Saturday, 24 November 2012


Seven days, thats how long we had booked, seven days in the happiest place on earth.  Well technically it's seven nights, so just six full days, and as such we got a five day pass for the parks, allowing us one day to go back and do the other Universal park.

Adams Take

Day Zero, we arrive...  The place is huge, I'm not talking big, I'm talking HUGE, 47 Square miles type HUGE.  We follow the signs, and arrive at what looks like a toll booth, it's where anyone getting close pays for parking, not entry to the park, just the parking.  No fear though, if you pull up in an RV they assume your heading to the RV park and give you directions to their park, nice and easy.  Arrival at the RV park is just as easy, we didn't even have to get out of the RV, passes, plans, tickets, directions all the bits and bobs we would need were handed to us then an there, perfect.  Well it would have been perfect, if they hadn't put us in a site next to a crazy lady with a whole heap of caged animals outside her RV one of which was some sort of parakeet that just didn't shut up.  A quick trip to the concierge office (on the complementary bus) and we were given a new site to move to, away from the crazy lady.  Some thought after the fact leads us to believe that we were also upgraded to one of the top tier spots, too, from the lowest tear spots.  But just to keep it in perspective, the lowest tear spots were $67 a night and the top spots are $95! We usually pay $20!  The pitch was huge, we are talking 45 or 50 foot long, and easly 30 foot wide, concrete, a big patio table and a nice BBQ, surrounded by trees so you get a little feeling of privacy and a 30 second walk from the nearest bus stop. Perfect.

We had a five day pass for the parks, thats one day for each park and a day to return to one of the parks if we didn't get one of them done in a day, there was an option to change that last day ticket to a 'hopper' so we could move between parks on that last day but as it was a cost option (nothing is free) we held off until we decided it was necessary.

To bed early, this is going to be a long week...

Day One, Animal Kingdom.
The park clearly has an animal theme, think jungle book, think Lion King, think a bugs life and your there, each ride or show has a theme to it.  Animal Kingdom, covers the most ground of all the parks as there is a safari ride, which takes you through what is effectively an open air cage-less zoo, very cleverly done and enjoyable.  The big roller-coaster on this site is called everest and is supposed to be a ride through the Himalayas with the yeti on your tail, it's clever, fast and enjoyable, with track switching and reverse sections it's certainly not your average coaster.  There was a 3D style 'ride' with added water wind and smells, There was an old school 3D 'ride' and a few other bits and bobs but surprisingly to us we were done well before we had expected, we'd anticipated being rushing and queuing from here to there to get it all done, but so much of it was aimed at the younger audience meant there wasn't actually an awful lot for a pair of adults (well one adult and one child in an adults body) to do..  So we headed back to the RV hours before we expected.

Day Two, Hollywood Studios.
New Roller-coaster, New 3D style 'ride', Older style 3D 'ride', other bits and bobs.  All the rides this time have a Hollywood movie type theme, Terminator, MIB, Simpsons the oddity in the pack is the big roller-coaster, based round Aerosmith.  Shockingly and in a way sadly, we experienced the same things as at Animal Kingdom, the place was shockingly clean, there was always someone to answer any question never more than 20 foot away (yes there are that many staff) but again, two adults, no kids and we were all done before we expected.  That included riding some of the rides more than once.

Day Three, Magic Kingdom
New Roller-coaster, New 3D style 'ride', Older style 3D 'ride', other bits and bobs. (Do you see a pattern?) Everything here is based on what we remember as the classic Disney, Mickey, Donald, all the sparkle.  We did the rounds, but today we loitered, the Magic Kingdom has the castle and it being the time of year that it is they cover it in lights, it looks quite spectacular.  Oh and we had a bit of proof that Disney isn't run on magic, when the lights were turned on, one section failed to come on and only came on after about a 20 minute delay, much to the delight of the crowd.  Then of course they were turned off for the daily fireworks show, a show is a bit of a lame term for it, it continues for about 15 minutes and there isn't a split second without an oooh or an ahhh.

Day Four, EPCOT
New 3D style 'ride', Older style 3D 'ride', other bits and bobs......  all with a 'futuristic' twist..  and a food festival....  yes you read that right a food festival WHOOP!  or not, yes lots of extra stands serving foods from all over the world, at a cost.  The site is spread over a wide arc and walking the arc takes us longer than we expected so a decision is made that this will be the place we come back to on our fifth day and as such we take our time, only taking in about 65% of whats to be seen.

