"We design motorcycles that the client chooses from his dreams," Steven Baroukh says in a lilting French accent. Baroukh, along with his wife, Beatrice Ummels, and partner Yves Blanco, take standard-issue motorcycles and turn them into swooping constructs of steel and chrome. To review the designers' work is to transcend the conventional idea of what wheels, fenders, and engines do. They are themselves dreamers, romantics who sculpt everyday lead-sleds into organic, sensual shapes. A completely custom-built motorcycle can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $72,000. By then the design team's hands will have caressed every inch, internal and external, to lovingly bring it to shape. "Like a beautiful statue, we will bring smoothness to the form," Baroukh explains. "We create the parts, we weld them, we cut them." They've created outré concoctions such as a bike whose frame was encased in the shape of a woman on her back with her knees up, and a futuristic teardrop-shape white rocket. But as much as their focus is form, they are equally dedicated to function. Designs are thoroughly vetted to make sure custom parts won't interfere with the alignment, steering, and weight distribution of the bike. Joints are welded and tested. Bike owners don't need to completely reinvent their scooters. For between $3500 and $6500, the shop will customize a bike with paint, chrome, handlebars, fenders, and mirrors. They also do restoration work on vintage motorcycles. As Baroukh reminds, "Motorcycles are made to ride."

Volume means choice. Divers Direct Outlet has both. The 5000-square-foot Florida City showroom is thick with masks, fins, wetsuits, buoyancy compensators, tanks, regulators, spear guns, underwater cameras, and diving computers. This is important because one needs to compare and contrast. Finding the right piece of equipment is absolutely essential with dive gear. No one can afford a leaky mask or an ill-fitting fin 80 feet underwater. Major brands carried include Aqua Lung (formerly U.S. Divers), Mares, Dacor, and SeaQuest. Because Divers Direct Outlet (formerly Divers Outlet) is part of a chain founded in 1984 and based in Deerfield Beach, it can afford to keep its shelves stocked deep. All the workers are certified in the sport, with a scuba instructor and dive master also on staff. The store does teach and certify divers, but they don't try to diversify too much beyond that. Repairs are done offsite in Key Largo. There are no charter trips based out of the shop. "We pretty much stick to retail," manager Candy Tamborrino says, and they do it daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
There is a school of thought that it's cruel to keep a dog in the city where it will be locked up during the day in a small apartment or house. If Fido has too much energy and the twice-daily walk is not doing the job, finally there is an answer. You can send the little hound to day camp! Better yet, the camp counselors will pick the pooch up in the morning in a school bus and return in the afternoon a happy and exercised canine. Totally Dog is located in the Redland and can only be visited by appointment. It sits on more than two acres of land and features a four-foot-deep bone-shape pool, an obstacle course, beach sand, and doggy toys galore. Each day your animal will get chewy pig ear as a snack and even take a group nap to break up all that joyful running around. Campers usually number about 30 a day and must be neutered, housebroken, at least four months old, have all their shots, be flea-and-tick protected, and know how to play well with others. All the dogs are screened. Every dog goes through a $200 four-day training during which they learn the rules: how to get into the pool, voice response, and how to ride on the bus. Each day of camp after that costs $35. Call in advance because slots fill up quickly.

The weekend bazaar at the Flagler Dog Track features the same sprawling grid of junk and gems that could be found at most other flea markets. But no other pulguero in town has the sonic boom of the jetliners that land at the airport nearby. And the rows of goods are treasure troves of the cheap and cheesy. To be found in its ample aisles of vendors: five-dollar shoes, kung fu sabers, roosters, fruit stands, bongs, computers, polyester lingerie, baptismal gowns, corn dogs, snow cones. An eclectic mélange set to the beat of hip-hop, bachata, and merengue emanates from the myriad music stands. Fifty cents gets you in the door; parking is free. Bring dollar bills to haggle. Go home with accouterments for the new you.

