Exploring & Escapades

bits & pieces of my travels

Month: August, 2010

Secret Beach

SoBe or Key Biscayne? Up until today, I thought these were my only beach options within reasonable distance of the University of Miami Campus; now, I know better. We had actually just crossed the causeway onto Biscayne (Crandon Park bound), when one of the passengers in my car suggested the ‘secret beach,’ instead. Himself a student at RSMAS (the marine science school at UM), he told us of a special, private beach located in the rear of the facility, allegedly reserved for marine science students only. At first, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous about being there- I’m 70% sure we actually were not allowed- but it ended up being one of the coolest places I’ve been to in the area thus far!

secret beach

Behind the buildings and past a giant space-ship-esq weather machine, we found a long dock, sandwiched between two shallow, but sandy strips of sand, just around the corner from the causeway. We could actually observe the cars rush across the bridge just overhead, boats and jet skis simultaneously whipping under. Palms and Pines lined the waterfront, the ocean was warm, the sun was shining. There were pelicans and fish and a giant boat parked nearby. It was so quaint and so exciting all at the same time! I loved it!

secret beach dock

We literally lost all sense of time, floating carelessly in the water. But after these crazy, stressful last couple weeks of moving in and starting class, the sense of relaxation was a much welcomed escape from reality. I really, really needed this beach day- and I’m really, really, REALLY glad that I discovered this secret little beach.

Now, we just need to hope that no one discovers us using it and tries to kick us out =)

secret beach bridge

Faith, Patience, and a Senior Prank

Two years later, I woke up to a text message from my friend Chris that I had long since given up on seeing: “GoogleEarth Cardinal Spellman High School, Brockton, MA, and behold! The class of 2008 will never be forgotten!”

We did it!

Have you ever seen those big, rectangle white signs that read ‘SINGLE? (Insert Town Name Here)SINGLES.COM!’ ? Collecting these ‘Single Signs,’ as we came to call them, was an obsession of my group of friends beginning my junior year of high school, right up until the end in May of 2008. By the time graduation rolled around, we had over 350 of these signs in our possession- and not a lot to do with that many pieces of cheap plastic. So, senior prank was the obvious choice.

I’ll never forget that night, when a group of us pulled an all-nighter forming that massive ’08’ on my lawn. It was one of the best days of my life! Originally, we planned to suspend our collection from the side of the gym, glory inevitably ensuing, but after several failed attempts to hang the monster in the middle of the night (and several not-so-fun encounters with the Brockton Police Department), we settled on a different idea. I guess God had bigger plans for the best class ever…

There was no immediate satisfaction (or even guaranteed satisfaction later) in creating a giant ’08’ on the roof of the school. We could only hope that GoogleEarth might be updated before it had a chance to disappear forever. Weeks, months, a year went by. Eventually, we moved on with our lives. I’d be lying if I claimed I even remembered to check online after that first summer.

Then, Chris sent the text message, and all I can say is, wow! Sure enough, when I searched for CSHS on GoogleEarth, I could see a clear ’08’ nestled in the lower corner of the building. Good things truly do come to those who wait- and a little faith can go a loooooooong way. Props to Chris for still believing enough to check google, even when others (like me sadly) did not. I’m so excited that this crazy plan actually worked!!!

So, yes, this is a foolish little anecdote of a high school prank. But it is also so much more. Let it serve to deliver a message, a message of patience and a message of faith.

And, most importantly,  let it be a reminder of the absolutely awesome things that can happen, if you only believe =)

Check out the legacy of the class of 2008!

08 on the roof of cshs

see the 08 arranged in the corner of the roof?

A Poem by Erika

My sister wrote this poem basically to mock my life, but I still think that it’s funny, so I’m posting it. =)

‘My Sister the Monkey’

 by Erika Flanagan

I am a monkey, a monkey that is green . 

I am a monkey- natural, fit & lean.

I am a monkey swinging amongst trees,

Lol jk im getting inner peace.

I am a monkey with a health fetish,

STOP! How dare u process my lettuce! 

I am a monkey doing weird yoga poses,

Plus i only like hydranageas NOT roses.

I am a monkey eating fish pills,

How dare u eat that snackwrap- dont u no it kills!

