The 911 had served us well, and looked really cool under the neon lights. I was just happy not to have dinged the fenders!

Another Bucket List Drive: Grinding Gears

So, I’ve got two types of Gearhead bucket lists: fantasy and reality. One of these days, I am actually going to get around to writing them down, so I can physically cross them off the list when I am done. I think one of the things that stops me is that if I write them down, I will be able to see just how long the list is, and just how often I add to it! I don’t think there is a program that can help my addiction to cars, so maybe it is just better for me to leave them in my head.

This is how my brain works when it comes to the list. If it involves a car as a major part of the event, then it is “list-worthy.” If it is realistic, then I add it to the reality list and start begging my wife, but if there is no possible way to do it, then it gets filed in the fantasy list.

Sometimes the two can intermingle. Here is an example: Drive Route 66. Reality –  we are planning to do this in one of my classic cars next year! Fantasy – do it Cannonball Run-style in a supercar, no holds barred (there are so many reasons why I can’t/won’t do this, even if I had Gas Monkey money).

The list as it sits in my head is constantly being forgotten and remembered. My wife helps with the remembering side, especially if it benefits her. One of my long-standing (and easily remembered) bucket list items has been to fly into Miami, rent a supercar, and drive to Key West. On my fantasy list, the roads would be closed to all traffic and I could drive it flat-out, but reality means you have to deal with the 45-55 mph limit on the way down there.

Earlier this year, my brilliant, beautiful, and extremely understanding wife was trying to plan out our vacation. She had recently been to Miami on a work trip and thought it would be fun to do that exact trip (minus the supercar of course). She didn’t even know this item was on my list, so I proposed knocking this one off my list.

Amazingly, she said we could try to rent a “cool car.” She gave me the green light to start looking for one. Our trip was going to be for five days, with the first part of trip consisting of landing in Miami, getting the car, and heading straight to the Keys.

So, a few of my nights from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. consisted of searching out high-end car rentals in Miami. Believe me, this is something you can search FOREVER! There are a gazillion companies in Miami offering you the car of your dreams, so how do you find the right one? In the end, I think you look at their internet reputation, praying their friends aren’t the ones who posted all the good reviews and that one bad review isn’t really the way it will be for you.

Coming from an auditing background, contracts and things of that nature scare me. If I don’t know the company, I will read every word. There are a few things I found to be similar or repeating themes with the exotic rentals: 1) There is VERY limited mileage allowance. 2) Chances are your regular insurance will not cover the entire amount for the car, so you will need to buy supplemental insurance. 3) You cannot afford to rent a Bugatti Veyron unless you can afford to buy a Bugatti Veyron, so don’t even think about it – $25,000 a day!!

My dream of driving this went out the window with the $25,000/day price tag!

My dream of driving this went out the window with the $25,000/day price tag!

Once I established a few ballpark figures, I found that unless we wanted to be indebted to American Express for the rest of our lives, we had better be somewhat realistic in what we could afford. Those who know me, know I gave up the financial duties in the relationship to my wife 15 years ago. It works for us; I ask how much I can spend – she tells me – then, I go above that amount, she rolls her eyes at me, and I ask for forgiveness.

After a long discussion about an Audi R8, she and I determined that a Corvette Stingray would have to do. Certainly supercar performance, but not exactly the supercar status I was looking for. I wanted to drive something that an average Joe like me would probably never be able to afford short of winning the lottery.

Then, I spoke with Karina at Supercars of Miami. I told her about my bucket list and that my wife and I really wanted to drive a “mid-life crisis” kind of car. Karina checked with her boss Yavin, who stepped up and offered us a Porsche 911 Carrera S cabriolet for a little more than the price of the Vette – just the type of car I was hoping to get – a driver’s car!

Let me preface the rest of this article by saying that at no time in my discussion with Supercars of Miami did I ever tell them of my media association – there was no special “media discount” – this was my own personal doing, so I write this receiving no special treatment other than a company trying to help someone with their dream.

I gave my insurance information to Karina, who checked with my insurance to see if I was covered. Unfortunately, I was only covered up to $100,000, so I would have to pay an extra $75 per day for coverage, which pushed my total bill above my wife’s allotted amount – cue the eye roll – but we had to do it right? Amazingly, I got the green light, so I asked Karina to proceed. I couldn’t be more impressed with the professionalism she provided. So with everything locked in place with the rental car, Jenn figured out the itinerary for the trip and booked all of the rooms (she pretty much takes care of everything on our trips).

