Spanksgiving Day Charade

Day 13 Thursday 26th November 2009

So it’s our first ever Thanksgiving and off we drive to Cracker Barrel (as recommended by @marktwainshouse). We’d read about the Turkey, the gravy, the stuffing, the maple and pecan topped casserole, the pumpkin pie and the beverage for just $9! I was excited to say the least. I’d stopped off the previous night on the way home from the mall to make a reservation. First come first served they said, come about three or four they said. There was a lull expected.

There was no lull. It was insanely busy. I didn’t even make it as far as the desk to ask how long.

So off we went to another Cracker Barrel 3 or 4 miles away. Just as busy. Ratburgers. A plan b was required. Ours involved driving down the 192 looking for anywhere that was open and looked nice. Anywhere that looked remotely nice was closed and anywhere open looked dead.

We ended up at Denny’s.

We had Turkey and gravy and stuffing alright but it was pretty crappy. I did have a great chocolate milkshake though. And for that I was truly thankful.


Wet & Wild

Day 12 Wednesday 25th November 2009

 
 

Today we went to Animal Kingdom and it threw it down for about 3 hours from 9 until 12. It was especially bad around 10 just as we entered the bat enclosure. We weren’t planning on spending 20 minutes in there, but I’m very well acquainted with fruit bats now. Despite the weather we got to see and do a whole lot and I’d forgotten just how well put together Disney parks are!

The Dinosaur ride was as loud and scary and loud and loud and loud and loud as ever. Really bloody loud it was - it makes the Jurassic Park ride feel like an Enya song. We rode Everest twice which was even better than I remember. As there was five of us I was the single rider both times and the second time some girl from Georgia sat next to me and talked my face off. Where was I from, had I been on the ride before, had I been to America before. She smiled and waved me goodbye when she got off as well. Couldn’t even begin to make sense of it. At Alton Towers you’re lucky if your fellow riders don’t stub cigarettes out in your eyes during the first ascent.

We saw a 3D bug show and went on Safari. I even petted a goat. You can’t ask for more than that can you? We got back to the car, rung out our shorts and headed home.

Later on in the evening I drove myself to the mall and did some last minute shopping before Thanksgiving and Black Friday. On the way home I discovered that the radio in my car has a music type option and even though my meddling meant I came off the highway prematurely I was listening to ‘Soft Rock’ when I did. Kings Of Leon actually. It was awesome. If only we had enough radio stations to necessitate a feature like that in the UK.

 
 

The day's rain brought this happy chap to our door!


Aisles of Adventurrrre

Day 11 Tuesday 24th November 2009

 
 

Today we got up early and went to Islands of Adventure. It only takes about half a day to do all the good rides when it’s quiet and by lunchtime we were done. I got to ride the Hulk & Dueling Dragons twice too. They have started construction on the new Harry Potter ride/area and it looks great. I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the films but it looked very authentic from what I do know. I imagine, being Harry Potter, that it’ll be a kids ride, exactly what Islands of Adventure needs as the whole Universal resort is falling further behind Disney all the time.

After that we went to the mall so I could switch some t-shirts at Delias and then on to a Don Pablo’s Mexican restaurant on International Drive. I had my first ever Chimichanga. It was covered in queso sauce which I think means cheese!

Some more miniature golf ensued (rather badly, due to a stupidly frustrating course where the greens around the hole were sloping shit faces) and then we went home. Later on that night we went to a Super Target for a browse. I was very close to buying the soap dispenser above, but it was so huge that it wouldn’t have fit on our sink. Most disappointing.


I heart Capricorn

Day 10 Monday 23rd November 2009

 
 

So today we went to Discovery Cove and swam with dolphins. Well, a dolphin. His name was Capricorn and of the 40 dolphins they have there he was the biggest, the dominant male in fact, weighing in at almost 700lbs! That’s 50 stone! He was huge, much bigger than you would think a dolphin could be and he was powerful too. His tail fin had the sort of unbelievable, overwhelming power that chickens legs do (in case you’ve not felt the power of a chicken’s leg, it is massively out of proportion with how slight they are - and Capricorn was even more powerful than his mighty frame). He was a gentle giant though. I kissed him, hugged him, stroked him, tickled him, fed him fish and ice cubes (which he loves) and he took me for a ride of 20 feet or so across the lagoon. It was awesome.