I may sound absurd & my lifestyle a little funky,

But I am a green, unprocessed monkey



It’s been an absolutely crazy past few days: between the road trip from hell, moving into and furnishing a new apartment, working, and transitioning to the Miami lifestyle, my life has essentially been riding on a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. One minute, I’m celebrating the arrival of my new bed; the next, I’m in despair over the hundreds of flyers that I need to print by tomorrow. At least this much is certain: this is not the relaxed Cape life in which I thrived as little as one week ago. I miss home, the calm of the South Shore beaches, the cool breeze that sets in at night. Blaring country music, flying down US-1 in deadly Miami traffic just isn’t the same as blaring the same songs transcending The Bridge.This in itself is overwhelming.

Life, though, I’ve learned is all about balance: balance between home and school, work and play, ecstasy and despair. Too far in the future, and the scale of life tilts forward; too far in the past, and the same effect in reverse. Try as I might to capture the salty sea breeze of Scituate Harbor or the dull crash of the waves against Brant Rock, there will be times when, despite my most drastic efforts, I will be unable to carry these perfections with me. These are details of a different moment, one that is now past. And, as much as I yearn to return to that moment, the truth is that this moment is not now. I need to live now, to savor these new moments, because, now, they are my world- a world that I have created for myself.

A world that I must balance.

Sunday Brunch

Spicy smoked salmon, oversized crab legs, juicy shrimp, tangy muscles, fresh salad, warm bread, every fruit you can imagine, rich chocolately fondue, creamy très leches: collectively, a mere sampling of the unbelievable feast I enjoyed today at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne. Before today, this waterfront restaurant had been a favorite of mine; after Sunday Brunch, it officially has earned my eternal love.

When we arrived just before three o’clock, it was already packed; the parking lot was full, and it was valet only. Actually, at the time, we had no idea Sunday Brunch existed, so we were significantly confused. Thank God we didn’t leave before going inside! Despite the seeming infinite amount of people pouring from every corner of the dining room, the hostess seated us immediately- at a beautiful waterside table, overlooking the ocean and the city of Miami, might I add. Within seconds, our waited had arrived, explained the system, and began pouring the first of many mimosas, limitlessly included with brunch. The service was incredible- quick, helpful, and not at all annoying. Believe me, our server earned every dollar of the VERY generous tip that we left for him.

As it was a brunch, in terms of food, we did the actual serving ourselves, yet though such a simple task, it was still extremely overwhelming. Rows and rows and circles and circles of tables spread across a massive second dining room, the displays as elaborate as the dishes. There was literally every variety of food imaginable; we didn’t even know where to begin. Despite the difficulty, we somehow managed to hold ourselves to a mere two (large) plates for lunch and one (large) plate for dessert each. But even so, I still felt pregnant when I finally stood up to leave two hours later. Though, considering I hadn’t had a real meal since Thursday because of my miserable road trip to Florida, I’d say I had earned it- even if I did probably consume my body weight in shrimp alone.

In terms of pricing, when you consider that, typically, I will spend about $50 on my dinner at the Rusty Pelican, it really wasn’t bad- $35 for all you can eat. The amount of food and drink that we consumed was well over that value, prompting me to conclude that it was WELL worth it.

So. now my next step is to make this a Sunday tradition. Or at least a monthly tradition. Who wants to come with me next week?

I love Sunday Brunch!

The View from the Rusty Pelican

The Roadtrip from Hell: A Detailed Account of The Worst Day Ever

Note: I wrote this last night, basically delirious, before I went to sleep. There are a TON of grammatical errors, and it doesn’t read that well, but I’m not going to edit this just so you can get the full effect of my state of mind when I typed this. I wish this was a joke.

As I type this, I’m lying on sheets of a giant king size bed somewhere in the middle of nowhere, also known as North Carolina. We’re living high class tonight- in the Royal Inn’s king size deluxe special! Except don’t let the name fool you. There is NOTHING royal about this place.

What an end to what literally has been one of the most unlucky, horrendous days ever. Friday the 13th really lived up to its reputation..

(DISCLAIMER) To anyone that has ever called me dramatic or high maintenance: I could not make this up if I tried. Not even in my wildest imagination could I weave such a fabrication of misery and despair.

SO let’s start at the very beginning. It’s 9 am, a beautiful day in Holbrook. The sun is shining, the beach is calling, but alas, its time to begin the 24hr road trip of death back to school, away from summer. Talk about not being excited to do something. But it’s time, and there’s nothing I can do.

9:30 am, Rudy and I are happily driving along 95S, blaring Waving Flags and TSwift. Time passes. All is well. I eat my first granola bar of the day. We’re excited to stop for lunch just out of NYC. In the mean time, we feast on trail mix. Hooray!

