Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Miami - on the road

Last weekend was a long weekend. 4th of July. And we are in the middle of a travel or more specifically, a driving spree. As usual, we made last minute decisions about where to go. We went to Miami to a friend's place. We decided to start on Wednesday afternoon around 2 o clock and again as usual, we were delayed by more than an hour. We finally left after 3:30. It was a 730 miles journey by road. We took our first stop around 6 in the evening, just before hitting I-95 S which makes up for 450 miles of the total journey. After a cup of tea from our excellent new thermos, a plate of triple layer nachos for our stomachs and fuel for the car, we were back on the road. I was asked to sleep in the back seat. I tried but within an hour, I was hungry again. Glad we brought the bananas with us! We wanted to cross Jacksonville before our dinner stop but we stopped a few miles before. One of the reasons was a weird noise. We were worried the tires might have a problem. But it turned out that there was something about the road which caused the car to give out that weird noise. Since we had stopped, we ate our packed dinner of roti and potato sabji. We also had donuts from the nice store at GATE fuel station. After that, another tea and fuel stop at 2 in the night, we reached Sumit's house at 5 in the morning. I did doze off a few times but thankfully, Anurag didn't and he was fast asleep as soon as he hit the bed.

I spent the next day in a half asleep state. I did sleep for a while in the afternoon while Anurag had to work since he had not taken leave that day. Shweta had prepared a nice meal of rice, dal and aloo capsicum the previous evening. We had that for lunch. After a dinner of chole, roti and rice, we slept early for the long day ahead.

The next morning, we woke up at 4:30 and left home by 5:30 to reach Key West in time for our day long adventure which was to start at 10 in the morning. It is a cool 4 hr drive to Key West on the overseas highway. The highway connects several islands and also goes over the ocean for some part. Key West is the last island in the chain. The highway is quite scenic and there are a few stretches with ocean on both sides. We reached the Fury Cat Ultimate Adventure boarding point by 9:30 after finding a place to park the car. Key West is a very small place and we had heard people have trouble finding parking there. We had booked the Fury Cat Ultimate Adventure package online before leaving for Miami for a small discount although people can book it on the spot for a higher price. We had to first fill out a few forms confirming that we are fit for the adventure activities which included snorkeling, para gliding and jet ski. Other activities included kayaking, artificial iceberg climbing. At 10 o clock, everyone boarded the Fury Cat boat all set for the day. Breakfast was immediately laid out. We had bagels, cream cheese, muffins, yogurt and orange juice. After breakfast, we were given snorkeling instructions. We were not allowed to touch or stand on the coral reefs, obviously. The Florida reefs are the only location in US to have live coral reefs. We were given the snorkel gear - the mask, snorkel tube, fins, life jacket and vest. Soon, we reached the reef location and descended down the stairs at the floor of the boat into the ocean. I was quite scared to be leaving the safety of the boat to go into the ocean. But life jackets are an excellent thing. After a few minutes, I was sure I am not going to drown. :) But I had a huge difficulty breathing through the tube in my mouth. I also had problem getting the tube to fit properly in my mouth. Extremely salty water filled my mouth ever so often. After some time and some coaching by Anurag, I was able to breathe a little. After that I really enjoyed my time observing the under water views. Snorkeling time was 1 hour and before we knew it, time was up. We headed back to the boat and had a fresh water shower. It was time for lunch. We had pasta salad, potato salad, buns and cheese slices. The other options were fried chicken and lot of other things which we wouldn't eat.
The boat then left for Gulf of Mexico for the second part of our trip. There it docks on a floating island which is the base for para sailing, jet ski, kayaking, artificial ice berg climbing. The people on board are divided into groups and a group of around 10 people are taken for para sailing or jet ski while the rest can do any of the other activities like kayaking or iceberg climbing or just swimming in the ocean. We were in group no. 7 which mainly consisted of Indians. First we were up for the jet ski. We were given instructions on using the jet ski and then were handed the jet skis. The instructor told us to remember 2 things : this is not a bicycle so you don't need to balance it and other is not to turn without running the engine. I was a prepared to fall off because our other friends who had done it earlier had fallen off. But luckily, we didn't fall. It could be because I used to start screaming if Anurag increased the speed too much. It felt like I would just fly down the jet ski if I didn't hang onto Anurag's life jacket straps. We had a fun 15 min on the jet ski.
There was a one hour gap before our para sailing turn. So we just took the kayak and went around. I had thought it would be physically strenuous but it was fun. After an hour of kayaking, we were ready for para-sailing. We went into a smaller boat and were strapped up and sent flying in the air. I hadn't expected to be scared. But once we were very high up in the air, I was so scared. All I could see below me was water and the huge ocean. I still find it funny that I was scared like that.
After that, it was time to go back to the shore. We roamed around the little town of Key West for a while. I tried the key lime ice cream but didn't like it too much. Anurag had gone with the safer option of vanilla ice cream and enjoyed it. We left Key West around 5:30 and were home by 9. Had dinner and crashed for the night.

