Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hanging Out With Tourists: People Taking Pictures of People Taking Pictures

Hanging out with tourists and taking pictures...
I can't gripe anymore about having nothing interesting to do on short rambles. Traffic is scarce in downtown Miami on weekends. (Note: "scarce" is not synonymous with "absent".) We took advantage of the light traffic and made a circuitous ramble through the downtown and near downtown areas, ending up among the tourists at Bayside Park. Bayside is a park adjacent to marinas, a semi-outdoor shopping mall, and American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat basketball team. We wandered and watched the people. People were gathered in one area around a stage with a woman singing. People were dancing in front of the stage. The singer queried the crowd about where they were from. "Brazil!" they shouted. The singing and dancing continued as we strolled on.

The galleon at Bayside Park.
We picked up some coffee and cookies and took them out to the seawall, where we sat, sipped, and munched. Behind us the big red double-decker tourist buses filled and drove off. A short distance away, people posed for pictures in front of the resident galleon. Boats cruised by many topped with the inevitable young women and men, carefully posing themselves, others crammed with tourists snapping pictures.

We enjoyed the sunshine, then headed home, another pleasant Sunday ramble complete.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Miami by Bicycle and Metrorail

Miami has a decent little light rail system. Metrorail runs north and south through the city and west to the airport. Fares are reasonable, and there is free WiFi on the trains. (The little Metromover is a second system which runs a loop in basically the downtown and Brickell area. It's free.)

And, like systems in other major cities, you can take bicycles on the trains.

Metrorail train crossing the Miami River.
There's another neat factor for Al and me. Dangerous older drivers were the scourge of cycling life in our old rural area. People retired there, and, when they began having problems driving, the lack of public transportation alternatives kept them out there on the roads despite serious vision problems, the effects of strokes and illnesses, and even mild dementia. Miami has a program which keeps a lot of these elderly loose cannons off the roads. Miami gives out Golden Passport transit cards to permanent Miami residents over the age of 65. To get one, you just turn up at Government Center, stand in line for a good while, and show them your filled out application and the required documentation. They take your picture, and you sit around for a good while more. Then (voila!) they hand you your photo ID Golden Passport transit card. What, you ask, does this piece of plastic do for Miami's older citizens? Well, it lets them ride Metrorail and all the buses absolutely free. Which means there is a viable option for aging drivers who need to give up driving. They don't have to lose their independence or be trapped in their homes. They can take a train or bus to visit family and friends, do shopping, see their doctors, or whatever else they want to do. And all with no stigma or hassle.

Al and I have begun using Metrorail. A station is just a couple of short blocks from our building. Two of the shopping centers we like, Dadeland and Sunset Place, are adjacent to Metrorail stations. Between these two malls and the downtown area (which is an easy walk from our home), most all our shopping needs are met. Our next goal is to use Metrorail and our bikes when we want to eat out in other areas of the city.

And there is a third goal. Years ago I planned a trip to South Florida. I wanted to take Amtrak to Miami, transfer to Metrorail, take Metrorail south across the heart of Miami, then take the East Coast Greenway down to Key West. That spring we opted to tour Louisiana instead. (Where we got very fat eating wonderful Creole and Cajun food. I think we rode home for days through Florida, eating almost nothing, before our riding clothes fit comfortably again.) Now I'm revisiting my ideas on using Metrorail on a bicycle tour. I'm thinking I may use Metrorail to leapfrog over a lot of Miami when we head out touring. It would be an alternative for trips when we really wanted to save a little time.

It would work nicely...

Metrorail Map for Miami

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Rickenbacker Ramble

Jiminy Cricket (AKA Al) said I was ready for a ramble on the Rickenbacker. I've been dedicated these past weeks to my rehab work. I positively glowed with satisfaction to know I was ready to pedal up a hill...
Our ramble was all about going over the bridge to Virginia Key.

We took surface streets and the M-Path down to SW 26th and the turn toward the Rickenbacker. The M-Path is all tree roots and dog walkers near the Roads. (Often dog walkers wearing earphones, attention focused on their music or cellphone conversation.) The adjoining surface street trumps this section of the path any day.

The route down the causeway gave us playtime in the wind. We had a cross wind to and over the bridge to Virginia Key and a headwind farther along the causeway. Once on Key Biscayne, the trees along the route pretty much negated the wind. Playtime done, we opted for a stop for coffee and chocolate chunk cookies. Then it was back on the bikes for the ride home.

