26/9/16 – Bring on the pizza

Back to the more relaxed get-ups, since we didn’t have to check out till eleven. Slowly got ready and packed up before heading off to Fort Lauderdale. We’d gotten up and dressed a little late for breakfast, so we stopped off at a Taco Bell en route, as it was something I’d always wanted to try. Yet another disappointment, unfortunately. We all wanted a good nosey at the menu, since we’d never been there before, but we felt rushed because of the miserable cow behind the counter who clearly had no time of the day for tourists, as she was perfectly sweet to everyone else. Pretty sure that’s still racism. Stupid bitch.

I had a quesarito and a spicy potato taco from the savers menu. The quesarito was okay, but far too full of cheese sauce and got quite sickly. I had to pull all of the salad out of the potato taco and it wasn’t even a proper taco. It was just a tortilla shaped like one. I call bullshit. That is so not a taco, which is all I really wanted in the first place. Taco Bell experiment failed. Happily got back into the car to carry on and had a far more satisfying Red Bull.

Despite driving past where we’d already stayed in Miami, the drive up to Fort Lauderdale really didn’t feel that long. Only another hour or so from Taco Bell. We found our cute little apartment complex, Tropi Rock, which actually has its own pool for once. I most definitely favour pools over the sea. Something to do with the fact that I can actually get in the water at the pool, rather than just crisping up in the sun on the beach. We unpacked a bit, milled around a while and then headed out for a little wander around to see what’s about.

Apparently, not a lot. There was the beach, obviously, and it really was a beautiful beach. One thing you can’t flaw Florida on. It was also the first one we’d seen with protested turtle laying grounds. Lots of little triangles of sand were all roped off. We had a meander past some apartment complex and found that even above anywhere else we’d been to, Fort Lauderdale is absolutely lizard central. I even saw a huge one that was two feet long from head to tail. I thought it must have been an escaped pet as it was bright lime green and had a crest and a beard, but we saw more afterwards. Talk about exotic looking wildlife.

After the very hot walk that didn’t really enlighten us on much other than the lizard situation, we came back to the room for a longer while. I started reading my Kelley Armstrong book, showered (in the worst shower we’ve had so far) and downloaded a cool notes app for my phone that’s designed to look like a Death Note with the black pages and the same fonts and everything. Love it. That’ll do well for my writing notes. Got ready to then head back out in search of food. Mom had already researched it on her tablet, since there hadn’t seemed to really be anything around, so we were on the lookout for an Irish grill and bar called McShorley’s.

Unfortunately, this was another plan that didn’t quite work out. It had a truly lovely bar and atmosphere, but the barman Rob told us that they don’t serve food, although they’re happy for people to bring food in from the adjoining fast food places. Ah. We didn’t want to be rude and just walk out, so we all had a drink first. They actually had a few ciders – often quite a hard find in America – so I had a bottle of Magners. Mom had a pint of their draft cider, Woodchuck. It was actually really nice; so much so that I wished I hadn’t just gone for the one I was familiar with. Some guys then brought in a takeout pizza and sat at the bar with it, watching the American football. That just seemed like the best idea ever, but stingy Brits would never allow that back home.

We decided to follow their lead, so after we finished our drinks, we moved across the road to the pizza place, Primanti Brothers. I pretty much never fancy pizza as I’m not a pizza fan in the slightest, but the one the guys had got in the bar looked really good so for once, I was fancying. The smallest they did was a fourteen inch pizza – typical America – so I ordered one with sausage, ham, salami, onions and extra cheese. Oh my god. Best pizza I’ve ever had. Dad had two of the smaller slices since he’d only had a hot dog and I happily devoured the rest. Normally, I find pizza gets far too boring to eat that much in one sitting, but not this pizza. Serious hats off to the Primanti Brothers.