Day Five, Universal, Islands of adventure.
Ahh, disney for grownups. It's a whole heap of rides, we got there early expecting crowds, and there were none! we did ride after ride multiple times with no more than a 10 minute wait, and even that was optional because we were waiting for the front seats!  The Harry Potter World area is the highlight of the park, the whole area is decked out like the film and the two potter rides are the highlight of the week,

Day Six, EPCOT
Day two of EPCOT and we head round the arc the oposite way to the direction we went on the first day, covering all the bits we didn't see on the first.  Whilst it's got no big roller-coaster there was lots too see, odd but whilst there wasn't much to do there was much to see.

Day Seven,
We depart, looking forward for a rest to recover from the happiest place in the world.

Ali's Take

Day Zero,
Arrived at the park and got given a spot next to crazy parrot moved.

Day One, Animal Kingdom.

Day Two, Hollywood Studios.
......More Fun

Day Three, Magic Kingdom.

Day Four, EPCOT.
.......Woo Hoo...

Day Five, Universal, Islands of adventure.
......Oh My God, can i take any more fun.....yup, i can.

Day Six, EPCOT (International food and wine festival)
Food......oh and more fun.

Day Seven.
Gotta go more fun......(sad face)

Do you get the feeling I had more fun than Adam at Disney. Well I did, cause I'm still a kid inside, cant help it.
He is just a grumpy old git.....
But I don't care, I had the time of my life...I mean come on... it's frigin Disney frigin Florida.....HELLO.......

Look, he is almost smiling. But that is just because its the first day. Just wait.

Sorry, but i chickened out. The hubby is on his own here...

ooooh,  aaaahhh.....

No, definitely not smiling here.

See, Grumpy old git...

Pretty high on the awesomeness ride list...

Universal and Daytona Speedway

A night stop over in Tallahassee got us over to the East cost of Florida and our first Theme park day at Universal Orlando. Universal is actually split in to two parks Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure. Both lead off from the "Universal Citywalk" area. Basically a huge open mall with shops, restaurants and bars that anyone can visit, no need for a park ticket. We opted for the studios first as it's the smaller of the two parks and seemed perfect for our first day. All the rides and shows have a movie theme as you would imagine and although there are loads of "kids" themed rides like Shrek, Despicable Me and The Simpsons they where more than adequate for a big kid like me.

The whole place is very clean and tidy. There are loads of staff around more than happy to help you with any questions and plenty of street entertainment. In fact less than two minutes through the gates I was stopped by two "Agents of the MIB" they suggested I looked a little suspicious and spoke with a strange accent and demanded to see my papers...Its funny though I can't actually remember much of my conversation with them, I do remember a flash of light and a strange high pitched whistling sound, but, oh well they just asked us to move
With rides like" Twister" and "Disaster" and half hour shows on "The Magic of Horror Movies" there is plenty for the grown ups too. A pretty awesome day was had by us both and we even got free entry to a live filming of a wrestling match. Pure theatrics of course, but lots of fun. Both knackered and smiled out but happy we got home pretty late.

 Daytona Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 the most prestigious NASCAR race ever was our next stop. I dont see the appeal myself as all the cars do is go round and round and round.... But its loved over here.
We didn't however, go for a car race. We went to attend one of the largest RV shows in the USA. "The Rally" is sponsored by The Good Sams Club, a large RV owners Club and has lots of interest.
I won't bore you with the details but its basically a huge showroom selling everything from RV Toilet paper to the latest RV models and everything in-between. For an RV'er its pretty cool and there was a Vintage RV show too.

The Speedway is pretty impressive if im honest and they even offered for us to test drive one of the new RVs on it, but i think Adam was a bit worried I'd get big ideas about bringing one home. A pretty fun day was had actually and it was a nice rest from the previous day.

Here we go...

Even Crusty scares me.

I'll be back.

RV show at Daytona Speedway

Vintage RVing...


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Lets take a break!

Before we have our epic week in Disney World we have decided to go have a week at the sea side. Well kinda, Fort Pickens is a state park on the gulf islands off Pensacola. With only one way in or out of the park along a man made causeway it boasts seclusion and beauty. And it has both. Although there where plenty of people staying on the campsite its a pretty big place and the sites are spacious so your not on top of each other. Plus with miles of coast line to explore there was plenty of space to loose the other campers.

