While in London we kept track of the progress, or more accurately lack of progress, with our poor broken bus. The heavy equipment repair shop at which we left him had far more difficulty finding a subcontractor to rebuild the transmission than they anticipated, resulting in additional delays. After nearly ten days they reported that all places in Colorado had declined the job, and they would have to ship it to California to let a shop with extensive old Allison transmission experience do the work. Obviously this meant the bus would not be ready upon our return to Chicago, so rather purchase follow-on tickets to Denver, instead we bought one way flights to Fort Lauderdale; we still consider South Florida home. We were fortunate that despite flying in during peak Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Erika had already dissipated and no other storm had formed in the region.
Thus began a whirlwind sequence of visits with as many of our friends and family as we could corral together during what would stretch into a three week stay. In Coral Springs Rosemarie’s dad, Xavier, and Joy put us up in one of their spare rooms for the majority of that time, making us feel like we were back home. While there we hosted a steady stream of visitors, beginning with Uncle Carlos and Auntie Joan, who joined us for a great meal, culminating with Jamaican style spoon bread! If you ain’t had it, get it.
Our friend Roseanne, one of Rosemarie’s bridesmaids, swung by for an evening, which also helped acquaint her with the area since she will soon close on a house in Coral Springs. Soon after we began a series of forays north, south, and west to meet up with many others. To the north, we visited Uncle Dennis and Auntie Ann in Port St Lucie. While there Dennis treated us to the bounty of his backyard orchard, and introduced us to a fantastic item, sweetsop, or sugar apple, which when chilled tastes shockingly like custard icecream. Dennis also shared his collection of high end liquor, including a 12 year old single malt Irish whisky of which I had never heard.
Heading south we spent an afternoon with Uncle Mario hanging heads. By this I mean Xavier and I helped him mount brackets in his South Beach condo for half a dozen framed paintings and three big game African hunting trophies. As I recall, this included a wildebeest, a gazelle, and some sort of ram-like creature whose name I don’t remember. After exploiting our highly skilled head hanging labor, Mario treated us all to fantastic gourmet style pizza at Fratelli La Bufala.
We took a weekend trip to the west to visit Rosemarie’s mom Gloria and her husband Bill in Venice. While there we feasted on home cooked Puerto Rican cuisine including alcapurrios, pasteles, and bacalaitos, as well as Bill’s outstanding grilled thin crust pizza. They also treated us to a great meal at The Crow’s Nest, with fantastic, juicy, raw gulf coast oysters. As a departing gift Gloria packed our car with a brand new Weber Q-1000 grill as an early birthday present.
During our southern excursions we managed to meet up with many friends, beginning with Joyce and Brian, who came up to Doral to have drinks and diner at Dave and Busters in Doral. We had a great afternoon of drinks and appetizers while watching a nail-biting Miami Dolphins victory over the team from Washington, D.C.
We managed to combine a visit with Rosemarie’s long-time friend, Heather, with a meal at Steve’s, which may very well be Miami’s best New York style pizzaria as voted on by all the New Yorkers I know. Mahalo, Heather, and thanks for bringing your sunshine to us during a Miami downpour. Next time we hope we can see Astara and Alvaro as well.
Heading even further south on yet another rain drenched day, we met Rosemarie’s Estonian friend Helen at her beautiful Coconut Grove apartment. We enjoyed a great afternoon catching up over a meal of sushi, home-cooked soup, and red wine. Additionally, Helen revealed several of her hand-painted silk scarves, which after seeing them we encouraged her to get moving on an Etsy store or some other means of selling them.
After lunch with Helen we meandered back north, stopping at the office of my last job, US Southern Command in Doral, to get Rosemarie’s dependent military ID updated. While there we managed to meet with a handful of my former coworkers. Aside from the paycheck, they are the only thing I miss about working. I am sure as soon as they win the War On Drugs, probably in the next few months, they will all be able to join Rosemarie and me as vagabonds on the road.
So in closing, here are some pictures of Rosemarie’s favorite fruit, the rambutan, unless the above mentioned sweet-sop takes over that position.