Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day 32

I woke up this morning feeling a bit hung over from the rush of yesterday. I struggled through a 40 something minute run though. My legs are good now but I am finding it hard to breathe with the heat and humidity.

I got back to my parents gaff, had a quick swim and a bite to eat and then went to the beach for a while. I drove to Honeymoon Island and stayed for about two hours. Except that two hours in the sun in Florida is like about twenty hours in the sun in Dublin. So, I got burnt, even though I was wearing sunscreen.

There was more chilling and relaxing by the poolside before a fabulous dins cooked up by me mum. She made spagh bol and it was qualiteee.

Paulo was looking to relax some more, so I drove to Howard Beach on my own to watch the sunset.

It was a quiet night, watching baseball and having the chatsies with my parents.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Nelly For Zoe

Day 31

The Story Of A Junkie

Hi. My name is Dave. And I have a problem. I'm a junkie. A coaster junkie. I just can't get enough. Ever...

The Top Four Things That Might Mean You Have A Coaster Problem

1. You stay in the park so long and you spend so much time at one ride that you meet all the staff that work the ride. Both shifts.

2. You are walking around the park and see a woman, on break, on the other side, miles away from the ride and say, "hey look it's your one from that ride."

3. You queue for the front cart for about 45 minutes, even though you could just walk on to any of the other carts.

4. You skip a meal because you want to do that ride just one more time.

We went to Busch Gardens today and I realised that I am in fact a coaster junkie. After getting a taste on Tuesday, I was ready to jump head first into things.

I bought the tickets and upgraded to a fun pass - good for the rest of the year. Oh yeah, I'll be going back again.

On Paulo's advice we went into the park and right to ShieKra. Partly to attempt to avoid the long queues but mostly to get it over with. He had ridden it before and didn't want to be thinking about it all day. While we were queueing, I convinced him to sit in the front row. As we got closer, he seemed a bit edgy and stopped talking. I just shuffled along, oblivious to what we were about to encounter.

It's a 200 foot ascent up the ramp, then a short little u-shaped turn around. Then the ride stops. It stops after they just tip you over the edge. For about five seconds that feels like a year. And in the front row you are looking straight down at the drop and 90 degree bend which leads to the first loop, which leads to the first twist, etc.

After you have had enough time to question why you chose the front row, why you even got on the ride and why you are sitting on a contraption that is about to drop you and let you free fall 200 feet, they drop you. And it scared the bejaysus out of me. I screamed, not because you are meant to but because I was fucking terrified! But what a rush! As I said before, once you go front row you can never go back. Ever. The rest of the ride wasn't all that great (see - told you I have a problem) but we got off feelin' all out of sorts anyway. We checked our gobs on the screen as you leave because of course they take a picture of you when you totally horrified and laughed at our expressions.

We decided to cool off for a bit on the water rides. So we rode Stanley Falls Flume, Tidal Wave and Congo River Rapids where we got wet, wetter and absolutely soaked.

Then it was time for our second fix - Kumba. While it doesn't offer a terrifying drop, it does offer a couple of loops and non-stop twists and turns. Since it is a bit older, it does have a floor but it was still a total rush. We were soaked to the bone and still reeling from SheiKra but we loved every second of it. Afterwards we decided that Kumba gets the nod over SheiKra.

All of the 'rush' of the first couple of hours was making Paulo pecky so we stopped for a bit to regroup and eat.

Since it is not wise to eat and then get high, we decided to chill on the train ride around the Serengeti Plain. It was relaxing but the amount of animals were a bit underwhelming to say the least. As we pulling back into Nairobi station a thunderstorm rolled in. We took cover in the snake house.

After waiting out the storm for about half an hour we reemerged and ran into this fella.

We made our way over to the next coaster on our list - the almighty Montu. Now this ride is the real deal. Floorless, more loops than a nut house and never ending twists and turns. In typical fashion, we queued for the first cart and were blown away. This was the best coaster I have ever been on. Full stop. Man, the kick, the rush, the euphoria. It was great but we wanted more.

