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Friday, January 29, 2016

Driving on Old Seven

I drove the 7-Mile Bridge every two weeks for two years back in the 1960s. When you saw a 18 wheeler coming at you your rear end would get tight. The 18 wheelers had their west coast mirrors pulled in so they would not hit the other trucks. It was really a skill to cross the old bridge without hitting something. I would not trade that experience for anything. I really love that bridge. I run the new 7 Mile bridge every year in April and look over at the old bridge and smile. Thanks for the memories

Bill Worley

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Engagement on Old Seven

Becky Munsterer and Jamal Sabky were engaged on Old Seven on Monday June 24th! Becky currently lives in Vermont, but spent every summer in Marathon since she was a child, and returns twice a year for vacation. She has a lot of memories from Old Seven growing up, and she runs the bridge every day that she is in the Keys. Her boyfriend ran with her on Monday morning, and once they got to Pigeon Key to turn around he knelt down and proposed! She said yes, and they happily walked back to share with family and friends! They then took a boat back to Pigeon Key where he had a catered lunch to celebrate the perfect engagement. They will always have a special place in their hearts for Old Seven!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Joys of the Florida Keys, Destination – Bridge

by Julie Marie Johnson

There is joy in being impulsive. Some people actually fear an encounter with a person like me. I make people nervous.

It was one of those dreadful Wisconsin winter days that yes, Mr. Buffett, makes me want to shoot holes in my freezer. I can only stand so much of canceled meetings and getting nowhere save those creepy ditches on the sides of the icy roads. There is nothing good to see from those ditches; no dolphins, no sharks, no rays…no pretty Midnight parrotfish. After a time, it’s all just too much for the soul— too much barren, too much white, too much lack of vitamin D in my blood, too damned cold! The only wildlife I’d seen lately was a dead possum, belly up, half buried in the snow.

It happened late in the afternoon that day, just after a long walk with my dogs. The icicles on my eyelashes had finally melted enough to allow me to be sitting at my desk finishing some tweaking on a writing project. I took a break from the tweaking to stare at the pile of gear I’d been wearing daily for the past few months. Oh man I get so sick of all that gear! It was piled high, there on the chair next to me, staring at me. On the pile there was polar fleece, the North Face jacket, my snotted up face warmer, the down mittens. My “good to twenty below” leggings and two pairs of wool socks were still on me but they were not working well enough. I typed a few more words, glanced away from the keyboard and my eyes settled on a plastic wrapper from the chemical boot warmers I’d been regularly having to stick into my huge, clunky winter boots. I guess that wrapper was what did it.

I was alone at that moment, and so to no one in particular I shouted “destination-bridge!”

After that, I bounded up the stairs to my bedroom, pulled out a suitcase and started ripping sundresses off hangers. I threw those into my little suitcase along with the following: swimsuit, snorkel and mask, wetsuit, beach towel, and a couple of good books. Then I ran down to the bathroom closet and grabbed the bottle of sunscreen from the shelf. I flipped open the top, lifted it to my nose, closed my eyes and breathed deeply. It was like drinking an energy drink, with the scent of the lotion quickly overpowering all rational thinking, while affirming that a “notion” should indeed become a happening.

So where was I going? Florida Keys! No question about that one. It is my favorite place in the world.
When was I going? Now.
How was I going to get there? Gas up my car and drive.
Who would I travel with? Me.
Do I have GPS? No.

It was the month of February in Wisconsin meaning that every Northern soul would either already be in Florida, or they’d be having the same thought as I was having. Twenty plus years of back and forth to the Keys helps me to fully understand why both flights and places of lodging down there tend to be all booked up during these months. So where would I stay? Who knew and who cared! To offset any potential issue there, I simply threw a tent, camp cot, sheets, a pillow a blanket onto the pile. Then I packed some snacks, grabbed my little suitcase and off I went.

I departed at dark, in a sixteen degree Fahrenheit blizzard with a howling wind. My wiper fluid jets froze up seven times before hitting Chicago. Things were not looking too promising. At various truck stops, roughly twenty -minute intervals apart, I went through the horrifying ritual of popping the hood, opening the washer fluid reservoir and cursing-using the worst words I could summon from college days. I’d have flung my windshield scraper to kingdom come, except I still needed it. In my head, I went through an entire monologue about why my dumb ancestors settled here, and a subsequent oration over why I clearly don’t belong living in these parts. Then I’d go into the building, get boiling hot water from the complimentary hot water dispenser, dump it onto the jets, test it out, dump some more, wait for thaw, test again, put everything away, and commence to driving. At truck stop number who knows what, on the advice of a kind trucker, I put rubbing alcohol into the frozen fluid and poured it onto the jets. Honestly, I no longer cared if it ruined the finish on the car or not. I just had to get to that bridge. It was all I could think of, like a focal object for the labor pains of my life. The alcohol worked.