But then we hit it- the first traffic. 12pm lunch in NJ? Ha! Try 12pm sitting in traffic 4 exits away from the city! Four exits that would take us 1 (that’s ONE) entire hour to pass through. Why?

Now it’s 2:30, and we’re finally on the Jersey Turnpike. Starving, cramped, and exhausted, the first blue service center sign we see is our lighthouse, a beacon of hope in a time where we think that we could not feel worse. (We learned the hard way that this was not true, as you shall read later). We speed off, run in. There’s no real food. At least I get my Starbucks green tea and a banana. There is still hope.

Twenty miles later, we’re off again. This time, I’m celebrating the fact that there are smoothies! Delicious, cold, fruity smoothies! I wait in line for 15 minutes for a massive acai berry blend with every booster possible, overjoyed when it’s finally placed in my hand. Finally. The happiness at that point was overwhelming.

So can you blame me for screaming swear words in front of small children upon seeing the contents of my $7.86 cup sprawled across the bathroom floor 5 minutes later?

Whatever. There was no time to wait for more. Back to the car. It’s 3:30; we’re in dirty Jersey still, and the smell is horrendous. ETA in NC = 9:00 pm. Not bad. Rudy’s driving, because I’m delirious. There’s so much traffic. I’m so hungry that I become obsessed with the fantasy of a piece of warm bread with cheese. (BREAD and CHEESE. Prisoners are provided with these basic staples; was it really too much to ask?) It’s ok though. We’ll be in Virginia by 7 and we’ll get a delicious dinner at Panera!!! We pass the time motivating one another with descriptions of the delicious, hot feast awaiting us. Meanwhile, all I can think or talk about is my bread fantasy; everyone I’m texting thinks that I’ve lost it. In their defense, I probably have at this point…

Well its 7pm and we’ve entered Virginia. But wait- its stopped. No one is moving. But really, NO ONE is moving. Why? Where is everyone going? What are we looking at? I’m so hungry. Where is Panera? Where is a place to eat? Where is a bathroom?

The traffic is so awful that we miss the entrance to the HOV lane, in which we watch cars fly by us for the next hour that we sit in northern Virginia. We aren’t even at DC. We are going insane.

And then there’s a break! ‘Authorized Personnel Only!’ reads a weathered highway sign, cones block the small break in the median between the wide open HOV lane and the miserable lane of hatred and war in which we have been imprisoned. We don’t think twice. Of course I drive over it.

FREE. The next thirty seconds are glorious. We scream from joy. We celebrate. We’re FREE! And then we stop. Again. We’re not moving. Again. But now, we’re trapped with no way off. It’s 9:30 pm. We’ve had no dinner. We can’t get a hotel even if we want to. Oh and did I mention it’s been raining this whole time?

There’s nothing we can do but keep going. It’s North Carolina or bust for us tonight. Not until somewhere around Richmond, 4 hours after entering this god forsaken state, does the traffic finally break. FINALLY WE ARE GOING 50! It’s over! Except I still don’t understand why there was ever traffic to start. Who is driving down I-95S at 10:00 at night??? Where are they going?

But I digress. Somewhere, Rudy and I switch, and he’s driving. We’re blaring TSwift again, and I pass out in the passenger seat, dreaming of my warm piece of bread and cheese. Until he wakes me up. It’s 12:30. We’re in NC. It’s time to stop.

Well, what do you know? Just 10 exits ahead there are eight different hotels all clustered together! Should we stay at the Hampton? The Marriot? Ahhhh there’s so many choices! But it doesn’t matter- we are just happy that relief is near.

Hampton, we decide. But first, we stop at the gas station. Might as well fill up now (oh by the way, this whole time, my oil light has been on), and buy some milk for cereal in the morning. Plus, we decided waaaay back when in traffic to buy a scratch ticket. Our luck has been so horrible, we figure, hey nothing else can go wrong. $12 later, we realize THAT was wrong.

Oh so very, very wrong.

Well, the Hampton is full. And the Marriot. And the Holiday Inn. Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Fairfield Inn- booked. All booked. Each time I ask for a room, a different toothless southerner gives me the same rude response, aka ‘are you stupid? You can’t get a hotel around here this time of night.’ Really?

