The end of the road
Cedar Key is at the end of the road. And there's something about places at the end of the road that sets them apart. Key West, for example. Or Gorom Gorom (that's in the northeast of Burkina Faso). Anyway, a friend told me it was worth a visit, so I headed up there from Bradenton.
Because it was a long straight 22-mile run from the closest highway, what Cedar Key did attract was a parade of bikers, primarily of the Harley and Gold Wing sort.
I treated myself to a slightly pricey hotel, because it sounded kind of funky. $90 a night on my own is more than I generally spend, but for one night I thought it would be worth it, and it was. The Island Hotel, constructed in 1859, used to be a general store. In those days, they brought the cedar from inland forests to port in Cedar Key. That worked fine until they'd logged all the cedar. The hotel had plenty of charm, a good sized restaurant, a cozy bar, an out-of-tune baby grand piano, and a wraparound balcony. And it was for sale, for $1.2 million (13 rooms plus a residence for the owners). I indulged my fantasies.
One of the main attractions of Cedar Key was evident on 2nd Street, the main drag. Nothing much seems to happen. Actually, when I arrived on Sunday afternoon, a pretty decent blues band was playing at the L&M Lounge, which looked like the place the locals would hanging out at.
The place does have a good mix among the permanent residents and visitors. There's no beach to speak of, but fishing and boating are popular. Commercially, they harvest clams and other shellfish. I think the "real" fishing is mostly sport fishing. There's a bit of an artist community, and a few mostly kitsch galleries, plus one funky place called the "Wild Women Gallery", but it turns out that the wild women live elsewhere in Florida. Then you've got the drop-outs, the low-lifes (probably pot-smokers and pot growers, plus your usual crowd of redneck alcoholics), and the aforementioned bikers. Along the waterfront, you had a block or two of slightly funky shops and restaurants and a little fishing pier.
Monday morning I rented a 14-foot boat with a 6 hp motor and putt-putted around, "island hopping", as they call it. The first island used to have a factory for turning cedar into pencils, and a settlement. All that's left is a graveyard and a few piles of brick. But there is a nice beach with a view back to "mid-town" Cedar Key.