Best Mechanic 2005 | Wales Garage | Goods & Services | South Florida
South Florida can be a brutal place. Con men flock here like gulls on a bread crumb, and the smell of criminality is never far away. Desire for the Big American Dream -- not the one featuring a chicken in every pot but the one with two Mercedeses and a Porsche in every three-car garage -- drums the decency out of people here at a dizzying pace. So if this place is more dishonest than, say, Boise, what must the mechanics be like? Well, surprisingly, they aren't any worse than anywhere else, for the most part. Probably more likely to get ripped off in a place like, say, Beaufort, South Carolina, to pick an Old South town at random. And some South Florida garages, like Wales, are absolute gems. The garage has a motto: "For People Who Plan to Keep Their Cars." You gotta like that. Might as well say, "For Working Joes." Or "For People with Enough Sense Not to Throw Their Money Away on a Lease." The service at Wales is topnotch, and the turnover is quick. These people receive broken cars, fix them, and get them out the door in record time. And it's got longevity on its side. The garage was started by George Wales four decades ago. He sold the place in the early 1970s and went on to became better-known for his nearby restaurant, the beloved Café de Geneve, which closed in 2001. Today, the garage is owned by Stewart Levy, who has managed to preserve Wales' standard of excellence. It's a beautiful thing -- if you plan to keep your car.
Pull up under the carport of Flamingo Joe's Auto Spa and you won't find a list of prices anywhere. No billboard advertising the cost of a detail or a simple wash. Instead, you get the employees. "For you?" they'll ask, as if surveying how much they like you. Overheard prices quoted to customers went from $15 for a blond hottie who owned a convertible to $30 for an SUV driven by a suit-wearing yuppie. Then there are the stories of Mob connections. During a recent visit, an employee laughed off such rumors. Then he pointed out the baseball bat behind the counter. "We do loan money," he said in a New York accent. "The baseball bat is for when you don't pay. You get cracked." Minutes later, a guy in a Jaguar pulled up under the carport and asked how much for a detailing. "For you? $75." Not a bad price. Guess the guy had an honest face.
Don't let the high ceilings and exposed ductwork of Adult Video Outlet's 24-hour location (5249 Powerline Rd. in Fort Lauderdale) fool you. It might look like a warehouse, but Adult Video Outlet is about as classy a place as you'll find to buy your copy of the much-ballyhooed 1 Night in China, featuring two beefed-up former stars from World Wrestling Entertainment really wrestling -- you know, the way the Good Lord intended. Cordoned off into aptly named sections -- such as "Up and Cummers," "40+," and the catch-all "Alternative" -- most of the DVDs at Adult Video Outlet cost $29.95, with some available for $12.95 and others buy-one-get-one-free. This store has something for everyone, whether you're a frustrated single or a bored and horny couple. A few rows from the latest offering in the ouch!-that-must-be-painful, anal-obsessed Max Hardcore series, porno aficionados will find the gay hit Bat Dude and Throbin and, for those lusting after whips and stiletto heels, Severe Punishment, the movie tailor-made for all those naughty boys. Adult Video Outlet's two other locations (1030 W. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale and 3803 W. Commercial Blvd. in Tamarac) are open until 2 a.m. every night.
Every man wants her. She's a busty blond. She doesn't talk. She doesn't complain. She doesn't make you buy her dinner. And, best yet, she never has a headache when you're ready to get it on. Meet, dear gentlemen, the Inflatable Wife. She can be all yours for the rock-bottom price of $18.95 at Something Sexy for Him & Her, an airy, upbeat sex shop on Federal Highway. Carrying clothing, videos, and -- ahem -- accessories, Something Sexy has everything you'll need when the lights go out. Or, for that matter, when you're parked in a dark space at some seedy bar. For the ladies, you can start with Spicy leather-studded sandals with stiletto heel ($49.95), then move on to the Passion Flower Mini Clit Climaxer ($49.95), featuring a multispeed motor for that perfect vibration. For the guys, take a look at the wall of cockrings ($10 to $25) or get your, er, hands around one of those masturbation kits ($34.95), including everything you'll need for those relaxing autoerotic afternoons. Whatever your pleasure -- or pain -- Something Sexy will likely cater to it.
Fifteen years ago, skateboarders around these parts didn't have much they could call their own. If you wanted to go to a decent park, the nearest place was Orlando ("C'mon, Mom -- please!?"). And when it came time to buy a new board, your only choice was to snoop around town for a surf shop that bothered to sell more than three decks and one set of wheels. By the time Joe Varricchio opened the Shred Shed in 1999, both the supply and demand for skate gear were higher than a Reese Forbes ollie. The store has everything a young shredder needs, from roughly 300 skate decks ($32.95 to $54.95, with free grip tape), accessories (wheels, $25 to $39.80), shoes ($49.95 to $89.95), T-shirts ($18.95), and DVDs (Blind's What If, $24.95). And speaking of DVDs, the Shred Shed has its first team video available for ten bucks (The Friggin' Shred Shed Video) as well as a second one in the works. The team kids are damned good too, never failing to rack up points at local contests. Hmm... maybe it's where they do their shopping.
