Florida 2019 – Day 13/14 – Tans and Tornados

Skipping the day 13 write up as it was a quiet day and today is the airport day, so a combined (and likely last) Florida 2019 diary entry.

So, Thursday. Day 13. Our last full day of “proper holiday”, given we fly home on Friday afternoon, landing (hopefully) just in time to get home, shower and get to the Etihad to watch City play Spurs for the third time in less than two weeks, this time in the Premier League.

Charlie was adamant that he was going to stay in bed all day, and Jane wasn’t in a rush to do anything much, so we headed to the hotel beach, and sunbathed for a few hours.

Clearwater and the beaches are absolutely stunning if you like sunbathing and sand. I like neither. Ah, well.

Charlie joined us briefly with the lure of a big beach hammock, but he just crawled under his towel for about 20 minutes before deciding the air conditioned, dark hotel room was a better option.

To be honest, after an hour or so of trying to relax, whilst repeatedly applying factor 50, I got too hot and too fidgety, and followed Charlie back to the room. After a shower and freshen-up, I decided to explore the area south of the hotel, so got in the car and set off on my own.

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Wow! After the big hotels, the gulf-side of the road became lined with mega-houses. We’d looked into an estate agents (a “Realtor”) window and seen houses like these, selling for between $5 and $16. Million! $16 million! Just wow! I guess one of these is Hulk Hogans. I doubt there’s a better location, though. Their back garden is one of the USAs best beaches, and in the “Sunshine State”. Tough life, I’m sure having to put up with that!

I drove back to the hotel, cleared out all of the accumulated rubbish (all Charlie’s), and took all the unused waterproof coats and other car-stored gear back to the room, so we could start to pack up.

It didn’t take long to pack as we’d not really unpacked since our arrival. Except for Charlie, who had made our room his home, and like his bedroom, his possessions were strewn around the place.

After packing, and another freshen-up (it’s damned hot here), we went back to Cristinos Coal Oven Pizza, the place that we’d been to with the F’s on the first night. Once again, the food was fabulous.

After that we went back to our room, finished the last bits of “prep” for getting away tomorrow and then settled down for the evening.

We ended up watching Discovery HDs “Naked and Afraid”, a series where a male and a female, usually with some survivalist experience, are deposited naked (and I assume afraid) in some form of natural hell, and then meet for the first time.

The aim is for them to overcome the initial embarrassment of having to pretend not look at each other’s genitals, and then survive for 21 days, with only a map, a fire flint, and a cooking pot. They do blur the sensitive parts of the body, so it’s not gratuitous, and so it’s actually quite interesting seeing them work things out.

Lights out after three episodes, and ready for our check-out day.

It’s now that odd phase of the hols when, even though still being on hols, thoughts start to focus on the negatives (the hols are over for another year), when actually, there’s loads to look forward to!

On Saturday, we get to see the fourth member of our family, Toby, whose also been on his holidays at my Mums with his rebel-rousing cousin, Alfie.

I get to watch City try and recover from the midweek disappointment and push on in out attempts to win a “domestic treble”.

I also get to finish brewing my DDH NEIPA, with a three days of dry hopping a few ounces of Citra and Cascade, before sticking it all in the fridge for a couple of days to “cold crash” the suspended particles out, before adding the priming sugar and bottling.

We checked out at around 10am today, and headed back to Orlando, which apart from heavy traffic caused by a car being on fire in the outside lane, was about 2 hours of automated driving, back down the I4, this time eastwards.

We dropped the rental car off with Alamo, unloaded luggage, triple-checked that we were leaving nothing behind and then headed to the terminal.

Bag drop then through security in less than 20 minutes (lessons to be learned here, Manchester!) and headed to Terminal A, towards Gate 83, and a lunch stop at the Bahama Breeze.

There’s a huge weather front passing through today, with storm and even tornado warnings circulating, so delays are highly probable. We are supposed to fly at 5pm local, direct to Manchester. The F’s are scheduled to fly from here to Manchester via a change at New York.

Fingers crossed we all get back when we should!

I’m currently sat at the gate awaiting further news, so will call it a day, and wish you farewell for now.

As I’ve said before, I write these for my own enjoyment, and if anyone else reads them and gets some entertainment then it’s a bonus. As such, I do not offer an “enjoyment warranty”, nor any recompense for time you will never get back!

But if you have, enjoyed them, I’m pleased you did!

Lots of love and best wishes, until the next time,

Chris

Florida 2019 – Day 12 – “Strap Ons” and Dolphins

An initial bit of indecision yesterday, as to what to do; Honeymoon Island State Park just north of here, of The Clearwater Marina Aquarium. Oh, plus Man City has a game on at 3pm local time. So we did all of the above.

Charlie on the other-hand, just wanted to stay in the hotel bedroom

Partly because of his (actually really quite bad) sunburn, and partly because he’s a teenager and NEEDS wifi! Tough luck, kiddo, you’re not stopping in!