Explanation: “It’s the weekend! People are on vacation!” (Read: you stupid kid, you should’ve booked in advance, cause evvvverrryone wants to stay in our great town.) Vacation? Ummm WHERE? WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Who the hell packs up their car and thinks, ‘Gee, I think I’ll take my family down to a random shack hotel off of I-95S in Hickville, NC for the weekend! We can go to the Waffle House and maybe even…” Oh wait. There’s nothing else. Trust me, I ask. Actually, most of the people I ask seem flat out confused that I would even question their validity as a hot tourist destination- even though none can provide even just one example of a nearby attraction…

According to Rudy, this is all Obama’s fault. Leave it to him make this political…

ANYWAYS, it’s 20 miles to the next set of hotels. We’re literally delirious, on the verge of tears. It’s 1:00. Booked. Booked. And booked. They call other places. Booked. Our best bet? The EconoLodge- 25 miles south.

Rudy was not having it. He called ahead at other Hamptons as far as 40 miles away. Booked. Guess we have no choice.

So here we are, literally, in the middle of nowhere. Sketched out. Oh hey EconoLodge! I have to convince Princess Rudy it’s our only choice. I mean, it doesn’t seem TOO bad- they have free breakfast at least? Except, oh wait, they’re booked too.

Here’s where it gets even more thrilling. There’s one other hotel next door: The Deluxe Inn. It seems kind of sketchy, so I ask the nice lady at the EconoLodge her opinion.

You know there’s something not right about your hotel when the old woman with the faded tattoos, who works at an EconoLodge that still uses a corded phone suggests you might rather sleep in your car than the Deluxe. Fml.

We’re at a loss. Here we are 2 am, tired, exhausted out of our minds. We can’t sleep in the car; there’s no room. We can’t keep driving; we’re still 12 hours away. Could we survive a night at this run down excuse for lodging?

Determined to check it out, we pull up. Last January, Cahill made me watch a horrifying movie where a psychotic killer murders ten stranded people at a random hotel in the middle of nowhere. I am 99% sure this is the same hotel. The drug deal I observe from the gas station parking lot across the street really seals the deal for us. And the broken sign. I call Cahill for advice, practically in tears. He says to stay. Princess Rudy might actually be crying (I might be too actually); we fight about it, but eventually both give in to the inevitable. I pray that there are no axe murderers here tonight.

Decision made, we pull up. Too late. Last room was just booked. WHY. It’s 2:30- forget warm bread and cheese. All I want is a bed- ANY bed!

Well there’s ONE more place, the man at the last desk tells us: The Budget Inn. We follow his directions. If there was an axe murderer at the last one, there are at least three here. Trash lines the walls of the rooms; the light flickers. Rudy tries to convince me, but I jump out, determined to book SOMETHING, before we can question it. He runs after me. I open the door, a fly buzzes across an empty lobby- and then the smell: the most rancid smell ever in the history of smells. I scream and slam the door, run back to the car, Rudy wildly yelling behind me, “WHAT was that?! WHAT WAS THAT SMELL?! THERE ARE DEAD BODIES!”

I couldn’t drive away fast enough.

Road again. I’m going to get in an accident, I’m so tired. Speeding, more pavement, middle of nowhere- finally! More hotels. Please God!

But the Hampton is booked. And the Quality Inn. But there’s one other place…

And that’s how we ended up here, at the Royal Inn. The man gave me the CREEPEST smile when he informed me that he gave us a special KING size room. Oh God really? We’re not trashy prostitutes! I just want a place to sleep! But great. Now Rudy and I get to share this diseased bed together. So romantic.

I can’t describe the filth we are in right now; to everyone that complained about the Hampton in NJ last May: that was a palace. Even last August’s molding dump of a hotel in Myrtle Beach seems nice compared to this. There’s mosquitoes, broken AC, no refrigerator for our milk (surely gone bad by now anyways), NO WAY TO MAKE TEA. Fifty friggen dollars they stole from me, and they didn’t even provide shampoo in return.

3:00 am. To anyone that ever said Rudy or I were high maintenance, I’m sorry, but after this day- this horrible, horrible day- you can never say that again. Ever.

Perfectly miserable, its almost funny, almost unreal. I hate being negative, I really do, but this is just incredible. All I can ask is, “why?”

Please God, let tomorrow be even just a small bit better than this. I will do anything. I might even consider being a nun. Except not really, but I’ll give you my first born son or something? Can you PLEASE just show us some mercy tomorrow?

Or, at the very least, can you make Rudy stop snoring? I really need to get some sleep…

1. Also, just remembered that while we were stuck in traffic, we went to take a picture as proof for everyone back home, only to discover a water bottle had leaked in my bag and ruined my camera. Gahhhhhhh!

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