We took another breather and then decided to go with a little curve ball - Cheetah Chase. The queues were long, so we had to break out our 'free passes' that we received due to a bit of hassle while trying to purchase tickets. They basically let you cut the queue, since you go into the ride from the exit. I kept saying to Paulo that it was only a kid's ride but was I wrong! The fecking thing drives you along in a little cart that gives you the sensation you are going to go off the edge of the track as you go through each of the 180 degree turns. And there are a lot of them. There's even a bit off a drop thrown in as well. It was a brilliant little ride!

Since Cheetah Chase is so close to Montu, we decided it would be rude to not have another go. Again - queue, front row, unbelievable rush and another hit.

By now, time was getting on but he convinced me to have one more go on Kumba. We got the Skyride across the park to Kumba. When we arrived, there was no queue. Happy days! One more front ride to finish the day and had home feeling good.

Except when we got off Kumba we looked at each other and decided that we had to finish the day off on Montu. Back on the Skyride across the park and into the queue. We had to wait a while and I was starting to fade but once we got on it was worth every second of the wait.

So for those of you counting, it was one SheiKra, two Kumbas and three Montus. Sweet mercy.

On the way back to the car, I had a go at one of the carnie games and scored an 87 with the hammer to win a small Batman doll. He now hangs happily in the back of our Dodgy Dodge along with the Mario that Paulo won in the wiffle ball toss.

We drove home wrecked, stopped for a take-out and went back to my parents house waiting for the hang over to kick in.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Days (And Miles) Pass By So Quickly...

Day 30

The Bitterness Of The Parrot Lady

I woke up this morning very early. Ridiculously early. Before the sun came up early. Why? I wanted to watch the sunrise from the beach next to Aglin Pier. I had seen that the 70 something year old pier provided excellent views to the east and the sunrises were magnificent. Well, except for this day. I woke up to rain and overcast skies. Still, I drove to the pier hoping for the best. But it wasn't to be. The sun never came out and there was still a charge to go out on the pier, even at this hour. I sat on a bench and watched as the sky grew a bit brighter. Then I went back to the hotel for a bit of wifi.

Paulo woke up, we packed up and set off on our way. Back to Orlando. We had a date with Dollar to return the Dodgy Dodge and after the series of phone calls on Monday we thought that things had been sorted. Paulo's connections in the US and UK had managed to speed the process up for us and had mailed him a voucher for the next month's rental. Happy days, or so we thought...

The drive back up was pretty uneventful. A bit boring even. We had seen all the roads before. But we arrived at Orlando Airport at about 2:30. Things went a bit pear shaped right from the start. We tried to explain to an attendant in the carpark that we wanted to leave our things in the car, while we tried to rent it again. He thought we were crazy. He didn't know what the hell we were on about. But he let us go. Into the arrivals departure and into the queue.

Fortunately, we were waited on by a nice girl called Iris. She was empathetic to our situation but when Paulo produced the voucher, she started having doubts about our rental agreement. When the corporate account that we had paid into and were trying to use to pay Dollar for the car had been closed, we knew we were in a spot of bother.

Unfortunately, Iris's boss Becky was having none of it. Not a sizzling. She sounded like a broken record because her response to everything we said was "I need a voucher." We tried to point out that we had a voucher, that it had worked last time, that we had talked to so & so in the US and so & so in the UK. Every time she replied, "I need a voucher."

After a while, I got so annoyed I had to walk away for a few minutes. Paulo was suffering from severe hunger but he hung in there and remained diplomatic. Iris was great. She chatted with us, made jokes and even gave Paulo a banana. In the end after several phone calls, Becky returned. This time she said, "In 17 years, I have never seen this situation before. I need a voucher..."

We got another Dodgy Dodge but took the car after paying the full rate because Dollar wouldn't give us the internet rate until they received a fucking voucher. But we were able to leave it between Sky Cars and Dollar to sort out.

We headed back to International Drive and stumbled into Bennigan's barely able to walk from the weakness of hunger pangs. We were greeted by Lisa, who was our server and talked at about a volume of 11 on dial up to 10. She asked if we would like a drink, as it was happy hour. I replied by asking for a pint. Her response was to ask me for ID. The usual...

