Our 1913 Mile Drive from Key West to New England

Hi. Barb here. I just got home today after driving with my husband from Key West, where we spent two glorious months, to Somerville, MA, where we live in the winter.

It was a long trip, with time off for a day in historic Charleston (totally recommend it), two nights with my fellow Wicked Cozy Author, Sherry Harris in Virginia, lunch with my nephew and his family in DC, two days with our son, daughter-in-law and almost two year-old granddaughter in Connecticut, and a quick tour of wedding venues in the Berkshires with our newly engaged daughter and her fiance.

I thought I would have plenty of free time to work on blog posts, but it traffic jams, snow in unexpected places and visiting precluded it. So I am rerunning the post from the first time we drove the route in October, 2012. I am happy to report there are now three Dunkin Donuts between Key West and Key Largo, so things are looking up!

Hi. Barb here. Just returned from the 1913 mile drive from Key West to our winter home outside Boston in a 16-foot Penske rental truck I described as like riding inside Big Bird.

My Mom sold her house in Key West after 13 years. She already has a house full of stuff up north, so she offered the contents to the rest of the family. One by one people put their hands up. Bill and I took the dining room set, my brother and his wife took the bedroom. My son and daughter-in-law wanted the china and the patio furniture. All the grandchildren wanted some of the artwork and my mother wanted a few important pieces returned to her.

Loading the truck in Key West.

So after much debate, my husband I and decided the only thing to do was to go to Key West, pack up all the various pieces and drive north, stopping to deliver the goodies along the way, like Santa Claus.

Between book deadlines, the New England Crime Bake which I’m co-chair of this year and various other commitments, we found a very specific week-long window. We flew to Key West and spent three exhausting days packing. And treating ourselves to lots of special meals out. Luckily, we’re returning to Key West with my Mom for the month of March (staying in a rented condo), so everything didn’t have that “our last meal ever at such-and-such” emotional overhang.

The gps showing 1446 miles to my mom’s house in Pennsylvania.

We started out Saturday a week ago today at about 1:30 in the afternoon. It’s 100 miles to get off the Keys. The most astonishing part about this beautiful leg of the journey is that there is not a single Dunkin Donuts between Key West and Key Largo. This is a shock to the system for New Englanders who come from a place where Dunkin Donuts is legally mandated to have a location every three-quarters of a mile. So much so, that when we meet other people who travel in the Keys, they always remark on it. “Do you know there’s not a single Dunkin Donuts between Key Largo and Key West? We drove to Key West one day just to get a cup of coffee!” As it happens, they’re building one in Marathon, which is about at the half-way point, but it’s a snare and a delusion, because it’s not open yet. Luckily, there is a Dunkin Donuts app for the iPhone (of course) that will tell you where every single DD is, including the in-truck-stop self-service ones, and this would prove critical for the journey.

The remnants of the Overseas Railroad, built by Henry Flagler between 1905 and 1912. Wiped out by a hurricane in 1935, it was never rebuilt.


The gps for day 2 showing 1149 miles to my Mom’s house.

Me: “Stop driving over curbs. And it can’t be good for the tires.”

Husband: “Do you want to drive this #$%^ truck?”

Husband: (Hours later in an apparently unrelated comment): “Boy, it’s a good thing this truck has double back tires. That way if one goes–”

Me: No comment whatsoever. (I am not completely crazy.)

We made it to Vero Beach the first night. Boy, Florida is a big state. It was amazing how much cooler and less humid it was in Vero beach than Key West.

The Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville. Built in the 1980s, it is the longest concrete cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. Six lanes wide, two miles long and supported by 21 miles of steel cables, the bridge looks like two sailboats rising 175 feet above the St. Johns River.


GPS day 3 in Florence, SC. 620 miles to Mom’s.

Us–Listening to the Patriot’s Game on Bill’s iPhone over the internet through the truck’s radio: “It’s a technological miracle!”

Us–after the internet crapped out, finding the Patriot’s game on the AM radio: “What a stroke of luck!”

Waitress: After we attempted to order a drink and watch the end of the game at Fatz’s Cafe in Florence, South Carolina: “No alcohol on Sundays. This is the bible belt.”

Us: “Huh?”

At this North Carolina diner, you can order either city ham or country ham with your eggs.


We ate at a lot of terrible chain restaurants. When your criteria are, “We have to be able to see the restaurant from the highway,” and, “We have to be able to park a truck there,” you have to lower your food standards considerably. The diner above was a happy exception.

Hagerstown, Maryland, day 4. Only 193 miles to Mom’s!

Considering that we drove through four putative swing states, I was astounded by how few bumper stickers we saw. Two Obama (Florida and South Carolina), one Romney (Virginia) and one “Beware of Liberals Pretending to be Americans” in Georgia.

I guess it’s true–it’s all air wars on TV now, which I think is weird because I know fewer and fewer people who watch regular TV, much less commercials. But what do I know? I will say, when we got off the highway to go to my son’s in Connecticut, there were lawn signs for every single elected office imaginable on almost every lawn.

My brother Rip and my husband Bill unloading the truck at Mom’s.


232 miles from my Mom’s to our son’s house in Connecticut.

Now on to my son and daughter-in-law’s house in Connecticut. We dropped off my mother’s bedroom set at my brother’s house, and he and his wife passed on two bureaus to our kids, so we had new cargo.

Even as we’ve driven all this way, I keep reminding myself that my son WALKED 1000 miles from Springer Mountain, GA to Harper’s Ferry, WV on the Appalachian trail so what am I complaining about?


Unloading at Rob and Sunny’s. Third unload of the day. Bill’s pretty tired by this point.


Only 117 miles to go.

Almost home. Definitely feeling how Santa must in those pre-dawn hours on Christmas morning.




Professional movers (yay!) unloading at our house in Boston the next morning.


Home. Exhausted. House is a mess.

Somehow this vase made the whole trip INSIDE the buffet you see in the picture above and didn’t break.

But what about Maine, you ask? What about that last 164 miles? Isn’t this the Maine Crime Writers? Well, in a couple of weeks our old dining room furniture (pictured below) will be put on another truck and we’ll take it to our house in Maine. And put the dining room furniture there on the truck and take it to the dump, where some other family will start the whole chain again. And who knows where that may end up?

Our old dining room furniture, headed now to Maine.


About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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8 Responses to Our 1913 Mile Drive from Key West to New England

  1. Barb,
    Glad you weren’t traveling that route this week! I’m at the Ninc conference in NY until Sunday PM and already dreading the drive home with the hurricane track following us all the way.

    Love that the vase made it safely.


  2. Deanna says:

    No DD between Key West and Key Largo? Isn’t there a law about that? LOL At home it’s Green Mountain coffee, but on the road it’s Dunkin’. Amazing vase! Dee

  3. Fun post, Barb! What good eggs you and Bill were to do that L O N G job. I want to put in a pitch for recycling your old dining room furniture by giving it to the Habitat ReStore in Bath. We have one up here, too and your donation will help the local affiliate plus give you a tax write-off if you want
    BTW we here in Maine remark upon how MANY DDs there are in Massachusetts… ! Every time I go back I am amazed… they are like dandelions.

    • Barb Ross says:

      Great advice, Vicki. Thanks.

      While it’s true that MA is the epicenter of DDs, when we leave Boothbay Harbor and my husband asks, “Do you want to stop at Wiscasset or Topsham?” I never have to ask, “For what?”

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Welcome home – and to 2015 weather in Massachusetts! You chose a good year to be south in January and February!

  5. Marian Stanley says:

    Love this – what an adventure! Brave woman and husband.

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