We eventually got going, and having skipped breakfast, drove back across to the mainland before heading the short trip (half an hour’ish) north, before another long causeway and bridge to Honeymoon.

Originally part of a larger “barrier island” Honeymoon was separated from the southern section after a major hurricane, which swept away a narrow strip of land, creating the eponymously titled “Hurricane Pass”.

The Honeymoon Island name comes from 1940s marketeers flogging “nookie hut holidays” (my term) to newlyweds, by the way. It’s beautiful. And would still be a great place for “nookie hut holidays” if you’re ever fancy one.

We met up with the F’s and then headed to the north car park, where the nature trails begin, and set off on a walk.

A number of valuable reminders were dolled out:

1. kids don’t like not having WiFi

2. Kids don’t like walking. Anywhere. Ever

3. kids don’t like nature trails at the best of times, more so when sunburned to hell and it’s circa 89 Fahrenheit

4. Along with rattlesnakes and tortoises, there are mosquitoes

5. Mosquitos like the blood of an Englishman. Or woman.

We did see lots of nice birds, an owls nest, and a few ospreys, including a nesting youngster. I appreciated that. Not sure the kids did, though.

The beaches are stunning and the water is tropically blue, and contains stingray, jellyfish and shark. It was therefore decided that we would “look but don’t touch” for a while, before heading back to the car. It was ridiculously hot, to be fair.

We drove back into Clearwater, parked up and headed for a bite to eat. Timing of our late lunch meant that it happened to coincide with the kick off of the Man City v Spurs Champions League Quater Final Second Leg, where City trailed by a single goal, having spurned chances to get an all-important away goal or two.

I watched a ridiculous first half of football, whilst trying to eat a bowl of clam chowder. Ridiculous because for the first 22 minutes, every attack by both sides seemed to result in a goal!

At half time, we needed to leave for the Aquarium, where we were buying the half-priced 4pm-8pm tickets.

A short drive, and we were parked up. I connected to their WiFi and tunes in to the game. In this short space of time City scored to lead on aggregate, and then Spurs scored after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) showed all but the most telling of clips to the on-field ref, who ruled that the goal should stand.

The clip that wasn’t shown to the ref, shows the ball hitting the elbow of the Spurs player, before hitting his hip and deflecting in, thus handball, so the goal should have been ruled out, if you are at all interested.

The second half almost over and City led 4-3 on the night, but with Spurs having the 1-0 home and the away goals, meant that City still needed another goal to go through.

Going in to injury time, we were just entering the aquarium lobby, when Sergio Aguero squared the ball to Raheem Sterling, who slotted home to score a goal that meant we were leading overall and would progress to the Semi-Finals.

A last second winner!? I confess I went berserk and had the whole lobby staring at me as I jumped, punched the air, and according to Jane, whooped and screamed “like an American”!

The WiFi cut out for a moment, but this game Charlie time to show his total embarrasment at my behaviour. Wow! What a game!

The WiFi cut back in. VAR had been used to review the goal and the referee had correctly ruled that Sergio was marginally offside as he played the ball to Sterling and as such the goal had been disallowed. Devastated. We were out of the Champions League.

I really do think VAR is going to negatively affect the match-going fan, yet benefit the armchair-watchers. My later tweet was my take on it.

It did mean that my enthusiasm for learning about the rescue work that the Clearwater Marina Aquarium (CMA) carries out was dampened. And even the sight of two playful otters didn’t raise my spirits.

The CMA is where Winter, the tailless dolphin, star of “A Dolphins Tale” and Hope, co-star of the creatively-titled “A Dolphins Tale 2”, live.

I can at least say that I have seen Winter the tailless dolphin’s ‘strap-on’. His prosthetic tail fins attach to his peduncle (yes, that’s a real part) and allow him to swim like, well, a dolphin.

After a few hours there, we said our final Goodbyes to the F’s who were heading back to their villa in Orlando, before flying home (like us) on Friday evening.

With us remaining in Clearwater until Friday morning, Jane, Charlie and I headed over to Saltys for tea, where I had the most appropriate beer I could have had, “Blue Moon”.

Our server was a young Texan lad, who continuously addresses Jane as Darlin’. I got the distinct impression Jane was not impressed.

We timed our eating to perfection, such that after “settling the check” we walked across the road to watch the sun go down, before heading back to Sand Key for the night.

Last proper day today, but I doubt we’ll be doing much. Jane and Charlie seem knackered, and Jane’s now full of a cold. I may go off and explore on my own. Who knows.

See you tomorrow.

Florida 2019 – Day 11 – Sun, Sand and Sunburn

Another slow start yesterday.

I was up early after a poor nights sleep. Jane’s not been feeling too well (sore throat) so was tossing and turning. But for me, it wasn’t just that. The pillows are a lumpy nightmare, the aircon is noisy, the bog door squeals like a stuck pig on opening, and the 1” gap at the bottom of the room door means light and sound get in the room. All not great for a sensitive sleeper like me.

