I had my eye on an @Away Suitcase for over a year. I finally bit the bullet and bought one and it came on July 3rd. I didn’t have any trips planned, so the next day, I planned a little weekend trip to the Everglades and Miami so I could test out my new suitcase. I had planned on traveling to those places at some point over the summer so I figured why not now.
Now, for you to fully embrace what was this wild adventure, you must first know I got my oil changed on my car on July 4th. The place I took it has 4 stars on Google with over 120 reviews. So it was a decent place. They changed my oil. I paid for it. Everything was fine.
I left early the next morning, July 5th and was headed toward Miami. From Tampa, the drive is about 4 hours. I did not take “Alligator Alley” (I-75) but instead took Route 41 across the state. I was about 3.5 hours into the drive and I heard this really faint, but weird sound. It sounded like a plastic bag or something was caught in my tire. Since I was driving in a Wildlife Preserve, there was literally no businesses, no side streets, nothing.
So when I finally got to the outskirts of Miami and civilization, I pulled into a shopping center. While turning in, I heard a noise. I looked in my side mirror and sat a huge piece of dark something fell off my car in the middle of the parking lot.
Lovely start to the trip, right? I go grab this enormous felt feeling covering and put it in my trunk. Then I start Googling to try and figure out even what this thing is and if I need it or not. How and why did this thing just come off my car?
I come to find out through Googling that it’s called a splash guard. And since my oil was changed the day prior, it looks like it wasn’t reattached to the car properly. So now I’m in Miami with an oil covered splash guard in my trunk trying to figure out what to do.
I find that the same company where I got the oil changed has locations all over Miami. So I find the closest one and head that way. I get there and the guy tells me it will be 3 hours to get it reattached. I asked if that’s how long it takes or just the line of people. He said it would only take about 10 minutes to attach but was a 3 hour wait to have that happen. I said no thank you and went to another location.
The guy at the new location was incredibly kind. There was no wait, and I didn’t have to pay to have it reattached since it happened at the same company in Clearwater. They zip tied the splash guard to my car and told me it should be fine. Okay cool. Back on the road I go after thanking him.
It was about 45 minutes from the car shop to the entrance to the Everglades. It was quite a hot day (middle of July in FL remember), and very humid. I did two smaller “hikes” after entering the park using my annual pass. The first one was Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower (.16 miles) followed by the Mahogany Hammock Trail (.5 miles). There were boardwalks on both of the trails so you could go out into the more swampy and wet areas without worrying about critters or getting wet.
I explored further south to the Flamingo Visitor Center. You can rent bikes, kayaks, stay on a houseboat, take boat tour, or have a picnic down in that area. It started downpouring when I got there so I popped into the Visitor’s Center and then ran back through the puddles to my car.
I drove back through the park (since there’s only one road in and out the south entrance) with a few stops and then headed to Biscayne National Park. This is on the East coast of FL right below Miami. It’s about a 30 minute drive so it was my next stop.
If you’re not familiar with Biscayne National Park, 95% of the park is covered by water. The Visitor Center is on land but to explore the rest of the park, you will go by boat or kayak.
I spent some time walking around and exploring what I could on land, but with my later start to the morning there weren’t any boat tours going out when I got to the park, so instead I sat and enjoyed the views from the bench by the water.. They have various boat tours throughout the day that go out to the three keys: Elliott, Boca Chita, and Adams Key.
After exploring what I could on land, it was time to find a place to stay for the night. When I left Tampa, I didn’t have much of a plan. I had 0 hotels booked for the weekend so the Hotel Tonight App came in handy. Around 4 PM I put in my location and searched for the options and pricing they had for the night. I picked Aloft by the Miami Airport.
This was my first time using the app, but it ended up working out great. Since then, I’ve used the app for 6 different stays in 5 different states. I had booked around 4 pm or so and when I got to the hotel at 5 pm, they had the reservation on record and I was able to check in quite quickly. I had dinner at the bar of the hotel and then sat outside for the evening and watched the planes land at the Miami airport. Some of the planes were massive that were landing and my heart was happy to have a front row view.
I spent some time before going to bed planning out what I would be doing the next day. Based on what I’d found, it looked to be another day full of adventure (and hopefully all the pieces of my car staying attached). Stay tuned for day 2!