Theme song - "Come on Irene", with apologies to Dexy's Midnight Runners
Let's just say we did not wake up fresh as a daisy after our ghost tour/pub crawl/karaoke evening, which was a little unfortunate as we had a long driving day ahead to get to Florida. Adam and Beth that we'd met on the pub crawl were also heading to Florida and we joked that we'd probably meet up again in a storm shelter somewhere as Hurricane Irene was just forming in the Caribbean and was predicted to hit Florida in the next couple of days. Perhaps we were being a little flippant about the danger of driving towards a potential natural disaster, but at that time it did not seem to be such a big thing.
The drive south was uneventful, but just after we crossed the Florida border we heard there'd been an earthquake in Washington. For a day at least the news would be diverted from Hurricane Irene. We stopped at St Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the US. It was founded in 1565 and was the capital of the Spanish colonies of North America. The British tried to force the Spanish out of America for years but St Augustine was too well fortified. It was eventually ceded to Britain in 1763 and Florida was incorporated into the British Colonies. The fort of St Augustine still guards the bay and is the main tourist attraction of the city.
We moved on to Daytona Beach. From its beachside architecture, Daytona Beach's heyday was in the early 1960s. Retro-deco motels line the beach front. We chose the Mainsail Hotel as its concrete facade looked the most retro. Although it was 'under new management' it was pretty run down. Back in the day motorcycle races were held on the beach; now all the racing - the Daytona 500 - is done on a professional track.
We were up early the next day and drove on to Orlanda, home of the theme parks. It was further than we thought so we didn't arrive until 12 and went straight to Universal Studios. We packed in as many rides as we could - excepting the Hulk rollercoaster, because I'm afraid of heights and scream like a girl. But we had a great time.
The next day we drove out to Cape Canaveral to see the NASA Museum. It is quite a trek out from Orlando and to draw tourists out to the site NASA has commercialised itself somewhat. I wasn't entirely sure if we were at a museum or a Star Trek convention. As we headed south towards Miami Hurricane Irene made her presence felt. The thundershowers were so heavy that we almost lost all visibility, but we pressed on. By a stroke of good fortune for us Irene had swung away from the coast and was heading north. It was now expected to make landfall on the northeast coast, somewhere in North Carolina perhaps.