Each summer Mrs. Motor City Bureau and I usually take trip somewhere sans kids for a few days to unwind and reconnect with each other. This year we chose to return to one of our favorite spots, Key West, Florida to celebrate our wedding anniversary and an unnamed milestone birthday.
When we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport we gathered our luggage and headed to the Enterprise Car Rental desk to grab our wheels for the balance of our trip. As they usually do, the Enterprise rep walked us past all the cars we could have rented instead of the one we actually did reserve. Usually we just say no thank you and proceed to our rental, but this time they had a pair of Corvette Stingray Convertibles staring us in the face. One yellow and one white. “Today we’re running a special on performance cars” he told us. As I watched Mrs. Motor City Bureau just kind of hang her head (she already what my response was going to be), I asked our guy to sign us up for the yellow one. After loading up the trunk, removing the car from eco mode, and switching the exhaust to race mode we were off southbound in a 2016 Corvette Racing Yellow Stingray convertible.
Our chariot for the weekend was a base stingray convertible built in late 2015. It was a non-Z51 car with the 8-speed automatic transmission and roughly 15,000 miles on the clock. The car was optioned out with black interior, GT seats, HUD, NAV, heated and cooled seats, forward park assist, and most all of the C7 Corvette goodies we’ve come to expect.
Given that this was a rental Stingray with 15k miles on it, it showed some wear and tear here and there as we’re certain most its life has been akin to that of the General Lee. The seats were showing some wear and the front air dam showed signs of trauma from several parking blocks and curbs.
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West is just under 200 miles and can take about 4-5 hours pending traffic, number of stops made, and traffic conditions. We tend to just take our time and stop whenever we see something interesting, get hungry, or just need to get out of the car for a bit.
From the Fort Lauderdale airport it’s a straight shot west to pick up the southbound Florida Turnpike. Once on the turnpike, just follow the signs down through Miami and Homestead onward to US 1 south. US 1 is the only road in to and out of the keys. At one point the nav system simply said “proceed 186 miles south, then turn right.” How’s that for easy directions?
The first hour or so of the trip was standard expressway fare through the suburbs. As you approach the keys traffic slowly wains and the road eventually turns into a divided highway with a speed limit rarely over 45mph. Once you hit the keys and what is known as the Overseas Highway just enjoy the views and starting counting down those mile markers until you hit Key West. The overseas highway is just over 100 miles in length and sports 42 separate bridges.
Key Largo is the first key you hit after leaving the mainland and extends about 33 miles. Next up was Islamorada where we decided to stop for lunch at the Islamorada Fish Company. Request a table on the dock overlooking water and you won’t be disappointed. So far the Stingray was operating as expected. The A/C was blowing cold, the vented seats were keeping our cabooses comfy in the Florida heat, and we were averaging over 30mpg.
Further on down the road you hit Marathon and cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Turquoise, green, and blue water surrounds you as you soar over the ocean. Off to your right is the old bridge which was destroyed in a 1935 hurricane and subsequently rebuilt. Portions of it are now used as a fishing pier. The new bridge was constructed in the late 1970’s and completed in the early 80’s.
You also pass Bahia Honda State Park which is consistently ranked in the top beaches worldwide. We stopped in to check for ourselves and couldn’t agree more. Campsites and some of the roads through the park are carved out through mangroves which look like walls around you. The beaches are bright white and beg you to have a seat and leave the real world behind.
After leaving the park you head into the lower keys and Key West is now just about an hour or so away. There’s still plenty of scenery to take in as civilization becomes a lot sparser the further you get away from the mainland.
Finally we arrived in Key West about 4:30pm and headed straight to our hotel. We were now closer to Cuba than Miami. Sadly we had to part with our Stingray to leave it their offsite parking lot. After traveling we took a day off from the Stingray but booked a fishing charter on the Linda D a day later. We got up early grabbed the car and set off across the island to our boat. Driving around with the top down in one America’s greatest places is something we’ll never forget. Once our ½ day charter was done we took the day’s bounty right over to the Conch Republic Seafood Company where they cooked our freshly caught yellow tail and gray snappers for lunch.
The following day we woke up early for a morning drive around the island and to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. The Stingray was right at home passing Key West’s quirky shops and unique architecture. Even though we never really got over 40mph you’d never know that this was a $70k super car capable of nearly 200mph. The LT1 never broke a sweat in the stifling humid air and the exhaust note (still in race mode of course) burbled nicely through Key West’s narrow streets. We stopped by the usual tourist stops at mile marker 0, the southernmost point, and Smather’s Beach among others. The bright yellow C7 turned heads everywhere we parked it. At one point a boy probably 10 years old or so walked up and just wanted to look at it and hear the engine rev. We were more than happy to oblige. Hopefully he’ll have one in his driveway someday.
After 3 short days our time in Key West was over. Once again we loaded up the trunk and headed back up US1 for our final hours with our Corvette before catching a plane back to Detroit. Over the course of the trip, the Stingray performed flawlessly. We loved the HVAC and navigation systems as well as the stereo system. The only negative we noted was that the GT seats did get a little uncomfortable after sitting for a couple hours or longer. When it comes to the C7, there really isn’t anything we can say that hasn’t been said already. It’s truly worthy of the awards and praise it’s received since its debut. It’s a great balance of long distance GT cruiser and all out performance car. Need that boy racer exhaust sound? Just exercise your right foot and hold on. Want to just head out and cruise? You can do that too.
Driving US1 from Fort Lauderdale (or Miami) to Key West is one of the great American road trips. We encourage you to add that to your bucket list even if it’s not in a convertible Stingray. The scenery is amazing thanks to every color of ocean water you can imagine. The drive is what you make it to be. There are plenty of places to stop along the way whatever your tastes and interests are. It’s the road tripping version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You can make the drive multiple times and not have the same experience twice. So go jump over to your favorite travel site and get to booking!