Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Miami International Auto Show: Beach, New Cars, Great Nightlife, What More Do You Need?

I'm not the kind of guy who says, no, when invited to an auto show. This is true particularly when the show is in South Florida and I can tack on a few extra days to hang with friends.

Now, I said I was invited, but truth be told: I sort of had to petition the show to be invited. I was on the list and then off the list and then, well.... So I took the bull by the horns. It was South Florida, for the love of God! I reached out, made my case and wound up back on the invite list. Sometimes it helps to be me.

The Miami Beach moon and a Mazda MX-5 at the opening-night media reception.
This wasn't the best time for me to take a few days away from home; I had a lot of things percolating and should have been home actually trying to do some of them; but, did I mention, it was South Florida? So, there I am in South Florida, doing my auto media thing.

I flew out of Atlanta, which meant a 2.5-plus-hour drive from Greenville to Atlanta's airport. I can do that almost in my sleep. A 70-minute-or-so flight to West Palm put me on the ground around 1 p.m. the day before the show opened. People who don't know Florida often think it's just a hop,skip and jump from one South Florida location to another: yep, not so much. From PBI airport to Miami Beach is nearly 60 miles, which translates into somewhere around 90 minutes in non-rush-hour traffic. I extended that time period by stopping for lunch on my way. I'm ashamed to say, I stopped at the Steak 'n Shake in Delray Beach. I had a cheeseburger, fries and a double-chocolate shake. I'm bad. Regardless of the reason I'm in South Florida, I always shift into vacation mode with my first step off the jet bridge at the airport. That includes eating like a goofball.

So, we've established the reason for my Fla. boondoggle was to attend the media day for the Miami International Auto Show (MIAS). The last time I attended, it was called the South Florida Auto Show. I have no clue about the reason for the name change. The show is still the combined effort of the car-dealer association that embraces new-car dealers for the 240 miles from Riviera Beach to Key West. Ally Auto co-sponsored this year's show with the dealers association.

In its 44th year, the 10-day show will eventually welcome more than 600,000 visitors walking acres of new cars displayed in two exhibit halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

With the name change came a vastly improved show. Not only are new cars from nearly every brand in the house, but classic cars and motorcycles as well. “Topless in Miami” displays the drop tops that competed in this year's Southern Automotive Media Association's annual event to choose its favorite convertibles. There is also “Cars Meet Art,” bringing together several local urban artists and an assortment of new cars that they decorated.

Art Meets Cars: A local artist prepares to add her touch to a Volkswagen Beetle.
Always the first major show of the season, MIAS kicks off several months of auto shows around the country. It's a traveling circus of epic displays that require days to erect and dismantle. There are interactive stations encouraging visitors to experience some area of driving. But show visitors don't have to settle for virtual experiences, there are actual riding/driving venues like “Camp Jeep.”

Although I lived in South Florida for 25 years, about my only visits to Miami Beach were in conjunction with the auto show. I was fortunate that I was often the guest of one of the manufacturers that put me up, as well as wined and dined me, the night before the show's media day. I always looked forward to my annual Miami Beach outings. I'd put its nightlife up against the after-dark scene anywhere in the world. Expensive? Yep. Big Fun? Oh, yeah!

The Sagamore.
The show accommodated its media guests in the Sagamore Hotel on Collins Avenue in South Beach. It is one of scores of trendy hotels shoehorned next to one another along the beach. Miami Beach isn't a fun place to drive; well, unless you are showing off behind the wheel of a $200,000 car. (The Land Rover Range Rover Sport V8 Autobiography I was driving only rang the register at a measly $104,500.) It's home to the five-minute traffic signal that adds to the congestion. Blend that with rubberneckers looking at the beach and its sights, pedestrians crossing against traffic, the Collins Ave. street construction that seems to have been going on since Henry Flagler first brought his railroad down to Miami, and you've got traffic flow that moves with the alacrity of tree sap. But, it's all part of the unique Miami Beach experience.

I love it!

MIAS runs until November 16. 

One more shot of the moon.


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