Ben, bikes, boats and Biscayne

9 Apr

I have yet to fully recover, but I figured there was a group of people out there waiting to hear all about the fabulous weekend Addam and I had with his little brother, Ben.

Ben got in Wednesday afternoon, making it ridiculously difficult for me to concentrate on the interviews I had to conduct before calling it a wrap on my work day. I did my best to stay focused, and Ben picked me up as soon as I finished up. At that point we had a few hours to kill before Addam got off work, but we decided to go for a swim in South Beach rather than hurry home.

It was the perfect afternoon for swimming and the first time I’d been in water since the new year. Ben was amazed by how blue the water was and kept saying that it was the only time he’d swam in an ocean so clear, but I couldn’t believe the waves. Addam and I must have been catching the tide at the wrong time, because any other time we’ve been they have been pretty weak. That day, however, they were making me their lap dog. The waves tossed me all over the ocean, and by the end of an hour I was pretty worn out.

Ben and I stopped by the apartment to unload his Tracker, then rushed to Red Lobster to pick up Addam. We weren’t at the apartment 20 minutes before we reloaded the car and headed to the Legion Park.

The park is right on Biscayne Bay, and ever since we moved to Miami Addam has been talking about boating to these little islands about a half mile from shore. Since Ben brought both his kayak and his canoe with him, we could finally make the trip, so we seized the opportunity.

Ben and I took the canoe and Addam took the kayak on the way in. The trip wasn’t too bad, but the waves from the ocean made things difficult, even in the bay. We jumped from island to island until we found a place where we could sit down and relax for a little bit. We didn’t stay too long because we wanted to leave before it got dark, but we got to enjoy a few drinks before setting sail.

Addam and I took the canoe on the way back, and tide must have came in by the point, because the trip seemed easier. Although, that didn’t change the fact that in the kayak Ben could practically boat circles around us. I never got to try it out, but the boys certainly seemed to enjoy it.

We were all pretty exhausted by the time we got home, and  I had work early the next morning. We put on Electric Apricot Quest for Festeroo and called it a night.

Addam was off while I was at work, so Ben didn’t have to spend the day alone. The boys took Yoga for a walk through the park and met me for lunch around noon.

We went to Bayside, where we all got Chinese and walked by the water. After checking out a few boats and a lot of fish, I had to head back into work.  I made sure to introduce Ben to everyone before he took off with the promise of picking me up right at 6 p.m.

I decided to take Friday as a vacation day, so I had a lot of work to catch up on. I wasn’t quite done at 6 p.m., but Addam had to be at work at 4 p.m. and I hated the idea of Ben driving 20 hours just to sit in our lonely apartment. I had to finish up some articles once I got home, but we put on a couple of movies and tried to make the best of it.

Addam was off by 10:30 p.m., so I turned in my articles, and Ben and I hopped in the car for an evening of night canoeing. Even though Addam had spent two days talking about how scared he was of boating over dark water, in the end he sucked it up and we all had an amazing time.

The river we went down runs by Red Lobster and past Vicki and Tati’s apartment. We tried to get their attention by shining a light in their window as we boated by, but they either weren’t home or didn’t notice us. We took a few twists and turns around the river bend and ended up near a marina directly across from the restaurant.

We were making our way past rows upon rows of boats and talking about which one we would want if we had our choice, when some jerk from a nearby sky-rise started throwing oranges at us. We never quite caught a glimpse of the person doing the throwing, but they must have had a pretty good arm because one came within two feet of hitting us. Talk about scary! If any of us had gotten hit we would have not only fallen head first into the water, we would have probably been unconscious. Addam kept trying to convince me that if the situation were reversed I would have done the same thing, but I’m sure that I wouldn’t.

It was obnoxious, but we didn’t let it ruin our night. We boated for another half hour or so before pulling back up to Red Lobster. (Talk about an exciting ride back — I don’t think my eyes left the sky-rise once.)

After a good night’s sleep the boys and I woke up to prepare for a full day of biking and boating.

We went down to Oleta State Park, which is quickly becoming one of Addam and my favorite hang
outs. We try to make it out at least twice a month, and everytime we go we talk about how much fun it would be to take Ben. Finally, our wish become a reality.

As soon as we got to Oleta we immediately hit the trails. I did my best to keep up with the boys, but my brakes could use a tune up and my bike isn’t quite built for mountain biking. (The seat’s a bit high, so I have to stand to make it over some of the obstacles.) Needless to say, Ben and Addam wanted to go on a few of the more difficult routes, and I knew that there was no way I would be able to make  it through without holding them back. So after hitting up a few trails I found a sunlit picnic table and worked on my tan while the boys tore it up. (Unfortunately, I ended the day with more bug bites than color.)

When the boys were done we biked down a few more paths before heading to the beach. We had planned to go swimming, but we were so excited about boating that we cut that part of our trip a little short.

Boating, however, was absolutely incredible!

We loaded up the canoe and headed out to Sandspur Island, one of a few that are scattered throughout the park. It didn’t take us very long to get there, and I would have loved to spend more time on the water, but the spot we found on the island was so perfect that we had to sit down and stay awhile.

After docking we walked around for a bit. There were about five or six boats parked near us — but when I say boats, I mean yachts and speedboats. It was all very impressive, but where is the fun when the motor does all the work? We may have looked like the biggest hippies on the island, but, well, we were — so that was to be expected.

After a short hike we headed back to the canoe and made a small fire. We were relaxing, cracking peanuts and enjoying the afternoon when Addam noticed two raccoons that were slowly headed in our direction. Being the animal lover that I am, I had to try to bring them closer. I pulled out a pack of unopened Pop Tarts and threw them, bit by bit, each throw luring the little guys a little closer.

