Old Bahia Honda Bridge
The Old Bahia Honda bridge, in the Florida Keys, probably wouldn’t make it onto a lot of people’s ‘must see’ list when visiting Florida. It’s been on mine for a while, though: here’s why…
So, it’s the summer I graduated from university: we go to Florida, and as a treat, my dad decides to hire a convertible. God, I loved that car. It was a Chrysler Sebring, in British Racing Green, with a soft top that I insisted on having down at all times, even although the wind tied my hair in knots and turned my mum’s face tomato-red.
We drove down from Orlando to Key West in that car, and although most of the road to the Keys is pretty boring, I loved every second of it. I’d just finished writing my dissertation on American Literature, and I’d focused particularly on the American Dream, as represented by the road. Or The Road, as I thought of it at the time.
Just outside Key West, we passed this old, broken bridge. It had been a rail bridge at one time – part of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad, which helped open up the South of Florida – and had later been converted to a road bridge, strung out over the Keys. Now it stood broken and forlorn in the middle of the ocean, a last reminder of those old days of steam trains and adventure, long before the Florida Keys filled up with Sandal Kings and strip malls, and long chains of traffic heading down Route 1.
I loved it. I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned things, and this old, disused bridge completely captured my imagination. Of course, what I didn’t realise on that trip was that the bridge isn’t TOTALLY abandoned. I didn’t know it had a name, or that you could actually walk along it, but it does, and you can: it’s the old Bahia Honda Bridge, and it sits next to Bahia Honda State Park – a small, but beautiful beach, surrounded by lush greenery and filled with all kinds of critters, from amazingly tame butterflies to… let’s not even think about what else, m’kay?
I didn’t find out all of this until a few years later, on another trip to Key West when we parked up next to the bridge and walked out along it, to where a section has been removed to prevent hapless tourists like us wandering too far. On that occasion, it was far too hot to do much more than stagger out to the end of the bridge (which felt like a hundred mile walk in the heat…) and stare listlessly over the edge. This time, though, the weather was a little kinder: as you can see from the photos, there was a storm off in the distance, and although it blew itself out by the time it reached us, allowing us to spend some time on the beach, and have a swim the sea, the breeze from it kept us cool enough to be comfortable on the bridge itself, which has this amazing, post-apocalyptic feel to it.
We spent a few hours at the beach before heading home, stopping at Key Largo on the way back for dinner, and the amazing sunset. There was also an incident in which Terry almost drowned himself while chasing a giant beach ball that had floated away on the current, but we don’t talk about that, no we don’t.
(He didn’t manage to catch it. It’s probably in Cuba by now.)
(I mean, it wasn’t even MY ball, but it was still the saddest thing ever.)
(Never chase beach balls, kids: swim responsibly!)
(I’ll stop with the parentheses now…)