… in brief ... kinda.
We load up Carlos’ car—we always use his on trips or long drives because it gets better gas mileage than mine—and as I back it out of the garage and start up the driveway I notice a light on the instrument panel. What’s that? We look it up in the owner’s manual and it’s the dreaded ‘Check Engine’ light.
Now, I know it could mean anything but I don’t wanna drive all the way to Florida with a ‘Check Engine’ light on, and then Carlos, ever the drama queen, raises his hands to the Heavens and mutters, ‘The universe does not want us to go to Florida! What are we gonna do?’ I turn to him and say, ‘If only we had access to a garage nearby that had another car in it that we could use at the last minute … like my car!’
Car unloaded; other car loaded. Off we go. My car, which averages about 100 miles per week in travel — Hey, I live about 4 miles from my job — packs on nearly 1500 miles in one week, and she did a stunning job of it. When we lived in Miami I had a very compact car, perfect for whipping in and out of the horrid SoFla traffic, but I loved how easy it was to tool around town in my SUV. Daddy was a proud car owner.
Traffic. It was about eleven-and-a-half hours down to Miami, but the last two hours were spent driving about forty miles because of cars and cars and car accidents.
Luckily, we made it, checked into our room at the Dorchester and then headed to Lincoln Road mall and the Van Dyke Café. It’s where Carlos and I had our first breakfast after our first night together and we’d visited many times while living in Miami.
The café is on the bottom floor of a Spanish style office building, so easy to spot and there it was! Except the bottom floor was no longer the Van Dyke Café but a retail store; a mother-effing retail store! The lease had been lost because Lincoln Road is becoming Rodeo Drive and cafes are out, and high-end retail is in.
My devastation was short-lived because we found another café and it served an authentic Cuban Sandwich. And I love a Cuban Sandwich … along with a glass of Albariño—a perfect light and dry Spanish white wine. I could almost forgive the closing of the Van Dyke … almost.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast at the hotel we wandered along Collins and Washington Avenue. Lots of people, and a sprinkling of rain, but it was nice to be back down there. I love the architecture, both old and new.
My first job after moving was at the Lowe’s Miami Beach Hotel, and it is still an impressive building — one of the first new buildings on the beach in some fifty years — though it appears almost monolithic compared to the much older, original Art Deco Hotels that line the beach.
But I also loved the Art Deco hotels, the smaller hotels … and then we came upon the soon-to-open, though it doesn’t look like it, Hyatt South Beach; a bunch of glass boxes stacked atop one another. Very cool.
Speaking of architecture, I was shocked at how much the downtown skyline has changed. When I first moved there, the Freedom Tower in downtown was clearly visible; not the tallest structure but always easy to spot. Now? Not so much. Condos, condos, condos. My how Miami has grown.
And with it the traffic! Oy! The traffic. We talked with a friend at her job, and she said that while she lives just nineteen miles from her office, each night, every night, it takes her two hours to get home … nine-and-a-half miles an hour. She freaked when Carlos and I each said our nighttime commute was about ten minutes … with traffic!
We met up with old friends — some we hadn’t seen even long before we moved — and had dinner with a friend from New York City who was visiting Miami for a few months; good food, good times.
That’s one long ass drive down there and one even longer ass drive back home … well, it felt longer coming home because …
Never … NEVER … allow Carlos to navigate. There is a beltway around Jacksonville and on the way down it was getting to be rush hour in Jacksonville so I took the beltway; still a lot of traffic, but no dead stops along the way. On the way home, we got to Jacksonville around noon and say … to myself … ‘Should I take the beltway again?’ Carlos says we should drive through the city because it’s noon and how bad could the traffic be at noon. We’re in two miles and dead stop; stuck in traffic for fifteen minutes until I found an exit, got off the freeway, got back on going in the other direction, and then went back to the beltway and took it again. Lesson learned: Take.The.Beltway.
I do like Miami, to visit. I don’t know if I could ever get used to that traffic again; but the weather — except for hurricanes — and the food — except for the cafes that are now closed — and the architecture are really cool.
Maybe we’ll visit again when we head down to Key West … fingers crossed. Now there’s a town in Florida I wouldn’t mind calling home!