Here it is, the final chapter! The last two days of the trip! If you are just joining us, here are links for the first 4 parts.
In a manner befitting our love of all things automotive, our journey ended the same way it began - with lots of cars.
Day 7: The Final Frontier
My original plan, which was going to be a surprise for Shawn until Doug coaxed it out of me during our dinner, was to get up very early to watch a NASA rocket launch. Unfortunately, the threat of a hurricane postponed the launch for a couple days, so we were forced to miss it. Instead, we slept in (probably better for us anyway!) and then began our final push to the south, taking the infamous I-95 all the way. That hurricane ended up losing steam over Cuba and dissipated before it reached Florida - since we were in a soft-shelled car, that was probably good. The launch occurred a couple days later and the Pictures that surfaced afterwards were breathtaking.
We arrived unscathed in Fort Lauderdale shortly after the local Ferrari and Maserati showroom opened. Our contact there had said we were free to look around in two of the three showrooms as well as outside. The third, extra-special showroom was locked and, from what we could see through the window, housed an ultra-wide and very rare Maserati MC12. The windows to the swanky showroom were darkened so that we weren’t able to get any pictures of the car. The Ferrari showroom featured many great cars including another F40, a F50, and an Enzo.
Pictured: Ferrari F40 spoiler.
Pictured: Ferrari F40 tail.
Pictured: 1995 Ferrari F50. Lease it for only $25,000 per month!
Pictured: A beautiful sight. A F40, a F50, and a F60.
Also in the showroom is a line of California’s and a 458 Speciale in a satin red finish. Even an F430 Challenge sits for sale - ready to be thrashed on the track by its next owner.
Pictured: Ferrari 458 Speciale, satin finish and added aerodynamics.
Pictured: The Ferrari showroom.
On our way to the much smaller Maserati showroom is a very rare BMW Z8. Past that is the Maserati side where 4 other cars take up residence. Two were Maserati’s, but the other two were even more special. Front and center was the second Bugatti Veyron we would see, and beside that, a Porsche Carrera GT.
Pictured: BMW Z8
Pictured: Bugatti Veyron.
Once we finished taking our pictures - we got back into the Camaro and found lunch at another fast food joint not available where we live; Chick-Fil-A. We scarfed down lunch and left the top up for a little while to get a reprieve from the blast furnace that is a sunny day in Florida. While en route to our next destination we interrupted the navigation system with a stop by another car dealership called The Collection. Inside, the showroom was absolutely stuffed with cars. It was mostly a gathering of Bentley and Rolls Royce, a couple of which were made uglier by the tuning company Mansory.
Pictured: Rolls Royce Phantom modified by Mansory.
Pictured: Many Bentleys and Rolls.
There was also a Lamborghini Diablo, a couple of Porsche 911 Speedsters, and Mercedes SLS AMGs.
Pictured: Porsche 911 Speedster.
Pictured: Lamborghini Diablo.
We asked if it would be okay to get inside one of the Rolls Royce cars, and they obliged. From pictures it can be hard to tell how big these cars are, but, once you get up next to them - they really are massive. Stepping into the driver’s seat feels more like a pickup truck than a car. Once inside though, much like the cars we were inside at Miller, the craftsmanship is amazing and the seats are better than your favorite leather couch.
Once we had drooled over all of his cars we got back on the road - letting the navigation guide us toward Miami and then westward into the Everglades. When you look at Miami on Google Maps in satellite view it appears to be very big and heavily populated, with streets and houses everywhere. Then you reach the outskirts and civilization just stops and the Everglades begin. When driving the road in person, that feeling still comes through. You are driving past rows and rows of houses and then, bam, nothing but trees. Sure, when you get closer to Rt. 997 (which is about the westernmost north/south road of Miami), there is a gas station and a casino, but that’s pretty much it. After several miles of arrow-straight road we found our stop - Gator Park.
Our goal here was to take an airboat ride out into the glades, obviously to see some alligators! Well, mission accomplished! While we saw 4 gators, 3 of them were babies, less than a foot long. The one mid-size we came across (3-4’) was chilling out in the tall grass where our cameras couldn’t reach.
Pictured: Itty bitty gator baby.
Pictured: The big one is in there somewhere.