The whole place was amazing though. There was a coral reef where you could snorkel with tropical fish and huge manta rays (my appetite for scuba diving has been well and truly whet) as well as an aviary where you could interact with some spectacular birds. You could eat and drink all you wanted (including free Oreos - although there really wasn’t time for that) and the facilities and hospitality were superb. Everyone was so friendly and it made for an awesome day.

Early in the day they kept referring to our dolphin swim as an ‘experience’ and I can see why.

 
 

Here we all are with Capricorn. You can see just how big he is from his head to his tail fin.

 
 

Using up all my untapped cuddling energy on Capricorn.

 
 

Here he is giving me a ride. I'm trying to sneak another kiss in here.

 
 

The awesome wet suit that I got. It hurt my armpits but looked cool as hell.

 
 

Herefollows some photos of birds I took. I shall try and make them entertaining. Please bear with me whilst I attempt this.

 
 

The angriest bird in the world I think.

 
 

The saddest bird in the world (also the most spherical)

 
 

I dunno...the gayest bird in the world? Is that funny? Tweet me a funnier caption and I'll use it (@dragindb).

 
 

Here's why you don't use flash photography with live animals. This bird is seriously fucked off.

 
 

Another park goer in the aviary with us said - wow your camera is amazing - when I took this shot. Therefore it must be good. Macro mode wins all.

 
 

Believe it or not that bird is eating broccoli.


Snoresday

Day 9 Sunday 22nd November 2009

 
 

A quiet today. A Sunday.

We went out for all you can eat breakfast which in my case is one plate of breakfast. Then we came home, went in the pool and spent the afternoon playing Uno (which I won) and Kalooki (which I learned and lost). Then we went out to Chili’s for dinner and it was great. I had a quesadillia again. I just can’t shake this Mexican food lust I have.

Tomorrow is a big day. Swimming with dolphins.


Mallrats

Day 8 Saturday 21st November 2009

Saturday we went to the Florida Mall. Surely the greatest mall in all of Florida. I had Taco Bell, bought clothes from Delias and Abercrombie (which is my new favourite store) and made some other possibly even better purchases and generally had a blast. It was really busy but I hit everything I wanted to within an hour and a half.

After that we went and played miniature golf again. This time I drew with my Dad and everyone else was an also ran. It was a much tougher course.

Later on I took Catherine and Paul to Cracker Barrel, after a recommendation from Niki (thanks Niki!) It was great. My parents didn’t fancy it for some reason, but I think we’ll end up having thanksgiving dinner there. The old country store attached to it had some of the greatest Christmas decorations I’ve ever seen.

 
 

Cracker Barrel. But for our aisle the place was super busy. Always a good sign.

 
 

This is how excited I was for my food!

 
 

Chicken Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, mac & cheese and green beans. Having mac & cheese as a side is a culinary luxury I will be taking back across the atlantic.

 
 

Free refills of raspberry lemonade. Dreamland.

 
 

Biscuits. Delicious biscuits. I will miss you.


Buschrats

Day 7 Friday 20th November 2009

 
 

This is my sister with some Loki perched on her, shortly before they defecated all over her. I was lucky and escaped such a fate.

This happened at Busch Gardens in Tampa where we spent Friday, riding roller coasters, admiring animals and getting very tired indeed. The whole place was so quiet that I managed to get on every single roller coaster at least twice. I went upside down on a pirate ship too. The best ride was Montu, a coaster where you hang underneath the track (alĂ  Nemesis at Alton Towers). I rode that four times in all.

Then later we went for dinner at Key West Cool’s, a bar & grill so thoroughly devoid of atmosphere that not even Michael Jackson’s Beat It could lift it from the doldrums. We were propositioned for a photo and then presented with a terrible print out. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth that not even an oak smoked fillet mignon could take away.

 
 

A zebra. Couldn't work out if the animals had a better life in or out of captivity. Is freedom preferable to being killed by a lion. Probably yes.

 
 

This is SheiKra and it was amazing. It was like Oblivion with a full roller coaster tacked on the end. I am not in this picture. These are regular schmoes.


i am the lizard queen

Day 6 Thursday 19th November 2009

 
 

This little guy is one of the many millions of lizards I’ve seen since being in Florida. They turn up everywhere and they are very cute indeed.

The picture was taken in the car park on International Drive, where we spent the day going to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and playing Pirate’s Cove adventure golf.

