Posted by: glenswatman | June 1, 2008

200805-2-May Florida

THURSDAY 15 MAY – Today’s exploration begins
north at Boca Raton where the Historical Society museum is tame, the Mizner
Park Italian style shopping centre empty and the main highlight of the Boca
Raton Resort only open to members and guests. 
At least it is a pleasant journey back down the coast along the
A1A.  Mathijs is happy when we travel
the airport perimeter road to enable us to stand underneath the aircraft as
they land.  Hard Rock casino is a
massive complex with mini shopping mall, hotel, Hard Rock café plus main
casino.  After eating in the food court
Mathijs is keen to test his skills.  The
poker room is a separate area and has dozens of tables.  It is so popular you have to go on a waiting
list to play.  Once he gets a game we
explore the shopping area where there is a huge stadium with people limbering
up for a pool tournament.  Joining the
casino players club gets you $20 worth of slot play and once we have fed this
through the machine and taken the winnings we are ready to leave.  Ricky goes back after 10pm to pick up
Mathijs who has managed to win $75.



FRIDAY 16 MAY – The planned trip to the Keys
is on hold as Ricky’s air conditioner has broken down again and he needs to
wait for the engineer to arrive.  It’s
all fixed just after 11am and although we are looking at about 150-mile drive
Ricky suggests we set off.  We visited
the Keys in 1990 and other than a newer wider road little seems to have
changed.  It’s absolutely beautiful and
the journey is as much a part as our destination of Key West.  Arrive after about 4-hours and begin at the
small picture perfect beach area then the obligatory photo stop at the Southern
most point in the USA, only 90 miles from Cuba.  B.O’s Fish Wagon on Caroline Street is a kind of backyard shed
surrounded by junk that is used as tables etc. 
The food is reasonably priced and the conch fritters are delicious.  A short walk takes us to the busy waterfront
area but it’s still not 5pm and way too early for the sunset festivities.  Move the car up the cemetery as the Lonely
Plant tells of quirky inscriptions on graves such as “at least I know where
he’s sleeping tonight” and “I told you I was sick”.  We wander around but see nothing out of the ordinary other than a
large number of old tombs that have been disturbed and look like something out
of a horror movie.  It’s a pleasant walk
on shady streets past interesting houses to get to Duval Street.  This is the main tourist drag and abounds
with bars and art type shops and has a great atmosphere.  At the marina the sunset cruises are all
ready to depart and along the boardwalk the street performers are beginning
their performances.  We’ve pretty much
seen everything we want to so decide to hop in the car and catch the sunset
from one of the keys further east.  Unfortunately
the clouds prevent us doing so but it does give us chance to arrive home before



SATURDAY 17 MAY – Bad news, the air
conditioning is not working again.  It’s
pretty much an essential in Florida and the main reason people would not live
here before it was available.   Late
morning we leave Steve watching sport on TV whilst the rest of us go
shopping.  In the evening we drive to
Dave & Busters where there is supposed to be a Couchsuring meeting.  Only problem is that I have got the wrong
day and it was held on Thursday! 
Actually they did us a favour, as in the same area there is a “Sweet
Tomato” buffet style restaurant.  $9.75
(£5) for the all you can eat salad bar (yes I know I don’t like salad) plus 8
home made soups, baked potatoes, bakery, freshly baked desserts and other



SUNDAY 18 MAY – Mathijs has booked a hire car
but hasn’t received Internet confirmation so we spend ages working out how to
trace the transaction.  Ricky takes him
to pick it up but they return together later. 
At the agency the quoted price is increased because he is only 24 years
old and they also add a one-way drop off penalty taking it to $600 (£300) for 4
days.  They have cancelled it and now
want to book with another company but the cheap deals must be booked at least
24-hours in advance so he settles for picking one up tomorrow afternoon.  Spend the afternoon by the pool then play
poker in the evening.