During the meal I phoned my mother and sorted our digs out for the night. We drove east to Palm Harbor, passing Tampa along the way. The city looked great in the soft light of the sunset.

We pulled in to a U Save for some Coronas and then made our way to my parents gaff. We relaxed for a few hours with them, chatting and drinking a few beers. When 11:30 rolled around, we were ready to hit the scratcher.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day 29

This morning we woke up a bit late - exhausted from Universal. We showered, had a bite to eat, checked out and drove to south Beach. With impeccable timing, a storm rolled in as soon as we got there and everyone left the beach.

The sky looked blue a bit further on so we drove down to Vero Beach.

Not a cloud in the sky! We set up our field and played the second game in our Wiffle Ball World Series. I won the first game that we played on Sandy Neck beach and was eager to get another victory. After Paulo opened a 5-0 lead, I shut him down and took my second win 11-5 to go 2-0 up in the Series.

It was extremely hot so we decided to go for a shwim - the water was perfect! Not too cold and not like bath water - the perfect temperature in between and the waves were a decent size as well.

After the swim, we were both a bit Hank so we had a bite in Mulligan's Bar And Grill on the beach. The Johnny Rambos were nice and there was a great breeze blowing through the place. We were sat at the bar and had to listen to a life story guy. You know the type? They tell the bartender their entire life story over a beer. Whether the bartender wanted to know it or not. We sure as hell didn't.

We got back into the car and turned right to get back on 95S, heading towards Fort Lauderdale. The drive was pretty uneventful and we arrived in Lauderdale By The Sea at about 4:30. We stayed in Fort Lauderdale Hotel & Resort Suites because it was in the book (Room Saver) and it was cheap. It turns out that we weren't really anywhere near Fort Lauderdale but we were both too tired to really care.

Hunger moved in so we went in search of a place to eat. We chose a place called Thai Spice because it was in a book of suggested restaurants and apparently won a bunch of awards. The food was good but the service was OTT. The atmosphere wasn't great either. But you do the best you can in a strange town. Sometimes you choose a good place, sometimes you don't.

On the way back to the hotel, we called into Village Pub which is next to Anglin Pier. We wanted to walk out Anglin Pier for a look but they actually charge you two dollars to go out on the pier. Ridonkulous! So we settled for the pub, partly because we were thirsty but mostly because the owners were huge Red Sox fans and had lots of Sox stuff all over the bar. We had a relaxer and watched the Yankees lose to the Orioles.

Then we went back to the hotel for a couple of quiet beers at the outside Tiki Bar below our room. The other people at the bar were, well, strange to say the least. It was quite a collection of tramps, hobos (us) and dodgy looking characters.

Another day under our belts, we retired and quickly fell asleep.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kub Says "Everything Looks Better In 3D!"

Day 28

Dollar Rent-A-Car - You Only Get What You Pay For

I woke up this morning and went for another run. It was hot and I was tired but you gotta train, don't you? I did the same route as yesterday but managed to find a dirt track around a small park. I did four laps around and stretched the legs a bit, which felt really good. The knees are good again and my form is starting to improve.

When I got back to the gaff, I discovered that disaster had struck again with Dollar. Paulo went to the Sky Cars website to book another car for the month of July and instead of three days notice prior to the pick up they now require four days. That means we would have had to book it yesterday! Paulo got in touch with Sky Cars in the US and the UK and set the wheels in motion to get things sorted. Fortunately, he spoke to some really helpful people who said they would look after things. So we had to trust and believe them - for the moment...

The Universal

There was nothing more we could do about the car, so we left Aido's and went to Universal. One of the lads from the poker game last night scored us free tickets. Winner!

12:00 - we arrive at Universal, park in The Cat In The Hat Lot and leg it inside like a couple of kids. We meet Rob at the big Universal ball and collect our tickets.

We decide to hit Islands Of Adventure first.

Unfortunately for us, the queue at The Hulk is 90 minutes long. Bitter! The same at Spiderman and the other rides.

We decide to walk around the park, going through Jurassic Park.

We go all the way over to the Lost Continent to ride Duelling Dragons.

Wow! What a coaster! The loops, the twists, the floorless carts and the near head-on collision between the two dragons, fire and ice. After a brief twenty minute wait, it got the blood flowing and we wanted more!