Next day, we got up late and had a late lunch of kadhi chawal. In the evening, we went to Miami's most famous landmark - the South Beach. I had heard that it is a very good beach but I had not expected such clean and clear water and white sands. It is also not very deep near the shore for some distance. While Anurag went for a swim, I just dipped my legs in the ocean and was collecting shells. We spent nearly 2 hours there and it was time for sunset. We had had a difficult time looking for a parking spot when we had reached. We had finally found one after nearly half an hour. While going back, there was a near traffic jam. The driving in Miami is not as disciplined as Charlotte and nearby places. We reached home, showered and changed and left to watch the Transformers 2 movie. The Movico cinema hall was modeled on Egyptian theme. I cannot say if the movie was good or bad because I had dozed off during the movie. But the others said it was good.We came back after the movie at nearly 2 o clock.

Sunday, the last day of our stay at Miami. We had planned to go to Everglades national park. We hadn't done any research on what the place exactly offers. We just drove down to Ernest Coe Visitor Center. We were given a map and were told to take some of the trails while hoping to see some alligators. We drove down the route towards Flamingo Visitor Center. Our first stop was the Anhinga trail where there is a high possibility of spotting wild life. The weather was hot so the cap and sunglasses were necessary. We did spot two alligators on the trail. There was Gumbo Limbo trail near Anhinga trail and we decided to try it. It was completely swarmed by mosquitoes. Anurag's bad luck was that he had worn a black t-shirt and they were all over him. I was saved to some extent due to my white t-shirt. We couldn't stop to see a thing. The huge mosquitoes were feasting on our blood and they just stuck to our bodies even if we tried to slap them. We ran as fast as we could and got out of the trail. We didn't stop at any of the other trails for the fear of mosquitoes. We reached the Flamingo visitor center. There they had an AC room housing a small museum. We were relieved to spend a few moments there away from mosquitoes and the heat. There was a small shop near the visitor's center where we could buy sandwiches and microwave them. Our only option was the egg salad sandwich. I loved them. Maybe because we were really hungry. We also took a piece of carrot cake and choco bar ice creams. All of us enjoyed the lunch because we were completely unsure whether we would find anything to eat in the mosquito swarmed forest and when we found food, we were happy. There are 2 hour air-boat rides offered at the shop. We didn't take it because we were already so uninterested in everything. "Once bitten, twice shy". But we were actually bitten hundreds of times in a matter of minutes that we were terribly shy of going anywhere else :)
We just drove around a bit more and returned home. Ordered in a pizza for dinner and slept.

The next morning, we left for Charlotte at around 11:30 in the morning after packing some lunch and tea for us to eat on the way. Our first stop was around 2:30 near the cocoa beach exit. Does it remind anyone of 'I Dream of Jeannie' (Cocoa beach, Florida)? We had lunch and moved ahead. Our second stop was somewhere around 6:30. We ate two subs from subway and had some more tea. After that it was non stop till Charlotte although we did have some tea in the car. We were home at 12:30. We were still catching up on sleep a few days after we arrived.


Parita said...

Hi Nikita, Sorry to hear that gulab jamuns didnt come out well :(
Was the dough very dry? sometimes depending upon the weather the dough soaks up all the moisture, i had faced a similar problem once where sugar syrup wasnt soaked properly,for this the dough must be soft and not hard, also when you are making a round ball dont add to much pressure as sometimes because of the pressure to the middle part of the gulab jamun becomes dry and hard,if the dough is too hard try adding little warm milk, i am not sure why they shrunk after putting them into sugar syrup.
Check out the link
Hope this helps

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