Road Trip: Miami – From the Bird’s Nest
In yesterday’s blog, I talked about the first part of this road trip in Boca Raton, FL. Miami is about 50 miles south. When most people think of Miami, they think of South Beach…trendy, expensive, be-yoo-ti-ful. And, those people would be correct.
About South Beach.
The rest of the city, notsomuch.
The city of Miami, as with any large city, has sections you don’t want to spend much time in. The western part of the city is great, with lots of things to do. The rest of the city can be a little rough.
Throughout the city, the natives’ best method of conversation is the car horn. They use it. Constantly. Miami probably features the most aggressive drivers I’ve ever seen. Need to change lanes? Don’t expect anyone to let you in. Driving slowly? Here’s your horn. I really don’t like driving in Miami, although I’ve done it many times. If you’re driving in Miami, you’d better know where you’re going. If you don’t, you’ll get the horn. In the city, there aren’t too many folks who don’t speak Spanish. There are, however, many who don’t speak English and sometimes communication can be tough.
I do not, however, want to give the impression there are no friendly people in Miami. In fact, you’ll meet some of the finest people right there in the city. They are proud of their heritage and easy to please. They also want to please. Much like the Cajun people, if you make a friend with the Cuban-American community, they are your friend. Period.
On Friday, Scott Farmer and I made the drive to Miami. We were staying not far from the airport at a hotel called the Element by Westin. Navigating around the airport can be tough if you’re not used to it. Especially if there’s construction. Which there always is.
Scott was driving and it was really my first time riding anywhere with him. I’m not Catholic but I was looking for a rosary before it was all said and done. Scott is fine, except he doesn’t remember directions or instructions more than, oh, say, three seconds. Armed with printed directions to the hotel, we got into the airport area.
“Where am I goin?” The rest of this blog, that will be abbreviated ‘WAIG?” Mainly because I don’t want to keep typing it out. I called out the directions on the printed sheet.
Not working. The directions, as they sometimes are with online maps, weren’t jiving.
So, I went to my phone’s GPS.
“WAIG?” Scott asked, before the instructions even came up. ‘WAIG?” (louder.)
Finally I had the instructions and started to give them to him. The only problem was, he’d forget what I had told him. “Left or right?”
Dude, I said right about two seconds ago.
OK, enough of that, you get the picture.
Finally we got on NW 25th street which was the street the hotel was on. And, there was the dreaded construction. Road closed.
“WAIG?” Scott asked. I didn’t say anything. “WHICH WAY?” he asked.
Dude, my GPS doesn’t do detours.
So, we followed the detour signs which took us to about ten different turns. And, right about the time Scott and I agreed the detour signs did more harm than good, we looked to our left….and saw the Element by Westin.
It was near absolutely nothing. But it was there.
We discovered the Element was a pretty unique hotel chain. First of all, there weren’t that many of them. In fact, there are currently only ten, all in the U.S. Seven more, including four outside of the country, are planned. Element hotels are environmentally friendly, with many amenities made from all-natural ingredients. Furnishings are pretty high-tech and eclectic as hotel furnishings go. And, there’s not a lot of wasted space in the rooms. Naturally, green is the dominant color.
Only one of the rooms was ready so Scott came to my room while housekeeping was working on his.
I opened the door to the room and said “Whoa.”
The room had a full kitchen. Full sized refrigerator, microwave, two burner stove, even a dishwasher. Cups, plates, glasses, pots, utensils. All there. The workspace was next to the kitchen. On the other side of the room was the bed along with a large sofa. The television swiveled to face the sofa or the bed. The bathroom had a unique looking sink and a large walk in shower with a permanent and hand-held nozzle. It even had a toilet with a button that said "half flush" and "full flush."
Al Gore would have been proud. I was impressed. Maybe there was something to this green stuff after all.
Scott and I decided we would meet at 3:30. Scott, through a connection, had procured tickets to see the Heat and Bulls at American Airlines Arena. I knew there was a great place called Bayside right across the street and the plan was to go to Bayside, have something to eat, have a beverage and then take in the game.
We met at 3:30 and, of course, the first order of business was to get back to the road that would take us east toward South Beach.
“WAIG?” Scott asked. Again, I didn’t have an answer, since we had to go back through the construction in order to get to the road we needed. So we simply used the old trial and error method until we got to a main road that took us to the main road we needed.
I instructed Scott to take an exit which led to a couple of more memory lapses. But, it wasn’t
long before we could see the arena, which meant we were close to Bayside. We found it without too much trouble and parked.
To try and explain it, Bayside is like a huge mall. Three stories. Except it’s outdoors. The only time you go indoors is when you go into one of the shops, restaurants or bars. Everything else is outside.