We made our way back to the entrance through Seuss Landing.

The queues were still ridiculous at The Hulk, so we make our way over to Universal Studios. More heat, more people and more long queues. We reckon that we'll brave the 40 minute wait at Revenge Of The Mummy.

And it did not disappoint. Another brilliant coaster - indoors and one that follows the theme of the film. It's complete with the mummy, bugs, flames and a cart that goes backwards, does 360 degree turns and takes you down to the 'depths of hell'.

After Mummy, we need to refuel with some pizza and lemonade in Louie's located in 'New York'.

We finish our loop around Universal Studios but the queues in Men In Black, Jaws and ET are still way too long and the time was getting on.

16:00 - We decide to walk all the way back to Islands to have one last look at The Hulk. By now the heat was really taking it's toll on us. We were knackered but both of us were really looking for another 'hit' to feed our coaster habit.

Back inside Islands and the queue for The Hulk is now sixty minutes. Better but still not great. The exact same for Spiderman. Damn! How are we going to get our fix!? I spot a sign for express tickets and decide to ask about them. It turns out that you can buy four express tickets for only $22.00! We could each do two rides without having to queue. What a bargain! The only catch is that you can't use them until after 17:00. No problem. We score the tickets and decide to ring Rob again.

16:30 - on the dog & bone to Rob to see if he has a few minutes to spare. He had offered earlier to give us a quick tour of the studios that he looks after. He's free and meets us by The Blue Men sign. We get a tour of Stage 19 that used to be rented by Nickolodeon to film all of their programs. Now, one half is used for storage and the other half is used to film a local football program and a fishing program.

He then takes us to Stage 21.

This studio is used to film TNA wrestling. The signs all state Total Nonstop Action but we know better. We know that it really means tits and ass.

17:00 - Rob takes us back over to Islands and as we say goodbye we both begin licking our chops at the prospect of two more coaster rides. We decide to hang fire on The Hulk and start with Spiderman.

An express ticket, no queue and the attendant didn't even ask to see our tickets! When you buy single express tickets they are meant to be collected at the ride. We just got an extra ride - free! Happy days!

It's a fantastic ride - in 3D. Very thrilling and with a great finish.

Now, we are all fired up. We had another fix and will get a third ride out of the deal. We run (not walk) over to The Hulk.

The guy takes our ticket and the queue for express was a bit long. But it didn't matter. What a fucking great ride! You start up a ramp like a normal coaster but then it stops for a second. Then you are shot out of a tunnel at about fifty miles per hour and you go straight into a drop and then a loop. Pure adrenaline!

When we get off The Hulk we are buzzing and we still have another ticket left. So, we walk all the way back across to Duelling Dragons. Earlier we rode the Fire cart so we figure we should have a go on the ice cart. And to make it that little bit more interesting we even decide to queue for the front cart. It's a long wait but the attendant doesn't take our ticket! This is unbelievable! We now have the chance to do a fourth ride - for free!

But back to Duelling Dragons. I have to say that once you ride a coaster in the front cart, you will NEVER go back to sitting in the other carts. The drops and loops are ten times better with a front row seat. And the near collision caused both of us to nearly shit a brick.

Leaving Dragons we weren't buzzing any more. We were totally high! A couple of junkies who managed to get way more than we hoped for. But we couldn't waste our last ticket. Oh no. We had to go back to The Hulk once more. The attendant took our ticket, so this was to be our last ride but it was as amazing as the first time. Once again we queued for the front seat and it totally blew our minds.

18:30 - we stumble out of Universal, dizzy with the adrenaline rush of the last 90 minutes.

Back in the real world, we drive about two hours to Vero Beach, find a hotel and settle in for the night.

22:00 - we are both hung over and totally shattered. Paulo gets into the car and goes in search of some food. He comes back with McDonalds. I decide to walk all the way across the carpark to Chili's for a bite. I sit at the bar and order a chicken salad and a Blue Moon draft. I get carded - again! But the salad and beer are nice. I try to relax and unwind, watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN and thinking about the great day out in Universal. Fair play to Rob.