Thirty- two hours later, I’d made it. I was there, at Destination Bridge, the old seven- mile bridge, the one heading out to Pigeon Key in Marathon, Florida. I exited my vehicle, true little trooper that she is, in a sundress and flip flops, coated with that incredible smell of sunscreen. I paused, feeling the warm sun melt my frozen blood, closed my eyes and breathed in that deliciously familiar salty smell of the ocean.

Do you want to know what happened after that?

I stepped onto that bridge and it was all okay, everything. Nothing mattered anymore, absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Driver’s Education

When I was in High School at Marathon High School and in Drivers Education, my first experience of ever driving on US1 was driving over the 7 Mile Bridge!  When I came down to Marathon in 2010, I was with my children and grandchildren on vacation and we walked it.   My grandchildren were amazed by it.   They asked me,  “y’all drive on this bridge?  It’s so skinny”   I laughed and said we all did.   If I could, I would still drive on it.  I hate to see it torn down.    It’s a monument.   A part of history.   I believe it’s worth it.   It has withstood a lot of hurricanes and still proudly stands.   Even if it means just walking on it,  it’s worth it.

Ronda Baker Thompson

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Across the Bridge in a 1946 Dash

After WWII my Grandfather bought a new, 1946 Nash. WWII war effort had stripped the country of any meaningful raw materials, especially chromium, and our new 46 Nash came with 4 x 4 wooden bumpers. Eventually the chrome bumpers came – much later. My family; Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad and baby sister and me, age 7, left home from Miami early one Sunday morning going to see President Truman’s little White House in Key West. Along the way were many of the connecting bridges from Jew Fish Creek to Key West. Each major bridge had a very little concrete structure where a toll collector charged each car a dime; yes, 10 cents to cross the bridges.

What a ride to and from Key West with stories being told since my folks had settled in Miami in 1922. During my life I have looked forward to crossing the seven mile bridge; whether the old bridge many times, or the new bridge many times, solely for the enjoyment of looking down on Pigeon Key and remembering my first crossing and the spectacle of Flagler’s work camp as it was without any changes as I remembered as a 7 year old child riding across that long bridge, The Seven Mile Bridge.

I do hope some day many other children now crossing Pidgeon Key will be able to tell their Grandchildren about their first crossing on the Seven Mile Bridge.

John Breedlove

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Friends of Old Seven – Comments and Memories

Hundreds of our Friends of Old Seven have shared thoughts and memories with us. And, we would like to share a few with you…

“As a displaced 5th generation Conch, I consider what’s left of the old highway a museum piece right up to the handrails that once felt the wheels of Flagler’s old engines. This is our living heritage. I do mean “living” – The old bridge feels God’s winds, rain and sunshine daily as any old Conch would want to live out their last days.”
Robert George

“I walked on the Seven Mile Bridge a couple weeks after finishing Les Standiford’s great book Last Train to Paradise. I felt like I was standing on a little bit of history–just like I feel in Washington DC, Ft Sumter, or any other historic site. Please keep it maintained and open to the public.”
Marsha Walpole

“As in many parts of our country, it is so important to preserve pieces of our history for future generations to understand the progress we have made over the decades. This section on the bridge could be enjoyed by so many, like myself, when visiting the ‘Fabulous Florida Keys’.”
William Rode

“Been to Key West over 20 times, always drive down just because it is a great ride ,and seeing the remaining parts of the original railroad is always a thrill and is a tribute to Florida, Flagler and the U.S.A.”
Paul Rodriquez

“Old 7 mile bridge is such a part of the Keys history. A true engineering feat and the fulfillment of one mans’ dream. It should be registered as a national landmark and preserved for future generations. I had the opportunity to drive over it in my first visit to the Keys and it is some thing I will never forget!”
Laura Martin