Ripleys was good, if a little pricy, and the golf was awesome, if a little violent. Having missed an easy putt and dropped behind I jokingly swung my club around as if I was far more furious with the miss than I actually was. I heard a thud against what sounded like a leathery bag, and a few gasps. I turned round and my mother was holding her nose. I had clubbed her in the face. I felt dreadful but she was okay. Looking back I might have been the victim of some guilt tripping given the meagre extent of her injuries.

Anyway, we played on and being one stroke behind my Dad and my sister’s boyfriend Paul I knew I had to make up a shot on the final hole to salvage a draw. They played their tee shots first, down a long, steep hill and both ended up just inches from the hole. If I was going to tie with them I was going to need a hole in one. I played it. It rolled down the hill, picking up speed. It flew towards the hole. Directly at it. It clipped the far side and bounced out and against the concrete wall. Before. Slowly. Rolling. IN!

I celebrated by jumping down on to the adjacent hole on the more challenging course. A drop of some seven or eight feet. If I could have done a cartwheel I would have done.

My book, How to celebrate like a dick at the most inconsequential of victories (or last gasp ties), is out now.


driving miss daisy

Day 5 Wednesday 18th November 2009

 
 

Today I went and picked up my very own rental car. I thought I was getting a Chevy Aveo but ended up with a Dodge Avenger! What I’ll be avenging in it I don’t know but compared to my Aygo the thing is huge - the size of a Toyota Corolla. It drives pretty good and I didn’t flip it on the freeway yet so all is good. I’ve been scoping the local Taco Bells and malls and might be heading out tomorrow evening to grab a burrito and do some shopping.

Today we had a lazy sort of day, we just went to a retail park where and did some shopping at Best Buy, Target and some huge book store in the Borders mould.

My Dad is making Thai curry for dinner and I think some sort of board game or air hockey tournament is on the cards. If I lose I plan on avenging the loss by ram raiding the room of the victor in my Dodge.

 
 

The car in it's full length glory. Look at those lights. Phwoar.

 
 

A tiny lizard with no tail that was perched on a window frame.

 
 

Target - a warehouse of generica.

 
 

My latte and Oreo brownie from books-a-zillion.


I’ll stir fry you in my wok

Day 4 Tuesday 17th November 2009

 
 

Today we went to Universal Studios. It was great although I got a bit annoyed at the leisurely pace of things today. Not sure why.

We did the Mummy twice, the Simpsons ride (which sucked worse than E.T) and a new ride called Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. The premise is rocking out to music. Rocking out in the most revolting, wannabe cool, disposable way possible. During the queuing process there was an horrendous animated video presented by two charcoal cunts spouting turgic and ludicrous phrases like “select the tuneage you wanna rock it with”. Queuing for the showers at Belsen would have been more fun.

When I got on the ride the only song I wanted to listen to was Beastie Boys - Intergalactic and this was piped into my ears at such a volume and frequency that I got a headache. The sound of a rollercoaster’s working are infinitely preferable.

The ride itself was pretty good. Didn’t feel as intense as it could have, and it seemed to brake a lot. They need to crank that mother up.

After Universal we went to Hard Rock cafe for lunch and I had a quesadilla which was delicious. Excellent Guacamole. I paid a dollar to charity and recieved a John Lennon red wristband.

And now I’m home and tired and soon we’re going to the supermarket.

 
 

I bumped into Dave Saddington, friend of Jessica's Dad, at Universal studios!

 
 

The Rip Ride Cock Thruster or whatever it was called - not pictured: the migraine.


Wasted away again in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.

Day 3 Monday 16th November 2009

 
 

Today we went to Sea World, surely the most naturally attractive of all the parks in Orlando. The plant life was as spectacular as ever.

It was awesome. We went on the roller coasters Kraken and Manta (with virtually no queue on either) and saw all the shows we wanted to see. I personally feel that the seal and otter show’s gentle humour (not to mention the fact that this show actually had narrative) easily eclipsed the sentimental sludge of the Believe show, which must be close to the end of it’s lifespan.

After Sea World we drove home and spent some time in the pool and then we went out in search of a restaurant that wasn’t a steakhouse. We ended up at Red Lobster which felt like a restaurant full of locals and a lot more authentic as a result. Places to eat can feel like boxes of tourists in Orlando. I wanted lobster but ended up with shrimp because the lobster dinners looked so huge. I also ordered a margarita which my mum convinced me to “go mega” on.