To be honest, I can’t say I’m overly impressed with the hotel. Location is fabulous, but disappointingly, our room just feels ‘tired’. Not helped that our room is on the ground floor either, which Charlie doesn’t like. It’s not spoiling anything, but just isn’t the ‘grand hurrah’ I was expecting.

At around 7am, I left the room and took a walk out past the nice pool area, and onto the private beach. It’s quite a way to the shoreline across what’s know as sugar sand. It’s snow white and super-fine. It was pretty much deserted, so I had a nice, relaxed walk and then finished up yesterday’s blog, sat on a sunbed.

Charlie wasn’t for getting up, and isn’t great at breakfast person anyway, so when I got back, Jane and I went and had a decent breakfast in the hotel. Not a bad price either.

We’d decided to go across the bridge to the north beach and Pier 60, park up and meet up with the F’s, before working out what to do for the rest of the day.

We parked up, and meandered down the beachfront road, past Hulk Hogan, before cutting through a gap of hotels and got on the beach. The sand here is even finer than at the back of our hotel.

A quick stroll along the pier to look at all the “tat stalls”, and then a meet up with the F’s.

The lads all wanted to muck about in the sea, so after them changing into their swim shorts behind a towel, to much amusement and winding up, they hit the surf, whilst Mrs F and Jane sat on the beach.

Having not brought beach gear from the cars, and finding out we’d parked at opposite ends of the beach, Mr F and I volunteered to go back to their car, drive up to where we parked, and then bring both beach bags back. Via a pint, “obvs”!

We picked up a selection of cold drinks for the rest of the party, and then went back with the haul.

Now as it turns out, I don’t like sand and I don’t like sunbathing, so I went and had a kip under the pier in the shade, whilst the rest chilled out and fried.

Mid-afternoon and I think they needed a break from the heat, so it was decided we’d get a snack/late lunch at a little cafe just off from the beach. I wasn’t hungry so declined, but the rest ordered toasties, hotdogs or sandwiches. So much for snacks! The portions were huge and with the addition of the sides of fries, coleslaw and other gubbins, it was clear that there want going to be any need for them to have tea.

We had a quick look in Ron Jons Surf Shop, and watched some of the street performers, before heading back to the beach. This time, I left them to it and sat under a tree, in the shade, in a carpark. Each to their own, but it was way too hot for me.

Eventually, they all packed up and headed off the beach. Oh! My! Word! The lads looked burned to a frazzle, Charlie particularly so. Even the Factor 50 had been beaten!

Because of that, he just wanted to go home, so the idea of hanging around to watch the sunset was kyboshed.

Instead, we said our goodbyes, and I took Jane and Charlie back to our hotel. It was around 6:40pm, and sunset was 7:55pm, so I decided to head out on my own, park up, watch the sunset and then get some tea.

It took an age to find a parking spot. Especially so because I have that ability to be at the opposite end of a carpark when a space becomes available and someone else just drives in and takes it.

I managed to park at 7:51 and legged it up on to a high point to take some photos. If you’re not aware, once the sun goes below the horizon, there’s still reason to hang around. At the beginning of civil twilight, just after sunset, and when the sun is around 5-10deg below the horizon, the colors of the sky change most rapidly, and there’s more variation, with the “Blue Hour” creating some really nice light for photography.

As it happens, I didn’t have that luxury, as I’d only parked for two hours, most of one had gone, and I needed some food.

I went to a bar that we’d spotted when walking to Mr Fs car. The BadFins taproom is well worth a visit. It has the reputation as having the best ‘beach food’, and a great selection of mainly local craft ale.

The reputation is well deserved. I had their “fish and chips” which were actually three large goujons of mahi-mahi fish in a really light tempura batter, served with crinkle- cut potato slices, that were dry fried. Spot on. I went with a local “Floridian Hefeweizen” to match my tea. You can go posh with this craft ale, and food pair, you know!

I headed back and drive to male and a half back over the bridge to the South Beach and our hotel. On my return Jane & Charlie were still up, and I got to see Charlie in all of his sun-radiant glory. Turns out he’s not put sunblock on his face. Think Gerry The Berry, if you know your “Phoenix Nights” episodes.

Oh, and I fixed the squeaky toilet door by ‘oiling it’ with suncream. Sorted!

That’ll do for Day 11. See you tomorrow, when we think we’ll head off to Honeymoon Island.

Tata for now.

Florida 2019 – Day 10 – West Coast

A relatively early start yesterday, as we’re checking out of the Orange Lake Resort, in Orlando, and heading west across to Clearwater Beach for a few days on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

The plan was checkout, Denny’s, fuel, then across to Tampa and back to Busch Gardens, which is then a short drive to Clearwater.

The plan was executed almost as above, with the exception of a minor amendment regarding the Denny’s. Our ‘local’ on West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (the 192) was rammed busy, so we decided to get going and either stop on the way, or if not get something in Busch.