Al (Jiminy) stayed in the front during the whole ride. Roadies flew by, but he firmly kept the ramble pace. He made it quite clear that we would not be playing catch-and-release-the-roadies games. But all and all, it was an excellent ride. Jiminy is increasing the mileage each day, with plans to have us back up to a more normal ride length in a week or two. I'm matching his speed, but using a higher cadence for now. When we get back to a normal length ride, I'll start mirroring his riding for part of the ride and work back up to mirroring it the whole ride.

I intend to talk Al into the Rickenbacker for our rides for a week or two. I positively love the view of Miami from the top of the bridge to Virginia Key. The view will be a decent temporary substitute for chasing roadies.
The Miami skyline from the bridge to Virginia Key.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Gray and Cloudy Day

The day was gloomy, but the views from the Brickell Avenue bridge over the Miami River are always nice. Boats. Port of Miami. Biscayne Bay. It's an easy pick-me-up on an otherwise unexciting ride.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Great Sunday Ramble

It's been a while since I rolled my bike down the hallway to the elevators. The elevator music was salsa. Perfect. If you don't dance to salsa in an elevator, you're deaf or dead. (We were dancing when the doors opened at the lobby...)

Today would be a gentle ramble. Al and I planned to ride long enough for me to check out how all the body parts were working. He would be my Jiminy Cricket, my conscience to keep me from overdoing it.

The M-Path
The initial mount of the bike was a little stiff, but the first stop at the corner went smoothly enough. We decided to take surface streets and the M-Path towards Vizcaya. Rolling slowly along, we came to the Vizcaya Metrorail Station overpass of US 1. I love this overpass which ramps through the tops of a stand of  large oaks. Swinging onto SE 32nd Road we enjoyed the quiet residential neighborhood. Lots of road bikes rolled by on their way to the Rickenbacker. This road is a lined with mansions on the Biscayne Bay side of the road. I keep changing my mind on which will be our next mansion, but the elaborate entrance gate of one caught my attention today.
My next mansion...

A short way along, we stopped at Wainwright Park. Ladies were pumping up balloons in preparation for a party at one gazebo. The basketball court was busy. The item of interest today were the boxers working out among the swing sets. We pedaled over to the edge of the bay for a brief look at the boats before leaving and heading home.

A boat on Biscayne Bay at Wainwright Park
Mile-wise this was barely 10 miles of pedaling. Happiness-wise it was huge. Everything is great. My Jiminy Cricket will keep me on rambles this week. But rambles are OK. I'm out on my bike again.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wrapping Up Work on the Miami Mansion

Early this week I discovered I could finally put all my weight on my left leg. Bliss. Life is better with two working legs. It gave me the opportunity to ramp up the rehab exercises. Not to complain too much, but I feel like a caged bunny. I want to get back to cycling. If all goes well, I start rambles (easy riding, no chasing) on the bike next week.

Having a month off cycling has helped with finishing the Miami Mansion. Particularly the time-consuming items like arranging for custom stuff.

In a small place, everything is in view and must be coordinated and pulled together. We needed urban and polished, and often ready-made things weren't to our taste. For many of the things we needed for the Mansion, the simplest solution was to find fabric and have a workshop do some custom pieces for us. One thing we have in abundance in our area is specialty fabric stores and custom sewing workshops. For example, we found some great black shantung. We got the right look for our bedroom alcove by having the bed's box spring upholstered, then added a matching tuck-in coverlet and shams. Plus a few accent pillows (which match the ones on the sofa in the adjoining living alcove). At any rate, it looks good.

Still to come is the new TV and all the stuff that goes with it. We love movies. So we're having a very big (90-inch) TV installed. Now the issue with putting something like that into a 600 square foot home is that it has to be carefully integrated into the living area. It has to take up almost no floor space. Since it (by its size) automatically becomes a focal point, it needs to look good when it's not in use. Our approach is to make it into a huge piece of wall art. We hired a local company, and Friday we OK'd their design for the installation. It will all be finished in about a month.

I can't wait for this year's Amgen Tour of California and Tour de France...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stationary Bike Limbo

Bob Dylan once said that being on tour was like being in limbo: going from nowhere to nowhere. Exactly my opinion of riding a stationary bicycle or a regular bike on a trainer. 

