Best Place to Ride a Bike 2002 | Hollywood Beach to the Dania Beach Pier | Sports & Recreation | South Florida
OK, so this ain't necessarily the numero uno ride for you Lycra-wearing, Bollé-blinded, Bell-headed geeks who zoom through stop signs and endanger the lives of fellow riders. But it is nice. Relaxing and sandy. Kid-friendly too. On a recent weekend day, we started out at Hollywood Boulevard and the beach, headed north a few blocks and stopped at a shady playground for a cup of coffee, a bagel, and a rest. Spent an hour there, cooling our jets and watching the tykes frolic while talking with a Martian-like fellow who was playing some very interesting electronica on his boom box. Then we headed north, down a nice blacktop path, far from traffic, up and around a curve, and onto a quiet street lined with quaint houses and a secluded beachfront. Ended at Dania Beach Pier, where we partook of more shade and more food before swimming and resting another hour or so. Then headed back south along the same route (it would have taken too much energy to head west) and stopped at a shelter on Hollywood Beach, where a guitar player was entertaining a mostly Argentine crowd dancing the tango. Drank a little red wine while we listened and spent a couple of hours before heading south to -- what else? -- dinner at a Greek restaurant. Nice, huh?Quiet Waters Park
Buckle up, you adrenaline junkies, and let the ride begin. This former quarry turned park provides more than ten miles of gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, mountain-biking action. The trails range in difficulty from leisurely four-foot bunny-hops for the intermediate to 30-foot, hold-on-at-all-costs hills for the advanced. The trails run mostly among tall pine and eucalyptus trees, so shade is abundant. But, you equipment-obsessed wacko, you'll still need your camelback water supply in both summer and winter. There are plenty of obstacles, such as large rocks, slippery roots, and hanging tree branches that will keep all riders on their toes. The park also offers parking and bike wash stations at the entrance to the trails, which are maintained by Club Mud -- a group of local mountain-bikers and volunteers.
John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach is the only place in South Florida where a park -- a real one, complete with trees, barbecue grills, picnic tables, and enough green space to throw a Frisbee across -- dominates a rise above the ocean. In true Florida fashion, the 310 acres of barrier island stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal; it's one of the few places in the state where you can actually be a couple of feet above sea level yet near salt water. The place is big enough to find a quiet spot to hide. Or you can sit in one of the more populated areas and stare out at the water as you eat. You can choose between sun and shade, grass and sand, or throw caution to the wind and have it all. We like walking through the mangroves or sitting atop one of the picnic tables and looking down at the beach. Depending upon your level of courage and agility, you can climb down to the sand and walk a couple of yards to the beach, or you can just sit on the rise and watch the waves break.John U. Lloyd