Down the toll road and onto the I4, we trundled along and then spotted a Denny’s just off the Interstate. Happy days. After parking up, we went in only to find the F’s sat there in their own ‘local’!

After some abominably slow service (think of the Julie Walters “here’s your soup, Sir” sketch slow) and a “Moons Over My Hammy” breakfast, we got back on the I4 westbound and headed off to catch up with the F’s at Busch.

It was only slightly busier today, but judicious ride planning and queue management meant we got on a fair few rides pretty quickly and front row for two of them.

The first was Cheetah Hunt, a 60mph, 4G, linear synchronous motor (LSM) launched coaster, that I didn’t go on last week, but have before. It’s brilliant! I love the “heart line roll” (the coaster corkscrews around a centreline of the passengers heart), and the bit that’s like flying a T-16 Skyhopper through Beggars Canyon on Tatooine.

We also went back on Sheikra, and managed to go front row, which makes the two vertical “hold and drop” bits even more funky.

We did try and get on Falcons Fury (a drop tower, but as we were about to get on, the seat section we would have been sat in malfunctioned and they closed the ride for repair.

Must confess that I think we were all a bit knackered today, and by around 5pm, we’d got to a point of indecision on the next ride.

As such, and having realised that although not actually that far in distance, the hotel was around an hour and fifteen away, I suggested we headed to an “award winning pizza and gelato” restaurant, mode between where we are staying and where the F’s are for the next couple of nights.

A slight mix up with the order in the kitchen meant that I ended up with two 12” Italian style stone baked pizzas. Looks like I won’t be needing any supper!

The service and food at Cristinos Coal Oven Pizza was outstanding and I would highly recommend the place. Managed to try two small, local beers as well.

The 7 Mile Bridge reminded my of my first homebrew (a bit turgid, slightly yeasty, but more than drinkable), and the second was a really smooth chocolate porter. Would have gone well with their chocolate ice cream except we were all too full to do puddings!

After the meal we all headed out separate ways, with our accommodation situated on an island, reached by crossing two large bridges.

We checked in, and Jane and Charlie crashed out. I went for a walk to suss the place out.

More on that tomorrow, but suffice to say the sign on the beach is likely to mean a few in our party won’t be snorkelling or even dipping a toe in the sea!

A shocking nights sleep, so

I finish writing this from a sun lounger on the beach at just before 8am.

No idea what we’re doing today. It’ll be all good though!

Florida 2019 – Day 9 – Swimming with Gators & Gar

Didn’t expect to be swimming in an alligator-infested (dramatic overstatement), manatee-filled natural spring today.

Today consisted of a very, very slow start. Even for me. Up early, but then sat watching the mighty Blues (Man City) away at Palace. It was a 9:05 kick-off here, and not on any achievable channels, nor were the sports bars open.

However thanks to an anonymous referral, I downloaded an app from the (trusted!?) Apple store, and then watched an ad-free game, in HD, on the balcony, in the warm morning sunshine (80F), and apart from a ‘typical City’ 2-1 with 15 to go, I enjoyed the game. Helps that we won 3-1. We can only win our own games, and have no influence on others, so c’est la vie for the rest of today’s games.

A WhatsApp convo with the F’s and we arranged to meet at the Blue Spring State Park at 1pm, after picking up a mobile brunch. Not that I knew what Blue Spring was, other than the F’s had been and enjoyed themselves. Good enough for me.

After a very nice lady, very slowly served us up three Subway sandwiches to go, we took the toll road north. That’s a mobile lunch.

It’s supposed to be around an hour or so to Blue Spring, but a major overhaul of the I4 up around Sanford meant it was more like 1:30 by the time we we’re parked up. And not a minute too soon.

After a queue that reminded me of the entry to an early 1990’s ‘Bug Jam’ (at Santa Pod) albeit with fewer (i.e. no) VW Beetles or Vans, we were three cars prior to them shutting entry.

In the queue, I must confess that my mind strayed to thinking about my homebrew and wondering how the little blighter was getting on. I’m having a go at my take on a DDH NEIPA. A Double Dry-Hopped New England India Pale Ale, is my ale of choice – a ‘hop-forward’ and bitter-but-citrusy, hazy glass of 7% liquid gold. I may have to set up a “brew-cam” ™ on my return, so I can watch its birth!

Parking up, the F’s signalled their presence, in their own inimitable way, a call sign of a sort, and we joined them to figure out what on earth we’d come to.

A naturally-heated 72F spring rises from over 110ft below ground level through a series of caves and passageways. This warmth draws the manatee up the slow-flowing river for a nice relaxing bath. The manatee floating upstream draws the alligators up the slow-flowing river for a nice relaxing meal.

That’s not technically true. The ‘gators are just everywhere, even going rogue, and choosing to try any pick off the old golfist on our course, for which I will be eternally appreciative of. That’s also not technically true.

So what else would one do, but don ones bathing costume and jump in! So we did.

