorted objects.
Grave site from the late 1800's.
Yes, definitely use caution when aircraft are taxing down the road you are driving on.  Duh!
I would definitely not pick up a shark, especially in my car.
Mr. Bojangles on desk duty at the artists co-op.
Clam processor.  This place stunk when you walked by.  On the left is a huge pile
of recently shucked clams.
Stone crab traps.
We love when the motorhome is parked next to palm trees.  That just does something
for the psyche.
What's our blog without a picture of Spirit the angel dog after a swim!
I think this must be used in the Christmas parade because it was still decorated.
This place advertises that they have Mexican, Italian, Cajun, and Seafood.
"Marriages Performed" by the vulture.  I don't think that is a good way to start off.
The only grocery store in town.  The sign says you can get fine wines and rent a golf cart.  One stop shopping.

3 comments:

  1. You indeed found a neat place to camp; and that you could nose in to enjoy the view... well, that would be priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful pictures, but the one of Spirit stone my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So happy that I could see -- and not smell -- the town. Great, funky little place.

    ReplyDelete

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