Riding in the boat was great. There was hardly any splashing (so waterproof camera equipment likely isn’t necessary) and while they did provide ear protection, it wasn’t as loud as one might think. After we stepped off the dock and into the boat, our guide fired it up and dawdled along through a narrow area surrounded by trees. Once into the more open areas, he opened the throttle - pulling off great drifts over the water (I would bet this is a lot like what racing on a dirt track would feel like). About halfway through, he stopped the boat with a huge slide facing us where we just came from. He talked to us for a minute about the Glades - Miami’s water supply - and then jumped into the brown water. Visibility was basically zero, so, you had no idea how deep it really is. A couple of passengers gasped when the guide splashed down - we quickly realized the water was only several inches deep. He explained that it’s rarely any deeper than that.
Pictured: Getting out in the open.
Pictured: Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Pictured: The water ally to/from the docks.
Back on dry land we were treated to a demonstration on how native americans would capture these creatures for food. Once on the back of the huge gator, the demonstrator quickly grabbed its mouth and clamped it shut - he then craned the gator’s neck back, placing the tip of it’s jaw between his jaw and neck. This movement freed his hands in order to tie the mouth shut. After he released the gator from his neck hold, he forced the head to the ground and then held its eyes shut - this eventually calmed down the gator so the wrestler could safely get off.
Pictured: The beast with a guy on his back.
Pictured: Would you do that? Me either.
Pictured: Nighty night.
The wrestler also came into the audience with three smaller animals, talking about them as he walked around, attempting to spook anyone he could. The first creature was a little black scorpion - which was followed by two alligators - one baby and one small one. After the demo, we shuffled out and Shawn took an opportunity to hold a small gator for a photo op. Exit through the gift shop.
Pictured: He probably would’ve brought it home, but we couldn’t fit him in the trunk of the Camaro.
All of this took less time than we had anticipated, so we searched for another activity. We settled on going into downtown Miami just to see what it was about. On our way back east, though, another thought passed through my head. Once we were back to civilization, we pulled over and whipped out the phone to see if what I was thinking even still existed. It did.
Now, probably for most of the folks who will read this, this picture won’t mean much to you - and that’s okay! Those who do recognize the significance of this location can skip to the next paragraph. Up until very recently, there was a British television show called Top Gear. Shawn and I, along with many Americans, are huge fans of the show and have watched every episode. In one of several visits to the United States, they were given the challenge to buy cars ($1,000 maximum budget) that they could drive from Miami to New Orleans. The Miami Jai Alai stadium in the background was their meeting/starting point. If the story line is to be believed, the cars were also purchased from nearby used car lots.
If you are familiar with that particular adventure, the whole area looked very sketchy. They captured that feeling about right. The streets, buildings and cars are very dirty and run down - but, it was still fun to find a spot where the boys of Top Gear had been.
Once we got into the city of Miami, we just drove around a little bit making our way through traffic and looking up at all the tall buildings. Much like Philadelphia, the size of the city pales in comparison with NYC, so, it felt underwhelming to us - even though we both come from a state whose largest metropolitan area has about the same population as one of Miami’s beaches. We decided to call it a night and find our hotel. Since this was to be our last night and one of the few coastal towns on our tour, I arranged for a place on Miami Beach with an ocean view.
Even after everything we had done, the strangest part of the entire trip was still between us and our room for the night. We crossed the bridge onto the island of Miami Beach. Sitting at a traffic light - me behind the wheel and Shawn occupying the passenger seat in his 2nd loudest hawaiian shirt (he saved the best for last!) - we watched from the corner of our eyes as a woman crossed the street. As she walked past the car, she started staring at us for a few moments, then turned around and walked toward the road. She turned in our direction, and for reasons we will likely never know, walked up to the passenger window to ask Shawn a question. It turned out to be the kind of question that nobody could possibly have guessed. Go ahead, try. Nope, wrong. Here’s what it was:
“Are you fucking Madonna or what?”
