Monday, February 29, 2016

Miami, FL

Monday, Day 53

I watched too many episodes of Making a Murderer last night on Netflix.  But I still got up around 7am and decided to head to the beach for a morning run.

The sun was just coming up through the clouds, and it made for a beautiful background.

South Beach:

The sand was so soft.  I mean, I guess all sand is pretty soft.  It's so tough to run in!

... sooooo I moved it to the sidewalk after less than half a mile.  The sidewalk still runs right along the beach in some spots, so the view was still great.  Just with less burn on the legs. 

Sand or no sand, it still sucked.  I can't believe how fast I got out of shape!  I guess two months of not working out will do that to you!  2 miles used to be nothing.  And it was about all I could do this morning!

I went back to the hotel and spent a good chunk of the morning trying to figure out if I was or was not going to have an RV today.  I had been dealing with a couple of companies, and one was particularly confusing.  I got a confirmation email, then a cancellation, then they said to come get it at noon today, and finally said no, they didn't think they had one.  What the... come on!  

Just about the time I had given up hope and decided I would just rent a car and find somewhere cheap to stay on airbnb or couch surfing, I got a call back from El Monte RV Rentals.  They had a cancellation and they had one more RV available!  It was much bigger than I really needed, but I had been talking them down on price since Friday, and it finally was paying off!  $100/night was cheaper than a car/hotel!  

It all worked out.  Barely.  I mean, I had to be out of the hotel room by 11am and have a plan, and this was at like 10:30.  So relieved!  So I showered and packed up ... and went to Starbucks to use the free wifi to finish an episode of Making a Murderer.  Seriously.  Addicted.

Crazy-hair-don't-care.  (At least it's clean!)

I spent like $20 on a smoothie and some snacks while there.  Pretty standard for my Starbucks breakfast. ;)  

I didn't do a good job of taking pics, but I went to get my eyebrows waxed from some sketchy body waxing place a couple of blocks away at 1.  And as soon as that was over, I decided to try (again) to save some money and take the bus/train down south to the RV rental place.  I had to be there by 4 to get the RV, and Google said it would take almost 3 hours to get there via public transportation.  Yikes!

Just finding the right bus was a challenge enough, but then I had to have exact change or a bus pass, neither of which I had.  Such an ordeal!  I had to back track a few blocks to find a pharmacy that sold bus passes, and then head back to the stop I wanted. 

The bus from South Beach to downtown Miami stopped approximately 14 times...and took 45 minutes.  That was enough for me, haha!  I didn't have time (or patience) to deal with that.  But Uber had surge pricing in downtown, so I had to walk a few blocks to get out of the area to get a regular Uber.  And then there was traffic.  Like, awful traffic.  It took another 90 minutes to get from downtown to Miami to South Miami Heights.  Part of that was because my Cuban Uber driver (who didn't speak English) also didn't know how to drive or navigate traffic.  I was about to scream I was so anxious to get there!

I was only 5 minutes late to El Monte -- so yeah, it still took 3 hours to get there, even with an Uber.  But being annoyed with all of that quickly faded when I saw this beauty waiting on me!

I've never stayed in an RV before.  Heck, I don't remember the last time I was even in one like this.  And really, this probably isn't even considered a "nice" one.  But in my world, it was Aaaahhh-mazing.

Showers (with hot water), toilet, sink, stove, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, ac...two beds and another convertible one, a table, stereo.  And all on wheels! I mean seriously.  What else could you need!?

This is my nervous face, but let me tell you, I was SO excited to pull out of that driveway in the RV.  I definitely haven't ever driven something that big before.  Plus I did a LOT of work to get this thing.  Phone calls and emails for days.  And it all worked out.  I think I did a little fist pump and clapped/giggled when I got in the driver seat. 

And the was the last picture I took for the day. ^^

It was a mad dash after that.  I was scrambling around trying to get everything the van needed for the week and still make it to the airport in time to pick up Scott -- because it's totally normal to do a 5 day road trip with your ex-boyfriend, right? ... No??

I really wish I would have taken pictures though.  Or recorded me trying to drive that thing in Miami.  What an experience...  