And, on this day, with temperatures around 80 degrees and sunny, outside was the place to be.
We were hungry so we went to the area where the restaurants (and bars) were. Now, if you listened back when Scott Prather and I were doing the show together, I used to call him LSP (Little Scotty Prather.) He, in turn, called me ODB (Opinionated, Diverse Birdman.) Well, we get to the bay side of Bayside and here’s the first thing I see:
Scott and I decided we’d have Cuban food (imagine that) for lunch and we sat down near the water. There was a band playing about 25 yards away. The view from my chair was great, no matter which direction you looked.
Our Cuban waitress told us in broken English it was happy hour and drinks were two for one. I said
we wanted something with rum.
“Mojito?” she asked.
When in Miami……….
We looked over the menu. I pretty quickly decided on the Cuban sandwich and moros (black beans and rice). Scott saw a picture of a platter and asked what each item (moros, yucca, fried plantains) was. He ordered that.
It took awhile for our drinks to get to us, so we decided about a third of the way through we’d order another one. Naturally, those came pretty quickly. The food arrived quickly and Scott enjoyed all the things he was unfamiliar with. My food was great as well.
We finished eating, sipped our drinks and listened to the music. We watched the boats come into the bay. With nasty weather back home, we realized how fortunate we were to be where we were.
By 6:00 it was dark and we headed back to the car. Scott had a parking pass for the game and, although he had no idea where he was supposed to be, he never said “WAIG?”
Actually he did. To every event management person stationed in the parking area.
Finally we reached our parking place and we got out of the car with the tickets. We showed them to one of the attendants and she pointed out where we needed to enter.
Now, I should say I was about to see, technically, my second NBA game in person. The first was about 20 years ago when I went to see a game at the old L. A. Sports Arena between the Clippers, who were so bad they barely qualified as an NBA team, and the Indiana Pacers. There were only about 2,500 in attendance, although Billy Crystal and Joe Mantegna were two of them. Reggie Miller was playing for the Pacers then. But I knew that was not going to be anything like what I was about to see.
And, I was right.
We were there plenty early and found our seats behind one of the baskets about ten rows from the bottom. Not bad.
If you know me at all, you know I’m not a big NBA guy. But I must say, if you’re going to go to a professional game in any sport, the NBA is probably where you need to go. The disparity between watching a game on television and seeing it in person is huge. The entire night was an assault on the senses. During NFL and Major League Baseball games you attend in person, there’s not much going on during those long commercial breaks.
Not so in the NBA. There was plenty going on during time outs, most of it involving the Miami Heat Dancers.
Me gusto mucho las mujeres cubanas.
And, as much as I enjoy the athleticism of college basketball, it’s nothing like the athleticism of the players in the NBA. I was thoroughly entertained by what I saw. And, I need to go to some Hornets games, too.
The NBA is downright fun when you’re there.
After the game, we had no trouble finding the hotel. We were veterans of driving in Miami.
Saturday was a nondescript day for the most part. I visited with Scott at breakfast and then spent the day doing website and game prep. Of course, I did have to spend a little time outside in the beautiful weather.
We had plans to leave the hotel right after the men’s team got back from shoot around. I needed to record Coach Marlin at that time because I was doing a doubleheader with the women and men. After recording, we were ready to go.
Brian, Scott and I rode together. I knew where we were headed and I didn’t hear WAIG much at all. Brian’s cousin had come into town and they had lunch together. I, on the other hand, had not eaten since breakfast. Just before turning onto a major road, Scott saw a Wendy’s and pulled in so I could get something before we got to the arena.
Now, there was a time I would have ordered a double burger. But, I’m eating less fast food now and when I do, I eat a lot of chicken (grilled rather than fried). So, I ordered a chicken sandwich like a good boy.
We planned to get something to eat postgame as well.
The Cajuns dropped a frustrating game to FIU 75-70. Of course, we got to see the FIU Dazzlers so it wasn't a total loss. After the men’s game, Brian said to go without him and he would ride back with the men since we were going to get something. We left campus and started down the road. And, Scott pulled into Burger King.
Now, a man can only stand so much temptation. I ordered a double whopper. Don’t tell my cardiologist.
Scott almost took a wrong turn despite my expert instructions on the way back to the hotel, but we made it without an issue. We ate our burgers downstairs while watching the last few minutes of the Minnesota—Green Bay game. By the time I got to bed it was way past midnight.
Still not a fan of the Eastern Time Zone.
We had a six am wakeup call to go to the airport in Fort Lauderdale. We arrived in New Orleans. It was raining. And cold.
We were a long way from mojitos.