Florida's Party House, Manatee And Climbing Trees

We arrived in Orlando amidst confusion, the bus driver was new, choosing to drop us off downtown rather than some other spot in the city that most other passengers had assumed they would end up in. Some people were angry about it, they had people waiting at the other spot to pick them up.

For Bridget and I, none of this mattered. We walked away from the confusion and into the city, leaving most of the rest of them to convince the driver to go to the other spot or work out their own new plans.

This was the end of our run of bus trips, which had started in New York where we’d carefully found several linked up bus rides that would get us to where we were now, Florida, the main destination being the Florida Keys. This could all be done by thumb from here on out, and hopefully, from boat beyond that.

Before thinking too much about how and where exactly we’d manage to find a boat willing to let us stow away to South America, there was Orlando in front of us. Between the freezing Atlanta and where we stood I’d managed to get in touch with someone living in town willing to put us up for the night via couchsurfing.org.

His name was Rolo and momentarily he was at an award show and the resulting after party, and after that he was willing to come pick us up. As luck would have it, we were downtown rather than in the middle of nothing, essentially, where the bus was apparently meant to have left us.

We marched over into the shit show of a weekend night in downtown Orlando. The cold of Atlanta was markedly gone given the sight of bare skinned legs dropping from short skirts, spilling out of thumping clubs in droves. Drunken shouts, hysterical laughter, button down shirts with ties, high heels shuffling, lines around corners, taxis, limos and the rest of it. Every other corner had a guy with a megaphone blaring out botched scripture, warnings against sin and the promise of a Jesus that loved enough to hate. These short skirts and button downs of the night were too blissed drunk to pay notice, it was all a buzz.

Walking through it was all the kicks I needed after the bus ride, soon we went past one edge of it, finding a lake where only other outliers wandered intermittently. We enjoyed it for a short time, then back through the buzz again and popping out the other side past the arena. Soon we were in the decidedly dodgy part of downtown, no clubs or people laughing down the sidewalk to the next thing, just dim lights for the sake of shadows in which sad faces stood every so often. They wanted change or they wanted nothing.

We flipped back towards the arena and the next big cross streets, a landmark for Rolo who was now on his way. In the meantime a guy came up to us, at first warning us that it was a shady part of town and most people just wanted to beg for money. This last point oddly became his smooth transition to beg us for money. From where we were standing we could of done for a few bucks ourselves to grab a beer and a snack, this fell on a hustler’s deaf ears.

Rolo drove alongside us as we were still listening to the guy, he was slightly confused at first, but then realized about what was going on and gave the guy some coins from a cup holder, nothing would have been enough, but soon we were driving off and hearing Rolo’s story, telling him ours.

He told us about the Positive Music Awards he’d been to, there’d been a floor or so of a hotel rented and a band or artist playing in each room. The idea sounded cool to me, small gatherings of music and plenty of rooms to bounce around between.

He snagged a bottle of wine and we drank up once at his house talking about Brazil and travels. He then showed us around the property, which belonged to a guy who did special effects on a pretty high level. It was a big property with several houses and the like, the backyard looked out on to a lake and had an entire dance floor structure complete with all kinds of lasers, lights, poles and cages, “You wouldn’t believe what goes on in there”, Rolo laughed.

The place was set up to be a giant party, a big outdoor bar stood next to the dance floor area and Rolo got us a drink. He said there was enough people living there that there was essentially always a built in party with them alone, apparently we arrived at an unusually quiet time.

Behind the bar were some steps up to a deck with a deep above ground pool. The high dive was high, so high in fact that there was a light up top necessary for airplanes to see.

Down by the lake they had a little dock with various boats and toys around, a giant multi person party hammock over the water, and above that on another level of the dock is what Rolo was calling a “Russian swing”, which Bridget seemed familiar with. It was basically a human sling shot that propelled people out into the lake.

A couple weeks earlier for New Years, Rolo told us, the owner had set himself on fire and gone water skiing at midnight, it sounded like a hell of a party. He lived on a playground.

After breakfast and coffee in the morning we piled in Rolo’s van along with his friend and headed towards the coast to a park where the manatees would be resting in a little inlet. We walked along checking the out the beasts, Bridget nearly in tears from her awe of seeing them.

We played around in the park for a while, some soccer and frisbee and so forth before heading back towards Orlando. Rolo took us to bar that had once been a failing high end furniture and decorations store, all of the furniture remained for the vibe with the addition of an excellent beer menu which we engaged in.

In the morning we were in road mode, after helping Rolo carry some kegs to the bar for whatever the next party was, he dropped us off at a gas station along the freeway southbound. We had a place to stay near West Palm Beach with a couch surfer, but my friend Nick was also along the way temporarily.

We got a ride from a guy who worked at the gas station who told us about his singing karaoke and auditions for some x factor show, he said he was all over YouTube. He dropped us off a few exits down and we waited just before the toll booths until a cop came by to tell us we had to walk to the bottom of the ramp.

Down there we made a “South” sign, then getting a ride from a guy who was Miami bound, perfect. That guy was cool going any which route towards Miami and helped us get to the town where Nick was around. We met up with Nick shortly thereafter, he treated us to Waffle House and we chowed down and caught up. We hadn’t seen each other since Amsterdam, now he’d be settling into Memphis and a new job over there.

Afterwards he offered to give us a ride to a good hitchhiking spot so we could make it to West Palm Beach before sunset, but exits keeps passing until he decided to up the awesome and take us all the way.

Molly was the couchsurfer we’d found, her dad came and picked us up from a gas station in town where we paused with Nick. Goodbyes to Nick, hellos to Molly’s dad and soon her mom when we arrived at the house. Molly was out for a while, but we happily talked with her folks and watched the end of the football game. Better yet, her dad had brewed some beer, few things on this planet better than a glass of homebrew.

They went to sleep and some time later Molly arrived. She was a creative and spiritual type, mind always wandering and pondering with ideas, travels and art. We talked for a while until sleep was the thing.

Molly gave us a ride into West Palm Beach by the beach the next day, she had some things to do and a class to go to. Bridget and I dipped in the waves and wandered the town. There were some parks with interesting trees and statues, then some even bigger gnarly trees meant for climbing. We relaxed in some, then crossed a drawbridge to the other side and rested in another great big tree we found adjacent to where Molly’s class was.

Molly finished up and joined us in the tree, telling us about the screen printing she’d just been learning about. She was pumped up to do some yoga afterwards, Bridget agreed and I hopped down ready to join. Poses and stretches and that sort, then Bridget had the idea to create some energy balls to throw at people across the park, so throw we did, laughs and the rest.

We hit the grocery and then the house where the cooking began. I left my ghost pepper sauce on the table, Molly’s parents poured it like Tabasco sauce on some of their food before I had a chance to sit down and give a little warning. I did manage to warn them prior to taking a bite, but bites were still taken... fire from the mouth and they remained quiet for a bit regaining their sanity from the rager that is ghost pepper. I ended up eating huge gops of it from their plates after a bit of a dare, my biggest dose so far, it did the trick.

We all sat around talking for a while, then some more with just Molly talking on the future and her traveling desires and so forth. At last there was sleep, then there was morning, road mode again. Breakfast, coffee, then Molly gave us a ride towards a gas station to hitchhike from. Boats were floating in our minds, time to get to the Florida Keys and see if we could find one heading for South America.

January 13, 2012 to January 17, 2012