Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fishing Excursion - Julia Tuttle: Less Pictures, More Results

Another day, another fishing story.

After my goose-egg day of fishing in Key Biscayne, I was determined to catch a keeper. I enjoy the relaxation and meditation aspects of fishing, but I also enjoy eating my catch, and I had yet to do that...until this past Thursday.

At the sporting goods store, I'd met a guide who told me there was actually some good sea trout fishing to be had, fishing off the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which happens to be just a few blocks from my house.

I got to the causeway and walked past a semi-homeless man who was also fishing and said he wasnt having too much luck. I walked about 100 yards further down the Causeway.

Well, after 20 minutes of fruitless casting, the homeless man started to walk towards me saying something in Spanish. I was expecting him to ask for food, change, or hassle me in some sort of way, my usual interaction with homeless people.


Sergio, as his named turned out to be, actually came down to offer me some tips because he saw how little luck I was having. He helped me tie on a different hook set-up than the topwater baits I was previously using, and even gave me a little box of bait because I was fishing baitless lures. We chatted for awhile, he was 1/2 Cuban 1/2 American, and has a 23 year old son. When I asked where he lived, his reply, "wherever I feel like on any given night."

Goes to show you that, once again, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

After re-rigging my line, my luck took a 180. I caught a small little speckled sea trout and even this little Pinfish. However, still no keepers.

I decided to try my luck on the north side of the Causeway and casted into the channel. After letting the bait sit for a while, I was holding the tip up and felt the classic THUMP THUMP THUMP of a fish hitting your bait. I gave it a few seconds to eat the hook, slowly started reeling in, still felt the fish in the line, set the hook, and BAM, caught this gorgeous 13 inch Bluefish, just above the 12 inch size limit.

Having successfully caught my first keeper, I headed home to clean it and cook it. Cooking it was the easy part, cleaning, not so much. I need to learn how to fillet a fish, and fast. I did a decent job, if you consider picking bones out of your fish acceptable. Either way, my first caught-with-my-own-hands meal in Miami.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Fishing Excursion: Key Biscayne

So, I went fishing in Key Biscayne a couple days ago.

The day started out as usual. 9am wake up. Coffee, breakfast and internet. Then it was off to Key Biscayne, where I hoped to slay the mighty Snapper.

On my ride there, I passed through a wildlife refuge, and wildlife there was! Tons of Ibis and an Alligator in a pond. Then, as I was cruising along the bike path, I thought I was coming upon a large, obtuse, stick...turns out it was an Iguana, just sunning itself on the pathway. It ran for cover, along with the rest of his harem. I say HIS, because all the other Iguanas, maybe five in total, ran into a storm drain pipe, and he stood his ground outside the pipe, protecting, so I assume it was a male. No joke, he was a good two feet long including his tail. I guess there is actually an over population of Iguanas in South Florida from people letting their pet iguanas into the wild once they get too big to be pets anymore.

a protective male iguana in key biscayne florida

mangrove trees in key biscayne florida
I love me some Mangrove trees

I finally got to my fishing pier and started casting. Not too much luck, just a ton of seaweed getting caught on my line. The view wasn't bad though. As they say, a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of working.

the view from a key biscayne fishing pier

another view off the key biscayne fishing pier
Views from my pier

fishing equipment I used at Key Biscayne
My tools of the trade

So about catching those Snapper...Well, that didn't happen. I did catch two fish though, both being the Scrawled Cowfish. It's definitely a reef-fish, based on its color. It had the hardest body I'd ever seen in a fish. It was like its body was made of hard plastic, because it kind of clacked on the pier when it was flopping around.

a scrawled cowfish caught in key biscayne

I most certainly wasn't going to try to eat such a fish, so I happily let them go. It had the smallest little side fins I'd ever seen. Very much like Nemo's handicapped fin from Finding Nemo, the Disney Original Film. Due to these baby fins, it wasn't much of a game fish, but it was fun catching my first real fish in Florida.

absolutely gorgeous, dark red, key biscayne sunset over biscayne bay
And as always, no better way to end the day than a Key Biscayne sunset

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Drink Coconut Water...A Step-By-Step Guide

If you didn't already know, which I'm sure my Northern readers didn't, because I never did, coconut water is extremely good for you. Don't be confused and think coconut milk, that creamy sweet ingredient for recipes. We're talking the water inside the coconut itself.

