Saturday, July 13, 2013

The worst trip ever.

A month ago I traveled to Miami for pleasure and it was the worst trip ever.  The parking, the traffic, the tolls, the Internet hotel and the location of the new ballpark all combined to generate a rancid aftertaste.  (Below:  The purpose of my trip was to attend a major league baseball game at the new Marlins Stadium, built upon the site of the razed Orange Bowl in the heart of Little Havana.)

Parking:  The downtown hotel I stayed at had no parking and the staff referred me to metered street parking.  The parking hours were in effect from 7 am to 2 am.  Really.  There was a three hour limit to the meters with a two hour minimum at three dollars an hour.  Really.  It was kiosk parking, I put funds into a central dispenser and it issued me a ticket with an expiration time for me to place on my dash.  I couldn't check into the hotel initially because I am too cheap to pay $6 parking to check in (two hour minimum).  When I returned to the hotel that night at 11:30 pm I improperly calculated the last 30 minutes of parking, from 1:30 to 2 am, and my ticket came out expiring at 1:47 am.  This left me with 13 minutes of expired parking shortly before 2 am, risking a ticket.  At that point, since I wasn't able to just add another quarter, I could start all over and pay the same $7 I'd just paid and add an additional four bits to get a new ticket that expired, hopefully shortly after 2 am.  Or I could return at 12 midnight and pay $6 (the two hour minimum) and get a new display tab that would expire at 2 am.  These  meterss are everywhere downtown Miami, and Miami can go to hell.  (Below:  There's no traffic circle where you can pull in to check in at the hotel I stayed at in Miami.)

The traffic:  When I returned to my hotel at 11:47 pm. a Miami Heat basketball playoff game had just let out at the nearby arena.  My public parking was in a long narrow lot between the northbound and southbound lanes of Route 1, a half block from my hotel. I chose that lot rather than parking on the streets amidst rows and rows of homeless people stretching out on the sidewalks watching your every move as you lugged your suitcase out of the trunk.  The trouble was, to accelerate the egress of the basketball patrons, they had turned off the cross signals on Route 1 so the signal lights flashed yellow for northbound and southbound cars and red for eastbound and westbound traffic.  Like me.  After watching southbound traffic zoom by uninterruptedly for ten minutes as the nearby Heat parking garage emptied out postgame, I took my life in my hands and ran, luggage and all, across the busy four lanes to the other side of the roadway.  It was harrowing.  Really.  Go to hell, Miami.  (Below:  Thus is the street I had to run across to get to my hotel, the small stone building behind the gleaming metal building.  Notice how the elevated tracks go right by the fourth story windows of it?  My room was on the fourth floor.)

The tolls:  This is a tale about a cashless society.  At the rental car counter they started in.  For $8 a day I could rent a transponder that would enable me to travel "free" on the toll roads in south Florida.  This included the road from the airport to downtown.  Otherwise, the roads didn't take cash or credit cards and if I didn't have the unique "Sunshine Pass" (EZ Pass doesn't work in Florida), the system would snap a picture of my license plate and later mail me a bill for the toll plus a $35 administrative fee for each trip.  My choices were to be extorted $8 a day by the rental car companies, buy a Sunshine Pass for two days, be extorted by the state for scores of dollars if I ventured on the throughways or be consigned to secondary roads where I would probably be lost in horrible traffic on roads that had non-synchronized signal lights at every intersection.  Which is exactly what happened to me the second day when it took me an hour to travel twenty miles on Route 1 south of Miami while a twenty minute ride beckoned me from the nearby elevated I-95.  I couldn't believe a tourism state had adopted this money-grubbing set-up.  (Below:  I had visions of a carefree two days in southern Florida when I arranged for the trip before I discovered that the traffic, parking, Internet hotel, tolls and location of the new baseball park would all become an incredible hassle.)

The Internet hotel:  Don't stay here.  It wasn't an adventure.  It was a hovel, in my opinion.  I purchased a two night stay in this downtown "quality"hotel on an Internet site that gave me a good price, $75 a night non-refundable, but told me nothing about the hotel beforehand, not even the name.  I had to trust them and make the purchase to get the "deal."  After making the purchase and being given the details, I found out the hotel didn't have parking.  Park on the street they said when I called to inquire.  (See above, Parking.)  This turned out to be a real problem (the parking meters were in effect from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.).  The streets around the hotel were filled with homeless people.  I was on the fourth floor and the hotel was serviced by a single manned elevator that was antidiluvian.  It was more of a bother to locate the operator, who was usually outside smoking, than to take the stairs.  The service was slow.  It took me a half-hour to check in at 11:30 at night, even with a guaranteed reservation.  The hotel was noisy and the rooms were spartan.  The window coverings were vertically hanging thin plastic strips that didn't quite extend across the entire window.  Some part of the window was always uncovered.  Running by just outside my window, twenty feet away, were the elevated rails for the people-mover two car train that Miami uses for its downtown toy transportation loop (it's free).  When I rode that train the next morning after I fed my parking meter at 7 a.m., the train went by my room and I could look right in.  (Below:  Chilling away from my hotel at the Seven-Mile Bridge on the Keys.)

The new ballpark:  Meet the new ballpark.  Same as the old ballpark.  The Orange Bowl was a venerable football stadium in Miami that was in a bad part of town.  It was razed in 2008, and the Marlins new retractable-roof stadium was built on its site and opened last year, for a cost of $634 million, of which 80% was public money.  It's in the heart of residential Little Havana, which is not your typical baseball venue.  I'm pretty sure the scanty baseball crowds drive in, park on site, and drive away after the game.  I studied the maps before I went and was determined to find free (non-restricted residential) parking within walking distance, which could be anywhere within two miles.  Turns out that that type of parking starts within four blocks of the stadium, but it's not a situation where you want to leave your car in, or return alone after dark to it.  Both nights I attended a game at the new stadium I parked four to six blocks east, wherever I could find a spot on the curb amidst the low apartment buildings or bungalow houses lining the streets where people weren't hanging out on the sidewalk or watching the street below from their balconies or porches.  I was an obvious interloper, a freeloading baseball fan come into their neighborhood to park in front of their house, wearing blue jeans and a shirt whereas practically everyone else was wearing low-hanging jeans or shorts exposing plenty of their undershorts and t-shirts, mostly of the tank-top style.  The walk back to the car at 11:30 pm was much more exciting than the six block walk down litter-strewn streets and past abandoned buildings with broken windows five hours earlier in the daylight.  I wanted to get a feel for the neighborhoods surrounding the park and boy, did I.  I did not belong there and I was very wary of quickly getting in a situation way out of my control.  (Below:  The view of downtown Miami from the new Marlins baseball stadium, built on the footprint of the old Orange Bowl.  There are some mean streets between here and there.)

1 comment:

peter said...

I'm having trouble editing posts in blogger and I can't seem to finish this piece. Sorry.

The tolls were bothersome because the highways won't take cash or creditcards, and they want you to rent a transponder at the rental car counter for $8 a day that will record your tolls (EasyPass doesn't work in Florida) or else they photograph your plate and mail you the toll plus a $40 administrative feel. That puts you on local roads like route one in South Florida with signals every intersection that turns a twenty minute trip on the nearby toll road into a 60 minutes crawl.

The hotel was noisy (a train outside my window), unkempt, slow and no parking.

The ballpark was in the 'hood with the homeboys hangin' on every corner, unless you drove straight into the stadium parking lot and left the area from there after the game. It featured $9 warm flat beer in a plastic cup. I guess the team sucks too.