Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Aviation Spice Ride

Once a month, the Everglades Bicycle Club has a ride that gives people the chance to be a tourist in their own city. It's called a Spice Ride. A ride which is meant to be a change of pace, something different from the usual Saturday club ride. This month the ride's theme was aviation.

We pedaled south to Miami City Hall to join the start of the ride. The very early morning sun revealed a large group of about 60 riders gathered. There would be three parts to the ride. Bob Williams, EBC Treasurer and a long time resident of Miami Springs, was our first tour guide. He explained to the assembled group that Miami City Hall was in fact the tour's first point of interest. The building we now call Miami City Hall was once the Pan American Seaplane terminal.

We sorted ourselves into riding speed groups, and we headed out for Miami Springs. On the way, we stopped to see a cluster of buildings on one edge of what is now Miami International Airport. Now just a fraction of MIA, it was once the whole airport, built by Pan American originally.

Glenn H. Curtiss
Miami Springs, along with neighboring Hialeah and Opa Locka, were founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. While most people recognize the Wright Brothers, many are unfamiliar with Mr. Curtiss who was a contemporary of the Wright Brothers. Like the Wrights, he started in bicycles. However, unlike the Wrights, he was a prolific inventor and highly successful aviation entrepreneur. A native of New York state, he retired to Miami Springs. He set the land speed motorcycle record in Ormand Beach in 1907 (136 mph) on a V-8 motorcycle of his design. He is called the father of Naval aviation. While working with the navy in San Diego, he was introduced to pueblo mission style architecture. He imported the style for the theme of Miami Springs (originally called Country Club Estates). We meandered through the tree filled town of Miami Springs, visiting several examples of homes and buildings of this style.

The second part of the Aviation Spice Ride was a tour of the Curtiss Mansion. (see Miami Springs web page) The mansion is on the historic register and beautifully restored. Curtiss Mansion curators took us on a tour of the building. (Fun fact: Curtiss was an energetic man and didn't have the patience needed for a standard game of golf. Enter the concept of archery golf. Take arrows, light their tips, and shoot them down the fairways instead. Sweet.) We also had a pleasant breakfast catered by Johnny's Restaurant of Miami Springs.

MIA Air Traffic Control Tower
The third part of the ride was limited to just 36 riders. The other riders wheeled back to Miami City Hall, and the lucky 36 rode to Miami International Airport for a tour of the Air Traffic Control Tower. EBC members James Marinitti and Francesca Franco, air traffic controllers, gave the group a tour of the radar room and tower as well as providing a overview session and a question and answer period. It was an amazing place. We watched the controllers working in the radar room, listened in on the conversations back and forth with the planes, and perhaps grasped just a bit of the enormous job these people do every day. The view from the tower was equally impressive. Giant aircraft looked like toy planes from the tower, moving about with choreographed precision. It's a truly fascinating place.

Then it was time to go. We said our goodbyes, and the group headed out for a brisk ride through the city. A sprinkle or two fell, but the rain bypassed us.

I've been told that Everglades Bicycle Club Vice President and Ride Coordinator Mary Beth Garcia is the genius behind the Spice Rides. Kudos is due her for creating these rides. Miami is one of the most interesting cities on the East Coast. The Spice Rides let us use our bikes to do a little touring of this marvelous place we call home.