This route, which was part of the trail for the Everglades Bicycle Club's Snowbird Century this year, takes you on a tour of some of South Florida's most unique areas. Begin your trek near the Fruit and Spice Park at 24801 SW 187th Ave. and ride north to 232nd Street, where you'll need to make a left. Enjoy the Homestead scenery as you pedal to 217th Avenue, where you should turn south. As you travel down this avenue, you'll pass the Schnebly Redland's Winery (30205 SW 217th Ave.), but you should probably wait until the return trip before stopping there, otherwise you might not get much farther. Keep heading south until you reach 392nd Street; go west. At 232nd Avenue take a left and you'll be in the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area. Riding through here, you can glimpse native Everglades birds and other animals, so be sure to have that camera phone ready. While you're down this way, take a look at the former test site for the world's largest solid rocket motor. The land was owned by Aerojet when it was testing the motor for NASA, but the company sold the site in the Nineties. You can still see the giant silo where the rocket was fired. Once you're well rested, turn north on 232nd Avenue and begin the ride home. Don't forget to stop at Schnebly's this time around, and try some of the tropical fruit wine like the mango or passion fruit versions, but don't "taste" too much or you might not find your way back to the car.
It slices through one of Miami's most long-suffering neighborhoods and is patrolled by police hell-bent on keeping white people away, but NW One-Four is dotted with treasures between Booker T. Washington Senior High School (just west of Seventh Avenue) and the Miami Herald building (at bay's edge). There's the amazing Overtown Youth Center (a.k.a. the Alonzo Mourning rec center), which is right next to breezy Theodore R. Gibson Park, which includes a library, swimming pool, Chinese restaurant, and church clustered in the same lot. And then there's Bigtime Productions' ten-stage, full-service film studio, Ice Palace, which is just the sort of money magnet the area needs for development. There are two killer nightclubs -- I/O and PS 14 -- and unlimited potential. Eventually the performing arts center will become the anchor of this stretch, bringing to the area a flow of lawyers, politicians, and power brokers -- the sort of (white) people who can fight back against police harassment. Ever since integration, black people have been taking their money out of O-town. It's time for people of all colors to spend their cash in the neighborhood. With Habitat for Humanity working nearby and plenty of residents fighting gentrification, there really seems to be hope for bringing Overtown out of its morass. One-four is the key path to that progress.
What makes Miami a great city? It's the water, stupid. So when you're thinking about mounting your two-wheeler, and you don't feel like driving to the Keys, try the causeways north of downtown on a Sunday morning. Do it early when there's no traffic. Begin in Miami Shores at NE 96th Street and Tenth Avenue, and then meander south to 79th Street. Turn left and cross one bridge, then another. Smell the salt air. Revel in the views of downtown to your right. Look out upon Biscayne Bay. Then you reach Normandy Isle and Miami Beach. Next head north through the Beach's forgotten neighborhoods -- Byron Avenue is a pleasant route -- before reaching 123rd Street and heading west. Ahhh. Again the view of downtown. Again Biscayne Bay. There are fewer hills on this part of the sojourn, so relax, Lance. Pedal all the way to West Dixie Highway and head south through the Shores to 96th Street, where you turn left. Soon your car beckons. But you continue on to the dead end and settle on a bench in a pretty little park that looks out on -- you guessed it -- Biscayne Bay.
It's a dark, still night, and the only sound you hear is that of the leaves being crushed beneath your feet. You stop and look up as a flash of movement attracts your attention to the branches above. Large, round eyes peer down at you, reflecting red in the darkness. Then the silence is broken by a whispered chorus of "The owwwwls!" The ten kids along for this adventure are entranced by the bird's appearance. They point and poke at their friends: "Do you see it? It's the owwwwl!" From a distance comes the call of another feathered wonder, and you head in that direction, hoping to find the second one. What could be more fascinating to a youngster than walking in the woods in the dark in search of wild animals? Particularly since it costs only $5. Besides owls, you might also run into some four-leg creatures, like raccoons rustling in the bushes in search of a snack. And there's the occasional call of a monkey or whatever animal screech the kid next to you can imitate, so don't believe everything you hear (you'll have fun imagining though).