Being caught completely off guard, Shawn’s normally witty brain shut down and his response was just a simple “no.” We spent the remainder of the drive to the hotel trying to figure out what the hell that was. Not just the absurdity and randomness of the question itself, but how did she mean it? I mean, was she thinking that Madonna herself was going past her in a rental Camaro? I’ve seen Shawn and I’ve seen pictures of Madonna - there isn’t much resemblance there; so, it’s unlikely that’s what she was asking. But, what’s the alternative? Perhaps she was curious if Shawn and Madonna were lovers. That just raises more questions though. Has she seen Madonna’s boyfriend and mistook Shawn for him? Does she assume that any male passenger in a Camaro is having sex with Madonna? Is she just Madonna’s biggest fan ever and is just trying to find an angle to meet her? It’s unfortunate that we will never know the truth - but also unfortunate that we hadn’t prepared a snappy response for that question. I wonder what would she have done if Shawn said yes!??
Pictured: Miami Beach - the Palms resort.
Pictured: Shawn and the perfectly warm ocean.
After that head scratcher, the beautiful resort was calling, the room and the serenity of the beach at sundown relaxed our minds and bodies as we settled in. Famished we went downstairs to have dinner at the resort’s restaurant. We were treated to beautiful decor and a great sounding menu. The maitre de was confused when we opted to eat indoors - having endured enough searing heat and soaking humidity for the day we opted for the air conditioning. We chose our meals carefully. I opted for a 3-course meal that was absolutely delicious.
Grilled watermelon and spinach salad.
Pictured: Grouper on barley with salted pork, squid ink and brussel sprouts.
Pictured: Cheesecake with pineapple, butterscotch and black raspberry.
Pictured: Black Mamba: Vodka, black raspberry, muddled thyme, lemon juice.
Shawn went for a medium-rare Filet Mignon piled high with crispy onions. It was pretty damn good too!
Pictured: A medium rare filet mignon.
To finish off the night, Shawn took a nice long shower in the split bathroom (the shower and the john were in separate rooms) while I donned my bathing suit and went downstairs to make use of the pool. I had intended to take a dip in the beautiful ocean water, but the sun had gone down and there was nobody around if something happened. Being the cautious person I am I went to the pool instead.
Day 8: The End has Come.
This is it. This is the day we flew home. We called the valet for the car and proceeded to clean all of our crap out of it. We brought all our food and extras upstairs while a well timed maid came by and took our trash bag full of wrappers, papers, and bottles. We unpacked everything so that we could re-arrange and make room for all of our new found belongings. After checking out we went back to the car and decided that we would make the final journey with the top up - partially because we wouldn’t have been able to get the bulging bags in there with it down, and partially because it reduced the likelihood of passersby asking any more about our love lives.
Our flight didn’t leave until 5:15 though, so, we had some time left to kill and two more places to kill it.
First stop: The Miami Auto Museum, sometimes known as the Dezer Collection. This collection is grouped into several rooms and takes up two buildings. Once you are through the 50’s diner style entrance you are greeted by a well-crafted and very detailed HO scale train set (see, I told you trains would show up eventually!!).
Pictured: HO scale train set.
After that was a huge white room that housed a few cars including another Lamborghini Diablo, a Mercedes SLR, and a gorgeous old Duesenberg.
Pictured: Mercedes SLR 722.
Pictured: Lamborghini Diablo VT
Pictured: Kaiser Manhattan.
Next, a small doorway brings you to the next room - we’ll call this the movie room. Clearly, Mr. Dezer is a bit of a movie buff. On display was an impressive collection of movie props and cars. A Back to the Future Delorean sits nearby Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We have a handful of cars from the Fast and Furious franchise and an actual Ecto 1 - the finned Cadillac ambulance used by the Ghostbusters. Greased Lightning is here and so is Mr. Bean’s Mini. Speed Racer’s Mach V and a Ferrari Daytona used in Miami Vice are also present along with a ton of others.
Pictured: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you.
Pictured: Who ya gonna call??
Pictured: Brian O’Conner’s (Paul Walker) Eclipse from the Fast and the Furious.
Pictured: Herbie the Love Bug.
Pictured: Mr. Bean’s Mini.
While Mr. Dezer is obviously a movie buff the next room made it apparent that he does have a favorite movie series. Fan, big fan.
Pictured: The James Bond room.
Props and vehicles from every single James Bond movie are present:
Pictured: The baddie’s Jag from Die Another Day.
Pictured: Toyota 2000GT Convertible from You Only Live Twice.
Also, a display area larger than your living room, is walled off with display cases. In each case is countless Bond paraphernalia: die-cast cars, books, DVD’s, watches, the list is nearly endless.