It wasn’t long until a third showed up, and then a fourth, fifth and sixth, but by that point we had switched to peanuts — a much healthier alternative for the little critters. It was sooo cool watching the little guys pick up the peanuts with their little hands and crack open the nuts with their little raccoon teeth, that I just kept pushing to bring them closer and closer. Before I knew it they were walking right up to me and taking food from my hands. Addam thought I was crazy and begged me to stop before I got bit, contracted rabies and died, but we didn’t run into any issues.  Once they had their full the cutie-patooties dined and dashed, leaving Addam, Ben and I alone on a beach littered with peanut shells.

At that point we only had a bit of sunlight left, so we hopped back into the canoe and headed to the mainland.  (Mainland — listen to me, sounding like a sailor.) We made it to Oleta and back home shortly after 8 p.m. and watched  127 Hours while waiting for Vicki and Tati come over for the slumber party we had been planning since before Addam and I ever knew Ben was coming.

After a long day, it was a pretty uneventful evening. We put on Black Swan and vegged out on some Taco Bell. Ben and Addam went to bed relatively early, but Vicki, Tati and I didn’t really make a night of it either. I think it’s safe to say that it was a long night for all of us, and we just wanted to relax for a bit.

I slept in on Saturday, which is good, because it was a pretty full day. Addam and Ben wanted to take the surfboards out to Bill Baggs Park in Key Biscayne, but as we only had two and I was still pretty exhausted from the night before, I told the boys to enjoy the day and headed out with Vicki and Tati for lunch at Andiamo’s.

I had a tomato and spinach panini and a Andiamo salad, which were both incredibly amazing. After maxing out on some really good, but still relatively healthy, food, I saw Vicki and Tati off and headed back to the apartment to wait for my boys to come home.

I thought it would be awhile, but they made it back within about two hours. (Truth be told, I took a nap and probably wouldn’t haven’t noticed if it was four or six. Regardless, they got home shortly after I did.)

Once we met back up at the apartment Addam, Ben and I started pulling food together for a cookout. Addam had stopped by the grocery store and, bless his heart, he tried his damnedest to pick out food that I could eat. Only the veggie burgers he brought back contained milk and eggs, the bread contained milk (which is kind of rare) and the soy cheese contained casin (aka, calf intestines). All I could have was some asparagus drowned in red wine vinegar and olive oil, but it was so good that I didn’t really mind. And… I was still pretty full from lunch.

Yoga completely loved the entire night! She spent the evening running from dog to dog, tree to tree, checking out every last smell and looking for every last bit of burger that Ben and Addam may have dropped to the ground.

It was a quaint evening, but after all the excitement, I’d say we all needed to relax a bit. And the fact that we’ve cooked out with Ben so many times in Virginia made Miami feel like home. I had been begging to grill out all weekend, so I’m glad we had the opportunity.

Once we got home we rented a couple of Red Box movies, but Addam and Ben decided that they weren’t done boating for the night. The boys went out for some late night canoeing down Little River near the Red Light while I watched Burlesque, which was a lot better than I had expected. Once the boys got home they put on Book of Eli, which is how we ended our night. I’ve seen it before and fell asleep about halfway through, but it was still a good time.

Sunday, however, was the best day of the entire weekend, even if it was the shortest. It was Ben’s last day in Miami, so we decided to make the most of it. Ever since Addam and I moved south we have been talking about taking a trip down to the Everglades for an air boat tour. When Steve, Judy and Dave came down and when Emily and Ryan made their trip, everything was so jam-packed that we never had the opportunity. Since Ben loves the outdoors just as much, if not more, than Addam and I, it was the perfect plan for our last day together.

The tour was completely amazing. While I thought the wait would be rediculous, there really wasn’t much time between when we arrived and when we were sitting on the boat, waiting to get the day started.

I don’t even know if I have the words to describe the airboat tour. The guide was a crazy driver and literally flung the boat across the entire path we were making through the Everglades. We saw a ton of wildlife, from cranes, to green herrings to gators! I was watching out for snakes but never caught a glimpse of one. I heard they can get pretty huge in the Glades, and since I’m terrified of them, I was hoping I’d get the chance to check out a big one.

After the airboat ride my boys and I got to enjoy an alligator show, where this crazy man spent the better part of a half hour petting and putting his hands to gator snouts. The things were HUGE, much bigger than anything we saw on the water, but so tame! Don’t get me wrong, I know that if I ever touched one they would bite my hand off, but watching the trainer in action was so cool! The dude was completely fearless, and I couldn’t help but envy the fact that alligator wrangling was in his job description. How many people can say that? Only really tough ones.

After the show, Addam, Ben and I hiked around the area to check out some of the outside exhibits, then stopped by the gift shop, where I adopted an adorable stuffed gator I affectionately named Crockadilly. (Yes, he’s an alligator named after a crockadile, but it’s a sensitive subject for him, so please don’t judge.)

At the end of a full day of gator hunting, we all drove home to see Ben off. After such a wonderful weekend it was incredibly hard to say goodbye, but I held on to the hope that he would be able to make it down for the wedding. He’s Addam’s best man, and mine, in more ways than one, and the big day would not be complete without him.

And honestly — the rest of my week has been pretty uneventful. Addam and I rented Cyrus and Frenemy on Sunday night, neither of which were very impressive, and went to sleep early to prepare for work.

I was surprisingly spry this week and seemed to get a lot accomplished. Still, it’s always hard to bounce back after an epically amazing three-day weekend. All I can say is, please August — get here soon. I don’t know if I can go another four months without seeing my family.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, (1602).

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