Seeing as they are very plentiful here in Miami, I decided that it would only be wise to snag a few on my biking trips and drink the water. It's basically like having a Gatorade for free, but even BETTER for you during a workout.

I'm going to start carrying a big fat drill bit and plastic straw with me because using a fillet knife isn't the easiest. The big drill bit will enable me to hand-drill a hole into the coconut, and the straw, well, that's easy enough to figure out. However, the fillet knife sufficed for the tutorial that follows.

a palm tree heavy with green coconuts
Your common Palm tree, heavy with coconuts. Perfect for the picking.

Note: Usually I choose small trees where I can either shake or stand on my bike seat to reach the coconuts. Don't attempt to climb a Palm tree, it's VERY painful, as my chest and leg scratches prove. Also, if you choose to shake the tree, you NEED to catch the coconuts. Even a small fall will crack them and you'll be out a perfectly good coconut.

fillet knife and fresh green coconut
The tools of the trade. Best to choose a green coconut. Not sure why, but that's what the internet told me.

cutting off excess coconut shell with a fillet knife
Starting from the end that was previously connected to the tree, begin by cutting away as much of the outer shell as possible. Shave off more and more coconut shell until you can shave no more.

small diameter hole cut into the heart of the coconut to get to the water
After you've cut away as much shell as possible, cut out a little circle into the innermost heart of the coconut, where the water resides. Make it big enough that you don't have to cut out a separate air/ventilation hole.

grooved channel cut into coconut to ease drinking water
Once you have the hole cut into the coconut, cut out a triangular channel to make the drinking process easier. No channel means you're going to spill it all over your face, clothes, etc.

drinking fresh coconut water from a green coconut
Enjoy your sweet reward. A coconut this size produces about 1.5 cups of water. I'd say that's nearly equivalent to a 20oz bottle of Gatorade in vitamin and electrolyte content.

Plus, you also just picked, opened, and drank from a coconut. How cool is that?

PS- Who do I know from New Britain, Connecticut? I see them on the traffic indicator all the time, but I'm not sure who I know that lives there.

It's Sunny...and Always Will Be

Being from Minnesota, I've had a hard time coming to believe that it's always sunny, and will continue to be sunny, here in Miami. It's actually taking a toll on my body. Let me explain:

In Minnesota, we're trapped in our houses for around seven or eight months per year, anxiously awaiting Spring and Summer. So, when it finally starts to get warm in June and July, you feel the need to be outside all the time. However, even with it being warm, you still get a lot cloudy or rainy days scattered throughout the week. So really, you only get about three days per week, during three months of summer, of warm sunny days to enjoy.

That equals 36 days of enjoyable Summer sunshine in Minnesota, per year. Not much if you ask me.

Because of this, during the summer, if I woke up and saw sunlight, I felt an uncontrollable urge to be outside biking, reading, tanning, or doing ANYTHING in the sunlight, because I knew that they were so few and far between.

Flash forward to my current location, Miami, where it's been hot and sunny for 21 of my past 22 days. However, because I'm still in the Minnesota mindset, every morning, day after day, I feel the urge to run outside and utilize every last ounce of sun. This isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I just want to stay inside and read, work on some projects, write letters, but when I hear the birds a chirpin' outside, and see all the bright sun-lit flowers, I cave and go outside to do something.

The result of this internal outdoor-pulling drive I have? Well, I'm already very tan and I've biked around 200 miles, or 100 miles per week. Not too shabby! On the downside, I feel like I'm falling behind on my reading and small business project because I spend all day outside, enjoying the weather, when I should be spending a few days per week inside, working on my website.

What I'm really trying to work on is internalizing the fact that it's going to be warm and sunny here, all year round. I can't feel bad about staying inside for a day, because if I don't do it once in a while, my body is going to burn itself out.

