By DAVID GREEN
Geocaching takes you to such interesting places.
I know I've used that line before, but it's happened once again. I went out searching for hidden trinkets and ended up having dinner with the mayor of Miami. Yes, I'm stretching things a little.
We often get together with two or three of our children for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but this year was a little different with the new grandson, Ryland, who was born a few pounds early. He's now either two months or five months old, depending on how you view the situation. He's approaching 11 pounds, which is an astounding turn-around from the initial 2.2 pounds.
Preemies are supposed to avoid possible infection from a crowded, enclosed area such as an airplane, so we made arrangements to meet in Miami where Ben lives with his wife, Sarah. Airline tickets are always more expensive over the big holidays, so we looked over schedules and chose the first week of December. That's why you're reading a little 12-page newspaper. At least I hope you're reading it. I have a long way to go at this point.
We arrived in Miami late Wednesday and by Friday afternoon I realized that I hadn't yet gone in search of the elusive geocaches around Coconut Grove. I had put in a lot of time chasing Caroline, the inquisitive 21-month-old, so while she napped, I headed out.
My GPS receiver took me to an enormous ficus tree—one of those Florida trees with multiple little trunks twisting around one another. What a likely hiding spot for a cache.
I started digging around in those recesses and removing leaves, and wondering what southern spiders might be lurking in the leaves and if those big fast-moving ants were fire ants. I should have brought Caroline. I could have said, "Grandma's purse is in there" and she would have explored every possibility in about two minutes flat.
I suppose Caroline’s mother wouldn't have approved. The girl was already getting fairly beat up while under the care of her grandfather. I recall three incidents of scraped knees, two head bumps, an injured finger and one case of getting stuck in a chair. There was also the time she fell on sharp rocks, got away from me at the edge of the swimming pool, took a spill while exploring her cousin's crib, got banged up while rolling off the sofa cushions, laid down underneath a street tree where dogs must have…well, it’s Miami. There are dogs everywhere. I better stop here. This might all be news to her parents.
They weren't fire ants, Ben told me later, nor was the cache there. I read the hint—magnetic—and walked over to the guard rail and found it. On to the big anchor for the next one.
It was supposed to be an easy one right there in view by an enormous concrete anchor. I finally gave up and moved on to another located in the twisted roots of an ocean grape tree facing Pier 5 at Dinner Key. More Caroline territory. It was getting dark, I felt hesitant to stick my hand into the dark crevices, so I walked on around a nearby building to head home. That's when I encountered a marching band and what looked like an African dance troupe.
Something was happening here and I started walking back to tell the others. I soon met them heading my way and we walked toward the event. There was smoke from outdoor cooking. There was a line of food booths. We wondered if we stumbled into someone's party. It didn't appear that anyone was paying for food.
I spotted someone who had the look of a down-and-out guy walking away from a booth with a full plate. Were they just being nice to him? He didn't seem to belong among the well-dressed guests.
We walked closer to a booth and a woman asked if we wanted some food. But of course. We received plates of rice and black beans and bread. Other booths offered barbecued chicken and ribs, tamales, pork, gourmet cupcakes, ice cream and more. We would no longer be going out for dinner. We had already arrived.
All of this was happening in front of the Miami City Hall, which, for some reason, is located down the coast a ways in Coconut Grove where Ben lives. The high school marching band did its fancy footwork and then a man from the Zoo arrived with an enormous snake wrapped around his neck. Soon the snake was around the neck of the mayor.
City commissioners were introduced, then the fire chief, the police chief and other dignitaries. Eventually there was only one dignitary remaining: St. Nick. I don't recall if he was wrapped in the snake.
Geocaching inadvertently took us to the City of Miami's annual Christmas lighting ceremony—and at least half of the lights lit up when they “threw the switch.”
Maybe we should mark the calendar now for next year. What’s a few hundred dollars in airfare when a free meal awaits?