...especially for the Snowbirds and Springbreakers
01/03/2010 - 19/03/2010 24 °C
Things got off to a good start in Tampa, Alec picked me up from the airport and we dropped my stuff off at his house before joining a bunch of couchsurfers at Kahuna bar to watch the Olympic Ice Hockey final between the US and Canada (they have some sort of rivalry apparently). Chatting to the people at the bar was interesting, one had been to Peru and said how great it was and another was an actor but he also did voiceover work. He had done voiceovers for a lot of the Hollywood celebrity TV shows (funny as he said he hardly ever watched TV). In the end Canada beat the US but it was a great game, last minute equalisers and overtime.
During the week staying with Alec I offered to help him out at his Mums house where he was renovating the guest outhouse. It was pretty impressive the work that he'd already done, his education as an architect helped and he knew a lot about construction. I stuck to sanding and painting! The house was over in St.Petersburg, so it also meant I was seeing a new area each time we went.
Alec was a keen hockey player so I went to watch him play and whilst we were there his teammate gave us 8 free tickets to see the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL Ice hockey team) for the Tuesday and also 3 tickets for the Saturday. More free live sports, what could be better. The Lightning lost in the Tuesday game against the Philly Flyers but then turned it around on the weekend against the Atlanta Thrashers. I've not seen too much ice hockey before i came to the states but i'll definitely watch it again, the speed of the game is incredible and the fighting can turn the most boring game into a spectacle.
As it turned out, a couple of friends from back home actually arrived in Tampa on the same day I did and we met up with them at the hockey and then went out to a bar with them the following night. It was good to see them and hear about their adventures so far. Some of the most amusing stories come from their trips around the West coast on the Greyhound and the crazy people that like to ride them... Something I have to look forward to! As Alec did such a good Scottish impersonation we turned him into an honorary Brit (for which i'm sure he was grateful), and when chatting to people we'd say we were 3 Brits and a Scot - which doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. The following day we met up with them again and went for a short tour to the historic Yabor City and also visited the Buccaneers stadium (i was excited about that).
It was great staying in Tampa with Alec and Jen, as we spent a fair bit of time at his mums house I met the rest of his family, parents, 2 brothers, grandparents.....friends,neighbours... They were extremely welcoming and we had several huge dinners round there, especially when Alecs mum's friend had flown in from New Mexico. She cooked us all a huge Mexican feast one night and tapas on another. It was great to meet so many friendly people and hear their stories.
On Saturday, we had an action packed day as before the hockey in the evening we went on a Kayaking trip around the mangroves. We loaded up the car with the two Kayaks and prepared some supplies (subway and a cookie) for the adventure ahead. It's crazy how so quickly you can escape all the busy traffic on the road to then feel like you're in the real wilderness. I think it was that feeling which led to us making our groundbreaking wildlife documentary....yes we did get a lot of strange looks from passers by and yes the accents are very bad (introduced as Brits yet we sound more australian/south african - just sounds more wildlifey. Steve Irwin would be proud)
I had a lot of fun in Tampa and that's mostly down to my hosts. It was great to stay with them and I hope to see them again some day.
On the monday (8th March) I continued my journey around Florida and headed further down the coast to Ft Myers Beach to stay with Deanna my CS host. She lived just a short cycle from the beach, and when the weather was good the traffic was up past her road anyway (driving would take an hour, cycling about 15min). Also the crazy golf (here its know as putt putt) just up the road was conquered on the second day - every time i mentioned crazy golf people thought I was referring to the Mexican Gulf, some funny confused faces would follow.
Deanna lives with two other people and so it was good to have company at the beach when she was working. Her boyfriend Aaron plays in a local band called the drunk monkeys and they're pretty good so have a busy schedule playing in the bars, especially around Spring Break. We got to go and watch them a few times during my stay which was always enjoyable particularly when crazy audience members liked to get involved. A huge 300 pound guy putting in a birthday song request springs to mind, who then sat in front of the stage to get a lapdance form his girlfriend (....or perhaps hooker). Ah memories.
We met up with Deanna's friends Jess and Tara at the gig and they offered to show me around the next day as Deanna was at work. So I went down early so I could have a walk on the pier and then we met up and went to a few places along the beach. Then off to get something to eat and they even refused to let me pay - thats American hospitality for you thank you
On Friday a crowd of us went to Beach bowl, the place had not changed in the last 30 years and even the staff hairstyles matched the decor. It was like the film Kingpin. Somehow I managed to win the second game!
Saturday saw Shrimp Fest come to town, which is a popular event but particularly lacking in the shrimp department. More entertaining was the cringing entertainment on the beach for spring break. It was led by a buch of guys who look like aged wrestlers (sagging muscles, perma tan, and weird spray on looking hair) who then gave way too much attention to the (female) participants in the hula, limbo and booty shaking contests! The crowd all loved it though, and they were making money for charity....so I guess its acceptable, just.
More fun at the beach over the weekend ensued and nights out at the bars. When Monday rolled around - Deanna, Zach (housemate) and myself went to Captiva Island for a day at a differnet beach. The island itself, is home to many a rich folk. Some of the houses are absolutely huge and must cost an absolute fortunate. It's actually the island where Deanna works, not a bad place to have to go to work. On the way back we stopped off at a restaurant which is famous for hosting crab races...dont ask, but it was fun and certainly a spectacle to behold!
The next day I was heading further down the (west) Florida coast onto Naples with my new host Jessica. Deanna was extremely kind and offered to drive me there. I arrived in Naples in the evening and spent the rest of the day chatting with my new host and her daughter Anna.
Naples is an extremely nice area, and certainly a place where a lot of money rolls around. Probably not a place usually on the travelers budget, but thanks to my CS host it was a possibility. The following day I got to explore the town and beach and then in the evening we all went out for a sunset cruise around the bay. The tour pointed out some of the houses around the area, the prices are unbelievable - the average was probably about $60 million. The craziest thing we were told, is about 70% of these houses are lived in only 2 weeks of the year. So I rounded up the rest of my travel savings and bought a square cm plot of land - my plans to build an inverted pyramid may annoy the neighbours.
The next day the sun was out and a day at the beach followed. When I came back I gave Anna a quick football lesson and she then thrashed me on the Wii. Later we went to the mall to pick up some braces (Anna wanted to dress as a geek for school) and then got a bite to eat. Although my stay in Naples was short, I had a lot of fun and it was a pleasure to meet my hosts. Jessica is a great mum and part of the reason for joining CS was to show her daughter how the world is not always as scary as what you may read in the papers etc. Very refreshing. She also has great taste in music and was the person who made me aware that the Arctic Monkeys were touring the US and had a few dates in Florida. Needless to say I snapped up a ticket to see them in Miami two days before I fly to Peru. What a way to end the first installment of the States.
Friday (19th March) saw me boarding another Greyhound and starting to venture across the state to make my way to Florida City to stay at the Everglades International hostel. More good times awaited me but that'll be for the next blog....