It's hard to decide to stay inside when:

people laying out and tanning in South Beach Miami

I know the beach is calling

the boardwalk in Miami Beach is a great place to people watch and admire the hotels and resorts

Or a bike ride down the boardwalk to go people watching

South beach, around 13th, is a great place to people watch and relax

I can drink mate in South Beach

South Pointe Park is a gorgeous park at the tip of Miami Beach where you can watch cruise ships go by and enjoy some good relaxation time

Or go relax in South Pointe Park


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fishing Excursion: The First

So I finally decided to buy my non-resident saltwater fishing license. It was a bit pricey at $50, but otherwise I would have had to either:

A) Wait 6 months until I'm a legal resident of Florida
B) Fished without a license like MANY people I've encountered
C) Not fished at all

Since I can never imagine myself waiting 6 months for anything, (A) definitely wasn't going to work out. Seeing as I tend to worry about law enforcement's overbearing power, taking the risk and getting caught, however slim the possibility, made (B) an anxiety-ridden and unwise choice. (C), yeah, that's not happening.

Therefore, being a rather moral person, I chose to buy a license and help out the state's fish and wildlife system.

My next step was to find a bait shop. I've done my research and there's a little place up on 79th street, Navarro Bait and Tackle, that was highly recommended on the internet. It's run by what appears to by a husband/wife team, and they're great. I'm thinking they're Cuban or Puerto Rican, but either way, they REALLY made me utilize my "Spanish Ear." The guy talked so fast, and with such a thick accent, that I'm pretty sure he initially thought I was fishing for Great White Shark, and not your common Snapper.

After working my way through the Spanish fishing sales process, I successfully purchased all my gear and I was set.

Off to the overpass of the Julia Tuttle Causeway at 36th Street. I initially was using a bait-catching line, which is just a rig with about 6 tiny hooks connected to a piece of line with a sinker at the bottom. I was hoping to catch sardines to use for tomorrow, my Key Biscayne Snapper Mission. (Post Tomorrow, Check Back!)

Well, I was having ZERO luck, and then a nice shrimp netter gave me a sardine to cut up into bait. My luck took a 180 and I was catching quite a few small pan fish, all being the common Grunt. Their name comes from the sound they make out of water, which, like their names suggests, is very similar to a pig, or piglet, grunt.

I caught a bunch, but decided to throw them back. I guess they're really good pan fried, but I was just having fun drinking beer and talking with the other fishermen.

Case in point, I'm officially a Florida saltwater fisherman.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Key Biscayne to slay the mighty Snapper. Should I catch one over the 12" limit, you better believe it'll be pan fried with onions and potatoes, just like the trout from the mighty Kickapoo River.

Wish me luck!

small Grunt fish from Biscayne Bay in Miami Florida

I caught many of these little Grunt fish. I gave this one another shot at life. Until next time my dear Grunt friend!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pictures: Flowers, Trees, Houses, Water

I've made it a habit to always carry my camera with my in my biking bag, because I always seem to come upon something deserving of a picture during my daily rides.

The other day I took a spin up to the northern suburbs, and, following my usual MO of getting happily lost in the neighborhood.

As I was biking around, I started snapping pictures of all the eye-catching sights and properties, and believe me, in Miami, there are many.

spanish style house in Miami
Spanish home

large tree overhanging Miami house

Palm tree/bush is someone's front yard

large old style mansion in Miami

Every so often I come upon a house that reminds me of an old plantation mansion. You can always tell the ones that have been around forever, because they have HUGE lots, fenced in yards, and are surrounded by much smaller houses.

bright flowers in Miami

No lacking of bright colors in Miami, be it houses or flowers. Beats the beige, taupe and off-white of the Midwest.

beautiful miami house

I just loved this tree. It dwarfed the very large home next to it.

A little water inlet view

water inlet in Miami

That same old big tree. Lookin' good

Art Walk in the Design District

So I live very near the Design District, an area of over one hundred galleries of local, national, and international artists.

The second Saturday of every month, the galleries open their doors to the public for Art Walk, a late-night neighborhood art extravaganza where the galleries show off their newest exhibits. Some have musicians playing sets throughout the evening, and they all seem to have free hors d'oeuvres.