“Every drive I take to KW is with awe at seeing such a unique part of history as the original bridge. It should be there for many years to come!!!!”
Nigel Revenge

“Great piece of history needs to be saved and restore so future generations can enjoy it. Most of my childhood was spent crossing it. It would be tragic.”
Lynette Martin

“Grew up in FL…7 Mile Bridge was a favorite thing in my life with many trips to the Keys!”
Lisa Keller

“Have enjoyed many walks here. It would be a tremendous loss to lose such a beautiful resource. I would think just the fact it is utilized by so many would be enough to secure it’s future.”
Frank Hendrickson

“I am a 4th generation Key West Conch who fervently wishes to see something of the Florida Keys past preserved for posterity. This bridge has significance not only to those of us who passed over it so many times but also because of the role it played in the “Railroad the Went to Sea!” This bridge is part of the history of not only the Florida Keys, but the United States of America as well.”
Janese Blue

“I crossed this bridge many times in my life time to and from school everyday. This bridge means a lot to all of us! To take it down would be a shame! It is part of history! Please don’t destroy our bridge!”
Sandra Meekins

“I lived in the Keys twice now and will be coming back to live again. I lived there in the early 70’s when the old bridge was it and it was a trip driving it. But it is a staple of the Keys and should remain. Progress is great but there are times you need to shut the door to it.”
Robin Beyer

“In my 20’s, I lived in good ole’ Conch-City, Key West for 6 years. (1992-1998) — I experienced some Extreme highs and lows of my life there, and learned many life-changing lessons along the way. The Keys are known as a “Best-Kept-Secret” to many – but, sadly, is a landing place, for few. It is an odd and magical land, where you can be lost… you can be found… you can be swept away by the tide… or led right back up to shore… It is all of that, and so much more. SAVE OLD SEVEN !!!”
Elise Franzetta

“I travel the keys from Homestead to Key West for work at least 2x a week. I stop regularly to walk the old bridge and enjoy the magnificent view, watch all the people walking, riding their bikes, rollerblading and soaking up the beauty of the Fla Keys. This is a landmark that can\’t be lost. Please REPAIR the bridge!! Don\’t let us loose this treasure…”
Linda Rosen

“I use this bridge for walking and Meditating. It is a one of a kind public space. It ties the islands together and it’s history is alive. Both residents and tourist make a stop to enjoy the surrounding beauty and breathless sunsets. Please save the bridge.”
Nancy Miller

“It would be horrible to lose such a wonderful piece of history.”
Sheila Woodard

“My father worked for the FEC railroad.”
Chuck Griffis

“My grandparents traveled on that RR……this country needs to keep landmarks and preserve our history !!!”
Irene Pineiro

‘I drove my first car over that bridge while stationed on the USS SARSFIELD in Key West, 1956. Got scared to death more then once when truck coming from opposite direction.’
Daniel L. Patt STGC, USN, Retired. 30 years.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lovers’ Crossing

In the year 1955, my mother “ran away from home” by eloping with my father. They both were from “good” families and it was then considered quite scandalous. They drove from Montreal Canada to Key West Florida, in my father’s MGA convertible. They stopped in a Miami-Dade courthouse to marry. I was born in 1956. Can you imagine driving the Overseas Highway as newlyweds? I have some of their post cards of their progression south.

Every April I run the 7 Mile Bridge Race to kind of pay tribute to my heritage. As a matter a fact I am in one of your photos as your members were obtaining signatures to save the “Old 7.” I have made a minor donation to your cause. My funds are limited at this time but I will keep contributing when I can. I thank you so much for your efforts.

One of the “Old 7’s” greatest fans,
Cathy Billings-Ouellette

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Old Seven Mile Bridge and Pigeon Key

A Guide to What’s Happening in Marathon, Florida Keys, Florida Keys edition

By Christy Johnson

US-1, or the Overseas Highway, is the only road that connects the Florida Keys to the continental United States.  It is approximately 110 miles long and includes 42 bridges.

But none more magnificent than the Seven Mile Bridge.

Built in the early 1900’s as part of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad, in order to speed up construction the Seven Mile Bridge was divided into four parts.

The first three, Knights Key Bridge, Pigeon Key Bridge and Moser Channel Bridge, consisted of steel-girder spans laid on top of concrete foundation piers. The piers were secured to bedrock which in some cases was 28 feet below the waterline. A 253-foot swinging span was inserted for passage of boats between the Atlantic and Gulf. The fourth section of the bridge was called the Pacet Channel Viaduct and it consisted of two hundred+ 53 foot concrete arches.