Being a national park of course it is also a conservation site. We happened to stay during a butterfly migration too so there was plenty to see. Butterflys, dragonflies, frogs, lizards and of course snakes. Yup i said snakes. Fortunately the only ones I saw where roadkill.  And i mean fortunately for me, not fortunately for the snakes. I dont like them but i dont want them flattened either.   The birds where amazing too. We got visited by beautiful Red Cardinal most days and i have never seen so many pelicans and heron in one place.

The beaches are exceptional. White sands as clean as I'v ever seen and the sea is so blue it doesn't look real. Its almost like a painting of a perfect beach. The most perfect beach you ever saw. Just amazing.

Once again out movie minds kicked in, Pensacola featured,again, in our favourite movie Contact. At the beginning of the movie a young Eleanor Arroway chats on her CB radio with a man in Florida and discovers he lives in Pensacola. A little obscure maybe but we had to go see.....

Monday, 5 November 2012

Judy, The Blues, Elvis and Voodoo...

We gotta now make our way from Chicago to New Orleans, and I was always told the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so.....

Not quite a straight line but pretty much the most direct rout is, Chicago, St Lewis, Jackson, Memphis, New Orleans.

I drove Adam mad all the way to St Lewis singing Judy Garland, "Meet me in St Louis". Bless him. If I'm honest im surprised I made it there unharmed. Its a lovely place. A little more modern than in the film now, but the character is still there. The houses start to get big and ornate as you travel towards the southern cost. Those southern mansions you see on tv. Of course there are the usual suburbs but as there is no shortage of space here in the USA that just seems to become more apparent the further south you go. A 2 day stop just outside the city was lovely. If a necessity, to get our brakes fixed, apparently they are an essential part of the rig. We drove past the St Louis Arch but didn't make a visit. We did however go to the Zoo, one of the largest free zoo's in the USA, it was an enjoyable and cheep afternoon out.

On to Jackson. Again only a day stop. We visited the Capitol Building. Yep Thats Capitol with an "O" and not Capital with an "A". A Capital is the major city. A Capitol is where the significant city records or councils reside. Since the Jackson Capitol was responsible for some of the Souths major decisions in woman's rights and slavery abolition we decided it was a definite visit destination.
The building is wonderful. Formal and regal and designed by a Brit.....Now the "Old Capitol Building", its been transformed in to an historic landmark and museum. Documenting many changes in the history of the South. Its very well done and very educational.

Now to Memphis. Home of "The Blues", and of course Elvis. Well we saw plenty of "The Blues". A visit to downtown Memphis and the famous Beale street. "Where it all started". Lined with bars and clubs with live music all the time. Some pretty good music actually, but then what else would you expect. Its not been too updated either, so its pretty much a walk in the past. Very cool.  As for Elvis, well we drove past the gates of Graceland but at over $35 each to get in plus another $15 just to park up.....well I love Elvis, but not that much..... Another odd stop, was the peabody hotel, to see the ducks, no your right I said we went to a hotel to see some ducks.  They are the Peabody ducks, 5 trained ducks that march in to the fountain in the hotel lobby in the morning, sit there all day than march out at the end of the day, google it you'll be amazed.

So, destination New Orleans, What can you say. The place is mad...thats mad in a good way, not mad in a scary, southern witchdoctor way. Mad because the closer you get to the city the less city there is. The whole place is wetlands, water and houses on stilts. Less cars and more boats. More crocs than people. I'm making it sound bad.... Its not, its brill. The huge 3 and 4 lane roads start to elevate as you travel in to the city as it needs to carry you over the watery marshes. Houses dont have cars in the drives, there are no drives, there are pontoons, with boats. Of course in the very centre of the city there are cars, just not as many as you expect.
The city is wonderful. The outskirts has even bigger southern mansions on endless plots of land. Think of Tara from gone with the wind and your there.
The centre is beautiful, streets of tightly packed multicoloured houses sporting ornate metal balustrades and balconies. Beautifully tiled front steps and porches.  At night the wonderful blown glass, gas street lights giving off that golden glow that only an open flame can. Im making it all sound romantic, its more sensual. Plenty of bars and eateries on every corner selling everything from delicate french pastries to southern smothered BBQ, but all selling aromatic and very potent coffee....
We paid a visit to the most famous coffee shop in the south. Cafe Du Monde is an open air eatery that opened in 1862 with only two things on the menu. Coffee and donuts.... But not just any coffee and donuts. THE coffee and donuts of the south. Coffee with chicory and square donuts piled high with icing sugar called Beignets. When in New Orleans its a must for everyone to try at least once, and I highly recommend it.....NOM....

