Explore Key West

I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw

A lot of folks buy outlandish clothes or elaborate jewelry to make a social statement. That’s okay if you live any place else except the Florida Keys. Here, when you want to make a declaration—loud and clear—you embellish a vehicle. In the Keys these vehicles are know as “Conch Cruisers.” Anything that moves is fair game. You will see bicycles painted in bright colors with beads, feathers, Christmas lights, and anything else that strikes a happy mood to their owners. Sometimes these fun and unbelievable land yachts are used as lawn ornaments. Owners here will say, “You can’t miss my house. It’s the one with the bicycle all lit up parked at the garden gate or the purple car with my dog at the steering wheel!”

One antiquated van advertising children’s furniture for rent has a baby carriage on the top, a doll in the seat, and balloons and flags fluttering in the wind. Another car has seagulls glued on the top, sides, doors, and hood, with a blue background, fluffy clouds, and bird “droppings” painted on in strategic spots for a touch of realism. One Jeep in particular has plants that are alive and flourishing on the front seats, backseats, and flowing out of all the open areas of the vehicle. Can’t imagine where the driver sits. And then there is the fellow who drives the Keys in a ’60s-era car with his pet iguanas along for the ride. They are hanging not only on him but also all over the back dash, seats, and front dashboard! You will do a double take when you see that for the first time.

At a store on Duval Street, there is a small sports car that has been totally covered with pieces of mirrors, beads, and jewels. It is a showstopper. Another business, Peppers of Key Wes, uses one giant chili pepper to envelope a car. When the owners aren’t driving it around town, the car is parked in front of the shop. What better way to advertise!