Or at least some of us did. Jane chose to immerse herself in the beauty of the environment and “catch more shineys”, whilst Mrs F opted to suffocate a gummy bear, by sitting on it for so long it got its own back by melting into her rear pocket. (That’s not a euphemism, by the way).

I loved it! Swimming upstream through a soup of goodness knows what, with a snorkel and mask on, simultaneously hoping to see a manatee, and not see an alligator.

I saw some decent sized catfish, a few more generic-looking large fish (think primary school drawings), and a Gar. The nearest American chap announced that “it has a mouthful of teeth”. He’s right. It’s like a swordfish-billed version of a pike.

For a brief moment, it took a passing interest in my GoPro which is in a shiny waterproof housing, unlike the funky newer version my pal the Rev has lent me (which I’m too nervous to use underwater, as it’s not mine to break). For that same brief moment, I crapped myself, thinking it would be really embarrassing and expensive to get treated for a fish bite, when it could have been a ‘gator. That would at least have been worth paying for over here.

The lads had a great time. As kids you think about the upsides and the moment, not the risks or downsides, as we end up doing the older we get. I genuinely believe that even though they knew there are ‘gators about, they probably didn’t even think about them once in the water.

That said, Peter Benchley has a lot to answer for, for us pre 80’s kids!

From there, we dried off, changed where required and us blokes went back to the cars to drop stuff off, whilst Jane, Mrs F & Charlie waited. (Sorry, kiddo, couldn’t resist the cheap, misogynistic shot. x).

On our walk back, we saw vultures, and a pink/red parakeet, all in the wild, just waffling around, eating nature’s provisions. Left-over hotdog & BBQ burgers – what do people think, or rather not think, in a place like this? I’d give up on some folk, if I was a giver-upper!

Hang on! Cut to real time. It’s 22:16. I’m on the balcony and there’s a front coming through. This time not of my making. It’s suddenly hurling down with rain and blowing a hooley. And it’s still gloriously warm. Jane definitely would live here, I’m tempted to agree, with both of us having one or two reservations. Toby. Family. Friends. City (that’s mine).

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I’m writing this now, as tomorrow we check out and head over to Clearwater before 10am, via more “Busch and Pussy” (sorry, it’s crap, I know) and there’ll be stress. So I’m aiming to get this “submitted to the editor” beforehand.

Back to non-real-time. After rejoining the girls, we took a walk up the spring. Lovely as it was, We were all gutted to realise that the sping upswell is at the end of the short walk. No wonder we’d seen scuba divers! They were funking out by scuba or free-diving into the crack, as it were. Doh!

Bugger! When we come back I’m coming here and having a go.

It began raining so we started to head back. Not that it would be an issue if I was in the water. Double Doh!

Another traffic-filled journey back , and a couple of “I know best” decisions on my part, meant we arrived at our (well, we have been in there more frequently than some of the staff over the last 10 days) Texas Whorehouse at just after the happy-hour food window shut. It’s the Lancashire-heritaged fella, not the White Rose that’s more bothered about missing out on discount. That lot are not all mean and tight, just some. 😉

As it’s our last night here, even Jane had a drink. And what a drink! Iced sangria margarita, with a shot of tequila.

Back to the apartment to throw a couple of pairs of undercrackers back in the travel bag and I’m done. Jane on the other hand is choosing to assist Charlie tomorrow. I presume that means with petrol, and a match to sort his room out.

Off to the west coast of the peninsular tomorrow. Can’t wait. Got a few things I’d like to do over there, so fingers crossed it works out. And if it doesn’t, this part of the holiday will balance that out, anyway. I love it over here.

Laters, ‘taters!

Florida 2019 – Day 8 – Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day, this wasn’t. Back to Seaworld, but still a different experience. A lot busier for a start, but it’s to be expected. It’s weekend, after all.

We’re all ‘on the bounce’ today, by which I mean that we’ve all achieved Floridian body clocks for breakfast, but we still have a rebound to UK time mid-afternoon. I’ve even I have had two consecutive good nights sleep!

Like pretty much all the lads of his age, Charlie feels the need to dress in mainly black things that have one of around 5 or 6 ‘acceptable’ labels & logos on. Nike, Stone Island, Northface, Armani (and the various sub- brands), Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein etc. You get the theme – £££!

He decided he’d like to spend his non-existent spending money on some Calvin Klein underwear, but after an unsuccessful trip to TJ Max [sic] last night, he’s still on the hunt, so we’re likely to go back to the outlet mall at some point before Monday, when we move out of here and spend a few days over in Clearwater.

Anyway, Seaworld. It was busy. And hot. In fact it was “Damn hot! Hotter than a snakes ass in a wagon rut”! Somewhere up in the mid 90s, so we mooched today, visiting the manatee rescue centre, where they rehab injured manatees. These poor buggers suffer from injuries such as propeller blade cuts from boats, and entanglement in fishing line. They are nursed back to health and then (where possible) released.

A few more ‘coasters, and the day was done. We decided to shoot off earlier than the F’s, head to the Mall for Charlie as it was only 5 minutes from Seaworld and then meet up at the nearby Longhorn Steakhouse for tea.

