They came to Miami

My cousin Gwynne was waiting for me in front of the Hertz Rental Car counter in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. She’d flown in earlier, as we couldn’t work out flights that arrived at the same time.

We were meeting our cousins Scott and Elizabeth in Coconut Grove and were all heading to our cousin Becky’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Gwynne lives in McMinnville, Tenn., and had rolled out of bed at 3 a.m. to drive to Chattanooga and catch a flight to Charlotte. She changed planes there and got to Ft. Lauderdale after lunch with no time or opportunity to eat. She did have three pretzels on the plane. I’d driven to Charlotte that morning, caught a flight to Atlanta, changed planes there and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 4 p.m. with only the plane pretzels keeping me going.

Liz and Scott had snagged a direct flight from Greensboro. Of course they had to fly out at 6:30 a.m., so they were safely checked in to the hotel before we arrived.

We were supposed to be at Becky and Tom’s house for supper at seven and were afraid to take time to eat. So we picked up our rental car and loaded up to begin the 32-mile drive to Coconut Grove. Neither of us had ever been there, but we were confident we’d have no trouble as soon as we figured out how to get out of the airport.

We knew we were going south on I-95 — we had a map and Gwynne had a GPS. No worries. We made it safely to I-95 and chose the center lane. We’d been happily making progress when we suddenly had to move into the left lane to avoid exiting to a place we didn’t want to go.

That was when we realized that the side mirror on the car was mashed tightly against the car and was completely useless. I found the little control button on the door and tried to adjust the thing, but it ignored all my attempts, so Gwynne would watch for me and tell me when we could get over.

Not ideal, but it worked. We merrily made our way along the highway when suddenly the traffic slowed to a crawl. We’d hit rush hour, and it was bumper-to-bumper. Oh well. We waited for the traffic to thin out. It didn’t, but we picked up speed. In order to keep up with the flow, we had to go a lot faster than felt safe, but we did it.

We checked the tiny map we’d picked up at the airport, and theoretically we weren’t far from Coconut Grove, but apparently there was no way to get on the road from where we were.

So we called Liz. At least Gwynne called Liz, but it went to voicemail. So then Gwynne called the hotel and talked to the desk clerk for directions.

He apparently thought Gwynne was difficult to understand, as she had to repeat herself a number of times before he understood our problem. She thought the same about him.

He gave us directions to Coconut Grove, but after Gwynne called him the third time, we realized he was giving directions from the Miami Airport, not the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.

We were on our own. We backtracked, got back on the highway and went in the opposite direction. Finally, we saw a sign that said, “Welcome to Coconut Grove.” We were on Brickel Avenue and kept going, thinking we would eventually hit the ocean and find Bay Shore drive, the street our hotel was located on.

Nothing doing. We drove very slowly, looking for something promising. By now it was 6 o’clock and we were losing hope. Suddenly we saw an older lady who looked respectable strolling along the street.

I pulled over, Gwynne rolled down the window and told her we were lost and asked for directions.

The lady said, “You’re not that far. All you have to do is go straight down this street, take a right, take another right and drive until you come to a really ugly intersection. Take a slight right there, not a hard right, and you will run into Bayshore.”

We thanked her, followed her directions and began looking for a really ugly intersection. As we approached each intersection, Gwynne would say, “Do you think that’s a really ugly intersection?”

I’d say, “I don’t know. Ugly as compared to what, I wonder?”

Finally, we came to an intersection that wasn’t particularly ugly, but it did have a hard right and a slight right, and sure enough we found Bayshore Drive. Three blocks later, we saw our hotel.

It was 6:30, but Liz and Scott had patiently waited for us, so although we couldn’t shower as we’d hoped, we did get to change clothes. We made it a little late, but they were glad to see us, dirty and almost hysterical with exhaustion though we were. The cheese plate and wine before supper helped a lot.

And then, as always, we had a wonderful time. So despite the few hitches along the way, it was well worth it.