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Old 12 Jan 20, 01:42 PM  
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Arrow Pizza, Wings and Stranger Things 2019 Day 13

Day Thirteen – 23rd August 2019


I alluded to it at the end of yesterday’s report, today is probably my favourite ever day in Florida.

What better way to start your best day ever than with an all American breakfast! I even broke from tradition and had the Crepe Combo. Everyone else had their usual. I wont list them as I’ve done that about 50 times in the last decade

By 9:30am we were done in iHop and after a brief stop back at the room saw us on the beach shortly after 10am.

The beach was quiet, it was still early and straightaway we spotted a pod of dolphins about 200m offshore. We were all straight in the water in the hope of meeting them. Within a few minutes they did get closer and that was Lynn’s queue to get out. While she loves dolphins and has us standing for hours looking out for them, she’s still frightened of any creature larger than an ant.

As you will probably know, the kids are excellent swimmers, so I had no hesitation in saying “Shall we go out and try and meet them?” The kids were bang up for it and we headed probably another 150m or so further out. At this point we could see that there was a bait ball of fish (a big one). It looked like most of the dolphins were feeding on the bait ball, but a couple were hanging back. Particularly a mother and baby. I’m guessing she didn’t want the baby anywhere near the melee. This was to work in our advantage as while we watched treading water her and another couple of dolphins came to check us out.

These were truly wild dolphins so never came up to us nose to nose. Instead they circled (and swam under us) for the best part of an hour. They would surface within a few metres, have a little look and then go down again. You could certainly see the whites of their eyes. It was bloody brilliant. A lot cheaper than Discovery Cove too!

At one point, I looked around and there were now loads of people on the beach and in the shallows watching them but only we were brave enough to be out with them. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t hassling them, we were just far enough out in deep water for them to feel confident enough to come to check us out.

The following GoPro footage doesn’t do it justice at all with that super wide-angle lens making everything seem a lot further away, but it’ll give you an impression of how far out we were and hopefully spot the dolphins too.

Eventually they had eaten all the fish and they swam back out to sea leaving us to swim back in and giving the kids an opportunity to excitedly tell Lynn all about our encounter.

We returned to normal beach stuff and paddled about closer to the shore.

It was at this point that a Dibber came and introduced herself (Jobelly). She had spotted Lynn and the kids and recognised them. She was local to us (North East) and like every Dibber we’ve ever met, really lovely. We swapped stories of what had happened on our holidays so far, as you do, and then wished each other well for the remainder of our respective trips thinking we wouldn’t see each other again (wrong eh Jo?!).

Sometime in the early afternoon the kids persuaded me to part with $32 dollars so they could spend an hour (it might have been 30 mins) on Tradewinds’ floating waterpark. They loved it, it was bloody rampant just stood watching them from the beach so eventually I swam out to video them if only to cool down!

Tradewinds have one of those jetpack things you can hire (god knows how much they charge for that!) but it meant I managed to capture this bloke losing control and pile driving himself head first into the water. Ouch!

By 3pm we were all frazzled. We’d had more than enough sun and needed to get ready as we were going to Raymond James Stadium tonight to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Cleveland Browns in a pre-season NFL game (birthday boy’s choice again).

There was (of course) ample time for a couple of beers on balcony. I’d decided long before leaving the UK that we were getting an Uber to the game tonight so we could have a drink.

Our Uber was prompt and after about half an hour in the car we were dropped off right at the front gates of the stadium. I have so many photos from tonight (hundreds) so it’s been difficult to trim them down to a manageable amount for a trippy post.

We had a quick look around the Fanzone and then headed around the outside of the stadium to the gate we would use to get to our seats. It was at this point that I noticed the signs saying ‘Clear bags only’. I had no idea that security would be this tight for the game and had no warning. The girls had nothing with them but I had my bloody camera bag didn’t I!

It’s not a massive camera bag but it certainly wasn’t a) a purse or b) clear!

I approached someone at he security line and told him that I had no idea about the bag policy and asked if I would get in with it. “No chance” was his reply. He said, “Some people stash their bags in the car park and get them later”. On the face of it that wasn’t a good idea to stash £2000 worth of camera in a car park in the hope of it still being there when the game was over. I wasn’t doing that and didn’t even have a car to lock it in.

Then I had an idea. I took the camera out (it’s a decent sized DSLR) and said, “How about it I just took the camera in without the bag?”. This was 100% acceptable so all I had to do was stash the empty bag itself. He suggested between two portaloos so I wondered off to find a place.