Richard Blanco speaks like a poet should; his voice is a low, soothing rumble that gives his words the weight of authority. He looks like a woman's dream of a poet; on the cover of this year's The Most Intriguing (and Sensual) Male Poets calendar, his shirt is open to reveal a stretch of tan skin, and his eyes are cast seductively downward. But what makes Richard Blanco our choice for this year's best poet goes far beyond his admittedly attractive visage. Blanco's poetry is powerful, and his poetic journey is unique. It all comes from the unique balance of his brain, which has allowed him tremendous success both in writing as well as engineering, the technically challenging field that pays his bills. Blanco did the poet-as-professor thing in colder climes, at American University and Georgetown University. But he's moved back to Miami now and doesn't plan on teaching anymore. "I realized that I am much more of an introvert than I thought. And being responsible for doing a dog-and-pony show for 80 people every day it really wore me out," he explains. "I came to realize that for better or for worse, a blessing or a curse, I needed to exercise both sides of my brain. I need to do my spreadsheets and my math. It's part of who I am. I really get a kick out of it, just as much as I do with poetry." He spends his days as a civil engineer, consulting for city planning projects. His technical skills are reflected in his poems, which reveal a careful balance of prosaic craft and glowing, tender detail. Blanco's first book, City of a Hundred Fires, was written in Miami and captures the nuances of Cuban-American cultural identity with deft brushstrokes. It won the University of Pittsburgh Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize in 1997. His second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, revealed a poet pining for home. Blanco has come full circle back to Miami Beach, but the formerly familiar now seems strange. "Now that I've come back and it's changed -- well, Miami changes every 36 hours it seems -- it's almost like a violation, like, how dare you change without me? I'm trying to stop living off memories, and trying to understand this place on its own terms as it's evolving. Miami as a petri dish has always been an anthropological and sociological marvel," he explains eloquently. Blanco says he returned for his muse, the beach. Evening strolls along the lapping shore fuel his creativity. It will be interesting to see how Miami inspires his future poems. While the poetic side of Blanco's brain finds romance in the city's contrasts, the engineer on the other side whispers fears about a lack of public housing, potential financial ruin, and economic and climactic storms. "There's an overlap between my engineering and the concerns of my poetry. The whole idea of the construct of the city, planning and design -- knowledge that I have from engineering of things that they're doing wrong and not doing.É I fear for Miami sometimes, because it's on the fence. And most people don't realize that," he says in a sobering bass.
Our favorite park doesn't have slides, a jungle gym, a golf course, tennis courts, a pool, a beach, a barbecue pit, a cool nature walk. But it does have more than 500 different varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and nuts. The county-owned Fruit and Spice Park is one of the world's most unusual parks. Located in the middle of the Redland, it showcases the bounteous reap of Miami-Dade's unique subtropical farming community. A hundred varieties of citrus, 65 kinds of bananas, 40 different grapes, and other tropical exotics are on display. You can take a guided tour of the 30-acre park beginning at 11:00 a.m., 1:30, or 3:00 p.m. daily, or you can also explore it yourself at your leisure. Once you're done touring or exploring, you can taste produce in the gift shop. The park also frequently hosts classes, led by staff, on cooking with tropical plants and how to identify edible wild plants. Admission: $5 for adults, $1.50 for kids. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
The hindquarters of a six-foot alligator carcass protruded from the exploded torso of a thirteen-foot Burmese python. But it took at least ten minutes of staring at the photo -- a weird montage of claws and tails floating in a reedy marsh, published this past October -- to figure out who had eaten whom. Was it disconcerting for residents of West Kendall to learn that only a few dozen miles away from their comfortable beds, an alligator was literally exploding from confinement inside a python's belly? How does one sleep at night? Local biologists offered a number of theoretical explanations: The dead alligator's postmortem reflexes caused an unfortunately rough twitch of the leg. Or maybe the alligator's carcass had swollen in the early October heat and ruptured the snake with its bulk. The most plausible story, however, involved a third gator, who capitalized on the python's postprandial inertia to take a bite of him. That, at least, explained the snake's missing head.