Hallloooooo....from St Louis Zoo


The Blues on Beale St

Old Capitol
Look ma, no roads...

New Orleans Streets

Life is like a box of chocolates... or in this case a bucket of shrimp...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Just blew in from the windy city......

The windy city is mighty purrrdy, but its frigin freezin.....

Chicago has to be right up there as one of my favourite places so far. Its clean, classy, fun, eclectic, WINDY and beautiful.

So, ok, they dont call it the windy city for nothing but, HELLO......

Honestly though it was an awesome place. A bit strange, but in a good fun way. It has a series of rail lines called the "L", short for "elevated" criss crossing the city centre about two stories above your head. The trains all silver and shiny like a strange sifi metropolis movie from the 40s.  The streets are very clean and tidy with lovely fenced vegetation plots along the pavements playing music and narrating your journey as you pass historic venues. But its not ostentatious. The buildings are beautiful and well kept but nothing is in your face. You have to look hard to see the shops inside the buildings. There was no gaudy signage. It just let you explore at your own pace. And that was the kinda feeling you got from the whole place. Laid back. Relaxed. Sure there where loads of people on the streets doing their thing, but no one seemed to be rushing. Coffee houses had plenty of customers, and with a Starbucks on every other street corner (im not kidding) thats a lot of people not rushing...

One thing we had seen in the early stages of planning was a company that did Segway tours in different cities, and we decided Chicago would be a good place to do one.  We booked our tour for an afternoon starting at 2.  Dan, our instructor and tour guide was brill. very patient, lol.....

We watched our safety instruction video, collected our helmets and machines and walked them across the street to a convenient park for our basic lesson. Now i dont know if anyone has ever been on a Segway before but for me it was a little disorientating. The machine is all about balance but not how you think. It is designed to make it as hard as possible to fall off. What i mean is, if you lean forward you go forward but if you lean too far the machine will correct itself, and push back against you to stop you falling off.   Its hard to explain but its weird, fun, but weird.
Our tour took us all around the front part of the city, lake side parks, Megis field (the old airfield that was closed after 9/11) and past some of the wonderful old buildings housing Museums and Art Galleries. We zipped around at about 10mph for 3 hours. We saw so much. Plus, i didn't fall off... It was awesome.
We decided do go back the next day and do some more sightseeing, on foot this time and get a bit closer to the wonderful surroundings. We joined the coffee drinkers this time and watched the world go by.
We did find something to change the laid back tone though. An art installation by a british artist called Martin Creed. Basically it was a room half filled with red balloons. The idea was to make us aware of the one thing around us everyday we take for granted but never see...The Air...It was a really simple idea but it was so fun. Running blindly through a room filled, above my head, of red ballons. The child in me was most amused. In fact i think my incontinence featured in former thrilling blogs may have reared its ugly, moist head...Did i larrffff...!?

We had also decided to meet up with a friend of Adams who lives in Chicago. Greg and his family. We met up at a fundraising street fair where his daughter was working. Her boyfriends family run a pork produce business and are well know in the area. They had a food van at the fair selling slow roast pork sandwiches. I dont mean they took their time to serve you, i mean the pork was slow cooked...We had to try some, it would be rude not too....
We managed to meet up with them again for a sit down dinner this time. PIZZA.... well we where in Chicago...Its the law.....

Yup, thats a big shiny bean...

Look ma...its me not falling off...

Huge owls on top of the Chicago Library.

Slightly more than 99 red ballons...

Sprawling metropolis..or something like that...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Close Encounters of the Plevin kind..

We had mash potato for tea the day before our visit to Devils Tower, in homage to one of, if not the best sifi movie ever made. If the location and the reference have eluded you as to which film i am referring then may i suggest you stop reading, turn off and unplug your computer and return to the dark depths of whichever vault you have been locked in for the last 35 years........