Since they hadn’t offered much in the way of alcohol, we went back to McShorley’s afterwards. I was delighted to have my own pint of Woodchuck this time. We moved into the side room, where they had a big fish tank, a pool table, darts, a few arcade games, checkers, giant Jenga and Connect 4, of all things. I played Dad at pool and almost beat him, but cocked up my last shot and ended up perfectly lining up the black ball for him. Boo. Him and Mom had a few games after that, whilst I entertained myself by making a tower out of the Jenga blocks and watching the tropical fish in the tank. They actually had one of those goofy yellow fish that looks like it has teeth, just like the one me and Kel were so amused by in San Antonio.

Came back for more drinks in the room afterwards. By this point, I’d moved onto Bud Straw-ber-rita Splash. Played with my Death Note app some more and then did what was becoming the usual wind-down of reading, playing Disney game and watching some Impractical Jokers. Larry!

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I could be talked into being a pizza fan after this. For size comparison, see the chair behind it.

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25/9/16 – Rollin’ on the river

Up earlier this time in order to get the complimentary breakfast in and get to the Everglades fairly early. I was actually ready before anyone this time, so I did some reading before we went for breakfast. First place we’ve been to that actually has a waffle make, woo! Safe to say that went down a treat. We then headed off to the Everglades. I watched an episode of Psych on the way. We stopped off at a little information centre to figure out a bit more about what we wanted to do, since the Everglades is a seriously huge place.

When we actually got into the park, it was chucking it down. Feels like home when the weather’s that typical. We bought our ticket for the Stingray boat tour, which leaves from the bay, goes along the canal and out into the lakes. The shop backed right onto the dock. I saw the fin of a tarpin cut through the water a few times. It’s kinda freaky; they’re like mini sharks. Armed with my brolley, I wandered further down the dock to have a nosey in the bay to see if I could see anymore, looked sideways and had the shock of my life when I instead saw the head of a three-metre crocodile rising up out of the water and against the side of the dock. I mean whoa. Talk about scary. I kept my distance, because I’ve seen how high those things can push themselves out of the water. I was certainly ready to be back inside the shop if it looked even remotely like it was going to try and climb out.

The croc disappeared when the boat came back in to dock from its last trip, but we saw another couple swimming further down the bay before we got on the boat ourselves. Apparently, this is the only place where crocodiles and alligators share the same water. I’d seen plenty of alligators when I did a swamp tour the first time I went to Louisiana, so getting to see wild crocodiles was a new and interesting one. They’re also scarier looking than alligators. However, our biggest problem on the boat wasn’t the crocodiles, the alligators or the horrible giant banana spiders we saw underneath the bridge we drove through; it was the goddamn mosquitoes. The boat ride was certainly interesting, but I felt like I spent the whole time slapping bugs away.

We had our ride cut short by about twenty minutes when a big thunderstorm hit whilst we were out in the middle of the lake, so we had to turn around and come back. I was super hungry when we came back in to dock, but with the weather being so temperamental, we wanted to keep seeing stuff rather than sitting down for a proper lunch. Instead, lunch was a pink lemonade and a bag of Funyuns from the little shop. Whilst we were having a munch, we went over to the other side of the bay and got to watch some baby manatees surfacing and sticking their noises up out of the water, ahhh. I really love manatees and they’re actually not endangered anymore. Well done, world.

We had a wander around the park and tried to do one of the trails you can walk along to look for wildlife. However, it was super overgrown and you had to try and cut your own path – not only unappealing when you’re in shorts sandals and a low-cut top; there was also the possibility that there could be snakes and all sorts lurking in the grass (in America, a lot of their snakes are poisonous). And we’d barely got anywhere before we were getting fully eaten alive by the bugs. We hastily changed our mind on that idea and returned to the car to drive round to the other side of the park to find Shark Valley.

Unfortunately, that idea also fell through when the satnav went on another mad one. We drove a really roundabout way, didn’t find anything for ages, then realised that we’d somehow bypassed the entire park and were suddenly a lot closer back to our motel. Well, bloody hell, satnav. We didn’t really feel like trying again, so we hit the next Walmart we found to get more drinks and things. I found some cute little jester gloves that are blatantly Harley Quinn inspired and will go great with my costume.