I made it to Wal-Mart, literally ran through the store and spent $100 on groceries and little stuff for the RV...and then hit a curb on the way out of the parking lot and shattered two plates and two bowls that fell out of the cabinet.  It was so loud.  I thought I wrecked the RV.  There was glass everywhere, and I couldn't just stop in the middle of the street.  I was too scared to try to turn again for fear of hitting another curb and something else falling out and breaking.  No time to go back to Wal-Mart for a broom or anything.  Heck, no time to clean it up at all.  I had to get to the airport.  I hate being late for airport pickups.  So I just left the mess and got there.  But I couldn't drive up anywhere close to the airport because the RV is like 13.5 feet high...and all of the signs said 9 foot clearance.  Uuuhhh, yeah.  That's not going to work.  So I had to park a ways away and walk in to meet him.  

We managed to make it out of Miami a little ways (without any more curb checks) and over to Key Biscayne for the night.  Had dinner at a little restaurant, and found a quiet street to park the giant RV on.  Too cheap to pay for an actual camping spot with hookups, so in front of a street of apartments worked just fine. 

(I forgot I did take a short video of me driving through Miami, but the sound and quality is so awful, I don't even think I'll upload it.  I did grab this screen shot though -- one of the few seconds it was semi-light enough to see anything!)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Turks & Caicos --> Florida

Sunday, Day 52

I slept in until 8:30 this morning.  Not that late considering I was still up at 12:30 last night.  Just couldn't sleep for some reason!

I rolled out of bed around 9, and by 9:30 I was pounding the pavement.  I was so sore and thought maybe a little run would help ease some of the muscles.  Plus the sun was shining...kind of!  I mean more than it had been in the last 24 hours, so I had to get out and take advantage of that.

I only made it 2 miles, and only part of that was on the sand at the beach.  It was SO windy and the sand was so soft.  That makes for a touch combo to run in.  That, and the fact that I'm incredibly out of shape.  Yikes!  It was a slow, painful run.


This was the stretch of road I was walking on late Thursday night by myself:

When I got back to the apartment, I showered and re-packed all my stuff up.  I'm getting good at that.  Everything definitely has a spot in my suitcase/backpack and it's a pretty solid routine.  Just in time to go home next week. ;)

Speaking of next week, I spent the rest of the morning researching and calling places in Florida to rent an RV.  I really want to get one to drive through the Florida Keys.  I don't know why, I've never done it before and I think it just sounds fun.  And if the price is right, it could be less than a hotel and rental car!  No luck's still a little up in the air as to what I'm going to do tomorrow, but I haven't given up yet!  (Turns out you're supposed to book those in advance...not the day of.)


Since I downloaded Skype to make the Florida calls (I've survived this entire trip without making a phone call) I decided to call a taxi driver instead of chance it hitchhiking with all of my stuff.  My guy, Calvin, was busy, but gave me the number of a friend of his.  He picked up and said he would be there in 5.  Easy.

Rico showed up, and man, he was a little creepy.  I almost didn't want to get in with him.  He kept talking to himself and just had the creepiest grin on his face.  And ever time he would look in the rear view mirror at me, he would be like whispering to himself and just laughed this scary laugh.  I mean it's funny looking back now that I'm out of the car, but at the time, I was wondering if he was taking me to the airport or to somewhere to eat me. ;)

My flight was at 2, and I was at the airport by noon.  Two hours is really too early for any of these small airports, but better safe than sorry.  They all say you have to be there that early for an international flight, so whatever.  I'll follow the rules on this one.  (I've only missed one flight in my life and it was for not showing up two hours early in Costa Rica for an international flight.)

The JetBlue line was pretty short and it didn't take any time at all to get my bag checked and boarding pass in hand.

But the ONE security line was another story.  How can a place that has as many tourists and flights as Turks & Caicos have ONE line to get through security!?  It literally wrapped outside the building by the time I got about half way through.  And it took forever!  But by the time I got to the front they were so far backed up they weren't even really checking anything.  They were just frantically trying to get people as fast as possible, so that was nice.  

I still had some time to kill at the airport before we boarded.  There was free wifi in the waiting area (only one area at the airport for all the gates), and I paid $3 for some Ritz crackers.  Like, one little package of them.  THREE DOLLARS!  I could have got two boxes for that much back home.  Airport prices always make me mad...

We boarded the plane on time and took off on time.  Thank goodness the rain held off long enough for us to board.  It wasn't a short walk from the building to the plane. 

Flying over Turks & Caicos was pretty cool.  Anna had told me about the geography of the island Providencials.  It is surrounded by a reef wall.  So the water was dark blue and wavy until it hit this wall, and then it was sandy and shallow and calm water up to the beaches.  You could really see it from the sky.

