Angle to Key West: See America (3/13)

If you don't have anything to do, don't come here to do it.

If you don’t have anything to do, don’t come here to do it.

Long Key, Florida Keys – March 13, 2013

There’s a set of old bridges shadowing me as I paddle north. Concrete arches stretch between islands. Blown out sections let boats slip through. Fishermen hang over the railing with rods in the air. It’s Flagler’s bridge, finished in 1912, constructed to extend Florida’s East Coast Railway to Key West, transformed into the first overseas highway. It was once a wonder of the world and it still looks sturdy a hundred years later.

I paddle and stare at it. I count arches and watch waves slap against the concrete. I try to imagine a ’58 Oldsmobile sliding across the top with its frame sunk low by the weight of four kids and everything my grandparents owned. There were no moving vans when you fled Cuba. Whatever didn’t fit, disappeared.

“It was right there,” I think. “Right on top of that arch.”

I wonder if they looked down at the ocean as they drove. I wonder what they were thinking, if those kids really believed what their dad told them as soon as they rolled off the ferry dock in Key West.

“You’re never going back to Cuba,” he said. “This is your home now.”

Then they drove on that old bridge, Flagler’s railroad turned highway, to find the American Dream.

6 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: See America (3/13)

  1. Great blog and I love that sign! 🙂 Happy Paddling and it’s great to have a post again!

  2. It never felt real that day or for a long time afterwards. The exhilaration of having made it was countered by the sadness of having left it. How does a 10 year old interpret the word “never?” All was like a dream sequence — pleasant, surreal, dazed. Looking out at the ocean in that ’58 Olds was comforting to me. That ocean was part of Cuba and I think it is part of every Cuban’s DNA.. To this day it has a calming effect as if it is home.

    1. How very sweet, Father of Thor, that you are able today to offer your remembrance to your son of what it was like for you then. And how fine a thing it is that you, Daniel, are able to reach through time and space and experience to contemplate upon such things in the midst of your journey.

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