The new redhead in town walks into an auto shop for an oil change and expects to be told her buggy needs about $500 in services to be safe. Not here. Gabe and his friendly, honest staff care about their customers -- they want to keep your business and attract your friends. He's been here "since my hair was still black" and is never short on smiles. The wall in the office is covered with certificates, awards, and yellowed newspaper clippings -- an archive of almost 30 years in a dirty (in terms of oil, that is) business displayed in dollar-store frames. The service is efficient: "You need to pick it up at 4:00? It will be ready." (And it is.) The location is conveniently located within skipping distance of kudzu-spreading condos in the booming Wynwood and Edgewater areas. All mechanics are ASE-certified, of course, and se habla español. Shop hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
What with the horrendous traffic, the endless construction on major roadways, and our immigrant-heavy population, driving in the Magic City can be a decidedly dangerous experience. If only more people learned from Victor Montalvo, owner and head instructor of A International Driving School. With the kind of patience that can be accrued only with more than 30 years of teaching, he ventures onto Miami's most chaotic roads every day, gently coaxing terrified students into the fast lane. Most of his clients are teenagers, who can sometimes be impatient with the slow-paced instructions of a 62-year-old man. Victor does some of his best work with the older adult pupils, whose fear of the road is a much more serious impediment. "My oldest student was a lady who was 74 years old," he says in a thick Ecuadorian accent. "She never drove before because she used to live in New York. When her husband passed away, she came to live close to her sons. But the son sent her to lessons, because he couldn't take her to the doctor or the supermarket, and she was spending too much money on taxi cabs. It took a while, but I taught her." Victor works almost every day. "I like to be involved with the students, to make sure they get their license. Now I'm getting old, but I keep teaching," he laughs. When asked if he ever gets annoyed with his job, Victor shrugs and says, "I try to be patient. There's too many bad drivers here." But one all-too-typical moving violation gets under his skin. "People will just jump from one lane to another, driving fast. I don't know what's the hurry. Sometimes when I'm teaching, they cut right in front of us, don't use an indicator, nothing. I say, oh boy! And I have to use the brakes and let them pass," he exclaims, increasingly animated. "When I see people doing stupid things like that, I always wish there were cops around to see. But I can do nothing except teach my students the right way."
Hess Gas Station
You don't have to go to the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to find cheap gas. This spankin'-new Hess station has fuel that consistently ranks among the area's least expensive -- ten to twenty cents less than other pumping places only blocks away -- at its twelve credit-card-ready pumps. There's one cheap diesel pump too. Air for your tires is free, the bathroom is clean, and the store is well stocked with, among other things, a beer selection that includes Red Stripe, Guinness, and Modelo. The station is open round-the-clock.
Bike Tech
Do you still get chills when you think about buying a new bike? Or have you settled for getting a generic two-wheeler at Wal-Mart? Why not relive the excitement of your kiddy days and stop by Bike Tech. It carries cycles of the mountain, road, hybrid, and cruiser variety. Prices aren't bad. For instance, you can get a Raleigh Retroglide 7 for about $285. You'll find the right helmet and shoes and anything else you might need for your next ride. The place even has bike shorts to fit your five-year-old, and suits for that triathlon you've been saying you'll try. The staff is friendly and can answer any bicycle question. Professional mechanics can help with everything from a flat tire to a wheel that's not true (if you're not sure what that means, you'll find out next time a tire begins creaking against your brakes). Bike Tech also has a great discount program that gives members fifteen percent off purchases. It's open Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; closed Sunday.
When Miamians are sick of things lying around their homes, many list said items on Craigslist. And this, my friends, is a way for two-wheel bargain hunters to snarf up a deal. A recent search turned up two $200 BMXs, in perfect condition, both being sold for less than $60. A slightly used GT was going for $25. If you're a total Cheapy McCheap, type in the maximum amount you're willing to spend next to the search box, and you'll get bikes in your range. If you can't be bothered to, like, exercise, you can also find used electric scooters. And if you're thinking of joining a Latino gang in L.A., every once in a while you can even find a custom low-rider bike. Most of the listings are in Miami, but there are also some in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale.
Those who aren't scooter people have a difficult time trying to fathom how anyone can get on one of those things and traverse the Hummer-clogged streets of the Beach. But some people dig that squealing buzz, feeling the wind in their hair, and savoring the druglike effects of the blurring neon lights in their peripheral vision. If you're ready to hop on, call up South Beach Scooters and they'll ease you into it with a free lesson and friendly encouragement. Rentals range in price from $15 to $50 an hour with unlimited mileage, and brands include Peugeot, Daelim, MZ, TGB, Binetto, Mondial, and Adly. Still not feeling the scooter-dude in you? Maybe a Segway or one of those electric fun cars would be more your speed. The friendly staff will even pick you up and bring you back to the shop if you get, well, Hummered.
If money were no object, you'd be sipping bourbon on the back of your private yacht right now. Seeing as that hazy fantasy probably won't calm your ocean-going ganas, get a few friends together and split the cost of renting a craft at Beach Boat Rentals. Few powerboat rental places come close to Beach Boat's prices, and those that do usually bump up their prices for weekends and restrict your cruising range. At Beach, you have your choice of eight boats -- all with current-model-year, four-stroke outboards, according to owner Anthony Marzilli -- from a 22-footer with room for five to more expansive 24-footers with front deck seating. Prices for a two-hour rental range from $130 to $220, while four hours on the water will set you back $200 or more. Inquire about specials on half- and full-day rentals, tours, and charters. Gas and taxes are extra, and no deposit is required. Beach Boat Rentals is open from 9:30 a.m. to sunset every day.
One of the great things about big-city living Miami style is the ease of escape. When traffic jams and noisy people give us woe, we can board an eighteen-foot sloop, unfurl the main sail, and catch a ten-knot breeze. Once we're safely offshore, the wind powering us across Biscayne Bay, we can pour a few mimosas and enjoy a spectacular sunset. All is better. Miami, home of the U.S. Sailing Team training center, is a sailor's paradise. Problem is: We're not rich. We don't own a boat nor do we have maritime friends. So we go down to Matheson Hammock. The good folks at the Castle Harbor Sailing School have a dock filled with rentals. They're priced reasonably -- $50 an hour (if you take the Harbor 20s) or $60 for the Santana 22s. And if you want to go out with a large group -- charter a big boat -- the 35-foot Gone with the Wind can be yours for $400 a day. The Harbor 20s are specially equipped for quick rigging and novice sailors. Also, if we're a little concerned about our skills, we can take a freshen-up lesson at the Castle Harbor school, which is stocked with racing veterans.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®