You could really see it until we got above the clouds, that is.  It was still overcast when I left.  Such a bummer.  I definitely have to go back there and spend more time.  I want to see several of the other islands and do some diving on that wall!

About half way through the flight, the clouds disappeared, and we got quite the view of the Bahamas. I ran out of time for them on this trip.  Maybe when I go back to Turks & Caicos I will go there, too.  There are several islands there I really want to hit!  

I think I mentioned this when I flew from Fort Lauderdale to Turks, but JetBlue is just the best airline.  The planes are so nice, both of my flights were on time, and the in-flight service is the best!  TVs with lots of channels (free), water bottles and actual snacks to choose from (also free)!  And as many as you want!  I don't think they fly to KC, but if I have the option to fly with them again, I definitely will.  

We landed in Fort Lauderdale around 3pm.  Sunny and warm there.  Perfect weather.  Not too hot, not too cold.  I get it.  I get why so many people retire in Florida!


I was determined to save some money and take the bus and train down south towards Miami.  I did some research while I was in Turks & Caicos and had it pretty well figured out.  But man, I am so inpatient, haha!  In my defense, I did stand there and wait for over 30 minutes for the bus to show up. It was late, and I wanted to get down to South Beach and checked in to my hotel.  So I broke down and requested an Uber.

And literally two minutes after I requested the Uber and the driver was on the way...the dang bus showed up.  UGH.

Oh well, it was going to take 2.5 hours via bus and train to get close to South Beach and then I would still have to Uber to the hotel.  I was saving about an hour and a half with an Uber.

Plus Uber is way more entertaining (and clean).  My driver was a  young gay guy from Minneapolis that moved to For Lauderdale to be with his boyfriend.   I got all kinds of good Florida tips and stories from him.  I mean, the trip took an HOUR in traffic, so we got lots of chatting in.

I was amazed at the sheer number of people and cars in South Beach.  I've only been there once before, and I don't remember it being SO packed.  And it was Sunday night, not a weekend!  

I booked a sketchy hotel on Hotels Tonight app while I was at the airport.  Riviera Hotel in South Beach, right on Collins Ave, a block from the beach.  Can't beat the location, but the room, eh, not so great.  It smelled funny and was old, but whatever.  It was cheap and only for one night!

After spending some time on the phone with Airbnb working out an issue (I requested a place to stay tonight and the girl took too long to respond but then still wanted to charge me), I decided to go try and find some food.  Lucky for me, there is not shortage of restaurants around South Beach.  And Espanola Way was just a block away.  Beach one block east, and this one block west:

I walked around and soaked it all in:  the bright lights, the flashy restaurants, the foreign languages and scantily clad Miami girls.  I don't know why, but I love South Beach.  It's just such an exciting place.  Always something going on there.  

I ended up at Numero 28, a pizza place...and ordered a plain 'ole pepperoni pizza.  Welcome back to the states, have a greasy pizza.  ;)

I only ate half of it, and picked off most of the pepperonis.  The other half went in the fridge back at the hotel for lunch tomorrow.  (So unhealthy, I know...)

I still can't get over Making a yeah, I spent another two hours in the hotel bed watching it before falling asleep.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Yoga & Rain

Saturday, Day 51

It rained most of the night...and the skies were still looking like they could dump buckets any minute when I got up around 8.  I grabbed a banana and some cereal and threw on my yoga pants...which I haven't worn once since I left!  Anna and I left the apartment around 8:30 to head to Yoga down in the main tourist area in Grace Bay.

The studio was right above the building where she works, Dive Provo (she's a dive master).  $20 for a drop-in!  Yikes!  Pricey, but for 90 minutes of power yoga, I suppose it's not so bad?  I don't know...

The class totally kicked my butt.  I haven't done any sort of working out for weeks (months?) now, and haven't done yoga in who knows how long.  I'm not a yogi by any means, and have completely lost all of my flexibility.  So yeah, it was a rough class.  Definitely going to be feeling it tomorrow.

Cool wall outside the yoga studio ^^

It rained through most of the class.  Dang it.  I mean I'm in one of the most beautiful spots I've ever seen...and it's raining!  I can't complain though, right?  I mean I'm still in Turks & Caicos...

On the drive back, we talked about diving.  I get cold easily, and she does too.  Her solution, since she's in the water all day every day, is TWO wetsuits!  A 7mm (that's thick) underneath, and then a 5mm full wetsuit with a hood over it!  That's what I need!  Maybe I would last more than 20 minutes without shivering if I had on all of that, haha.