The second building is just jam packed with cars of various ages and origins. Between each grouping are displays of jukeboxes, motorized bicycles, motorcycles, scooters and even antique boat motors.
Pictured: Auto Union 1000 (Auto Union eventually became Audi)
Pictured: Packed in like sardines.
Pictured: Boat motors.
After the museum we made a quick stop at a UPS store to pack up and ship home Shawn’s Pagani calendar since it was too large to fit in the suitcase. The shipping costs (even with slow shipping) made this a pretty expensive free calendar - but, it’s full of awesome pictures.
Our last stop for the day was just up the street: Prestige Motors. This is Miami’s Lamborghini dealership. Our new friends at Miller Motorcars in CT had called ahead to a friend of theirs to let him know we would be coming by and to give us a tour. Sadly, he ended up not being there on the day we arrived (He had been expecting us the day before!), so, we didn’t get the grand tour. However, they were still happy to let us bum around in the showroom and the lot looking at their cars. Inside sits our 3rd Bugatti Veyron for the trip - this one is white/blue - as well as another Porsche Carrera GT. However, in front of that also sat its successor - a Porsche 918 Sypder - an all-wheel-drive, hybrid hypercar with exhaust exits out of the engine cover, tons of horsepower, and a price tag to match!
Pictured: Porsche Carrera GT.
Pictured: Lamborghini Murcialago SV.
Pictured: Bugatti Veyron.
Pictured: Porsche 918 Spyder.
Outside was another great collection of Rolls, Bentley and, obviously, Lamborghinis. There was also two BMW i8s (an electric sports car) and three Mercedes G55 AMGs (think military looks with leather seats and a huge V8.) On top of that, they had a Maybach 62 which is no longer in production. Despite its very understated looks, is one of the most luxurious cars ever made. An all black Van Dutch 30’ boat rounded out our visit.
Pictured: A line of Lamborghinis.
Pictured: Three Mercedes GL55 AMGs and a Range Rover.
Pictured: 2008 Maybach 62
Pictured: Van dutch 30.
Pictured: BMW i8
With that our journey came to a close. We returned the rental car to Thrifty after getting severely gouged by the nearest gas station (about $2/gal more than normal) and for the last time heard - wow, how’d you manage to get that car for that price?
We covered 2,310 miles in 8 days and saw it all! Cities, mountains, cars, boats, twisty roads, straight roads, the crazy people of Florida, the madness of Times Square, caves, and the glades. We met great people, had great food, and great weather. Everything went incredibly smoothly and the hiccups were rare and minor.
The car handled it all - NYC traffic, the interstates rolling by, getting thrashed in the mountains, and it didn’t miss a beat. We managed 24mpg over the course of the trip too! Even the automatic transmission didn’t get in the way of us enjoying it!
I would like to take a minute to thank everyone that made the trip unforgettable. The folks at Miller, Doug Demuro, Paul Choiniere (my boss) for being understanding and flexible with me taking the time off, and my wife Jenny (for putting up with me being away, all the boring car pictures when I returned, and for the torture of being my editor through all of this writing).
To everyone that made donations, small and large, we both would like to extend a huge Thank You! Without your generosity, this would never have happened.
I hope you all enjoyed the read! Our fingers are crossed that the next two trips will be possible too!
Here are some words from Shawn about the trip:
First of all I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for their generous donations. I want to thank you all so very much.
I got to see so much I will narrow down my favorites. First Miller Motorcars – they were so kind and gave us the VIP experience. NYC was so fun - I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
I was so surprised at D.C. It was great and we did everything. I think the Lincoln memorial was my fave.
I got to see the Dukes of Hazzard Museum and next I got to drive the Tail of the Dragon in N.C. The road has 318 curves in 11 miles. We gave that Camaro a super workout. Fun fun.
Miami was okay but I was surprised at how when you get away from the beach how ghetto and sketchy it got. The airboat tour of the Everglades was awesome and my favorite part of Florida. Our hotel was super too with an ocean view.
We saw so many cool cars. I bet we saw over 10 million dollars in rare cars. One car was a 1959 Ferrari that could be worth 50 million.
I hope I will be well enough for the other two trips, I would so love to go on them. Thank you for all of best wishes and donations that made it all possible. Thank you all.
If you are interested in donating toward our next adventure, please follow the link below!
Thank you, and as always, exit through the gift shop.