Trip Start Jul 09, 2008
Trip End Jun 10, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Friday, October 3, 2008

27th September - 3rd October 2008

Unlike most days we were well prepared for an early start to got ourselves packed up pretty early and quickly and hit the road with the first stop of the day being the Everglades Alligator Farm. This place turned out to be somewhat of a small zoo rather than just an alligator farm. There were Florida Panthers there, Giant Tortoises, a whole array of Snakes, Crocodiles and Iguanas. The conditions weren't ideal but apparently some animals were taken to larger sites in the evening........hmmmm.

We turned up just in time for the gator feeding, now these creatures are only fed meat around once a month which consists of a couple of ton of chops and ribs spread between a few hundred gators. The token daily feeding is a few fish thrown into the pen to allow the crowd to watch these enormous creatures to go wild for the fishy delights. I learnt two things, 1, gators have a blind spot plumb in front of the mouth so if you get caught by one stand there, and 2, Don't get caught by a gator, it'll rip your limbs off!! - not pleasant.

After the feeding we took an airboat ride through the everglades, a superb experience! Around 25 people sat in an aluminium bathtub with a plane propeller attached to a Chevy big block engine only a couple of feet away flying through the swamp. The driver took us through some full 360 degrees spins and 90 degree turns all at full speed, covering the lot of us in pungent swamp water........NICE. We managed to spot a few wild gators as well which was a bonus. In the late 60's gators were on the endangered species list in Florida, but after an intensive breeding programme there are now some 2 million out in the wild, which is good if you're a gator but not so good if you're lost in the Everglades without a boat.

Back at the farm we took in a rather lame snake show and wandered through the hatchery to view the farmed gators which grow far quicker than in the wild as they are fed daily rather than monthly, after seeing the pens I wasn't that keen on sampling a gator burger though.
Later that day we set off for Orlando to have some mindless childish fun at the theme parks. We negotiated what seemed like thousands of toll booths on the Florida Turnpike (Florida's M1 Motorway), and found our way early evening into our budget hotel on International Drive in Orlando - $28 per night for an en suite double room with breakfast included, not bad really.
Sunday, another early start, we visited the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. Initially a let down as we queued for half an hour for the Imax 3D Shuttle Experience only to be told, after 15 minutes of further waiting in the auditorium, that it was broken and not to bother waiting any longer - Not Happy. This proved to be the only let down of the day though as after that we saw and wandered through a Shuttle (or mock-up of it), visited the Rocket Garden (a journey through time of the space program) and had a ride on the take off simulator (not bad on reflection). Finally the last part of the day was a tour of the take off site, the take off viewing platform, the Saturn Rockets of the Apollo Space Programme era and the building of the International Space Station. But before we had chance to hop on a bus to start the tour we had to queue for what seemed like hours to simply set foot on one of the coaches. This was a ball ache as after the first stop (the take off viewing platform) we realised we had to queue again at each stop to get back on a coach - the planning was a shambles and people were not happy - it made us wonder 'they can put people on the moon but struggle to schedule coaches around a facility this size'..................did they really send people to the moon!?!? Anyhow, the take off sites were around 2 miles away so were difficult to see although there were two shuttles being primed for take off, scheduled for mid-October, these would have been good to see. The Saturn Rockets were a highlight, they were massive, far larger than the shuttle, and launched by the most powerful rocket engines ever produced. One Saturn rocket was presented in sections suspended from the ceiling in a huge shed, you can't imagine what it was like to be effectively strapped to the top of one en-route to the moon. Finally we saw the clean room facility used to build and test segments of the International Space Station, we thought this would be a bit dull but ended up being almost the favourite part of the day. The International Space Station is a further development of the burnt out Russian Mir Space Station and the result of an alliance of several International partners coming together to get build it. Its a few years from being finished but already can be seen at night with the naked eye. Its due for completion in 2014 (or somewhere close), after which time the future of the Kennedy Space Centre is unknown, no budget has been announced for beyond this time.