I’ll not bore you (even more) with the minutia of shopping with a shy, grumpy teen but after various stares, grunts, huffs and ‘eyes to the sky’, he ended up with four pairs of Calvin Klein boxers and a CK sweatshirt. Thankfully all of which had at least 40% off.

We headed to Longhorn, but the wait time was 45 minutes (it was around 7:20pm, so the busy period), so we tried our luck around the corner at Outback. A five minute drive and a 30 minute wait, so I’m calling that a success!

It is impossible to eat healthily here. As Mr F spotted, even the sweet potato fries had as many calories as proper chips! We couldn’t work that out at first until they arrived, drizzled in honey and brown sugar. Ah! SWEET potato-fries, not sweet-potato fries!

We were all knackered after the meal. Full as a bull, and knackered. It’s the latest we’ve been out, and we felt it. Annoyingly, the Saturday evening traffic down the I4 and 192 was horrible so it took a while to get home.

We got back, I put the drinks bottles in the fridge, and in that blink of an eye, Jane and Charlie were in bed and pretty much asleep.

No idea what tomorrow will bring. We’ll figure something out though.

Night!

Florida 2019 – Day 7 – Swearing with Sticks

So yesterday was supposed to be another easy day.

Instead, Mr F had convinced me to play a round of golf with him early doors. Bear in mind that I have never played proper golf before. My golf experience totals a few games of pitch and putt at Bruntwood Park as a teen, and a handful of goes at crazy golf. I have never been on a driving range and swung a club ‘in anger’. And now I’m going to step out onto the Arnold Palmer ‘Legends’ course, with a bag full of sticks, whizzing around in a golf buggy (a firm “no walking” policy ensures a $50 buggy hire!).

Mr F arrived at around 7:50am, and I was ready and waiting, having donned whatever garish gear I had brought with me. Sadly I’d not thought to bring my ‘Rupert the Bear’ pants with me, so I ended up feeling somewhat under-dressed.

Having negotiated the hire of clubs, bag, and buggy, and paid for balls and a 9-hole round (the sensible choice, I felt), we set off for the bit I was most looking forward to, the buggy driving!

The First Hole. We teed off from a colour-marked imaginary line, towards a flag so far away, I couldn’t see it. This was going to be a long morning!

Mr F set off first to show me how it’s done. His first drive was impressive! How did he get it to curl so much that it nearly headed back towards us, I wondered.

My turn next. I picked one of the sticks with the big fat heads (a driver?) and placed my ball on the little wooden peg. Whoosh! I managed to hit a huge lump of grass around 50 feet. Not bad! Maybe I’m a natural.

Very quickly it became obvious that this game should really be called ‘swearing with sticks’. I ac only apologise to those folk who were sat out on their balconies, having breakfast, overlooking the fifth hole, as Mr F and I loudly cussed our way along the fairway.

From what I can gather from Mr Fs play, the aim is to fire the ball from one side of the course to another, without the ball landing on any smooth green grass. Preferably, it should land in sand, in water, in bushes or just disappear down a rabbit hole.

Apparently, it’s not good form to do donuts on the fairway, or try reverse J-turns, so I modified my driving style to suit, throwing green sand over the tyre marks to disguise them. “We’ll need more green sand”, I pointed out.

I continued to pick the game up, and by the last hole, it was all to play for. This hole for the match!

Following Mr Fs lead, I fired one a hellishly long way into a tree. From there I managed to putt it along the ground about 30 yards using a sand wedge, into an alligator-ridden water hazard. That’s true, btw, they are populated with Gators and you do occasionally see them on the course.

Having lost a number of balls along the way, my luck was in and I could at least gain some kudos from Mr F, as I spotted a number of balls in the shallow end of the lake.

I managed to fish four or five (apparently really good) balls from the lake before the water started to churn nearby and I returned to dry land to finish the hole.

Another four or five putts and the ball got close enough to the hole for Mr F to concede that this probably wasn’t my game, and we headed off to the 19th hole (or should that be 10th for us?), for a cold beer for breakfast. There are some upsides to this game then.

Basking in the glory of his win, Mr F went back home to pickup his clan and take them to the Mall, whilst we waited for Charlie to wake up. He is the Ying to my Yang, and sleeps for over 12 hours in one sitting.

We headed over to Celebration, a strange and beautiful little town built by the Walt Disney Company as part of their vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). It’s so perfect, and so quiet, that it’s a bit ‘Stepford Wives’.

However it does have a superb pub. The Town Tavern serves really great food, in particular their Maine Lobster specials and the Clam Chowder are phenomenal.

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, they serve over 100 different beers. I really do need to come here when I’m not ‘duty driver’!

A quick trip into the ‘ Woof Gang Bakery’ (yep, a bakery for dogs) to buy our Toby some holiday treats, was followed by a slow mooch back around the lake, to the car.

