Updated: Jan 15, 2019
We rode up to the gate to Markham Mountain Bike Park in Davie Florida near Fort Lauderdale. We were ready to try out some new trails and get our dogs out for some much needed exercise. The first thing we noticed was a park ranger at the entrance of a fenced off area. He asked to see our park pass. We said we didn't have one. He told us we'd have to drive over to the office, watch a 7 minute video on the inherent dangers of mt. biking, sign a liability waiver, and pay the $5 entrance fee. Oh, and by the way, NO dogs are allowed!
We thought it over and just went to the gated off-leash dog park. The gate was locked with a key code. Luckily a dog lover let us in. He said that you received the gate code when you went in to pay for use of the dog park. He told us not to worry about it. We let the dogs run around and play with the other dogs and wear off some of their pent up energy. We stood around and watched.
The next morning David and I came back to the park, watched the video, signed the waiver, and paid the fee. At 8:30 am there wasn't a gate attendant at the entrance to the mountain bike park. Maybe we could slip the dogs in unnoticed. We decided to abide by the "rules". We entered the gated area to explore the trails. It was a good urban mt. bike trail for practicing some intermediate skills and getting a workout. A good local "after work" ride. However we ran into a cyclist who yelled at us for riding the wrong way into an unmarked trail. It seemed like there were rules and people enforcing the rules behind every corner.
There are some fun features on these trails like this long bridge through the forest.
We are feeling the rigid rules of the east coast of Florida. I think the overwhelming amount of people moving to the area and the number of tourists have resulted in strict rule based management of this part of the state. No dogs, no parking, no loitering, no marine life toxic sunscreen.
There are fees for everything. Fees for driving on the roadways. We had to buy a SunPass so the tolls could automatically be charged to our card. Every park area within a park had a fee and you had to pay to park your vehicle.
We took the dogs to the Fort Lauderdale Dog Beach. We almost didn't find it. Google maps kept telling us "You have arrived". We looked around for signs and didn't see any. I finally left David and the dogs in a parking spot and walked down to the beach. I approached the first people I saw with a dog. A couple with a dog said that the dog beach was between life guard station 16 and 17. You could only have dogs on the beach between those two life guard stations. Then they said we could have the dogs off leash. They said they hadn't seen the ranger so we were probably safe to come in. Otherwise we had to drive to an park office somewhere and present hard copy proof of vaccination and fecal tests. Then we could pay another fee per dog to use the beach. As it turned out, we checked on the park website, the dogs were supposed to be on leash while on the beach. What is even more extreme is that you are not even allowed to walk your dogs on the sidewalks along the beach road other than to go to the dog beach and back out.
So we accidentally broke the law. Taz finally got to swim in the Atlantic ocean and run around off leash. We didn't get the pass because we had no idea where to go to get it. We didn't get busted by the park rangers. In a world of strict rules it is fairly easy to be an outlaw.
Here is the perfect world reflected in the Truman show. Everything is perfect and in its place. The Palm trees are manicured. The beaches are raked and cleaned each morning. We even drove through the town of Seaside Florida where the Truman show was filmed. The landscapers were blowing non-existant debris off of the perfectly manicured grass side strips between the highway and the sidewalks. All the houses and buildings looked the same. Here we drive down the streets and saw men on lawn mowers mowing the mediums between the 4 lane roadways. The sidewalks and lawns are spotless. The freeways are endless webs going in all directions as my phone beeps a text telling me I've spent another $10 for a toll to drive on the roadway. Its paradise or a nightmare depending on your preferred lifestyle.
However in between the wildness of the Everglades and the extreme tidiness of the urban areas is the hospitality and friendliness of everyone we've met. Even the park staff in the office where we had to watch our mt. bike safety video rolled their eyes. They told us there are too many lawyers in Florida as a way to apologize for the hoops we were jumping to ride the trails.
I guess all these people have a cost that chips away little by little at the individual freedoms that those of us from the west take for granted. In the mean time we'll finish up our stay here and head back out west where there is still room to breath and wide open wild spaces. A place where dogs can run free as we mt. bike.