So I trust everyone had an AWESOME holiday season! I must say that my break was pretty much incredible. It was probably the best road trip I've gone on so far in my life. Now that's sayin' A LOT. It's almost hard to know where to begin the whole story. I guess it starts sad because I didn't go home at all (don't worry, my bro was there for support) but looking back, I have to say I don't regret that choice. I spent the whole break in Florida. The first part totally ruled because we flew from Houston to Daytona on a private plane. See, my good friend here from school, Dave, has a Dad who owns a plane(not a jet, just a small 6 seater) so he agreed to fly out here and fly us back just for the heck of it. SO, not only did it cost me nothing (a very important factor for me as you all are very aware of) but it was a totally incredible experience. It beats the hell out of flying commercially, I'll tell you that. I mean you are flying only at about 10,000 feet so you can totally see everything along the way. Also, it's a very, very smooth ride and you almost feel more "free" I guess for the lack of a better word. You can see out the windows on all sides and it's cool. Also you can see all the instruments and stuff and you can hear all the transmissions that are involved with flying and, I don't know, it was just so neat. It was like having one of those little mysteries you always wondered about solved...you know, what the hell are those guys doing up there in the cockpit? well, now I know. I had the bird's eye view of the world and it was pretty sweet. The cool part was that here I was, feeling like I was having one of the best experiences ever, and it was only the first 4 hours of my vacation...so much more was to come.
December 23, 1999
Anyway, my buddy Dave is from Daytona and that's why we went there. Well, his Dad lives in this sort of "airplane community" and that was freakin' cool. It had it's own private runway in the middle of this subdivision. So you land, taxi up to your house and open the hanger, which is attached to the house, and park the plane like you park your car in a garage. Then you get out and go right inside!!!!! I mean, there was like 2 min. between the time we landed and the time we were inside the guy's house. That was pretty awesome! In this subdivision, there was like roads for cars and other roads for planes. Now that's what I call the good life. You can just go out and get in your plane just like you're getting in the car and just go anywhere. THAT'S total sweetness.
So at that point, it was the 23rd, 2 days before Xmas. We went out in Daytona that night and it was a pretty good time. It was particularly cool for me because it was somewhat of a nostalgic moment for me. Back in June of 1994, I traveled with 4 other friends to Daytona Beach just after graduating high school. Back at that time, it was the farthest I had ever been from home. It was and still is one of the greatest times I've ever had. What was weird was how much I remembered about Daytona. Dave drove me by the hotel we stayed in back then, the Mayan Inn. It was cool to see good old room 605 again. Jeff, you will be happy to know that they had fixed the bar in the elevator:) Anyway, we first went to eat at this restaurant that a friend of Dave's dad owns. That was a lot of fun. Then we went to this bar called Razzle's. What's funny is that I had gone to that exact same bar when we went to Daytona in 94. We had a great night and I was pretty reminiscent once again. Oh, I should mention something important...I was also traveling with another friend of mine from school whose name is Mo. He is also a second year but he's in the genetics department. He's from Jordan and he's a GREAT guy. That's off the subject a bit, but hey, that's what I do. Anyway, after Razzle's we went to this other place, who's name I forget...but what I won't forget is a funny thing that happened while we were there.
Mo and I were standing in this bar and it was pretty packed. We were kinda tired since we had gotten up early to fly (and I had gone out the night before) so we really wanted to just sit at the bar and chill. The problem was, there really wasn't anywhere to sit. So we were just kind of standing there saying that the day had been so fun already, and how nice it would be if we could just grab a couple of seats. Well, I had no sooner said that than the two people right next to us got up off their bar stools, opening up a spot for us at the bar...SWEET. So then right after that, we are about to order beers and this guy comes up to us and says he just ordered beers and has to leave and asks us if we want his two beers. "Man, this is PERFECT", I thought. Then, not 30 seconds later, as Mo and I are rejoicing in our good fortune...I mention that the only thing that would be better would be if we had some munchies. Well, we turn and look behind us, and there is a little dish full of pretzels!! WOW, we were on a roll...or so I thought. I mean, all these things that I had just asked for had all come true. So we start munching these pretzels and laughing about all that had just happened. About a minute in, I start to notice the pretzels taste a little funny. I then do a closer inspection on the little dish they were in and it was AN ASHTRAY!!!!! AAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHH. There is a moral to the story boys and girls...when things seem to being that well, there is always a catch. Another moral is, never eat pretzels from a small black dish in a bar. Anyway, we had had such a great day that it really ended up being a great laugh for us. I ate an ashtray. Hilarious.
December 24-28, 1999
So the next day, Dave took Mo and I to Orlando, where another friend of mine, Lyle (from ND who now lives in Tampa) picked us up and took us back to Tampa. You might remember Lyle from my road trip out to Floride last Feb...he had the awesome three story apartment with the jacuzzi and balconies off the bedrooms. Anyway, we hung out in Tampa for awhile and then went down to Bradenton, which is where Lyle's parents live (whom I have met several times) a city just 40 min. south of Tampa. So that's where we spent Xmas eve and Xmas. It was fun. We went to a bunch of Xmas parties with his parents and stuff and just ate and drank a ton basically for a couple of days. It was great. It was really nice of them to let Mo and I stay there for the holidays. We had a great Christmas dinner and Lyle was even cool enough to get Mo and I a couple gifts. You're the man Lyle!!! One awesome thing we did on Christmas day was flying this stunt kite that Lyle got for Xmas. We went out to the beach and it was pretty cool. Who could have known that flying a kite could be so fun. I guess you had to be there, but Lyle and Mo will appreciate the memory.