I can't ride my own bike right now. I have plans to do a Keys bike tour as soon as I can ride again. And a bike trip is definitely not a fun activity if you aren't in shape for it. Which means I have to stay reasonably fit for riding while I'm mending. The solution (sigh) involves riding a stationary bicycle at the gym.

The good news is that our condo's gym is really nice. It has a panoramic view of the Miami River and downtown Miami which gives "going to the gym" a whole new dimension for me. The gym has the usual stationary bikes I was familiar with from spin classes. But it also has two recumbent models. Now I've never ridden a recumbent bike. Using the recumbent seemed like a good choice as I wouldn't constantly compare it to the fit and feel of my regular bikes.

Last weekend I hopped on the recumbent and began pedaling. The bike's display screen came alive. You can program your ride! Neat.

I'm enjoying the hill interval, random, and cardiovascular programs. I stay focused about as long as it takes to establish my cadence then I zone out watching the boats moving down the Miami River and traffic crossing over a nearby bridge. I'm also becoming enamoured with a morning show on one of the Spanish networks. I don't understand a word of it, but the antics of the cast and crew are endlessly entertaining.

And so for a few more weeks I will be pedaling in place rapidly and energetically, going from nowhere to nowhere. Maybe I'll listen to some vintage Dylan albums as I pedal. Highway 61 Revisited might be nice...

Friday, April 5, 2013

I'll do the stupid thing first and then you shy people follow. (Frank Zappa)

Does anyone know why we ask questions when we already know the answer?

I visited a delightful young doctor this week. I ran through what had happened to me. He asked his questions with a quiet voice that contained the slightest tone of amusement. ("You were doing what on your bike?" "You rode how many miles after you crashed?") After almost two weeks I had full range of motion of my left hip and leg, I had no problem with my yoga routine, but I still couldn't put enough weight on my left leg to walk without a massive limp. (Bummer.) I knew what was wrong. But it seemed best to follow the traditional course and ask a professional. He sat me in front of a computer screen on which was a large image of my hip and pelvis. He pointed to a barely visible flaw in the pelvis. A hairline fracture. (Bummer.) He advised me to buy crutches or a walker and severely limit weight bearing exercise for 6 weeks more. (Bummer.)

I did enjoyed the doctor's final warning to me to be patient and let nature do its work. ("Give nature's superglue some time to dry and harden, OK?")

So Al and I visited a big nearby pharmacy and perused crutches. The crutches were ungainly and unwieldy. I tried a couple of canes. Bingo! A cane did the trick. I could walk comfortably, if slowly. But if I was going to have the thing with me everywhere for a month and a half, I was going to opt for something a bit more interesting than the usual hospital specials. Off to one side was a stand of colorful canes. One was an outrageous pink in a fabulously tacky pattern of roses. It called out to me. I grabbed it, got it adjusted, and slowly sashayed to the register.

I'm good for riding the stationary bike at the gym, swimming, yoga and Pilates, but need to wait for heading out on my regular bikes. We'll see how the walking goes. Or maybe I can figure out how to attach the cane to one of my regular bikes. That could be fun...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Less is More: How Much Will We Use The Car?

I know people who live comfortably without a car. Independent people. Not the type who rely on the charity of family and friends. These people intrigue me.

I want to say up front that I have no intention of going car-free myself. I wouldn't be comfortable living in south Florida without a car. Why? Hurricanes. I want to be able to pack the cat and head inland should a hurricane head our way. (Evacuation centers are notoriously difficult about pets. And if the cat can't stay, then we won't stay there either.) And the car gets us to bike events around the state. So the car is a keeper.

But how much will we drive our car now that we live in a downtown Miami neighborhood? For fun I've decided to monitor car use for the next year. Once a month I'll post the car use numbers.

As a baseline, we drove a total of 320 miles in March. We took about 2 trips each week in March to major shopping, scenic, and entertainment areas around Miami. Just exploring. We had a bunch of doctor visits. We had lots of shopping trips for specialty items for the new home. Visits to showrooms to talk to people and to pick things out. In short, it is unlikely that we'll use the car this much for local trips again this year.

I have absolutely no idea how the numbers will go, but it will be fun to keep track and see.