Last week was the Miami Book Fair International, a world-class literary event that brings together hundreds of authors (of all stripes, nationalities and levels of accomplishment) and thousands of fans of the written word on the streets of Downtown Miami. The activities are divided between talks and conferences during the week and the street fair during the weekend. As much as we always want to make it to one of the weeknight events, we always go to the street fair and revel in our love of books. After Bike Miami the week before, we resolved to bike down to the book fair, and given Sunday’s amazing weather, we hoped on our bikes and made the trek.
Riding from Miami Beach to Downtown was actually incredibly easy (and no, it did not involve Biscayne Blvd., a road I prefer to avoid on two wheels). We left Normandy Isles and took Indian Creek Dr. up to 63rd St. From there we took La Gorce Dr. to 47th St. where we were finally able to use the various bike lanes in that area of the Beach, namely the ones on Royal Palm Ave. and Prairie Ave. We rode on Prairie up to Dade Blvd. which we then took all the way to the Venetian Causeway, the cyclists’ highway between Miami Beach and mainland Miami. Once we emerged in Downtown Miami from the Causeway, we simply rode down Biscayne Blvd. to the Wolfson Campus of the Miami Dade College, on NE 5th St. That’s 10.5 miles from our door to the MDC Wolfson Campus and it took us about an hour and forty minutes to make the journey.
Of the entire trek, the points where the bike lanes were obstructed, and the segments at Indian Creek (from 71st St to 63rd St) and Dade Blvd. (from Prairie Ave to the Venetian Causeway) were our least favorite, being by far some of the worst spots to ride your bike in Miami Beach. This is a topic I will write more on at a later time.
A cold front passed through Miami during the weekend, and where Saturday was insanely hot (as described to me by a friend who went to the street fair that day), Sunday was in the mid- to high-60’s and breezy, which made the ride Downtown a joy. In true Slow Bike fashion, we took our time riding and enjoying the scenery (especially at the Venetian Causeway, even if I forgot to take any pics there), never breaking a sweat (okay, maybe a little, but literally just a little). We crossed paths with lots of fellow cyclists all over the route, but especially once we hit the Venetian Causeway; with bike lanes stretching for the entire 2.5 miles between Miami Beach and Miami, the Causeway was hands down the best part of the entire ride.
Once Downtown, we had to use a makeshift bike rack to tie our bikes, since there are practically no actual bike racks in the area. On the plus side, there were quite a number of bikes tied to makeshift racks all around the perimeter of the street fair, which was great to see. The more people ride their bikes as a means of actual transportation instead of just for recreation, the faster we move towards creating a bike culture in Miami. Bikes secured and helmets strapped to our backpacks, we went in for an entire afternoon of books.
My wife and I are certified blibliovores (and I have the shirt to prove it) so we were in heaven for the next five hours, browsing pretty much every single booth on our path (and we did a full circuit of the street fair) and buying lots of books at great prices. Of note this year was the inclusion for the first time of a comics and graphic novels area, which simply made my heart dance with elation. I spent almost 45 minutes in there and emerged with 6 graphic novels to my name, plus two other comic-related books (one of them signed by the author), and that was just less than 15 minutes after arriving! My wife got a couple of cooking-related memoirs dealing with Julia Child, plus we got a pair of gorgeous handmade leather journals, one for each of us. It was simply a wonderful afternoon in the company of thousands other book lovers. That’s one of the reasons why I love the Miami Book Fair, it is such a slap to the face to the notion that Miami is only defined by its superficiality.
By 6 pm we headed out back towards the Beach. The light was going away fast, though thankfully the roads we took were very well lit (note to self: need to get a new headlight); except for a few idiots driving way too fast on the Venetian Causeway, the ride was a safe one. We made it from Downtown to 41st St in about an hour, and we stopped there to have dinner at Lofty Latte with my mother-in-law, who had spent the afternoon with us at the fair and driven ahead.
With happy tummies and sweaters on, we rode the rest of the way back to our home. We rode down Pine Tree Dr. using the sidewalk, though on that particular road, I think the actual street is a far better choice, since there are way too many hedges that force you to make really sharp turns at times, not to mention the amount of cars blocking the way. On 63rd St we had a forced drawbridge break, and then we had to ride the Indian Creek Dr. segment again, which was no fun at all. Once on 71st St though it was all smooth sailing and soon enough we were back home, a full 10 hours after we had left in the morning. Even better was that, though we were as tired as you’d imagine us being after 10 hours out and about and having cycled for 21 miles, we weren’t in pain or overly sore, which just goes to show what Slow Biking can accomplish.
It was a great day of bike riding and books, two of our favorite things. This Sunday we proved to ourselves that we can indeed make it Downtown on our bikes for the next Bike Miami. At least while the weather remains as nice and we take it slow, it should be a fine ride. I can’t wait.
You can see the photos in the slideshow below or at Flickr: Miami Book Fair 11/16/08 set.