MONDAY 19 MAY – Luckily Mathijs manages to get
his car but not without paying a small surcharge for extra insurance.  It would appear that all quotes on the
Internet are incomplete. Bit of a steep learning curve on his first trip alone.  We spend a leisurely day at home waiting for
the air-con men to arrive.  This time
they send their 2 top men who seem to make a better job of it.



TUESDAY 20 MAY – Ricky goes to work in the
morning so more for exercise than anything I take a walk up to the shopping
mall and end up buying a nice dress. 
With the temperature so high it must be the coolest thing to wear.  Ricky is very pleased when the insurance
assessor comes to check out his car.  He
says that the damage amounts to $1200 so Ricky opts take a cheque for that
amount rather than getting it repaired. 



WEDNESDAY 21 MAY – Spend most of the morning
down at the clothing optional Haulover Beach, which is surprisingly, busy. 



THURSDAY 22 MAY – When Ricky returns from work
we take him out to lunch at the New China Buffet.  There is an excellent range of food including some more unusual
dishes such as chickens feet and trips. 
We are all so full that we are happy to return and watch movies for the
rest of the day.



FRIDAY 23 MAY – A lazy day at home.  We get a bit of a storm in the afternoon but
it is short lived.



SATURDAY 24 MAY – On the way to the beach
Ricky stops at the “Drive thru pharmacy”. 
I can’t help but laugh when I see these big tubes running from the
building to the terminals at the drive through, do you have to lie underneath
with your mouth open and wait for the pills to drop into it or what?  Morning down at Haulover beach.  The clothing optional area is packed but
either side the beach is deserted! 
Ricky takes us out for an early supper at a different Sweet Tomatoes and
it is equally good.  Return just a huge
storm begins.  There seems to be a
number of storms converging and we get different types of lightening and
torrential rain.



SUNDAY 25 MAY – Steve gets up early to watch
the Grand Prix and is rewarding with a win for Britain.  This means we don’t set off until around
10.30am but the roads are still very quiet once we get beyond the suburbs and
onto the 27.  The swampy area gives way to
Lake Okeechobee but due to the drought it is completely dry. Further north
there are other lakes and no doubt the water is used for irrigation as we see
fields of cattle and orange plantations. 
At Sebring the locals are out enjoying the holiday weekend and have
driven into the low level lake to sit in the water and have a picnic.  Our Globalfreeloaders hosts are Jerri and
Bob who live in a retirement village mobile home.  It’s hard to tell it’s a mobile home as it is double width and
huge with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, bigger than many a house in England.  There is a parking area for motorhomes and
they lead us there in their golf cart. 
After a tour through the estate they show us our room and we settle in
and get to know them.  In the evening
Jerri takes me for a golf cart tour of the neighbourhood which is fun.



MONDAY 26 MAY – It’s Memorial Day holiday
here, rather like our Remembrance Day. 
Make a leisurely start with a late bacon sandwich breakfast.  Jerri & Bob have invited us to join them
at the clubhouse for an afternoon BBQ. 
Darlene takes control and does a speech and arranges the 1-minute
silence at 3pm.  Spend the rest of the
day relaxing at home and chatting with our hosts.  Jerri is a very artistic person and has used some original ideas
to decorate their home with a beach theme so I pick up lots of ideas.



TUESDAY 27 MAY – Our next stop is the shopping
centre at Poinciana just south of Orlando. 
This is obviously a rapidly developing area and the shopping centre
already has a Wal*Mart, 2 other grocery stores, many other small stores and a
few restaurants.  Just about 1-mile
further on is Cypress Cove naturist resort. 
We are booked to stay there for 2 months and have friends flying in from
Australia a week on Friday to stay in Harry for the 5 weeks whilst we visit
England.  They have a special offer on
with 3 months trial membership at $159 (£80) per couple and as a member you get
a monthly camping rate of just $338 (£170) plus electric.  We are allocated a site at 65 Otter Lane and
it’s really nice.  A short walk to a
toilet block and whilst near all the sporting facilities it is a quiet and
shady spot.  Set out to explore the
resort only to be amazed by just how many permanent residents there are.  We walk over 1 mile around a loop bounded by
fixed homes.  Excellent leisure
facilities include a rectangular swimming pool, a fancy shaped pool with a
waterfall, 2 hot tubs, gym, beauty salon and a lake for fishing, boating or
swimming – if you are faster than the alligators.  Tennis courts, basketball net, petanque courts and golf also
offer sports opportunities and everything has been so well thought out that
there are water fountains and showers wherever you may need them. There is a
weekly programme of events so we join the evening Euchre card game at The
Terrace and get to know a few people.