Also, I told her about hitchhiking yesterday, and she laughed.  I guess the people who pick you up are mostly from Haiti (my second guy was from Haiti - I asked) and spend their life savings to get to Miami...and usually crash land in Turks & Caicos!  Sometimes they even think they are in Miami when they get off the boat!  Crazy!  Anyways, she said they're generally horrible drivers and aren't even legal to drive.  Sounds about like what I had yesterday. ;)

Back at the house, Anna did laundry and I sat around on the computer.  Not much to do when it's raining!  I started reading a book about Turks & Caicos and it was SO interesting!  I didn't know it was such a whale watching spot, and this is even the time for them!  She said they heard them yesterday!


Also, there is this famous dolphin named JoJo that lives in the waters nearby and actually prefers humans over dolphins.  He left his pod to stay with this one guy!  Anyways, Anna has swam with him TWICE!  And has videos of it!  So cool!  I would LOVE to see a dolphin or whale, but it's not happening today in this weather.  Bummer.  Guess I will have to come back.  Three days is definitely not enough time here.  There is so much to explore on so many islands!

That afternoon, Anna said she had some errands to run and asked if I wanted to come. It was raining still, and I had nothing else to do, so I went along for the ride.  First we filled up water jugs.  Anna doesn't like the way the waters tastes on the island, so she only drinks this.  That's all I've been drinking, too.  Haven't even tried the tap here.

Then she took me to see some other parts of the island I hadn't been to yet: Chalk Sound and Taylor Bay.  The water at Chalk Sound was a crazy color.  Even with no sun, it looked awesome.  Anna said it really blow your mind with the sun is shining on it.

As I was running up to the shores to get a picture, the ground turned from dirt to thick, thick mud.  My sandal instantly got stuck, I slipped, and when I tried to pull my foot up, the flip flop broke!  Awesome.  So now I had to walk back through the mud barefoot.

Taylor Bay was more of a secluded beach with huge fancy villas around it.  It's one of the places to stay if you want to get away from the all tourists around Grace Bay I guess!  She said the water only got up to your waist for a hundred yards out or so, so it was a good spot for kids, too.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way back home.  A fancy IGA!  Not the smaller local one Calvin (my taxi driver on Thursday) took me to.  They had everything.  It was just like being back home -- except triple the price!  I got two Naked drinks - Ive been craving one of those - and it cost me $13!  Yikes!

Back at the apartment, it was more of the same.  Just sitting around and talking.  I looked up some more stuff for Florida next week and did a load of laundry, but the weather was just so rainy and nasty out.  What a bummer!  I mean this is really the first long stretch of bad weather I've hit the whole time I've been traveling.  It just happens to be in a spot I really wanted to explore, and a spot where I don't have much flexibility on extending my time here.

I never really ate lunch, just had a Naked drink, so I was hungry around 6.  Ashely still wasn't home from work and Anna was waiting for him, so I ventured out to find some food on my own.  There were several restaurants nearby, right by the Yacht Club that they live across the bay from, and I ended up at Shark Bite.  Nice little bar/restaurant that overlooked the bay.  (Apparently they get sharks that come in the bay and hang out right there by the restaurant!)

I got the curry fish tacos and fries - about as healthy as you could get at a bar.  They were okay.  A little spicy for my liking, but I finished them anyways.

I was so tired of being in the house all day, and it had finally stopped raining, so I decided to take a walk around the area before it got too dark.  It honestly was almost cool.  I mean temperature wise.  I had on capris and a sweater and was chilly!  Maybe all this time in the warm weather has made me even less accepting of cold weather, if that was even possible. ;)

I walked down to the beach, and it was almost completely empty!  The sky was dark and it was so windy.  A far cry from the way it looked on Friday morning!

On the walk there I saw a palm tree right next to a pine tree.  I haven't seen a ton of pine trees, but a few on some of the islands.  And every time, I think it's so weird.  Aren't those supposed to be in the mountains?

When I was heading back to the apartment and walked the other way on the beach around a bend, the sky started to clear up just enough for me to snap a picture.  I edited it just a little ;) to blue up the skies, because they were a little more gray, but I just thought it was a beautiful picture.

I went back to the apartment before it got dark.  I didn't need any more incidences where I have to run, haha.  I really didn't want to go out, and didn't have anywhere to go out to anyways, so I just started watching the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.  I'm hooked.  I watched three episodes last night and two tonight before trying to get some sleep.  Which didn't happen because I couldn't' stop thinking about that crazy show... I was up until 12:30!