March 17-23, 2007
In late 2006 I began contemplating a move to Florida. It made sense. I had family there. I had friends there. There are a lot of theme parks there. But I’d never been to Florida. So during Spring Break, since he was off school for a week, my best friend Jon and I went to visit our friends, the Koontz family for a week. My main goal was to go and see if I liked Florida enough to move there permanently, and to see what the job situation down there would be like, but I knew I couldn’t go to the Sunshine State and NOT ride any coasters or have fun. Jon wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get off work or have the cash to go. And I think that, because the trip was in limbo for so long was why I wasn’t so excited to go until about 2 days ahead of time.
So in February we came up with the definite dates, I made reservations at a motel and purchased 2 one day tickets to the parks at Universal’s Orlando Resort. Jon had to work on the Sunday before we were leaving, so we planned to leave that nite after he got off around 9 PM.
Then Jon called using his serious voice. I just knew he would tell me he couldn’t go at the last minute. Thankfully, though, he was calling to tell me that he would be doing a culinary show at the Stonewall Jackson Resort in central WV that weekend, but he would be back home and would be working on Sunday so that our plans didn’t change. I made the comment that perhaps I could just meet him up there on Saturday instead of meeting members of my family in White Sulfur Springs on Sunday since this was still about the same half way point, and he made arrangements for us to have a room.
Saturday finally arrived, and that evening I was off. My father and a friend of his drove me to the Stonewall Jackson Resort and as I arrived, I dropped my stuff in the room and went down to the bar to find Jon and his coworkers having a quick bite and drink before the evening’s culinary show. The resort was very nice. I went back to the room to relax from the 3 hour drive and just admire the beautiful snow outside in the spectacular resort settings once Jon & Co. headed down to the show.
For dinner I made my way down to the Stillwaters Restaurant for the buffet. Not your ‘standard’ buffet fair, as it featured way more interesting seasonal fruit and vegetable dishes than it did meat, although any kind/cut of meat you wanted was available to be cooked right there.
After dinner I made my way back to the room to lay around and do nothing. I had a pre-paid cell phone for travel, so I topped it up with minutes and browsed the pay per view movies but nothing interesting was on, and then took a shower. Jon called once the show was over and told me to meet him in the lobby as they were having a Wine, Chocolate, & Cheese tasting. I didn’t have any wine, but I had some amazing chocolate truffles and was introduced to quite a bit of the state’s top chefs & politicians.
After the tasting we headed down to the bar for a few night caps and some billiards before bed. Jon and his crew made me a ‘plate’ from the dinner show that showcased many top chefs from West Virginia. Everyone else paid $100 per plate. My box was free. And I had rabbit for the first time.
Waking up the next morning we were off for the 2 hour drive to Moorefield so Jon and his boss could get back to the restaurant. After we arrived I put my stuff in Jon’s car then drove his car over to my sister’s house to visit. I was there until almost 9 PM, and then headed to pick Jon up, take him to his house so he could pack and get ready, and then we were on the road around 10 PM.
Jon drove for the first few hours, I drove for a few hours, and every state south that we went, I expected the weather to eventually get warm, but it stayed cold through South Carolina. We passed thru Columbia towards I-95. Just before hitting I-95 we pulled off at a rest stop to take an hour nap. Jon got behind the wheel as I slept, and about an hour later, he took off. I slept almost all the way through my first visit to Georgia save for the last hour as he had stopped for breakfast, and I took over the drive.
We hit Florida and the sky was beautiful. It was rather warm in Georgia, but there was still a chill in the air. But no chill was to be found in Florida. We called our friends in DeLand and told them where we were and got directions to the motel we’d be staying at. And around 1 PM or so, we found our Motel 6 in Winter Park. When I made reservations, I thought I was making them for the newer Motel 6 near Orlando. This motel was older and not in the best part of town. There were always cops there (sometimes up to 3 cop cars a nite), possible prostitution, and loud neighbors. Oh well. We skipped out on the final nite, but we’ll get to that later. Thats what you get for being young and broke.
Once we got to the room we both took turns showering and cleaning up, changing our cloths, and settling in. Then we headed to Downtown Disney. This one was so different than the one in California. We just hit the West side and Pleasure Island as I didn’t even notice the East side of Downtown Disney until later on in the week. We checked on tickets for Cirque, but there were no shows that week. Bummer. As we walked thru the mostly dead West side we realized Jon forgot his camera. Eventually, we made it to Pleasure Island and Regland Road, an Irish restaurant where we had dinner.
My Shepherd’s Pie was great and Jon’s Banger’s and Mash looked good. I called and spoke to Jeff DeRue but he was still at work, so we went back to the car to ride around the Disney World Resort. Eventually we left as we were both rather tired from the 16-ish hour drive.
That evening we got up and made our way to CityWalk. As we were driving to Disney World earlier we saw Islands of Adventure so this time we knew where we were heading. We parked and headed in. Again, much better than the one in California in my opinion.
Walking around CityWalk, we hit up Fossil and a clothing store. We stopped at Jimmy Buffet’s for a Rum Runner and walked up towards the Bob Marley Legend Restaurant where we were told we should go to guest services and get a CityWalk pass so that we didn’t have to pay a cover for any of the places at CityWalk, which we did. There I met a really fun girl at guest services that we ran back in to later in the week before heading back to the restaurant. We both had a vegetable thing called Natty Dreads that was really, REALLY good. The house Reggae band was okay.
After we finished eating we headed over to the Red Coconut for a couple drinks. Jon got a really good Martini. Normally I hate them, but the bartender made this one very well. Then we went back down to Margaritaville for their live band. They were okay as well. Eventually we headed back to the car and then to the motel. Our neighbors kept both of us up most of the nite, and my snoring didn’t help Jon sleep.
We’d had no plans for Tuesday, and we were both up rather early. I called Daniella in and told them we’d come and have lunch with them around noon so we got up, got ready, and drove the 40 minutes to DeLand from Winter Park. Jon ran a stop sign, had us both laughing, but we ended up safe and sound at Casa De Koontz. After spending some time at their house we all piled in their Jeep and went to Moe’s for lunch. The food was good, but I wasn’t aware that I didn’t ‘have’ to have the Chicken in my meal. Oh well. After that they took us thru town and gave us a tour of some of the recent Tornado damage around the area.
We hung out at their house that evening and then went to Ihop with some of their friends. We went back to their house for a bit before heading again back to our room, only to be kept up most of the nite by the party of 20 in the room next door. At least the cops that parked in the parking lot of the motel came and shut them up at 4:30 AM.