After a great week in Arizona I made my way to Orlando and then Melbourne, Florida (Indian Harbour Beach to be specific) – my temporary home for a couple of months (thanks cousin Bronni & Shane!). Kind of ironic to move across the world and end up in the same named city as Melbourne Australia!
Time to get a US mobile phone, set up bank accounts etc (after a few hiccups with no credit history etc everything slowly got sorted – a bit of Aussie charm with the ladies at the bank helped!) and start getting my name out there jobwise (plan was always to eventually move to Seattle, Washington). Also catch up with family and old and new friends in Florida.
Thunder Over Louisville
I spent a few days (April 15 to 18) in Louisville, Kentucky (although I actually stayed across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana. As I was taking public transport I met all walks of life from drunks to the apparent homeless travelling to and from downtown Louisville on local buses!).
I went up there mainly to see “Thunder Over Louisville“, one of the biggest air shows and fireworks displays in America (a lead in to the Kentucky Derby Festival), but there is a lot to do there including some excellent museums. Louisville is the hometown of Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and the “Louisville Slugger” baseball bats – both represented via museums and a factory tour to see the baseball bats being made.
My first activity was “Thunder Over Louisville” on the Saturday. Due to the enormous storms and tornadoes crossing parts of the US, the weather was horrible on the day and disrupted the air show frequently (cold winds; grey sky, cloudy and really really cold!!), this meant certain aircraft didn’t fly or were delayed. To the credit of the pilots that went up they put on a great show and the hardware on display was pretty impressive (kudos to the Luftwaffe Tornadoes, and the awesome F-22 Raptor – the most impressive aircraft you could possibly see in the skies today! An F-4 Phantom in full afterburner was a highlight too!).
It was a long day, got there relatively early in the morning as the crowd was expected to be 500,000 people (last year was 700,000+), but due to the cold and wet weather this ended up only being around 250,000+ people. The whole show runs along the Ohio river – the border line between Kentucky and Indiana, in front of downtown Louisville – I decided to view the show from the Indiana side, but where I had planned to watch from was flooded! Anyway met a nice family who had a good spot, they let me sit on a spare chair (and even gave me a lift back to my motel after the show). This side proved to be a good choice, concrete pavement eliminated the mud from the rain, the aircraft often flew closer to this side and over the crowd, plenty of food and hot drinks were nearby too!
It was bitterly cold (about 45F or <8C) and the wind cut like a knife at times, the rain came and went (was mostly light showers), but this was not the coldest show I had been to (that would go to Ballarat 1985) or the wettest (close call between Avalon 2009 or Berlin 2010). I was there from 9am to 10pm….loooong day! The next few days though were sunny and warm – shame the show is a one day event that can not be rescheduled! So apart from the weather the show was great, and when it was time for the fireworks the rain luckily stopped! The fireworks were awesome and went for 30 minutes, fired from one of the main bridges crossing the Ohio River and from barges on the river itself, really lit up the sky!
The next day I visited the Muhammad Ali Centre. A great multimedia exhibition of his early life, fight career and post fight career – some great photos, footage of fights such as the “Rumble In The Jungle” and the “Thriller In Manila” and artifacts – my favourite the robe given to him by Elvis Presley. Then by chance I overheard a family talking about a baseball game down at Slugger Field, so I headed down there to enjoy the nice weather and watch the Louisville Bats vs Indianapolis Indians (minor league game – feeder teams for MLB) – The game was long, 13 innings but Louisville won which made for a fun outing. Along the way I decided to grab a quick lunch at the local White Castle Burger (made infamous by the “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” movie), big mistake, disgusting microwaved slider burgers (like mini burgers)! Uggh……I redeemed this meal by trying the local speciality downtown, a “Hot Brown” which is an open sandwich with chunks of turkey meat and bacon covered in a mornay sauce (kind of like gravy), pretty good (a side salad was consumed also just to have something healthy)!
Monday was my last full day so it was off to the Louisville Slugger Museum and factory tour. It’s amazing how quick the machines can knock out a professional league baseball bat in a matter of seconds – used to take about 20 minutes by hand! I smelt like sawdust for the rest of the day after this! Then I went across the road to the Frazier International History Museum, this place was excellent! It is associated with the Leeds Armoury Museum in the UK and has an impressive display of medieval armour and weaponry right through to the late 19th/early 20th century (wild west, US civil war, items belonging to the James gang, Buffalo Bill, Presidents Washington and Teddy Roosevelt etc). My favourite displays were the rather brutal and gruesome life size dioramas throughout the museum and the live action sword fight demonstration, very good!
Road trip! On May 3rd I made the long drive from Melbourne to Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle (over 8 hours of driving) to attend Naval Aviation Week at NAS Pensacola (home of the US Navy Blue Angels) to celebrate 100 years of US naval aviation. Basically 2 days of free air shows at the Naval Air Station on May 4th & 5th (displays by the Blue Angels, US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps Harrier jumpjet, historic aircraft)! Plus a visit to the excellent US Navy Aviation Museum. An awesome couple of days!
I also made a side trip to Mobile, Alabama to visit the USS Alabama Memorial Park (massive WW2 battleship, USS Drum WW2 submarine and air and tank museum), you could explore most areas of the battleship which was very interesting. Then back in Florida I visited Eglin AFB and the USAF Armaments Museum (great aircraft collection here too of various WW2 and after aircraft) and Tallahassee the state capitol. Before spending a couple of great days with my Uncle in Winter Haven.
My last main activity in Florida was to go kayaking with Bronni, Shane and their awesome dog Fu Manchu on the – beautiful scenery, lots of birds and a few big alligators! Great fun.Wekiva river
Before heading off to Seattle, Sally and Ron put on a great farewell BBQ for me. As a special treat I made a classic Aussie burger for Bronni and I – big beef patty, egg, beetroot, onion, tomatoe, cheese, lettuce. Stacked it high, a true heart stopper…..delicious (but you wouldn’t want to eat too many of these bad boys – well done Bronni for demolishing yours in record time by the way)!
Thanks to all my Florida family and friends for a great stay!