Holiday Road – Part XVII

For those who read this series and wonder “How many word words can Thomas use to stretch these single days out?” don’t worry. This is a pretty short one. The whole day fits neatly onto one page in my diary, and there aren’t too many outstanding stories I can remember to include. So, as a result, this will probably be the shortest of the lot.

We were leaving Pensacola, and leaving it early. We had to get on the road as soon as possible because today was the longest road drive we would have. From Pensacola, you are only just in on the very Western edge of the state. We had to drive clear across the state, and South. It would take the whole day, getting to our hotels past sunset if things were good. Of course, the whole trip was extended because of the obligatory breaks, but I don’t think anyone was going to argue against them.

We were on the road before 7:30am, with no one late this time. I was, of course, sitting next to my mate Anthony. He had been drinking the night before (no surprise there) and wanted to try and sleep for most of the drive. I had no qualms with that, figuring that I might be able to fall asleep myself if I had no one to talk to. Anthony was lucky that he fell asleep more or less straight away – I couldn’t. In fact, I didn’t for the whole trip. I wasn’t mad, as I found various ways to occupy myself, but I would have enjoyed sleeping through this leg.

Why? Because it’s summed up in 2 lines in my diary:

The stops were uneventful, and the trip long.

And that was written in large print. I can expand on one of the stops, just to flesh this post out some. We stopped at a WalGreens (I think, as Florida doesn’t have WalMarts), and were encouraged to get some food, or look around to stretch the legs. I spotted on the other side of the car-park a Barnes and Noble, the book store. I had already stocked up on food the previous stop (a burger and sides at around 11am, and a bag full of snacks from a nearby convenience store), and thought that the book store would be the best place to find a requested gift for one of my friends back home.

She had asked me to buy her a Moleskine diary. I hadn’t heard of them before, but apparently they are famous, and rather expensive here (from what I found out after locating them here). She thought they might be cheaper in the US, and said to find her one. I obliged (being the only friend of mine who actually took up my offer to buy them something specific for them). Barnes and Noble was the first place I encountered that might have them, so I headed over.

Walking in, I found these range of Moleskine products quick and easy. But I soon had a problem: There was a heap of different ones to choose from. Normal sized diaries or pocket sized? Red or black? Ruled of blank? The thing that made the decision for me? The price. They were all pretty cheap, so I grabbed one of each of the logical choices (a normal sized in red and black, and a pocket sized of red and black – no music lines or 2008 planners for her!), and then had a look round the store.

I came upon the politics section (surprise surprise) first and looked around. To be honest, there was not much different from the range at a local Borders in Australia. The only thing there was more of was right-wing Christian books, and less (a lot less) about US imperialism or more ‘liberal’ topics. I wasn’t at all surprised. I moved onto political biographies and saw that they had something on everyone here. I came upon the Pulitzer Prize winning biographies of Theodore Roosevelt (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex) and had a look at them. 

Teddy Roosevelt is probably my favourite President, after having had a good look at him in a university course, and then further in my own time. I knew that these books were out in Australia (and had been forever) but I had never brought them because my interest never justified spending ~$40 each on the books. But here they were $17 – and that wasn’t even a sale! I had spent ages trying to find the price, passing over the one that is printed on all books (you know, above the barcode that says US$XX that we ignore here in Australia), until finally I twigged that I could pay that always lower price that the Americans have the luxury of. I grabbed both and headed to the checkout – knowing that (thanks to my roommate) the exchange rate was AUD$1 bought USD$.98 – effectively dollar-to-dollar trading. I had been extremely lucky with the exchange rate while I was away, and here was a good illustration of it. These two books wouldn’t cost me more than $35, when at home they would cost ~$80. If the exchange rate was worse, I might have not brought both, or any, of the books, and probably wouldn’t have gone on some optionals either. Extremely lucky.

Eventually we were back on the bus. I spoke with a woman who I had passed in Barnes and Noble. We talked about the books we brought – she some fictional things that looked somewhat interesting, me a bag-full of serious works and blank pages. I imagine she thought less of my bag than I did of hers. Anthony showed a little interest in the books I brought, and we had a brief exchange about US politics. I probably scared him off with my knowledge of it all.