The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 destroyed much of the Overseas Railroad and put an end to rail travel in the Keys.  In 1982, a new Seven Mile Bridge was completed to accommodate modern auto traffic and taller ships.  The original Knights Key Bridge is now known as the Old Seven Mile Bridge and is a 2.2-mile span that links Marathon to Pigeon Key.

Between 1908 and 1912, the five-acre Pigeon Key was home to as many as 400 railroad workers.  Today, Pigeon Key is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the only authentic museum documenting construction of the Overseas Railroad.  The Pigeon Key Historic Foundation maintains the remaining buildings and offers tours and educational stays.

The Old Seven Mile Bridge has served as a world famous fishing pier, jogging, walking and biking route and, of course, the major path to Pigeon Key.

During May, when tarpon congregate at the bridge during their annual migration, locals and visitors alike flock to the bridge at day’s end to watch the mass of boats fishing for the Silver King in the waters below.

Tarpon are very strong and typically provide a hard initial run followed by soaring leaps and acrobatics.  When it’s man (or woman) vs. fish, the fight can last anywhere from a brief few seconds to an hour or more.

The pursuit can take the boat around bridge pilings, through the maze of other boats, out to deeper waters and back before the tarpon either breaks off or is successfully landed.

With the spectacular Florida Keys sunset as the backdrop, this is an awe-inspiring experience!


Christy Johnson is the Editor and Publisher of, an online vacation planning guide.  She owns and operates SeaSquared Charters with her husband, Capt. Chris Johnson.  You can reach her at 305.743.5305 and

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flagler Centennial Celebration at the Casa Marina, Key West

Traveling back in time to the Henry Flagler era in costume and ambiance was a once in a lifetime experience at the Casa Marina in Key West January 22, 2012.  The food, surroundings, music, company and the fantastic fireworks displayed as we ate our desert at the ocean’s edge was spectacular.

After a full night of socializing, good food and a considerable amount of red wine I retired for the night in my Flagler Ocean Vista room at the Casa Marina.  Soon after  I was in my silk leopard pajamas – a knock at the door.  Could it be that good looking gentleman dressed like Henry Flagler I just met at the Gala?

No, it was the bell boy with three huge wooden carvings to store in my room.  It seems there was a little glitch with storage of our items from the Silent Auction.  In a bit of a daze, I helped the hotel guys unload boxes, easels and artwork and these heavy (I might say very beautiful) wood carvings of sea creatures into every corner of my room. The bellhop and I discussed what kind of wood could be quite so heavy as we lifted them off the trolley.

Actually, that was the easy part.  The next morning, our president, Bernard Spinrad is the one that had to bubble wrap and haul them back to Marathon to the lucky participant that won the bid.

Although we had limited resources and time to conduct the Friends of Old Seven silent auction, our president Bernard Spinrad, reports pledges of over $10,000.

The good news is we still have items to sell at our upcoming events at the Pigeon Key Art Festival February 11th and 12th, and the Kick-off Party at Sunset Grill on February 19th.

The Friends of Old Seven organization is an entity to be recognized and we’ve just started.


Deborah C. Linker

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pigeon Key Flagler Celebration

It started out a cold and windy Saturday, yet lines of people dressed in jackets and scarves waited in line to brave the ferry ride to Pigeon Key on January 14, 2012 for the family day Flagler Centennial Celebration.  As the day went on, the wind abated with the sun growing warmer and more and more people arrived on this charming historical island to share in the festivities of horseshoes, square dancing, croquette, sack races and great music by local musicians.  Many people walked and rode their bike over the 2.2 mile span of the Old Seven. It was a wonderful day for all.

The Friends of Old Seven thank the Pigeon Key foundation and staff for sharing this day with us and giving us an opportunity to increase the public’s awareness of the status of the Old Seven and the plans for our organization.

As I was in line to catch the ferry back to the Knights Key, it was more apparent than ever, that we need to continue with this mission of Saving the Old Seven and thus Pigeon Key.  I thought How nice it would have been if we could have transported people by golf carts or the little propane powered train.  I also thought, How tragic it would be if the entrance to the bridge were closed.

We just cannot let this happen, we must SAVE OLD SEVEN.


Deborah Linker