I spotted a couple of dumpsters (cleanish) that were parked on top of the grass and thought I could scrunch the empty bag up and stuff it under one of them. It was at this point that I noticed the bloody S.W.A.T team standing 15 yards to the right of the dumpsters with fully automatic assault rifles around their necks.

Now I’m daft, but I’m not daft enough to stuff a bag under a dumpster yards from some trigger-happy American coppers with guns that spit bullets out like angry wasps at an NFL game.

I did the decent (British) thing and went over to chat to them. I explained the situation and said, “Are you going to be posted here all night?” They confirmed that they would be stood there all night. I asked if in that case I cold leave my bag on the floor near them and could they keep an eye on it for me? This, I was told, was a ‘no go’ and they couldn’t watch it. So I asked politely that if I went over and stuffed it under that dumpster if they would be ever so kind and not shoot me!

He laughed and said “Absolutely no problem, the safety’s on”

Not even funny pal!

I stashed the scrumpled up bag and we entered the stadium. I’ve had the bag a while and it wasn’t cheap, so I could do with it being there when we get out.

Once inside we were ravenous, so we ate ‘Ball Park Food’

Now I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and have been since 1984 when American Football first came to UK TV and we hate the Cleveland Browns so I was very much routing for the home team. The stadium was packed full of Browns fans too. They were expecting big things from this season as they had spent a considerable amount of money on players. Their ‘superstars’ sat out most of the game as you just can’t risk that sort of money in what we would call a friendly.

The pre-game looked like this……

The beer flowed and the game began. There were even some British Bucs fans in attendance.

One for the Dads

The game wasn’t a classic but it was tight and very enjoyable. At one point Maddy and I combated the Browns chanting with a round of “Here we go Steelers here we go”. That drew some funny looks.

Even Lynn started to enjoy the game and she hates sport but to be fair I think the five Miller Lites she’d already consumed helped.

The rest of the game looked like this and the Bucs came out victorious (just).

I was fleeced for merchandise on the way out. Lynn got a Buccaneers top and the kids both got caps.

Outside the band were playing in celebration and I headed over to find my camera bag!

It was now dark and when I approached the dumpster and stuck my hand underneath, I was half expecting to pull out a snake. Imagine my surprise when my camera bag was still there!

The friendly S.W.A.T. lad from earlier spotted me and shouted, “Still there huh?” so I went over to thank him and the boys and get a photo obviously! (Apologies for the camera shake on Lynn’s photo).

There is a dedicated Uber pickup spot after games, so we had to try and find it. While looking where to go we came across the players exit, so the kids met some and got their caps signed!

The kids loved meeting the players even if they had no idea who the hell they were 😊

Turns out the Uber pickup point is over the road at George Steinbrenner Stadium (Home of the Yankees in the spring) and our Uber driver soon found us and whisked us back to the hotel.

I would say that he also put the world right on the Glaziers (owners of the Bucs and Man United) along with many other things that apparently are wrong with the world. I let him crack on, I was full too full of Miller Lite to care.

So there we have it, Dolphins (not Miami), Buccaneers (not pirates) and a truly brilliant day for a Florida loving old swim dad like me.

Tomorrow – Beach, Kayaking and back to Mad Fish

Latest Trip Report Pizza, Wings and Stranger Things 2019

My old trip reports are all HERE

Edited at 02:35 PM.
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Old 12 Jan 20, 02:39 PM  
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Tartan Tigger
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Sounds like a great day. Laughed out loud at you asking the police not to shoot you 😂😂😂
All Star Music, All Star Movies, Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, French Quarter, Riverside, Coronado Springs, Swan, Dolphin, Wilderness Lodge, Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, Cabana Bay, Beach Club, Contemporary Tower, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Bay Lake Tower, Old Key West
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Old 12 Jan 20, 03:59 PM  
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A great day glad your camera bag was still there

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Old 13 Jan 20, 12:37 AM  
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Loved hearing the girls (and your) excitement on the dolphin swim vid, what an awesome experience
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Old 26 Jan 20, 11:24 PM  
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It was lovely to meet you and the rest of your family and I’m pleased I said hello!
I’m very jealous of your dolphin encounter as when you mentioned you had seen them I didn’t realise they were that close. We spent the day at the beach but think we were probably still in IHOP at that point. The kids would have loved it though.
We loved St Petes but have decided on Anna Maria Island again next year so fingers crossed no red tide.
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