Jenn and I in the airport, heading to Miami for our adventure!

Jenn and I in the airport, heading to Miami for our adventure!

When our plane landed in Miami, Karina was waiting outside the baggage claim area, only I was a little confused when I met her standing next to a Corvette. My alarm bells rang thinking I had been duped until Karina explained the Porsche was being rented to another couple who decided to keep it for another day, so she was giving me a choice between the Corvette or a BMW M4 that was also parked there, until the 911 came back the following day and we could swap.

The only hitch was we were going straight to Key West from the airport and the Corvette wouldn’t fit all of our gear, so we chose the M4. Karina said they would still honor the drop-off of the 911 in Key West some 4 hours away! So lemonade was made out of lemons – we got the opportunity to drive the BMW M4 from Miami to Key West – and we would be able to drive the 911 back. After getting the rundown from Karina on the nuances of the M4, checking the mirrors, and putting the top down, we were on our way!

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What can I say about the M4? In truth, there is not a ton I can say. I didn’t take it to a track, and I’m not sure I went above 70 mph in it, but man, it sure can get you there quickly! It has all the ride quality you can expect from a German car in “standard” mode, but put it in “Sport” mode and the engine growls to life (which I know is through the speakers, but it sounded good to me) while the suspension stiffens to handle the bumps. Put your foot on the floor and the M4 tries to imbed you in the seat.

As we made our way out of Miami to Coral Gables and past the pretty suburb, we hit the flatlands heading toward the Everglades, and the mostly two-lane traffic down through the Keys. We stopped in Isla Moroda for lunch at Robbie’s Marina, fed the Tarpon, and avoided the aggressive pelicans. The one thing I noticed on the drive was the inordinate number of rental Ford Mustang convertibles, and it made me feel good to stand out from the crowd with the M4. As we approached the parking lot from lunch, I caught a few guys snapping pictures of it with their phones before we hopped back in and made the trek to the Casa Marina Resort in Key West.

The drive has some spectacular views when you get high enough over bridges to see beyond the dwarfed trees. As we came upon the Seven Mile Bridge, all I could think of was all the movies it had been in – and how much I wanted to see just what the M4 could really do – but Johnny Law is everywhere down there and I didn’t want to spend my vacation in jail.

So, on to Casa Marina with no issues. When we arrived, I made new best friends with the valet as we talked about the car. I’m sure he had dreams of a Ferris Bueller-style drive in it, but then again I’m sure he’s gotten to drive a lot cooler cars through the small parking lot, which gave me an idea for my retirement job! We hit the ground running and rented a scooter to cruise around Key West and take in some of the sites.

As the next day dawned, I really wasn’t expecting a call about the 911. I figured there was no way they would bring the car to me all the way down in Key West, some four hours from Miami, but to my surprise the phone rang while we were eating brunch. It was Yavin with Supercars of Miami to tell me the car would be delivered via flatbed around 2 o’clock and the driver would need the keys to pick up the M4, so we set out on some more sightseeing (and drinking) for a few hours.

At 2:20, he arrived and my newfound best friend from the day before was even more impressed. As I came through the lobby I could see the ruby red cabriolet sitting out front with the tow truck driver already loading the M4. He handed me the key to the Carrera, which looks like a Hot Wheels version of the actual car. I handed it over to the valet who promptly handed it back to me and said “dude, you gotta at least drive it around the block!” I couldn’t disappoint my best friend – so I did. I was in my bathing suit (don’t worry it was dry) and didn’t have my wallet, so I was scared to do anything on my jaunt around the block.

I couldn’t help but notice the Porsche, with its boxer engine, sounded like a Volkswagen at low speed. The other thing that was quickly apparent as I tried to adjust the seat to my driving style was the lack of luxury items that the M4 had. This was a driver’s car; there were no extra amenities like adjustable lumbar or bolsters, and the seat position had to be adjusted manually by pulling a cable. I did, however, immediately hit the “Sport” button, and you could actually feel the car tighten its grip on the road as the “VW” sound transformed into a growling beast. I couldn’t wait to really drive this thing, but I would have to wait a couple of days to get on the open road. I returned the key to the valet so he could “Ferris Bueller” it if he wanted.

