Daytona Beach, Yeaaahhgh!
Sorry, we are still really behind on our blogs. Sadly we are not still in America, in fact we are in Germany and will be finishing the expedition in 5 days time, back in London. We will catch up when we can though!
Orlando, the home of the shiny plastic epitome of American culture: Disneyworld!
We rolled up late at night and grabbed a cheap motel outside of town, but we weren’t here for Orlando, Mickey could wait. We were here for Spring break!
Daytona Beach is situated about an hour or so outside of the city, famous as the ultimate depraved frathouse, girls-gone-wild, Bud Lite soaked debauchery location for Spring Break (you may know recognise it as the place where Sacha Baron Cohen’s character, Bruno, makes a group of homophobic frat boy- wrestling team look like complete idiots). Spring Break is basically the holiday break for colleges during, you guessed it, Spring.
As we drove along, traffic was heavy, but not with cars or the ubiquitous pick-ups. Hundreds of middle aged men with moustaches, ample beer guts and leather jackets with little flowey tassels on were sat upon large, noisy motorcycles; their legs wide apart and held up as though in stirrups at a visit to a gynaecologist. Tattooed women occasionally sat on the back, their pale wrinkled love handles spilling out of their leather, often revealing a faded tramp stamp for any unfortunate black cab drivers following them. Sat in solid traffic, these hundreds of bikers would constantly rev their machines to ensure everybody knew that they were there and turned to have a good look, no doubt obviously harbouring images of themselves resembling Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, but looking more like an aged, gay parody of him (apologies to any bikers reading this, I’m sure you’re completely different and don’t rev your bike unnecessarily in traffic… or wear tassels)
We had accidentally arrived during Bike Week.
Sons of Anarchy
The strip on the beach was almost exclusively bikers, we pulled up onto the beach to find it almost entirely deserted. No motor home parties, no nubile college girls in bikinis playing volleyball, no keg stands. Nothing but sand. We checked the dates, they were right, but it looked like they had all been scared away south by the bikers. Sad and disappointed we decided we were going to embrace Bike Week instead. We headed to an interview that had been arranged with a local TV station. The cameraman told us of a local biker bar that holds the annual ‘coleslaw wrestling competition’.
“It simply pits some big burley more-like-a-man-that-any-of-you-boys biker wives against each other in a pit of coleslaw. And it starts today!”
A local testing the chair build quality at the International House of Pancakes
The bar was some miles out, and halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach, so we had to beware of rival biker gangs (“if you see patches or colours, just walk the other way; all these guys are armed and won’t think twice about shootin’ ya in the face’”). It was odd that, although we had actually driven through some of the supposedly most dangerous places in the world, the ‘supposed’ most civilised country in the world is actually the place where you’re more likely to get shot (in the face). We drove for an hour or so and found the bar, where we also found out that the wrestling starts in two days.
Even more dejected, we took ourselves to the marshes, pitched our tents and camped.
Spaceships are AWESOME!
The next day Leigh and I visited Kennedy Space Centre before preparing for an epic slog up to Pittsburgh. Jon’s aunty and uncle live an hour outside the city so that was our target. We drove for until 3am before sleeping in a carpark for three hours before carrying on until the next evening.
Leigh asleep in a carpark in the back of the cab
Jon had warned us that his uncle and aunty were very right wing (“militant Catholics and single issue voters”). I had always been under the impression that far right Americans are ignorant, pig headed and racist idiots, and I’m sure many of them are. Expecting to spend an evening biting my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a kind, loving family, with whom politics was just what they thought, not a way of life (although the anti-abortion picketing placards stored in the toilet did gave me a jolt!). Leaving Jon’s car at theirs so not to have to worry (or pay!) for parking for two cars in New York, and waving sad good byes to Margarita the Taxi, that valued member of the team, we headed off.
Hannah Over Pittsburgh
We saw Pittsburgh for a day, did some interviews, but then got back on the road again. It was Friday and Saturday was St. Patrick’s day. My Irish cousin lived in Toronto and we wanted to be there for the party. We also wanted to see Niagara falls. Driving through thick fog, we realised we would only achieve one of these and headed across the border to Canada. We parked up and walked across the border, unsure if US customs would let us cross back in if we took Hannah with us.
Taking the bus (!) to Toronto, we met my cousin Ian and his girlfriend Cathy and all their Irish friends (since the recession it appears as though the entire youth of the country has migrated to either Canada or Australia, I’m not sure I spoke to a real Canadian other than bar staff the entire time!). The Irish were identifiable by the fact that they were the only ones not dressed up in lewd green outfits and orange wigs; revellers under the misconception that wearing something bearing the corporate logo of ‘Guinness’ is synonymous with wearing something saying ‘Ireland’.
The great falls
24 hours later we actually saw Niagara falls and then collected the car from where we parked it, at a huge indian casino. The valets just thought we had returned from an epic gambling night and didn’t charge us a penny, thinking that we had no doubt lost more than enough in the casino, when actually we had been to another country and back.
The Brooklyn Bridge
As part of the sponsorship agreement we struck with our sponsor, Get Taxi, we had promised to do a load of publicity for them in New York. We made the nine-hour drive down to Manhattan, parked up and slept ready for a few days interviews. It also happened to be my 25th birthday, so we celebrated accordingly…
One particularly fun interview was with a journalist called Angus from the Wall Street Journal. He thought he was covering some corporate publicity stunt, but on meeting us discovered the real story of the taxi. He loved the story, and the next night called me up to fact check, as the story was to run the next day on the front page!
Quarter of a century: Overlooking Manhattan
The next morning was insane, our inboxes were full up with contacts, interview request and some incredibly kind well wishes. We tried to arrange a few interviews, but time was limited because by the afternoon I had dropped Hannah off at Lufthansa cargo at JFK airport, destined for the Middle East and I was soon on a flight back to London for a couple of days seeing my family and stocking up of taxi parts, because before I knew it, I was following Hannah to Israel!
Hannah in Times Square
The beginning of the end of the trip was upon us: We were going to bring Hannah home (the longest way possible to rack up the fare, of course!)