Monday, November 20, 2006

Final Texas / Florida trip report.

Here is Wyland putting the finishing touches on his manatee mural at the dive trade show in Orlando. Now that I'm back and life is more back to normal (still have the cold though) I thought I'd give a final report on my trip... nothing too exciting, mostly food oriented....

We started out in Texarkana, Texas to visit my wife's family. It was nice to see them. We had a number of meals at "Fuad's Restaurant" next to the Walmart on the Arkansas side of Stateline Avenue. Good food. Fuad seems to be the type of guy who gets to know his customers. From what I can tell, along with his regular restaurant business, he has a rotating group of regulars who get together for lunch and the occasional dinner to eat family style. This was kind of interesting for me as I've never been to a restaurant that did this, and being a guest of regulars I got to sit in. Everyone would get together, chit chat for a while or have a drink, and then Fuad would start bringing out plates of food and everyone would share... hot wings, chicken, tilapia, steaks, calamari, ahi, a veggie or two and a couple of other goodies were seen over the course of several meals we ate there, with usually 4-6 entrees and a veggie or two at each meal. It was quite interesting. It was mostly men, so lots of football talk (considering the season not surprising) and work related talk. I did get to talk with one gentleman who formerly was a commercial diver - working at depths of up to 500' and basically living in a hyperbaric chamber for a week at a time - in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It was interesting to hear about that aspect of diving, it's a tough and shortlived career for most. Well, Texarkana has grown in the years since I was last there, and apparently Texas A&M is putting in a campus there so there'll be lots of growth to come. I could bore you further by posting the obligatory photo op in Texarkana... standing in front of the post office with one foot in Texas and one in Arkansas... but this post should punish you enough.

We moved on to Orlando after 5 days to go to the dive show. You've probably heard more than enough of that.... so I'll talk about FOOD...

OK, the very best meal was one I wish we could do here. We went to "Texas de Brazil". Many of you in big cities will be familiar with this or similar restaurants, but for us people in smaller or out of the way locales you might not be familiar with this. It was a Brazillian style "churrascaria" (evidently Portuguese for barbeque). These places are GREAT for meat eaters. This one had a great buffet of salads, soups, apetizers and spiced meats and cheeses and such, but the highlight of the meal is waiters dressed as gauchos carrying 2'long skewers of hot-off-the-fire MEAT. Top sirloin, bacon wrapped filets, bacon wrapped chicken, lamb chops, pork roast, flank steak, lamb roast, sausages, and maybe one or two other items. The leg of lamb was the only thing we had not worth writing about (thus I'm writing about it), everything else was excellent. It's a never ending parade of cholesterol... I was in heaven.

Another pretty good meal was had at Bahama Breeze (Pat's fish was a bit overdone, but the skewered chicken and beef are very worthwhile) and we were referred to a great sports bar (JB's Sports Restaurant) by a bellhop when we asked if there would be anyone in Orlando who might be able to free up a screen for the Oregon State/UCLA football game last weekend. If you are ever stuck in Orlando and need to see a particular game, these guys can set you up if it's on somewhere. I'm sure we had other good food, but I was overwhelmed by Texas de Brazil. One comment though... the Houston airport has pretty darned good food. All airport food selections should be this good, heck, I wish we had some of those places in Kona.

After the show we went to the Hardrock Hotel for a couple of days and a chance to visit the Universal Parks. I've only done a few of the 6 Flags parks over the years, but these were a big step above in overall appeal. Rollercoasters frankly scare me, and Pat loves them... so we had to do them. First we did a coaster called "dueling dragons". This is probably the most topsy turvy coaster I've ever done, and it was a pretty long coaster... I was worried for my physical health for about the next 45 minutes after riding the green one as I was woozy and out of sorts for way too long after stepping off the ride. I never did get up the nerve to ride the orange one (they intertwine). I did later on ride the "Hulk". It was a good coaster, a bit taller and more spectacular looking, but not nearly the heart stopper (we almost, in my case) the other one was, and I felt fine right off the bat after leaving the ride. Spiderman in 3D is probably the best overall ride in the parks... WOW, it's basically the most impressive ride of any type I've been on. Shrek in 4D is very, very entertaining, Terminator 3D is very entertaining, and the Mummy is the best dark coaster I've ever done (I had to do it and Spiderman twice) and was also a very entertaining themed ride. The water rides at the Jurassic park section and cartoon oriented sections were also fun.

We did manage to get out to Daytona Beach for a short while. Nice miles long beach, but also miles and miles of buildings, sorry bit it's not my idea of paradise.

It's great to be back home, but we seemed to hit a cool spell in Texas and Florida on our trip so the return felt really hot the first couple of days.

Sorry for the long boring post.



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