You've heard of getting fitted for a suit, a dress, or even a pair of loafers, but at Bike America, they fit you for a bike. They take measurements of your torso, arm length, and inseam to figure out what size bike fits best. Even before this five-store South Florida chain opened its new location in Plantation earlier this year, it claimed to be the state's largest bike dealer and one of the top 100 dealers in the country. And the new store is the best yet, a stylish shop with poured concrete floors, exposed rafters, and sharp lighting. The Plantation store is also unique in that it sells only Trek and its subsidiary brands, like Gary Fisher. The store specializes in the mountain bikes and road bikes that won the Tour de France, which can cost up to $10,000, but the place also sells cheaper touring and kids bikes. For street riding, go for the Trek Madone 5.2 ($3,189), a copy of the bikes that won the Tour. For cruising, try the cushy seat and wide handle bars of the Women's Calypso ($309.99), a clunky-looking bike that's lighter than its appearance, thanks to an aluminum frame. Just remember to suck that gut in during the measurement.
At this vast repository for used household items of every stripe, donations are always welcome. When old knees give out, the old bikes come in -- hundreds of 'em, fit for man, woman, and child. If you aren't in the mood to spend a small fortune on a new bike with fancy front suspension and an ergonomically correct seat -- after all, you just want something to tool around town on -- go used. Faith Farm, which takes up about two city blocks, boasts the biggest pre-owned assortment of ten-speeds, mountain bikes, fat-tire beach cruisers, Italian road bikes, and more. The pickin's are anything but slim, Jim, and you'll rarely (if ever) have to spend more than $80 or $90 to set yourself up. Just leave those black stretchy Lycra butt-pants at home. You look stupid in 'em.
When Eddie Trotta was at home recovering from cancer in 1991, he used his free time to build himself a motorcycle. The thing turned out so well, he decided to start building them for others, and before he knew it, Trotta became one of the country's premier bike builders. Since those humble beginnings, Trotta is now in his fourth location, a 30,000-square-foot shop that includes a bike-building area the size of an airplane hangar. Trotta and his team have also appeared twice now on Discovery Channel's Biker Build Off, a show that required them to crank out a chopper in just ten days. Typically, it takes six months or more to produce custom bikes, which can cost in the six figures. The company makes about ten to 15 of them a year, but Trotta has plans to significantly increase that number. Just recently, Thunder bought two new fabricating machines -- at $100,000 each -- which stamp out the uniquely shaped metal needed for custom bikes. Thunder also recently started selling Big Dog bikes that go for about $30,000 each, much less than the custom ones built by Thunder. The bike that helped Trotta win the first Biker Build Off, a silver chopper with purple and blue flames, costs a cool $85,000. It comes with a six-speed tranny, diamond-cut cylinders, a 131-cubic-inch engine that puts out 140 horses, and a double-shot of testosterone. It's not a bad way to beat cancer, or whatever's ailing you.
Cleaning out the closet can be a surprisingly emotional experience. Worse yet is figuring out what to do with all the sartorial memories, since every outdated suit and Technicolor tie is sewn up with nostalgia you can't ignore. The best solution: Donate your goods to a place you have a connection with. When the grandfather of a friend of ours passed away last year, the family decided the best thing to do would be to give his clothes -- a closet full of salmon-colored sports coats, wing-collared dress shirts, and silky cashmere sweaters (some pretty nice stuff, in the right guy's wardrobe) -- back to the community he wore them in. The JCC Thrift Store accepts donations on site, during business hours, which are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Make sure you ask for a receipt when you make your donation; the dollar value can be deducted from your income taxes.
You've not had a true subtropical experience until you've straddled the nine-horsepower Derbi GP1 scooter while zooming down A1A. You can feel the humid air shimmering past your skin and see the bugs splattering on the little windshield. You can stop on a dime and park just about anywhere you like. In fact, you can rule the road knowing that you're riding one of the most energy-efficient vehicles on asphalt. But where do you find such an experience? Start at this scooter emporium, just south of I-595 in Davie. You can put down several grand on a speed-demon Derbi, or you can go with the more conservative Qingqi QM50QT-6. Best yet, at Scooters Mania, you can give the two-wheeled life a test run. Scooter rentals are $75 to $95 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or $105 to $125 for 24 hours. All rentals include helmets.

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