Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Surviving the "Capital of Latin America"

It’s not home. But Miami is a major metropolitan area, just like the one we live in, with the same conveniences we take for granted and hazards that trip us up. Pope can get his morning bagel, and I can run to the supermarket for milk and eggs. We bike on the sidewalks to stay out of traffic.

On Monday morning, rush hour was heavy on 79th Street. Drivers treat the 35-mph boulevard as a superhighway, speeding toward the shore and away from the decreptitude of the neighborhood at the northern edge of the city where we are tied up behind locked gates at a marina. The street is lined with nude bars.

And pink and blue motels with names like Sinbad and Shalimar.

The narrow sidewalk is obstructed with parking meters, bus stops, benches, and feet.

Pope and I are ultra-cautious on our folding bikes, easing around obstacles and making eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. On Monday, traffic was so thick on 79th Street, I thought there was no way the driver of the white Mazda waiting on Bayshore Court could pull out. I couldn’t make eye contact through the smoked glass.

I started past his front bumper. WHAM!  Next thing I knew, Pope and the driver were peeling me off the pavement.

He spoke about as little English as most Miami-ans we’ve encountered. Offered to take me to the hospital. When I got my bearings, I indicated I would wait a few hours to assess the damage. Took his insurance information just in case. (Note that Pope was too busy expressing his opinion to the driver to take a photo of me lying in the street, so no visuals here.)

I couldn’t walk, but I could pedal, so we hobbled onward to Rte. 1 and waited an hour for the southbound #93 bus (which was supposed to run every 20 minutes). Mounting the bikes on the front, we headed downtown for our appointment with U.S. Customs at the Port of Miami. (Note the Carnival cruise ship at the dock."

We were processed by smiling and helpful Officer Delgado. What a refreshing change for a bureaucrat! By joining the Local Boater program, we won’t have to check in at an airport on our return to the U.S. Frequent cruisers to the Bahamas love the program.

My injuries seemed to be settling into a profusion of contusions, rather than broken ankles. We decided to bike slowly the 9 miles back, checking out the sights of Rte. 1. Limping into the Peruvian café Limon y Sabor, I relished the black beans and rice with cilantro and lime while Pope attacked a huge beefsteak.

I chatted with Sirhan at The Honey Tree natural food market. He loved the idea of my excursion to the islands, and helped me stock up on arnica for my injuries and herbal supplements for a long winter away from cities and convenient medical care.

After icing my legs and loading up on arnica (a plant that eases bruising and pain), I pedaled to a second appointment, at an eye center. The strong winds on the waterway had been causing me another problem besides uneasiness operating the boat: irritated, swollen eyes. The ophthalmologist diagnosed an inflammatory condition that can result from dry eyes. Again, I bought enough medicine to last several months.

On the way back, I knocked off items on our provisions list, exchanging smiles with Spanish-speaking clerks--since they couldn’t figure out what I wanted--and filling two bike bags and a backpack: sunblock, propane, Triscuits and oatmeal, olive oil, coffee and tea, bleach. Mung beans, lentils, and sunflower seeds for a sprouting experiment, since raw lettuce and vegetables won’t be safe unless we wash them with bleach.

Back at the boat, Pope had negotiated a decent price for a used outboard engine, found on craigslist, for the brand new dinghy I bought a few days ago at West Marine.

Now we are feeling almost ready. We appreciate the ability to get things done in Miami, and, other than the language barrier, feel like we’re in almost-normal America. The forecast for the crossing is for favorable winds no earlier than Sunday, five days from now, so I might actually have time to hobble downtown for some sightseeing along the Gold Coast!

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