It was way too huge. I drunk it all but felt terrible and fell asleep twice on the way home. Even more impressive / pathetic when you consider that I was desperate for the toilet at the time.

 
 

Well fit bird at Sea World.

 
 

Me and a bronze polar bear family at Sea World. Also featured: the tips of my shoes.

 
 

Picture included for the purposes of scale.

 
 

Oh the humanity. Almost done.

 
 

This is how I felt.


Off to the races, I’m going places

Day 2 Sunday 15th November 2009

 
 

Today I drove the car above for a bit. It was fun. It was like driving one of those big white simulator machines. Doesn’t look that big on the photo, but compared to my Aygo it is a leviathan of a car.

This morning we went shopping again, a more considered shop. So considered in fact that it took like an hour and more things which you can already get in England were thrown pointlessly into the trolley rendering the whole trip bloody useless. Well not quite but I do question quite why we’ve bought Fanta Orange when Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist and co were available. You wouldn’t go to Bankok and spend $400 on a prostitute from Leicestershire.

Spent the afternoon going in and out of the pool and then this evening we went to Outback Steakhouse where I got refused a frozen margarita because I forgot my id and this beard isn’t good enough apparently. Thanks meathead waiter douche. My sister laughed which was quite the most irritating thing that could have happened, and later ordered an alcoholic drink herself. But instant karma took hold and she dropped the cherry from her drink down her dress and stained in.

Steak was good though. Really good.

Tomorrow: SeaWorld.
Now: Photos.

 
 

The TV and PS2 in my room. Goodfellas was on. Love that movie.

 
 

Liotta is so good he got a blurry photo taken.

 
 

Cinderella Story was on too. I miss the time when Hil looked this good.

 
 

This morning's 10 am beverage: a margarita.

 
 

This eggnog is stupidly good. Weird drinking it in the sun though.

 
 

There are huge birds flying overhead all the time here. Here is one on the street. Just give me the wildlife photographer of the year award now plz.


I’m only sleeping

Day 1 Saturday 14th November 2009

 
 

So after a long journey I finally arrived. Right now I am so tired that even this post is in danger of being covered in drool. I’m so tired I’m not even sure that last sentence makes sense. I’m staying up as late as I can to try and stave off jet lag.

It’s currently 9pm.

Here are some photozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 
 

Manchester airport, specifically a plane wing and some tarmac. Thrilling.

 
 

Me and my face. Also featured: odd beard.

 
 

Cell shaded safety card. Shouldn't have happened but it has. I simply had to deal with it.

 
 

Chicken, mash, leeks & broccoli. Some pasta also.

 
 

They pay my way and they corrode my soul. Not really. I paid for dinner tonight.

 
 

How I felt 5 hours into the flight. And there's that beard again.

 
 

The video games provided were piss poor. In this one you had to collect Richard Branson's money for him from lots of pathetic pixelated passengers.

 
 

Terrible ripoff of mine and Jessica's amazing alarm clock that was being flogged in the Daily Mirror supplement.

 
 

This cookie was delicious. A highlight.

 
 

This game played like a 6.4mb animated gif loads on a 56k connection.

 
 

Found this under my seat. There was a little girl sat behind me but I'm ruling out that explanation.

 
 

Orlando. Compare with Manchester above.

 
 

Did I mention that I'm growing some sort of small beard.


The night before

Leaving Tomorrow! Friday 13th November 2009

 
 

Tomorrow I’m going to get up and fly to Florida. I should probably have a shave first.

The plan is to take lots of photos and post them on here everyday. Hopefully people will get some sort of enjoyment from looking at them. At least this way you won’t have to look through 200 posted all at once on facebook. This is more dim sum than all you can eat.

Right now I’m listening to the Foo Fighters and wondering if I’ve packed everything. There’s no way I can make the right Spotify playlist for the journey. I know I’ll be 35,000 ft up and want to listen to that one Saves the Day song I haven’t heard in 4 years.

Anyway, I’ve not built commenting into this blog because it’s hard to regulate and I wanted to create something simple and beautiful. And anyway, aren’t we all using Twitter these days anyway? I’ll be tweeting each and every time I post so you can just reply to that tweet if you have anything to share (you probably don’t).

I am, in equal parts, painfully bored and overawed by having too much to do.