J, my roommate, invited me to go with her, C (her boyfriend), and their group of friends. It was a very fun night, walking from gallery to gallery, checking out some very interesting, and some very Uninteresting art.

One of my favorites. Really pretty faces painted onto collages of newspaper and magazine clippings.

A friend of a friend of my roommate is the female lead for this band.

After party we ended up at. It was the Matisyahu (Hasidic Jewish rapper) afterparty for the concert he just had downtown. We got in for free for knowing someone at the door.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bike Ride Going to the Boat Show

Aaron, a friend of my roommate's boyfriend, is in town from NYC working on a shipping-container turned coffee shop project for Illy coffee. He works on the computer programming of the actuators and is down here getting it ready for next week's food and wine festival. Anyways...

We all went biking to South Beach to hang out for a bit and then J went back home to meet up with her boyfriend, so Aaron and I decided to head to the Miami Beach Yacht and Brokerage Show up the beach a bit.

We're not talking about your classic Minnesota Boat Show in the Metrodome. No, these are $25,000,000 dollar boats. 200 foot long Super Yachts. Boats that require 5+ crew member just to leave port.

large powerboat with four engines
This boat is something you'd see as a high end boat in Minneapolis. This was on display as an accessory boat for the people to use when they leave their yacht.

crazy huge Miami boat show boat
These are the kind of boats we're talking about at the Miami Yacht Show.

Go Yacht. The largest, most expensive, brand new yacht at the Miami yacht and brokerage show
This is GO. Brand spankin' new. As soon as the show ends, it's being chartered to Brazil by some ridiculously wealthy people.

large super yacht at the Miami yacht and brokerage show
Just your average 85 foot yacht.

Ferrari and Lamborghini at the miami yacht and brokerage show
And when rich people leave their yacht, they want Lamborghinis to drive around town.

Interesting fact. The crews of these boats make some great money. I met a girl, probably around 30 years old, who has been working on yachts for the past 8 years. You're paid around $3500 per month, and that's the lowest paying job for a deckhand. All expense, ie room, board, flights to ports included, and there's a good chance you aren't taxed, because rich people don't like paying taxes.

panorama picture from the miami yacht and brokerage show
That's me on the far left-hand side of the picture. Credit to Aaron @ BitMap NYC for taking it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cycling to Key Biscayne

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, perfect for a ride. Like I said in my previous post, I came here largely for the year-round riding conditions. Where else can you take a 26-mile ride in the middle of February? Below are a few of the pictures I snapped along the way.

The road sign leading to Key Biscayne. You can see the classic Miami colors of orange and seafoam green everywhere you look. I actually saw an art exhibit which was just a collage of pictures of signs featuring these two colors.

Crossing the Rickenbacker Causeway's longest spain is an experience. It's somewhere around a mile long. The first half is a disgusting, leg burning climb, but once you're a the top, it's a pretty intense coast to the bottom.

This is a good view looking back at the longest span of the Causeway. It's around 10 stories at the highest point. Must be so high for the big masts of sailboats, because cruise liners and container ships enter the Atlantic a different way.

This is just one of the many beaches that are along the Causeway. I happened to see a photo shoot while I was biking by this one. Can you ask for more?

Just your average Peacock hanging out at the beach. No zoom on the camera here. I was really as close as it appears.

Here's the story. This is Stiltsville. I thought they were oil dikes at first, but a fisherman on the pier filled me in on their story. Basically, they are stilted-houses, exactly one-mile from shore that were used to gambling back in the 1930s, when it was legal to mile from shore. More houses were built and it became an area for socialites and the wealthy to hang out, have parties, etc. A good quote from Argosy magazine about the Bikini Club stilthouse, "Off Key Biscayne is a renegade village on stilts where weekend residents live by their own laws. Their town hall is a floating Bikini Club that swings both day and night."

It should be noted that they're currently owned by the state and are part of the Cape Florida State Park.