That night, my wife wanted to go to a nice dinner, so we made reservations at a steak house around the corner. Over dinner, we decided it would be fun to cruise down to Duval Street and be seen. Hey, we were paying a good chunk of money to rent it, we might as well be seen in it, right? We made one or two passes up and down Duval with people staring, pointing, thumbs-upping, and taking pictures of the car. I guess I had never really thought about a Porsche 911 standing out that much, I seem to see them all the time. It’s not like it was a Ferrari or anything, but at least it wasn’t a Mustang (of which about every third car was down there). We drove the car around the island for about an hour looking at the houses and enjoying the ocean air before we gave it back to my friend to put it to bed for the night.

The next morning was our departure from Casa Marina. As we approached the car with our carry-on luggage, I started to get nervous. I never checked to see if our bags would fit in the hood, er . . . boot? What if they didn’t fit? Luckily, Porsche must have borrowed the airlines carry-on dimension box as our two carry-ons fit nicely nestled under the hood (or whatever they call it). My camera backpack and my wife’s giant purse would have to go in the back seat, which is really all it is good for.

So just like that, we were off to tour the Everglades. I turned the key and the 911 roared to life. As we pulled away from under the lobby awning, through my rearview mirror I think I saw my best friend wiping tears away from his eyes. Goodbye my friend, but there was no looking back now; it was off to the Everglades.

We turned off Hwy 1 into Florida City, toward the entrance sign to the park. My wife always makes sure we get a photo with the sign to document that we have been there, so we grabbed a quick picture, paid our fee and entered the one road into the ‘Glades. For those who have never been, the Everglades are really just a vast prairie filled with some water and a few sparse trees scattered about. In many places the road is straight for miles, with the only thing to get in your way being birds or alligators.

It was here in the vast nothingness that I was able to really feel what the 911 was capable of from an acceleration standpoint. Let me just say that it was impressive. In “Sport Plus” mode you use the paddle shifters affixed to the steering wheel. I won’t say how fast I went (I don’t want the NPS knocking on my door), but I can tell you it doesn’t shift out of second until well over the speed limit and it pulls like a rabid husky in the Iditarod! It showed no signs of laboring when the dotted lines melted into a solid. And the brakes? Oh my gosh, the brakes will pull your retinas clean off your eyes!

Once my wife had enough of my shenanigans, we got down to the task at hand of enjoying the scenery and wildlife. We had a great day and got to check off a lot of animals on the wildlife list: alligators, turtles, fish, birds, American Crocodile, and even a Manatee!


As the sun started its downward trek, it was time to hit South Beach in Miami! My wife had booked us a room at the Breakwater Hotel right on Ocean Drive in the heart of South Beach. If you’ve ever seen Ocean Drive, it is of course the hub of activity for Miami and is wall-to-wall people and bumper-to-bumper traffic. It can be interesting trying to park on that street to say the least! And arriving around 8:00 pm on a Friday night just makes it that much more enjoyable.

The valet decided to give me a little challenge by having me parallel this $125,000 rental into a spot barely big enough for a Smart Car, between a Ferrari and a Tesla directly in front of the hotel! Thanks buddy, no pressure or anything! I had the potential to wreck almost $1 million worth of cars if I didn’t get this right!

I consider myself a good driver – and would drive just about anything – but talk about pressure! I still don’t know how I did it, but I got it on the first try with swarms of people standing around watching this spectacle unfold before their eyes. When I got it into the spot people actually clapped! The valet complimented me on the skill and said he usually has to take over in the middle of the street, so I felt pretty good about my abilities, but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.

On Tuesday morning, we had to turn the car in before heading to the airport which is when I noticed my stupid miscalculation on mileage. The agreement was for 100 miles per day (5 days=500 miles), which is what I had on the 911, so I figured I was good. What I failed to record were the 100+ miles I put on the M4 getting to Key West. D’oh!

So instead of being done, I had to cough up some more money. Yavin was very gracious in understanding my error and knocked the charge down from $3.25/mile to $2.25 which helped with the sting slightly, but my wife and I had a terrific time with the car and the customer service from SuperCars of Miami was second to none. Even if we might never be able to afford it again, at least I got to check off another item on my bucket list.

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If you ever want to feel like a rockstar when you are in the Miami area, I highly recommend giving Supercars of Miami a call for a great customer experience. From the research I did, beware there are some shady renters out there, but I can vouch that these guys did what they said they would and then some. Now the only problem for me is how do I go back to driving a regular econo-box rental ever again??!!

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