On the 26th, we headed back to Tampa. We went out there a couple of nights and that was fun. Tampa is a really fun city and there certainly isn't a shortage of beautiful ladies. We also went to this bar where a bunch of Tampa Bay Buccaneers were (that's an NFL football team for those of you who don't know) and I saw a bunch of famous players. I also met and talked to Drew Brees (thanks to Durran), the Purdue quarterback who was 3rd in Heisman voting this year. It was a hell of a time. I remember at that point, we felt like we had done so much already, and the vacation was not even half over...rock on.
December 28-30, 1999
From Tampa, we rented a car and drove down to Miami. Let me assure you guys that everything you hear about Miami is pretty much dead on the money. That city is AWESOME!!!!! I mean, there is so much life, and culture and activity and shit happening, it's unbelievable. I stayed there with another friend of mine from ND (Hugo Rodriguez) who lives on South Beach. The guy lives like a 4 min. walk from the best strip in all of Miami...maybe even in the US. We basically learned why Will Smith decided to make a song about the place...it is definitely the city where the heat is on! We went out every night until like 5 or 6 in the morning. There are TONS of clubs/bars/cafes open pretty late. Needless to say, I was in total paradise...and (sorry ladies) I haven't even mentioned the women. I'm telling you that there are nothing but gorgeous latin girls everywhere you look. As you may or may not have realized, that falls right into my area of, shall we say, "expertise". It's strange how high the hispanic population is there. I'd say that 80% of the people there are speaking in Spanish. Of course, that worked out to my extreme advantage, and pleasure. I mean, you go into the restaurants and they assume you know spanish rather than it being the other way around. Miami is was one of those places where you can just walk down the strip back and forth and be pretty happy just soaking it all in. Tons of people, great music, the beach right there, perfect weather...the whole nine yards. It was like 80 degrees at night down there. Rock on. And another line that Will Smith was pretty accurate on..."hundred thousand dollar cars, everybody got 'em". We saw Lambourgini's (yes, plural), Ferraris, Rolls Royces and Bentleys. Man, you wouldn't believe the money down there. I also saw the Versace house which he got shot on the front stairs of...that was kind of weird. Anyway, I just couldn't say enough about South Beach, so many people having such a great time. I'm telling you that the place is just "alive". If you haven't been there, go and check it out.
December 31, 1999
Well, of course South Beach was great, but there was more. For New Year's Eve, we went to Key West. It's the last of the Florida keys and also as I found out, the most Southern point of the US. Someday i wanna make it to the most northern point. (this is the part where Jorge says, "I want to see it alllll!") Anyway, it was about a 3hr. drive from Miami and I was a little peeved (is that a word?) before we got there but I must say, it would have been worth a 10 hour drive, even for only staying there one day. The place was packed. It was Mardi Gras basically...except the steet was wider and there was a bit of room to walk. There were thousands of people partying in the streets and bars. There were beads being "exchanged" and everything. Needless to say, I got some quality footage with the video camera. Anyway, the whole thing was pretty crazy. We went with a group of about 10 and we all got pretty bombed. At midnight it was madness...there was Champagne flying all over the place, confetti, tons of fireworks, the whole shabang. It was such a great time. I don't think I could describe the whole thing much better. We pretty much partied like it was 1999. We returned to South Beach in one piece (despite a speeding ticket for Mo.) and it looks like I will live to tell the tale.
But wait, there was still more to come. We still had 3 whole days left.
January 1-4, 2000
Well, the next day we didn't exactly get up early and then another huge point of the trip came. I went to the Orange bowl game. It was such a good game. Alabama played Michigan. As you may remember, my friend from ND, Durran, has a brother, Shaun Alexander, who is the star player for Alabama. Anyway, that was how we got the tix (once again, free) and it was also cool because I got to see Durran and a few other boys from ND. Anyway, the game was great even though Bama lost it on a heartbreaking missed extra point in overtime. My first college bowl game and it was a great, overtime, BCS bowl game. Rock on. Nothing like throwing a great college football game into a vacation that was already more than I could ask for.
So, seeing as it was pretty much 85 to 90 and sunny for the whole break, the next day it was time to hit the beach. Well, this was the icing on the cake boys and girls. So here I am, on this great vacation, having the time of my life. I'm feeling like it just couldn't really get any better and I really don't deserve it to. We've done so much and seen so many great things. I'm thinking, nothing could top all this stuff so far and BAM...topless beaches. Pure sweetness. It was a very surreal moment. I remember walking on the beach and looking over at Mo at one point and we just kind of looked at each other and give this non verbal bit of communication that was just like, "this is so sweet, it's almost not even fair. I just can't believe it."
So the last few days down there were still solid. We hit the wall pretty bad on the last night out though. We were just so freakin' tired. I mean we were really putting our bodies through hell and we just hit the wall at the end. We basically partied our asses off for two weeks straight. I remember that last night we were just sitting at this little outside cafe having a drink and watching the crowd and I was like, "Mo, I think you might have to carry me back home, because I can't walk another step." It really takes a lot out of you to go so hard for so many days in a row (no pun intended). That night, we went out until like 3 or so though which was cool but we mostly just sat at this little cafe on the strip and talked to people and watched people going by, soaking up our last little bit of Miami and a great vacation.
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