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Friday, October 21, 2011

On Way Home From Brazil - I Spent A 12 Hour Dreary Layover in Miami

The Orange Bowl used to sit here when FSU won the National Championship for 1993. Now they are building a domed baseball field for the Marlins.

This is the old medical school building now in the middle of Jackson Medical Center where Drew went to school.

I was at the Bayside Shopping Center and for a second I thought this was Drew's old Honda parked there.

Where the big yellow build is - was a small cottage where Lulu and I lived during the summer of 1972. It is in downtown Miami.

Johnny Rockets - normally a booming place on South Beach. I ate my breakfast alone.

This is Miami South Beach. Street lights were still on due to the rain and clouds.

Usually a busy beaches - sometimes with topless bathing - today I was alone.

My rental car in front of the Avalon - Miami South Beach. Parking is usually impossible there.This is The Roney - right on the beach - where Drew lived while going to grad school.

Lulu and I spend New Years Eve at Johnny Rockets for the Millennium - 2000.

Miami Beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Probably it is a toss up between Miami Beach - London - and Hawaii. Today I had 12 hours to visit a few old haunts and jog old memories of good family times in the tropics.

Lulu - still in Brazil found a cheap rental car for me - and even though it was rainy and windy and dark outside - I turned the car east toward the beaches. As it got lighter - the sun never appeared due to the dreary skies- I could see the palms trees - the empty sand - and the churning waves. The hotels were still quiet - the rain kept the street restaurants pretty empty. I had breakfast at Johnny Rockets - one of our favorites in the Art Deco region - alone. I visited all the old places where we lived. Miami Beach now has free Internet - sponsored by the city. I was able to send pictures and messages home. The hours flew by - I did not want to miss by flight back home to Tallahassee - so time to came quickly.

Here is the rest of the story -

Miami Beach holds many fine memories for us. It started in 1969 when my sister Gail won a vacation auction. It was a free hotel room on Miami Beach for a week. My neighborhood buddy - Richard Kantor - yes we always called him Richard - went along with me. We drove my first new car - a 1969 navy blue Volkswagen Beetle non-stop from Tamaqua PA in 30 hours. It was non-stop if you do not count gasoline and food stops - but we took turns and kept driving. We had a car top rack and foot lockers strapped up there so we could sleep in the VW on the go. Richard was a pretty big guy - and I re-call him getting several "Charlie Horses" from the cramped back seat area. This was before the Interstate Highway System was complete and we followed US Route 1 most of the way.

Two years later - 1971 - Lulu and I eloped. I bought a 1971 Chevy Vega panel truck full of our stuff if we could never come back. We spent a month in Miami Beach in The Fountainhead - do not get it mixed up with the Fountainbleu. Both were on Collins Avenue - one is in the heart of town - the other was called Motel Row. After a month of fun in the sun - we headed back home - got an apartment in downtown Tamaqua. I went to work east and Lulu went to school west - high school.

In 1972 - Lulu and I spent my summer teacher pay on a 1972 Honda 600 - a little car with 2 cylinders and no air conditioner. We drove that minicar 1300 miles on $8 worth of gasoline to Miami Beach. We rented a little apartment in downtown Miami - attended both the Republican and Democratic Conventions - and got jobs. I sold Honda cars and Lulu announced the Blue Light Specials at Kmart. We returned back to the Valley for the fall - I continued teaching at Panther Valley. Lulu commuted to Kutztown State Teachers College to become a school librarian.

In 1976 - with Nancy pregnant with Drew - we spent our last "alone" trip. Since we owned the newspaper in Tamaqua - we had Thanksgiving at home with the family - put the newspaper to bed - and flew from Lehighton to Philly in a small chartered plane to catch our jet to Miami. In Miami Beach - we stayed in our honeymoon motel - which miraculously turned into a "lower class" place. We spent time visiting our friend Doris and taking our first trip to Key West. Key West was heavenly - and we quickly decided we could live there. I remember thinking that we were paying three times for that night - the mortgage back home - the hotel room in Miami Beach - and the motel room in Key West. I wonder if Drew enjoyed that trip as much as we did.

In 1979 - when we owned a bus - we planned a vacation in Miami over the Presidents Day break. With my Mom and Dad - and our two babies - Drew and Keith - we drove south for a few days of sunshine. We did not have a hotel - and all the inns were full for the holidays. A phone call to our friend Doris Hollenbach Meneses got us two nights on her living room floor. My Dad loved that February time in the sun. On the way home - I remember the thermometer reading 32 degrees in Jacksonville Florida and the bridges icing up. We hit a blizzard and got stranded in an armory in South Carolina. We spent the night on the gymnasium floor - with several other motorists wrapped in GI wool blankets. They carried us inside wearing ice creepers. It took us two more days to get home.

In the 80's and 90's - we enjoyed trips to the Orange Bowl on New Years Day. Many times - our family would pile in the car - or Lulu and I would carry the boys onto the planes in their baby blankets for free rides. The stewardess looked the other way when they would see sneakers sticking out of the blankets. Lulu loved the Orange Bowl Parade and the beach. I just loved doing things together as a family in warm weather.

In 2000 - when Drew graduated from Duke - he was offered a fellowship by the University of Miami to get his doctorate. He rented a condo right on the beach just a few miles from where our honeymoon hotel used to stand. 5 years later - he had his PhD. I really admired Drew - going to a strange city alone - working hard for 5 years at the medical school - and keeping his eye on the prize. On the Internet - we talked with MiamiMan2000 every day.

In 1991 - Lulu got her doctorate at Florida State. We always vowed to live in Florida someday. When I retired - Florida State recruited their "prodigal daughter" to return as a professor. In 2004 - we moved to Tallahassee. But Miami Beach still is one of the neatest places on earth to us. Yes - even better and Rio.

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