Key West and Bridges
Around noon today I rode into Key West. What a journey. 4,000 miles and 3 weeks ahead of schedule....as a result of multiple route changes to avoid weather. It has been an incredible trip....many memories, stories, new friends and much more. I plan on continuing the daily blog posts while I am in Key West hoping to share some of the memories and stories. Thanks to everyone for your support, words of encouragement and following the trip.
50+ miles today and you guessed it....into a strong headwind. Started the day riding across the "7 mile" bridge. Great sunrise and incredible clouds this morning. Did the tourist thing and went straight to the Southern Most Point in the continental U.S. for pictures.
Anyone that has been to the Florida Keys knows to get there you have to cross multiple bridges including the 7 mile bridge. There are actually two 7 mile bridges. The current bridge and the initial railroad bridge built by Henry Flagler (of St. Augustine fame that I posted about earlier) when his railroad company completed the Overseas Railroad to Key West...note last picture above of the original railroad bridge. After the railroad bridge was destroyed by the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane....widely considered the most powerful category 5 hurricane to hit the Keys...the U.S. Government purchased the bridge and converted it to automobile use. The current bridge was completed in 1982. It is an amazing bicycle ride!!
More about the railroad bridge. After the United States announced in 1905 the construction of the Panama Canal, Flagler became particularly interested in linking Key West to the mainland. Key West, the United States' closest deep-water port to the Canal, could not only take advantage of Cuban and Latin American trade, but the opening of the Canal would allow significant trade possibilities with the West Coast. Initially called "Flagler's Folly", the construction of the Overseas Railroad required many engineering innovations as well as vast amounts of labor and monetary resources. At one time during construction, four thousand men were employed. During the seven year construction, three hurricanes—one in 1906, 1909, and 1910—threatened to halt the project. The project cost was more than $50 million.
Despite the hardships, the final link to Key West was completed in 1912. In that year, a proud Henry Flagler rode the first train into Key West aboard his private railcar, marking the completion of the railroad's oversea connection to Key West and the linkage by railway of the entire east coast of Florida. It was widely known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". The Overseas Railroad operated from 1912 to 1935.