State Park

An urban walk needs big-city grit. Problem: Downtown Fort Lauderdale doesn't have grit per se. It's too purty, and so much of it near the river is wrought with a Disney-esque sensibility. But just as Disney creates longing for small-town America -- minus the litter, the claustrophobia, the nosy neighbors, and the violence embedded in the winding sheet of the American family -- here you don't need the real thing to extract the finer parts. You need the symbols of it. The imagination will fill in the outlines. And sometimes it's better to experience these things as poetic apprehension. It tugs at memory and desire, making the moment more personal. Blurring the raw truth is better sometimes. Especially if you're taking a walk to relax. Riverwalk stretches along the New River on the north side for three quarters of a mile, from SW Seventh Avenue near the Broward Center on the west to the Stranahan House at SE Fifth Avenue on the east. There is the Auto Nation skyscraper for that we-are-but-human-ants feeling. Automobiles rumble over two drawbridges that cross the river. If you time it right, a Florida East Coast Railroad train might thunder past. Construction cranes growl and clang. You can feel the gnawing mouth of the military-industrial complex. By contrast, that fresh-scrubbed family clad in khaki taking an afternoon walk along the river sure looks good. Don't they look happy? The breeze off the New River feels sweet. Maybe grab a coffee on Himmarshee and sit on a bench for a while. Watch the kids race by on bikes. Read the paper. It's shady and surprisingly cool. The rhythm of the river aligns with the blood flow. Heck, why not just take a little spin on the Water Taxi? You won't be missed. Duck into the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. You must climb the stairs to transcendence, but it can start here, dude, down in the city with a river running through it and a place to walk and think beside it.
Debbie Black is not only the shortest player in the WNBA at 5-foot-3 but she also has suffered ten broken noses during her 14-year professional basketball career. Her fans at AmericanAirlines Arena sit together in a black-and-blue section, where they tally the number of times she hits the floor in a game. A huge banner sports one Band Aid-style cross for each crash; her record is 16, in the 2001 opening game against rival New York Liberty. She usually gets possession of the ball and comes up grinning, though sometimes stitches are required. Her dives are not in vain. Black, or "The Pest," as she's known to many fans, led the league last year for steals and was named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. Her take on her lack of height? It's an advantage. "I'm the closest player to the floor," she says. Not that she's all sweetness and light. When Liberty guard Teresa Weatherspoon missed a shot just before the half-time buzzer on July 22 and shoved Black to the ground in frustration, our homegirl got up, turned around, and gave chase. Black didn't hit T-Spoon, but seven technical fouls split between the two teams later, the Sol guard had proven she's no pushover. Unlike the Heat, who occupy the AmericanAirlines Arena the rest of the year, the Black-led Sol made the playoffs in 2001, its second year in the league. Not bad for a team that was predicted to come in last during its freshman year; it ended that season with a double-overtime win and the best record of four expansion teams. Under Black's leadership last year, it became the first 2000 expansion team to make the playoffs.
At the Wednesday-night Jackpot Rodeo at the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds, local cowgals and cowboys show their stuff. Amateurs as well as locals hoping to make a go at a professional career come here weekly to ride bulls, rope steers, and barrel-race. If it makes your heart skip to see a pretty girl in a cowboy hat fly like a bat out of hell on the back of a muscular steed moving at a full-bore gallop, barrel racing is your thing. The crowd gets into it. Hot pretzels with mustard are the favored snack. And the prices are homespun. Adults: $4, children: $2. Starting time: 7 p.m.
So you've got the weekend open, and you feel like sitting down at the tables for a bit of gambling. But where to go? The Indian casinos? Not bloody likely. Native-American gaming commissions do not run like Vegas. You will, in other words, get taken for all you're worth, sooner or later. What about SunCruz and those nifty cruises to nowhere? Now you must really be out of your mind. Go gaming in unregulated international waters? So where does one go to hold on to the outside hope of actually coming home a winner? Simple. Set sail for the Bahamas. You'll want to go to the closest island possible for maximum gaming time. And while there's not much action to be had on Bimini, just a few miles away is Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Sure, there are bigger casinos in the Bahamas such as the ludicrously huge, 50,000-square-foot monstrosity at Atlantis, but that's a long way away. And the Bahamia, with 20,000 square feet of gaming space, is only a stone's throw from SoFla on Grand Bahama. Rack rates are through the roof, as is typical of resort/casinos, so don't be a sucker. Stay at one of the nice little places in West End, and scooter over to your gaming for the day, then scooter back to your flophouse at night -- assuming you sleep at all, of course; there's gambling to be done! Play your cards the brilliant way you always do, you stud, and the trip will pay for itself.
Sinking your balls into the soft center pocket will never be tough again. Just start practicing now at this classy pool hall, where 21 tables in impeccable condition are almost certain to improve your game. And even if no marked improvement is observed, don't worry -- the spacious, full-liquor bar and friendly waitresses are sure to lift your spirits. Happy hour is daily between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Even serious players -- folks with their own cues and chalk -- can likely find their match here among the tattooed machos, smart-aleck pretty boys, and smooth pool sharks who frequent the joint. If you fancy taking in a meal to the melodious background sound of cue striking ball, Shootersville offers a dining section overlooking the pool hall with a late-night kitchen that serves a variety of scrumptious fare, from steaks to loaded cheese nachos. And there are even plenty of bar stools and comfortable couches to sit on while awaiting your turn and enough lighting to distinguish stripes from solids.
From its departure point at the Bahia Mar Yacht Basin on A1A, the Jungle Queen Riverboat tour chugs west down the New River, passes beneath the concrete canopy of the Interstate, and docks at its secret mini-theme-park destination. When the gator wrasslin' and pretzel-eatin' gets old, a few tots'll amble around the monkey-and-parrot filled "island" (actually a large, tropical compound in the Riverland area) and look for trouble. They often find it at the ground-level iguana cage, where a greenish-brown gaggle of lumbering, slumbering lizards do a whole lot of nothing, making them easy targets for the prodding fingers and twigs proffered by toddlers. The critters tolerate these indignities with typical reptilian indifference -- but as any herpetologist can tell you, touching the iguanas before putting your hands in your mouth is a sure-fire way to contract salmonella. So hands off, young professor.
Despite the association of trainspotting with the tracks left in the arm of a heroin user, which may have its origin in the 1996 movie of that name, the word is used in England to describe a person obsessed to the point of mania with the trivial. Trainspotters haunt railway platforms in England, notebook in hand, writing down the numbers of trains that roll through. Then they gather and compare lifetime lists. South Florida trainspotters covet a spot on 15th Street under the I-95 overpass, west of the Pompano State Farmer's Market. Four train lines rumble down the tracks -- Florida East Coast Railroad, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, and CSX Corp. So you can see a damn fine assortment. But if you decide to head over in pursuit of the trivial, take a few words of advice from big brother New Times: Don't let the monkey on your back.

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