This is where our American road trip started. We flew to Orlando on 23rd of February after leaving our bikes in Greece.
We stayed in Orlando for a few nights: the first couple at the Quality Inn at the airport to get over the jetlag, (and where we had some other guests entering our locked room while we were sleeping at night!) and another five at Timur’s Air B&B apartment, where we had access to a swimming pool which we used on a few occasions. Orlando is famous for its theme parks (Disneyland, Sea World and Universal) but we decided to pass on those attractions as the tickets where rather ridiculously expensive. I guess it’s a different story when it’s a holiday, but when you travel you tend to think twice before you let your money out of your pocket…
So instead we chilled by the pool, wandered around the neighbourhood and went to see a rocket launch in Cape Canaveral. As exciting as it may sound, the whole experience was rather…disappointing. First of all we showed up at Jetty Park (since tickets to Space Centre were already sold out, this was the other, quiet popular option judging by the crowds, open to public) rather under dressed: our flip flops and shorts were no match to hats, gloves and jackets people wore to protect them from cold Atlantic winds. In these chilling conditions we had to wait for over an hour and then when launch time, 10.10, came, if it wasn’t for someone on the pier shouting: “Oh there it is”, we would have missed it! It was like NASA was sending a light bulb into space! There was hardly any exhaust trail or sound. And few seconds later the rocket disappeared in the clouds. How very exciting!
We also had to sort out the car. After finding out that buying a car isn’t impossible but indeed requires a lot more effort and quite possibly more money, we went for a rental. Our initial idea of renting the car in Orlando and dropping it off somewhere on the west cost was killed as soon as we found out that drop off fee pretty much doubled the total rental cost for three months. And so the plans had to change yet again. We’ve decided on spending a month on the east side, driving towards Texas and then returning back to Orlando and flying to LA to start a two month loop from there.
Since we were already in Florida we thought of going south to Key West and then back up along the west coast. The very first night we left Orlando we had no plan. We would drive for as long or as short we felt like and would find a motel along the way to spend the night. We drove to West Palm Beach and started looking for a place to stay. There was no room to be found. It turned out it was Spring Break period and holiday time for those from cold northern states. So everything was not only overpriced but also fully booked. We ended up spending the night in a car at the carpark next to 24/7 Ihop. In our compact car that night was as uncomfortable as one can imagine. So we were back on the road at 5 in the morning. We didn’t make it to Key West but we drove through Everglades while the sun was raising and all the birds were starting their morning calls. It was really quite a feeling. And to top it all up, further up the road I spotted alligators in the nearby stream. They were so close that I was trying to stay close to the car all the time (and even looked for some uninvited passengers at the back seat before I got back in!)
And then we were on the west side (yes we totally skipped Miami, after driving through it in the morning crazy traffic), which was busy as well. Geoff managed to get as a room in a motel in Naples, which still cost more than we expected, although with Geoff’s sob story the guy gave it to us for $30 less.
The beaches in Florida are definitely nice and the one in Pensacola was our favourite. Miles of wide, fine sand beaches stretching ahead and sometimes you can even see dolphins close to the shore. We did discover though that it is not wise to try and enjoy a pizza while staring at the waves, as big hungry seagulls just wait to attack and snatch a slice right out of your hand! But instead of taking our pizza elsewhere, we decided to battle them, taking turns in eating and waving off the attacking seagulls with a piece of rolled up newspaper. Who knows, maybe somebody put up a clip of the two of us fighting the birds on YouTube…
So we will remember Florida as a place of great beaches, many birds, rocket launch and one famous Nascar track in Daytona (that we had to go and see since one of us is a big motor racing fan…)
For more pictures from Florida visit our gallery. The rest is still in a very slow sorting process (too much to see, too much fun to be had and too many pictures!)