Mom had had a taste for KFC for ages now. We knew there was one nearby and had planned to bring some into the room last night before we’d spotted the Applebees, so that was moved to our plan for tonight instead. However, like the Applebees, it was also disappointing. We asked for a regular twelve-piece bucket and when we got back to the motel, we realised the dopey server had given us boneless chicken strips. Still nice, but nowhere near as good as the proper Kentucky coated stuff and when that’s what you’re expecting, chicken strips are definitely disappointing. Homestead have really failed us in the food department.

At least the TV selection was more satisfying. Mom turned it on to find 22 Jump Street, so that had us occupied for the night. After that, we found more Impractical Jokers and I had a mad reading spree to finish off my Clive Cussler book. With more Seagrams on the go, of course. As nights in go, not half bad.

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Now this is what you call a holy crap moment.

24/9/16 – Everywhere she goes, Toni loves mashed potatoes!

Much slower get-ready today as we had a later check-out. Packed everything up and then went for a very poor breakfast that consisted of just fruit, most of which was tasteless melon. I just stuck to the grapes. We then Skyped Kel for a little bit before eventually leaving the room. It had been our most expensive, yet worst stocked room so far, but I was a little sad as the Key West had a hell of a lot of different Pokémon to catch. I’d say it was the geek in me that was sad, but that’s basically all of me. We’d had the option of going to the Key West museum as I’d seen an advertisement on a bus that they had the famously haunted Robert the doll, which weirdly, they’d been talking about in the episode of That Anime Show that I’d been listening to on the plane. I’d initially been interested in going to see him, but after Googling pictures, I swiftly changed my mind.

We finally thought to hook up one of the iPods in the car rather than listening to the radio, so we listened to my fifties and sixties playlist on the road. Had a several hour drive with a stop-off at some restaurant along the harbour for lunch. Couldn’t quite decide what I wanted, so I just ordered from the starters menu and had chicken tenders with honey mustard and mozzarella sticks. Yummy food, but shame about the server with the really bad attitude – though she did forget to charge us for our drinks – and the weird, cabbagey smelling toilets. Gross. We had a little nose out on the harbour afterwards and saw some beautifully coloured trumpet fish. We then got petrol from next door to the hotel and went back on our way.

Stopped off at a Walgreen’s en route, where I replenished my Red Bull stash – some of which I enjoyed in the car – and I wrote a couple of flash fictions. I8’ve barely done any writing whilst I’ve been here; it’s really not acceptable. Our satnav then had a mad moment when we got into Homestead and kept trying to take us to a Best Western, rather than the Super 8 that we wanted. We hit a seriously huge thunderstorm and had to wait it out in their car park, before sending Dad in to ask for directions. Thankfully, we found our real motel in the end. I do love Super 8s The first thing I did was fill up the fridge, yay.

Milled in the room for a while, did more writing, read, showered and broke out more of the Seagrams. There was an Applebees right in sight of our motel, so we knew exactly where we were going for tea. Me and Mom shared a pitcher of red apple sangria. Lovely, but the size was a lot more stingy than I remember. I then had an eight ounce sirloin steak with garlic mash and new crispy cheddar bacon potatoes. When it all came out, my mash was cold. And I don’t even mean it was lukewarm; it was stone cold. There was no other way to describe it. I hate to be the person to send food back – particularly as I was starving and it means you have to wait longer – but I like my mash to be at least warm. Sent it back, had to wait, then when I got it back, the mash was still cold. I was too hungry to care by this point, so I just ate it. Put a little dampener on the meal, but everything else was still lovely. With a nice peppercorn sauce, it would have been damn perfect. Sadly, steak sauces don’t seem to be much of a thing here.

Back to the room after that. Mom liked the Super 8, so she booked us a second night there in order to give us somewhere nearby to come and go from when we visit the Everglades. That was cool with me. Got more Seagrams on the go and read and watched Psych in between watching some interesting documentary on telly about cyber predators who killed and kidnapped young girls. Morbid, I know, but then when have I ever had normal interests?

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I’ve waited a long time to have these again. Jamaican me happy indeed.