On the whole - The Kennedy Space Centre - well worth a visit.
The next two days were spent at Disney (a favourite spot for Kash). The first at Disney's MGM Hollywood Studios and the second at the Magic Kingdom.
In all honesty I though that Disney would be a better Alton Towers, full of rollercoaster's and rides, but its completely different. Generally a place for kids and Kash to meet characters they've watched on TV for years (as we all have at some point) with make believe worlds were, to coin Disney's phrase 'Magic Happens'.
In the MGM Studios we just about saw the lot, we watched a live stunt show (well choreographed) from Cars to Indiana Jones - and yes he was chased by a big stone ball!, we rode on the Star Wars ride simulator, had a go on the Toy Story Mania Laser ride (a favourite) although Kash whipped my ass on this one, watched the musical parade mid-afternoon before hitting the big rides of the park, Aerosmith's Rock-n-Rollercoaster (Al, Dave and Jim - similar to Rita Queen of Speed but in doors and in the dark) and finally the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which is a mock up of a lift shaft with a lift car that free falls erratically - all good stuff. At 8 pm once it got dark everyone watched a live show of fireworks, pyrotechnics, stunts and Disney favourites which was really well done.
The Magic Kingdom had some big rides but was more a place for the kids to have fun, but this didn't stop us though!! We rode the big rides, Splash Mountain (Log Flume), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Rickety old Rollercoaster) and Space Mountain (Indoor darkness Rollercoaster) coupled with Buzz Light-years Space Ranger Spin (Similar to Toy Story ride from previous day), where I got my own back on Kash. We did the majority of the smaller rides too and some of the live shows which were again quite good. On the whole Disney was good fun and I imagine if you have kids (I had Kash) somewhere definitely worth a trip.
We screwed up really, we had planned on buying tickets for Universal and Islands of Adventure online as you get a free ticket to Wet-n-Wild if we did it this way, all for $99 each. When we checked we realised you needed to book at least two days in advance!! - Oh dear we wanted to go in the morning. So I went to see the dude that ran the ticket booth in reception to see what deal we could strike up. The guy was called Jerome and we agreed, after some heated negotiation, that if we went to a sales presentation for a timeshare the following morning then we could have two, five-day multi entry tickets for Universal, Islands of Adventure and Wet-n-Wild for $89 total, that's a saving of $160 on the gate price (not including Wet-n-Wild ticket prices at $90) but only if, when we left we gave him the tickets. At the crack of dawn we got up and out to go and see this presentation at an apartment complex about 10 minutes away. We got a cooked breakfast which was nice, then had a bloke called Ayra inflicted on us for the next 2 hours - what a tosser!! Poor fella tried every trick in the book to get us to sign-up but failed miserably, in the end he waved his white flag of surrender and allowed us to leave at around 10:30am, we collected our tickets and left quite happy we had been fed and saved a load of cash!! - Brilliant. A word of advice, if anyone or family wants cheap tickets for any event in Orlando do this, its a ball ache for a couple of hours but can save a whole raft of cash.
Universal was good fun, very similar to the Universal Studios in Hollywood although on a larger plot of land. This is the equivalent to Disney's MGM Hollywood Studios but doesn't have the clout that Disney has, which results in the crowds being far far smaller, in fact we queued up for no more than 5 or 10 minutes on any ride, but benefits from rides which are equally as good, if not better if you're slightly older. Because of this we managed to ride all the biggies at least 2 or 3 times and with the sun blaring down we had a superb day - topped off by knowing that Ayra had failed on a massive scale!! Some of the rides on offer were The Simpsons (superb simulator), MiB (another laser shoot-em-up type ride), Mummy Returns (Darkness Rollercoaster with Flames - very hot) and then the live shows and show rides like Jaws (lots of flames and the same plastic looking shark), Shrek 4D (benefits from Donkey sneezing in your face!), Beetlejuice show and Twister (remember this film?, this show was equal to it - Pretty Pants).
The park shut up shop at 7pm so we headed back and had 32 holes on the best crazy golf course in Orlando - Pirates Cove. This was quite busy but fortunately the people we queued with were quite funny and we had a great time throughout the first and second 18. Kash beat me on the first 18 hands down, on the final 18 I was 2 up on the seventeenth only to have a nightmare and finish behind again!! (and she did it without changing the rules halfway through Shane!!)
We got talking to the guys who ran it at the end who said if we came back we could play FOC, unfortunately we didn't have time otherwise Kash could have extended her unheated record!
The Thursday saw us at Islands of Adventure and for me the best Park of the lot. Its definitely aimed at older kids rather than the younger end we'd seen so far and was full of big rollercoaster's, wet rides and big laughs. First of all the rides. As you walk through the park entrance we were greeted by the Hulk, a coaster full of twists, tight turns, loops etc etc and pretty quick to boot - good start. Then further round there's a 3D Spiderman Simulator (as with The Simpsons very well done), Doctor Dooms Fear Fall (Shoots you up and drops you down), and finally the Duelling Dragons (Two coasters that set off simultaneously but take different paths and finally meet halfway through, missing a collision by a few feet). Now the Wetness. If you've been to Alton Towers then you've got quite wet on the Log Flume and The Rapids, this place trounces that. The Ripsaw Falls Log Flume initially soaks you through (and I mean completely), but just prior to the end of the ride there are a series of water canons just off to the right which are controlled by anybody willing to spend a quarter to soak unknowing riders (we got soaked by them!). We finished the ride thoroughly wet but then spent around $5 in quarters wetting other people using the same water canons - Cruel but simple fun, everyone loved it!!, this formed the Laughs. The last wet ride was Popeye and Blutos Rapids, same sketch as Alton Towers Rapids but done on a much wetter scale. Rather than people getting splashed you get waves of water engulfing you - Great fun.

On Friday we had to catch a flight to LA at 5:15pm so we only really had the morning to do Wet-n-Wild which was unfortunate but as with the previous few days the crowds stayed away and we managed to do all the slides, majority at least twice, before having to leave at 2pm. I'd not visited a water park since Magaluf in 94 and Kash since her last visit to Florida some 7 years previous so we had a great time reliving those experiences.
Jerome met us at the gates and we handed over our tickets (we could have sold them on if we'd tried but time wasn't with us).
We got to the airport in plenty of time and flew to Big John Wayne Airport in LA, good flight on the whole. We managed to wangle a free upgrade to a PT Cruiser as we were to get a Dodge Caliber again - both the dude on the counter and me agreed that the Caliber was crap, so I think our common ground helped us with this one.
We made our way to the Hotel which we had staying in in LA previous to find the last room we stayed in wasn't available we therefore we got a slightly different room unfortunately the shower head was broken so we got moved to another room, this time the toilet didn't flush (poor Kash found this one out!) finally we moved to a room next door to the last room we stayed in which was good as it overlooked the pool.

Sorry I'm waffling now - In a nutshell, got to LA ok and into a hotel after some small problems.
The End. 

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