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for me at least, encapsulates all that is sifi. Steven Spielbergs vision of our first extra terrestrial encounter and the lives of the people caught up in it was mind-blowing for me. Its images of Devils Tower portrayed in the movie, weather they be in mash potato, mud from Roy Nearys (Richard Dreyfuss character) garden or the mountain itself where forever imprinted on my mind. To visit it , well what can i say....i was so excited a little bit of pee krept out....

It is actually a very sacred place to the Native Americans that come from miles around to honour the legend of the mountain. Trees surrounding the rockface have prayers and cloths tied to them for just that reason. Its said that a great bear was accidentally conjured up by a young girl and her sister. It killed everyone in their village and chased the girls and their remaining brothers (who where off hunting) to a clearing. The Earth god tried to save them buy pushing the ground under their feet up high out of the reach of the beast. In his efforts to climb the huge barrier before him his claws shaped the unique rock face of the mountain.

The Visitors centre was really interesting and explained the geological reason for the strange rock formation. I preferred the Indian stories myself....

We got to the mountain just before lunch. It had been quit cloudy and overcast where we where staying  but we reckoned as the mountain was over an hour away it would be ok.
Well it was pretty bleek when we arrived, and bloody cold, but we where not to be put off. The walk around the base of the mountain was only about 1.5 miles and paved and we had extra layers with us so we set off in high spirits....ok, we set off with me grinning like a cheshire cat and squealing periodically...(thats where the peeing bit came in to it). sorry.

The view didn't disappoint though. The pics dont do it justice. Its completely understandable that the Native Americans find this an amazing place. The tower has a twist to its base, an example of the exertion of force used to push the great rock out of the ground. Words cant do it justice either. It may sound silly but i felt very honoured to have been in its presence.

 The weather held good till we reached the far side of the mountain and then it decided to show us just what it was made of....The clouds dropped, the wind blew and the rain started to fall... and if im honest it made it even better, even more exciting to be there. In fact im grinning again while i type. Can you not see my grin floating in mid air just in front of you... no face, just my huge grinning smile?

Visible from miles away (squeal)

Closer (bigger squeal)

Closer (Squeal and loss of bladder control)

Close (oh dear)

Crazy Horse

For those of you that dont know Crazy Horse was the war chief of the Lakota Indians, and lead them into battle at the Litte Big Horn. He refused to sign any treaties or live on a reservation for his whole life evading capture until the clan master Red Cloud insisted he turn himself in when he signed a peace treaty. Crazy Horse did as instructed and was detained in a local jail to await transportation to a reservation. However he was tragically killed whilst in jail by a guard who stabbed him in the back while he was apparently trying to escape.
Crazy Horse was a legendary worrier for all Native Americans, not just for his battle skills but for his believes and the moral justice he wanted for his people.

He said:-    "The white man made many promises, but kept only one. They promised to take our land"

In 1948 Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear asked sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who was in-fact busy helping carve Mount Rushmore just down the road, if he would create a sculpture for the Native American Cultural Museum. He graciously agreed to take on the mammoth task and single handedly started work on the Crazy Horse carving. After spending 34 years on the project, and refusing to take any salary for his services Korczak died age 74. He is buried at the foot of the Crazy Horse Memorial. His wife now manages the continuing work on the sculpture which is solely funded by donations and visitor fees.

So what does it look like? Well its a very ambitious dream. A wonderful idea designed by the sculptor and Lakota indians, but as they have refused any government funding, wanting it to stay as genuine as possible it seems a very distant dream. As work started 50 years ago, and they have only finished his head, the huge sculpture of a Lakota War Chief pointing into the distance from the back of his trusted steed seems very, very far away.

But he is an awesome sight. His huge features bursting out of the rock face, strong and assertive in his expression. Very realistic. Which is pretty cool considering there are no pictures of Crazy Horse himself. All the sculptor had to go on was word of mouth from the last 5 remaining Lakota warriors that road with him...

It dont look it, but thats a pretty big head...

A poster showing the scale of the carving.

A scale model of how he is supposed to look finished.

I would just like to add that we visited Crazy Horse under the instruction of our neighbours Buddy and Dianna, who insisted it was not to be missed. Cheers guys. We are so glad we went. xxx