We decided that we wanted to just lazy around for the remainder of the day, so went back to the apartment, and headed to our local pool to “do some sunbathing”. Even Charlie joined us eventually.

I think the American diet is catching up with me, as when I got up to leave, my sunbed looked somewhat worse for wear, where my fat ass had been!

Back home for pizza and pale ale, before crashing out for the night.

Back to Seaworld tomorrow we think, but we’ll decide on the day.

Night!

Florida 2019 – Day 6 – Rocketman

Very few photos today to pad out my drivel. Sorry. Not even a lot to mention, to be honest.

Went to a water park. Sat in the sun. Got sunburned. Went for tea. Saw the first ever “workhorse” launch of the most powerful rocket currently in use (the Falcon “Heavy”) and to cap it off, it lands all three rocket boosters for the first time ever!

Hashtag “I was there”. Hashtag “history” etc, etc etc. You get the gist!

Night! 😉

I’m still buzzing from seeing SpaceX launch the most powerful rocket since Apollo. I absolutely love stuff like this! It was no moon landing moment, but it was, as Joe Hart once said, “deee-cent”.

If you are (sane & believe this sort of stuff ever happened) interested, then there’s a private company that the owner of loads of groundbreaking companies, PayPal for example, or Tesla, Elon Musk, happens to own.

One of his businesses is pretty keen on whacking a load of stuff into space. At a fair price. And they push boundaries, fail publicly, explain why, and then move on. Fair play to him, to be honest!

We arrived at Aquatica for around 10:15, and after dopeyhead Charlie had returned to the car to pick up his entry pass which he’d only just been given, we got in, and bagged four sunbeds and three sunchairs opposite the wave pool. Or as it’s now referred to after an ‘incident’ on our last visit, the turd pool. Never seen a pool clear as quickly after someone ‘dropped a log’ and it was spotted bobbing along on the crest of a wave.

There’s plenty of good rides and slides at Aquatica, and we spent the day pottering between them all. We even managed to get on a brand new ride that officially opens on the 12th, but they were testing it out.

Jane, Charlie and I went for lunch at the “Grab and Go”, which turned out to be more of a “Tell someone to restock the fridge & then wait 10 minutes, before going” type of place!

I got itchy feet at around 4:30, as I was seriously considering ditching Charlie & Jane and driving over towards Kennedy or Titusville to watch the Falcon Heavy launch, but decided against it.

When the park shut at 5pm, we showered, changed and then went to TGI Fridays on International Drive. Apart from surprisingly underwhelming service, my chicken salad was actually really nice.

I think the girl serving us got a mite nervous through at 6:34pm when we all jumped up and ran out of the restaurant to see if we could see the rocket launch.

We did! Or at least I did. It was ace! Even from here, it was a cool thing to see.

The one good thing about TGIs was that they served the Sam Adams Nee England IPA, which is a belter of a brew. So much so, I decided to call in at a Liquor Store on the way home to see if I could buy some.

Sadly not, but I did end up having a good natter with the server about home brewing, though.

From there, it was across the road and back down to our apartment, and bed!

Oh, just before which, I arranged to play my first ever round of golf with Mr F (a keen golfist), on the Arnold Palmer Legends Course at 8am tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong!

Florida 2019 – Day 5 – A bit of Busch & Pussy

And if that headline hasn’t made you read this, then nothing will! 😉

I love Busch. Genuinely, jokes and childish double entendre aside, personally I think it’s the best park in Florida. By a country mile.

It a massively notched-up Alton Towers (when it first opened, they had animals, if you’re old enough to remember that), but with a similar family ethos, and without the bare commercialism that some parks lean on. No Marvel or Harry Potter here. Just good rides, and animals in large, well thought-through enclosures.

Boiled egg breakfast for me, (no idea what Jane and Charlie had), and then a hasty exit, as we needed to be sharp away this morning.

Busch Gardens is over in Tampa, on the west side of the Florida peninsular, whereas Kennedy Space Centre (where the SpaceX Falcon Heavy is due to launch from later today at 6:36pm) is on the east, with our apartment pretty much dead centre.

It’s an hour and 15 drive, along about 4 roads, so plenty of time for me to play with this self driving car feature. It’s still very weird!

The Fs beat us there, and so we met inside Busch just after 10:15. As I’ve mentioned, Busch is a kind of Knowsley Safari Park, with some of the best rollercoasters laid over the top. All done really well, and very rarely busy. Today was even quieter than normal, although we’ve usually come on Memorial Day, a bank holiday, so not a massive surprise.

The first coaster was one where the carriages spin around as you’re flying along, whereas the second was a full on suspended twist/corkscrew/loop-fest. After which I felt ill!

I’m normally fine on rollercoasters and have been on all of them here before, but perhaps due to being so tired, I just felt drained and a bit ‘gippy’. What a wuss!

We meandered from coaster to coaster at the lads whim. They were all having a ball. Love seeing them enjoy themselves, being kids, and being away from a screen! Children of today – it IS possible!