It's not about wearing fine couture or driving up to the valet in a Bentley; "It's all about the attitude," says Thomas Barker, the little guy behind MUSE Entertainment and columnist for Wire magazine. The adorable brown-haired pixie, who always looks fabulous in his simple white Hanes V-neck T-shirts and two-dollar thrift-store threads, can be spotted everywhere: hotel and condo parties, art gallery openings, and boutique soirees from Lincoln Road to Bal Harbour -- even if he is not on the list. "You don't need to conform to the South Beach style; you just need one great accessory as a conversation starter. This cost more than my whole outfit," Barker says of his gorgeous Murano glass bead rosary. Barker, whose other signature accessory is a martini glass, suggests making friends with a few PR people to get the party ball rolling. Once you work your way into a few fabbity-fab events, you will begin receiving invites to others. "Every party needs to have the right mix of people. You have the intellectual, the beautiful, the fabulous, and the spenders ... and there's always the gays!" Barker laughs. "The key is to look the part and to act like you belong there -- because you do!"
North Shore Park
Perhaps it's simply a coincidence that the courts at this brand-spanking-new recreation center a few blocks away from Francophile Normandy Isle are clay, the surface of choice for the French Open. Whatever the reason, it's rare to find clay, usually a favorite among elite players, on public courts. So common lobbers, rejoice; with twelve courts (ten clay, two hard surface), fees that cost only a little more than a couple of Gatorades, and nighttime lighting (it's open until 9:00 p.m. weekdays, 8:00 p.m. weekends), there are plenty of excuses to break out some fresh balls.
Planning the perfect party takes a little bit of practical chemistry: Bring together a mix of people from enough different social subsets to make for interesting, convivial conversation. But make sure they are not from worlds so alien that guests have nothing at all to say. Serve enough food to sate the starving without stultifying the gluttonous. Lubricate with enough alcohol to loosen inhibitions without encouraging regrettable hookups or, worse, drunken brawls. Find a sponsor generous enough to underwrite the festivities who doesn't subsequently become a demanding boor. And then there's the intangible type of chemistry that just clicks into place, turning an enjoyable but predictable shindig (something that happens almost every night of the year in Miami Beach) into one for the record books. Such an alignment of the stars occurred November 15, 2005, when the celebrity publicists (and publicists to celebrities) of TARA, Ink gave a coming-out party for Douglas Rodriguez's new incarnation of famed Caribbean fusion restaurant OLA at the Savoy on Ocean Drive -- it is located, by the way, in the former home of Rolling Stone Ron Wood's nightclub. The event was on the tab of cell phone and Sidekick service providers T-Mobile, which was simultaneously launching new incarnations of the personal communication devices. It turned out the electronics moguls were the consummate sponsors, rocking the party with witty chat and mingling easily. "I love Miami Beach," commented T-Mobile executive Mark Stockdale. "It's different -- way different than Seattle, where I'm from, but that's the idea." OLA was populated that evening not only by tech-talkin' geeks but also by local scenesters on their best behavior: Kimona, the National Hotel's iconic lounge singer; designer Esteban Cortazar; club owner Nicola Siervo; and Tara Solomon herself, possibly the most gracious hostess ever to simultaneously take a phone call, balance a martini, and personally escort a guest to the restroom in four-inch heels. Yet there were enough civilians -- starving artists and writers, people's parents and grandparents, and even a few children -- to make milling mandatory and introductions painless. The drinks were paired with Rodriguez's magnificent ceviche snacks, crab puffs, spring rolls, and lobster tarts, which led to a full-fledged four-course meal. Guests left full, happy, and madly craving a Hello Kitty-theme Sidekick of their very own. That's the key to party perfection: Satisfy every desire, yet make guests want more. Definitely one for the record books.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®