A lighthouse built in 1847 on the very tip of Key Biscayne. Lots of history here regarding the underground railroad and the early explorers. Many escaped slaves came to the tip of Florida and paid to sail on merchant sloops to the freedom in the Bahamas.

Can't ask for a better way to finish a day-long bike ride. The couple had no idea I was taking the picture. Could be a postcard.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Biking Excursion

One of the main reasons I moved here was for the year-round biking weather.

Why don't we compare my past Winter-riding scenery with my current riding scenery.

Past Minneapolis Winter scenery:

Current Miami Winter scenery:

This is where I'm about to bike to, Key Biscayne. It looks to be a good 10-15 mile ride, but well worth it. On a sidenote, my real roadbike comes tomorrow. I'm giddy with anticipation.


My New Hobby....Fishing

I think I'm going to take up a new hobby...shore fishing. I've never really considered myself a fisher, though I have quite a bit of experience in the area. Coming from Minneapolis, where you wouldn't even THINK about eating something from the nearest river, the Mississippi, I never got into fishing during college.

However, here it's different. Lots of people bring their casting rods to the different shores around Miami, tossing plugs, jigs, what have you, into the bay, and eventually drag out snapper, barracuda, snook, etc.

Being a tight-wad with my money, the issue came to mind..."Why would you buy fish from the local supermarket at $15/fish when you could spend the afternoon sitting in a lawn chair, tanning, drinking beer, reading a book, and eventually bringing home ocean-fresh fish?"

Therefore, I plan on buying my saltwater fishing license this week, along with a nice rod/reel combo, and then head to the nearest shoreline (3 blocks away) to catch some snapper! Viva fresh fish!

Only a matter of time until my nightly dinner looks like this! Lemon juice, butter, garlic, and you're good to go.

Don't Speak Spanish? Don't Move to Miami

I can't tell you how happy I am that I lived in Argentina for a year. Beyond the life experience aspect of it all, had I not learned Spanish, I would be in WAY above my head here.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, speaks Spanish here. It's not the "second language" spoken, it's definitely the first. Everyone that you meet speaks to you in Spanish first, not even thinking that you might not speak the language. Should you NOT speak Spanish, they'll reluctantly switch over to English, should they themselves speak English, which is pretty much a crap shoot. I live in, what is said to be, a Puerto Rican neighborhood. I'm not sure if the majority are, indeed, Boriquas (the word for someone from Puerto Rico), but everyone sure speaks Spanish.

That being said, I fit right in. Case in point:

I was at the gas station across the street looking for beer, and an older gentleman just started speaking to me in Spanish regarding a brand of beer he was looking for. Not, for one second, did he think that I didn't speak Spanish. I helped him find the brand he was looking for, happily flexing my Spanish-speaking muscles.

The First Week

Sorry for the delay in posting. No worries though, I've got quite a few posts in the queue.

First, to give you a little rundown about my first week in Miami. It's been great!

Imagine leaving a city of dirty snow, cold weather, and an unrelenting wind, and arriving in a city with palm trees, a salty ocean breeze and temperatures around 75* every day. Yeah, it's great. I've spent my last few days biking around on my roommate's bike, going to the beach and tanning, eating Cuban sandwiches, and all around enjoying myself. Every day has been filled with new discoveries, be it fun little cafes, gorgeous neighborhoods, mildly scary neighborhoods, and everything in between.

I ordered a new road bike last week and it's supposed to arrive Wednesday. I'm stoked. Having a true road bike will make my urban exploration journeys even more fruitful. Speaking of fruit in a different sense, I'm excited to start nabbing fresh morsels during my bike rides. Today I saw what appeared to be a guava plant, and I'm sure there are plenty of vitamin C-rich oranges in the southern 'burbs of Miami, ripe for the picking. What better way to replenish myself on a long ride than eating as I go?!?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Welcome to Miami Gift....Sunburn

This is what I get for walking around Miami for six hours without sunscreen. Stupid me, I should have known my opaque Minnesotan skin would have burned so easily, but I kept looking at my skin and it never looked like it was getting red. Well, only a week or two and it'll turn into a tan.

Can you guess I was wearing a v-neck?