Somewhere along the track, David gave us a talk about the various theme parks. I knew what he had to say – having been there with the family years ago. 2 water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), Disney World with its 5 sub-sections, EPCOT, Universal Studios. He made some recommendations – Universal Studios had adult rides, the water theme parks were fun, Disney World is the ‘token’ place to go, EPCOT was an adult place with less rides. I had planned to go to Universal Studios the first night, then Disney World the next day (we had 2 full days to hit the theme parks) and get tea at EPCOT, which has different ‘areas’ of the world, each with a restaurant. I had made those plans banking that I’d be spending both days alone, not in a group. If I was able to find a group willing to do most of that, I’d change my plans as suited.

We got to Orlando just after the sun began setting. It was a huge complex – accustomed to housing the thousands upon thousands of families that make the trek to Disney World each year. We were staying in a place called Old Town, which had a small theme park next door. And we weren’t staying in dinky rooms, rather apartment suites which could sustain you just like a home. There was a kitchen, 2 living rooms, 3 double beds, 2 bathrooms. Everything you’d need. They weren’t 5-star quality, but they were effective none-the-less.

We were allowed a short rest before reporting back to the bus (if we wanted to) to go to Pleasure Island – the adult area of Disney World. Actually, rereading that sentence, ‘Pleasure Island’ and ‘adult section’, it makes it sound like we were going to some XXX place. It’s the area where there are nightclubs and alcohol. So it was our kind of area. I think majority of everyone showed up, and we headed off in taxis. We filled out maybe 5 taxis.

As we stood around, waiting for the taxis, I walked in dressed in my fancy clothes (the set that had only seen 2 nights out, and thus were hardly seen) and, again, people were impressed. I had given my shoes a polish before I came out, and that’s what people noticed the most. One of the men from the ‘boys’ group said, when I walked in, “Check out Macgyver!” in a reference for me to be able to produce a ‘new’ outfit whenever the occasion rose. One of the women commented on how much she liked my shirt, and asked when I had brought it on the trip. My smart dressing practice was an inadvertent hit.

We hoped on the taxis and headed off. We found our way to one club called Motion and walked in – finding, seriously, no one there. We were early, but I would have thought there would be other people there. We settled in for a drink, and waited for the place to fill up. It took maybe an hour for enough people to come in to make the place reasonable, and maybe a few more after that before the place was busy. I asked for Bud Lights, but the bar I was at ran out – so that gave me Bud Premium (an more expensive, better tasting beer) for the Bud Light price. I didn’t argue, and kept returning to that one bartender who knew my name and my order every time I went up. I think she might have taken a liking to me.

Eventually I had had enough to drink (not drunk, just buzzed) to have a go at dancing with some people who called me over. An awful dancer sober, I’m not too bad when I’ve been drinking (and if the stories were anything to go by in Vegas remember, a fantastic dancer when I’m inebriated). I proved that once again here, dancing with the group of women that had stayed at this bar. 

I had kept my mind with me and knew that I should get to bed early if I was going to spend the whole day at a theme park, and I definitely shouldn’t drink too much. Eventually I found a woman who was going home and said I’d split a cab with her. She was one of the new ones, the woman who had come to the gathering in the room I was at the previous night just to use their toilet, and the one who would end up being quite a strange (not bad) person. 

We grabbed a cab and headed off. I engaged in some talk with the cabbie (and identifying Republican who didn’t think he would vote McCain) before we got to our hotel. We split the fare (the woman I was with almost gave the guy a $20 tip) and we headed for our rooms. I found mine still empty, and remembered that my roommate said he didn’t plan to go to any theme parks, so he would be having a very late one. I milled about for a while, then finally was ready to crash. I curled up in bed and fell asleep.

Some time in the small hours of the morning (and I think not much before I was meant to wake up) my roommate stumbled in, waking me up. I didn’t mind (how could I if he wasn’t falling on me?), and listened to some of his drunk rambling before I fell asleep on him, still mindful that I should be well rested for a big day next.

Thomas.

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