On Saturday, November 7, Miami Beach hosted a 13-hour long, cultural extravaganza called Sleepless Night which featured over 100 different events in stages scattered all around the city. The event premiered in 2007, and had to take a hiatus last year due to the bad economic climate. We missed 2007’s Sleepless Night, but 2009’s was going to be our playground. And the best way to enjoy a festival scattered over a 13-mile long city was by bike.
I set up a Sleepless Night Slow Bike Meetup to encourage people to bring their bikes to the event. Though it wasn’t going to be a ride (given how many events there were, it would’ve been unfair to force people to follow a set route), anyone that wanted to ride along as we headed down to South Beach from Normandy Isle was welcomed to do so. Unfortunately, I was late to the meetup point (which teaches me that an hour after the end of Shabbat is not enough time to get everything prepped up, so I know for the next one) and only met up with the two friends that came along with us, Diana and Anymir, and Daniel from the Dolce Vita Bicycling Group, who joined us as well. Later I would find out there was indeed a member of the Slow Bike Meetup group there (hello, Olga), and we just missed each other (again, a lesson for the next meetup). At 8:15 PM the five of us headed down to South Beach.
Riding the length of Miami Beach at night with four other people was fantastic. We took to the road the entire time, everyone with their lights on and blinking proudly proclaiming “we also belong here.” We had a couple of people honk at us as they sped by on the next lane, but we also had some people honk and wave at our two-wheeled caravan. Indian Creek Dr remains the absolute worst part of North Beach to ride on, which sucks because it is the only way to get to 63 St where one can connect with Pinetree and LaGorce, the calmer backroad alternatives to hair-raising Collins Ave. On LaGorce we took the lane and even picked up a lady that was riding along ahead of us for a couple of blocks. Once we hit 47 St we took to the bike lanes in the area, riding them all the way down to Dade Blvd, then going on Meridian Ave to Lincoln Rd. You can see a map of our route here.
Upon reaching South Beach, our group broke up with Daniel heading his own way. We mulled around Lincoln Rd for a while, saw a cool New Orleans jazz band, then headed to the Botanical Garden to see the light sculptures there. We got to bike the canal-side path between Convention Center Dr and Washington Ave while some wacky and disturbingly great sound effects made from ambient sound played, then headed down to catch a Flamenco show at the Miami Beach Ballet. The doors had been closed by the time we got there, so we decided to check out the Bass Museum. Even in the middle of this mess of people, someone actually recognized me from this blog (hello, Dario), which was insane in a cool way. At the Bass we saw a piano recital of a selection of Chopin pieces that was beautiful and intense.
As we left the Bass, our group broke up again, with Diana and Anymir heading their way while Yvette and I took to the Beachwalk paved promenade and rode in bliss down to Ocean Dr. We actually spent the rest of the night just riding up and down Ocean Dr as there were three stages there and a bunch of acts, including most of the after-2-AM ones. The most amazing part of being on Ocean was seeing all the other people that were riding their bikes. There was some serious Cycle Chic going there; both men and women, dressed to the nines, riding all kinds of bikes, enjoying the (very windy) night and the events. I only took a couple of photos because I’m still too self-conscious about taking pictures of strangers on their bikes (I always feel it screams “stalker” rather than “bike lover”).
The only drawback was that there just wasn’t sufficient bike parking space, not by a long shot, so we ended up locking our bikes to trees or lamp posts (we actually developed a technique for tying the bikes together). I will say that I am pleasantly surprised to see that people were very respectful and no one messed with any of the dozens of bikes parked all over the place. People would stop to look at our bikes and take pictures, but that was it. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after all the attention our bikes got that night (we do have very unique bikes around here, though Willow is by far the bigger rock star of the two) we see more Amsterdams/Euro city bikes around the Beach soon.
By far the best act we saw that night was a group known as MASS Ensemble, a group that fuses music with architecture by way of custom instruments such as the Aquatar (a large 3-in-1 guitar/bass/gigantic mix-of-the-two) and the Earth Harp, a harp whose strings were actually anchored across the street from their stage to the top of the Park Central Hotel on Ocean Dr. The band was amazing, performing their music with zeal even at 2:30 AM, giving everyone about a second (or third or fourth) wind. Truly spectacular.
The rest of our night was spent going from stage to stage checking out the various acts. In general, most were a bit late starting and some were downright canceled because of the heavy winds, but the crowds were patient and having fun anyway. We hit the nearby CVS Pharmacy at 4:30 AM to get something to eat (finding Kosher food was next to impossible) which we did hanging out by the beach-side promenade. Then we caught some cartoons (an act called Toons & Tunes), saw MASS Ensemble play one last set just as the day started to break (which was, honestly, just magical) then went to the water to see the sun rise, something neither of us could remember when was the last time we’d done it.
We were exhausted at the end of the night, but it was just a great experience, something so completely out of the ordinary even for this alive-at-night city. Riding back home in the early morning was a way to come down the night’s high (not to mention an exercise in endurance due to the wind and how tired we were) and after picking up some guava pastelitos, we hit the sack for some well-earned rest.
Sleepless Night was just fantastic, and I am already looking forward to it returning next year. By then we’ll have been living in South Beach for close to a year and it will be a lot easier to partake of all the activities. And you can bet that once again we’ll ride our bikes.
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