WEDNESDAY 28 MAY – 9am finds us at the
petanque court where we have an enjoyable couple of games and get to know more
people.  Steve follows it with a round
of golf whilst I go home to make use of the free wi-fi.  Just time for a pre lunch dip in the pool
where we return for most of the afternoon. 
I make an effort and put in 30 length of the shaped pool which is over
20m long.  Although the days are hot
there is usually a breeze and at night the temperature drops to a very
comfortable level.  So much so that we
haven’t even felt a need to run the air conditioner and only occasionally use
the fan.



THURSDAY 29 MAY – After our morning petanque
session we set out to walk to the shopping centre.  Notice that there is a bus stop directly outside the resort so
that will be handy.  It’s an easy flat
walk to the shops and we explore everywhere and find everything we may need
however the walk back is considerably more tiring in the heat.  Spend the afternoon by the pool and then an
evening card session of Euchre.



FRIDAY 30 MAY – Morning petanque then a bit of
planning.  Early afternoon petanque
players Judy & Bob pick us up for a ride out.  They come from New York but are in the process of moving down
here permanently.  Begin at the Osceola
shopping mall where we are hoping to be picked on by time share touts offering
cheap Disney tickets.  It’s a very poor
mall for shops and they don’t have one time-share stand.  Judy drives us to a nearby tourist office
that does but to save a total of $80 you have to endure up to 3-hours of hard
sell and make your own way to the hotel which is miles away.  Judy gives us a nice tour around Kissimmee
including the famous “monument to the states” where someone from each state
donated a piece of rock from that area. 
It has now been extended to include rocks from other countries including
England.  Over at St Cloud we go for an
early supper at Crabby Bill’s restaurant on the lake.  The fish is excellent and Steve is delighted with the happy hour
beer at $1 (50p) pint.  Back at “The
Cove” there is a dive in movie – no not a spelling mistake as the movie is held
at the swimming pool.  We opt for one of
the sun loungers but many youngsters spend the whole time in the water.  Free popcorn is served as we enjoy “National
Treasure 2”.



SATURDAY 31 MAY – Cindi from petanque calls
round, introduces her partner Mike and asks if we would like to join them for a
ride over to Cape Canaveral to watch the shuttle launch.  We are delighted as we were keen to see it
but not to drive Harry over there.  As
soon as we have finished petanque we head off and arrive in the area just after
12.00.  Already Jetty Park is full but
we get an excellent beach spot at the west end of Cape Canaveral, directly
opposite the shuttle launch pad.  It was
100F when we set out and a really hot afternoon so sitting in the shallow water
on the sun loungers is the perfect way to cool off, even though the water is
like a warm bath.  As the afternoon
progresses more and more people arrive and boats line up between the NASA
centre and us.  Nearing 5pm we have the
radio on for the countdown and it’s quite strange to hear them talking about
the rockets firing up and being able to see the flames with our bare eyes.  The lift of seems slow and graceful and
Steve with the binoculars gives us a running commentary.  As the shuttle rises we hear a bit of a boom
but not as loud as we anticipated and certainly no feeling of the earth
trembling as we had been led to expect. 
It’s still a very moving experience watching Discovery head off at over
1000mph.  Unsurprisingly there are
traffic jams heading back to Orlando but it’s not a bad run back and well worth
the trip out.



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