Richard Interian could have become just another lawyer. Instead he went into the family business: flowers. A swell idea. Since he stepped in, the twelve-year-old shop has expanded from 700 to 3500 square feet, taken on a slew of corporate clients, designed blooms for various parties, and offered gourmet gift baskets. Open daily and promising worldwide delivery, their Bird Road store seems small but stocks luxurious bath products, high-end chocolates, and charming stuffed animals. A large refrigerator contains some stunning ready-made arrangements, but the incredible custom work goes on behind the scenes. There designers put together bouquets in any style, in any type of container, with any flower you desire -- from traditional roses to Zen-inspired orchids -- more than living up to the Avant-Gardens' motto: We can arrange that.
An angler walked into Richter's shop. He thought he needed to replace some gear. He picked out some $65 fly line and plunked it down on the counter. Richter had other thoughts on the matter after examining the angler's old line. "There's nothing wrong with this," he said, adding that it just needed to be cleaned. "I could sell some new line to you, but I wouldn't feel right about it." There are easier ways to catch fish than to go at them with a fly rod. But there is perhaps no simpler way to transcend this world for a few hours. As a result fly-fishermen and women tend to be a gentler, more contemplative lot and, of course, more honest -- all qualities Richter and his shop embody. "I'm a teacher; I'm really not a salesperson," the Miami native and semiretired architect admits. "I don't do this for a living. If I did I'd be broke." He gives fly-tying lessons and holds casting clinics. He sells all manner of gear (both new and used), and he serves as an information conduit for Miami-Dade anglers. All because fly-fishing, well, "it's a love, it's a passion, it's a more difficult way to catch a fish," he says. "If you want to catch more fish, go get some bait." Open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
One would hardly expect to find a little piece of Paris in a strip mall, even a relatively upscale one like the Biscayne Harbour Shops, but that's exactly the place to go when you're feeling trés français. Pierre Books contains everything the frenzied Francophile might crave: books in French, movies in French (for sale and rental), French tapes and CDs, as well as French magazines and greeting cards. An in-store café serves up coffee, brewed in a French press. The whole place is so utterly, gloriously French, it's a miracle the Germans haven't marched in.
We were getting our tennis racket strung here, and while we were waiting we talked to a young sales guy about buying some golf clubs. He had an excellent grasp on the equipment. He also had a good handle on its recent history, to wit, how leading manufacturers in the Eighties lost their grip on the market when new companies strolled in with new designs such as bigger heads on drivers. Ping, Yonex, and Callaway outdrove industry leaders like Top Flight and Dunlop. But our salesman really hooked us by proving to be a straight shooter. He was able to slice through all the marketing hype associated with name brands and pros. "Let's face it," he said. "The pros get paid to play with certain equipment." Consequently it can be quite expensive. For instance Don's deal on a set of eleven graphite-shaft Honma clubs with titanium-head irons (pitching wedge included) can cost you less than $1700. But you also can avoid handicapping your bank account that much, our salesman pointed out. For instance you can get a decent set of graphite-shaft woods and metal-shaft irons for $300. You can check out how they feel with a couple of chip shots from a patch of AstroTurf into the net that hangs from the ceiling. Just a short drive by car from the Miami Shores golf course (or a long drive if you're using a one-wood), the store has been here for 32 years. Owner Don Barker has an autographed photo of Seventies champion Billy Casper on a wall in the corner to prove it.

So you want to buy a pistol, but you're not sure which one will satisfy your trigger finger? Can't find a shop where you can try the firearms before you buy them? Check out Ace's, tucked safely away in the grid of corporate parks and warehouses north of Sweetwater. By the time you get off the highway and find your way through the monotonous sprawl, you'll be ready to fire off some rounds with that Beretta. There's an entire arsenal of rifles, shotguns, and revolvers from which to choose and sixteen lanes from which to fire. Rent a gun for a day or just buy; the staff is friendly, professional, and welcoming to bumbling beginners. Go ahead, make your own day.
So you want to buy a pistol, but you're not sure which one will satisfy your trigger finger? Can't find a shop where you can try the firearms before you buy them? Check out Ace's, tucked safely away in the grid of corporate parks and warehouses north of Sweetwater. By the time you get off the highway and find your way through the monotonous sprawl, you'll be ready to fire off some rounds with that Beretta. There's an entire arsenal of rifles, shotguns, and revolvers from which to choose and sixteen lanes from which to fire. Rent a gun for a day or just buy; the staff is friendly, professional, and welcoming to bumbling beginners. Go ahead, make your own day.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®