A lunch-stop near the orangutang and the tiger trails, consisted of a turkey salad sandwich served on what looked like chocolate arctic roll. They really have no idea what bread is in the US, same as for butter. And don’t get me started on what they call bacon!

I recovered enough to be persuaded to to on Shiekra, a vertical-drop rollercoaster, which was fabulous! Shame it meant that the Little F ended up feeling, and subsequently being, sick. Thankfully not my problem though!

We’ll be back here next Monday, so we were able to take it nice and easy today, and not have to rush from place to place. That said, the queues were no more than 5 minutes long anyway!

I even had time to buy a flight of ales to try. Four small ‘sample sizes’ of ales; Cigar City’s ‘Special Oatmeal Stout’, MIA Beer Co ‘308 IPA’, Sea Dog Brewing ‘Blueberry IPA’ and that ‘Hop Gun’, that I’d tried in bottles. All interesting in their own different ways!

Due to me feeling under the weather, I ended up being photographer/videographer for the day, more than coaster rider, but still, it was all good fun!

Once we were all worn out, we headed back towards Orange Lake Resort, and had tea (another steak!) at the Texas Roadhouse.

On the way, we heard that the SpaceX launch had been rescheduled until tomorrow, to to high altitude winds. You sometimes here the phrase ‘scrubbed’ if a launch doesn’t go ahead, but just so as you know, it’s only ‘scrubbed’ if they cancel after they filled the propellant. In this instance the rocket fuel was yet to be pumped in, so technically this launch wasn’t scrubbed. There. I’m a geek. I know.

Works well for me, as it means I may be able to sneak off and watch the launch, weather and timing permitted.

Bar Little F jumping up to hurl, and Mrs F subsequently having to sit outside with her (well-deserved) Sangria Margarita and sickly son, we enjoyed the meal & the service, before heading home to crash out.

Aquatica tomorrow, we think, so see you there!

Florida 2019 – Day 4 – Chill

Turns out that we wouldn’t have had a choice about taking it lightly today, as Charlie’s been under the weather, sadly.

The plan was to try IHOP for breakfast, then fire over to the Mall again, for a quick shop, before heading back to chill out and then watch the game.

As it turned out, the weather this morning was much better than forecast, so we should have really switched the day around, but hey-ho.

We “International House Of Pancaked” breakfast as planned. Mine was alright, Jane’s very good apparently (scrambled egg, cheese, avocado, salsa), and Charlie ordered from the lunch menu – a BLT with fries. Which was only nibbled at before he ‘fessed up he had been feeling sick since we left the apartment. Doubt it could be anything to do with the Haribo Sours he was eating when I asked him to get up out of bed.

What I didn’t like at IHOP was that when given the bill of $39, and giving a $50 bill, we got $3.50ish change as the waitress “automatically” took her 20% tip. Which I would have probably left until she took it without asking!

From there, I dropped Charlie & Jane back at the apartment before nipping back to the outlet mall to buy a pair of trainers and a couple of extra tee-shirts (- I’d not packed very well!).

After 25 minutes of car-parking wars, where you stealth-drive around watching for returning shoppers, trying to guess where their car is parked so you can grab the space, before marking your territory with aggressive application of the indicators.

A “man shop” meant I was back at the car in less time than it had taken me to park.

From there, a run around Target for a few bits and pieces, and then off to the local sports bar to watch City, and have some time to myself.

Jane has a nice relaxing time around the pool, with her Kindle, right up to the sudden deluge, which was about the same time I ran across the Miller Ale House carpark.

City got a questionable VAR penalty which we subsequently missed and then all hell broke loose.

Not in the game, in the bar! Mr F & clan arrived just as the other screens started showing Castlefield v Wigan in the Super League (Rugby League). I’m proud to say I was born in Wigan and raised as a Mancunian, whereas Mr F, dallies around and chooses his teams at will, Leeds for football, Cas for rugby. [I’ve only put this in to wind him up].

Game over (a 1-0 loss for City, away at Spurs in a two-leg quarter final, so not the end of the world by any means).

I bid farewell ‘Peter Kay-style’, with a subtle V sign as if scratching my face, and then went back to the apartment.

A quick turnaround and then out for a deliberately-delayed Mother’s Day treat meal for Jane, at Bonefish Grill.

We’ve eaten there a couple of times and had really nice food, and this time was no different. Jane ordered her usual of double lobster tails with clarified butter, and was suitably replete in finishing.

Tea sorted, so back to the apartment where Jane donned her Penguin suit and sat reading on the balcony, whilst I won an unofficial “who can make the biggest noise” competition, by farting louder than the lads setting off Bottle Rockets on the golf course that we overlook. I blame the Bonefish steak.

Suitably relaxed, it soon came time to retire to bed, somI took a few minutes to scribe today’s drivel.

Tomorrow, the plan is to head west to Busch Gardens where the weather is slightly cooler, but less likely to develop into thunderstorms.

That’s the plan so far anyway!

Night!