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IRA Convention, and Vacation in Orlando Florida

Sunday, May 4, 2003-Departure to Orlando from OKC through Memphis, TN. As Tony and I went through the check-in gate I recognized rock star Ted Nugent checking in as well. He was leaving with his family after a performance at the Ford Center in OKC with ZZ Top! After I was scanned (darn underwire bras!) I asked Ted if I could shake his hand. He said of course and was very friendly. He was dressed in his usual cowboy hat and camouflage jacket. Not many people recognized him, but I zeroed in right away.  In the morning on our hotel room TV we saw an interview with his Ted and his wife on FOX. She was promoting her book, Married to a Rock Star and touting family values. The Peabody Hotel on International Drive is across from the Orange County Convention Center. We walked over and snooped around the center before the show opened the next day. The famous ducks were floating in the fountain pool at the Peabody.

 Monday, May 5, 2003-Saxon Booth at the IRA (International Reading Association) Tradeshow at the Orange County Convention Center.

Our booth was located in the center of the show and you could see our black and white sign hanging above the booths.  I met a very excited teacher at the booth working for us from South Carolina, Ms. Ard. She had just calculated her student’s scores and they had improved 41% using Saxon phonics. The rush of attendees at noon ended by mid-afternoon. The show was slow compared to last year, everyone kept telling me. I snooped around our competitors booths as Tony shot pics of me trying to stuff just one more sample from each booth! We were loaded with samples in a very short time, I really appreciated Tony’s muscles! The booths of others were very colorful and full of samples. Scholastic was a huge booth of information. They were handing out really nice canvas bags with zippers. We could eventually cram all our samples into this bag and check it on the plane!

After visiting with the booth workers, we lugged our goodies back to the Peabody and got ready for our evening at Universal Studios City Walk. Tony rented us a nice Mitsubishi car and we entered the park. This part of Universal is a special area open until 2:00am. City Walk has many restaurants, bars, movie theatre surrounding a lovely lake. I suggested we try to go to the Hard Rock Café’s concert of Bob Dylan, and Tony agreed!

We lucked out and got center row seats of the balcony in the hall. The hall was really nice and had a bar on each side for continuous refreshments during the show. In front of the stage on the lower level was a large open area standing room only. The warm up band was The Waifs from Australia. Very good band soft, hard rock and ballads. One lead singer could really play the harmonica! The crowd loved this band and it was a good warm up for Dylan. Dylan’s band entered and then Bob, he began to play and didn’t greet the audience, still that shy serious rocker style. He played around 15 songs and his drummer was awesome as well as the guitarist! The crowd really loved him, young and old, even if you could only understand one word in 20!


Tuesday, May 6, 2003-Tony and I visited the tradeshow repeating our snooping and snapping and sampling. I helped some at the reception desk during lunchtime. A teacher just had to share her experience with me of how her students have learned math, phonics and spelling using Saxon, she was just so happy with our products. Tony and I went to Disney Downtown for the evening.  We strolled through the 93degree heat (104 on the heat index) and dropped into the HOB, House of Blues for dinner. Very yummy scrimp po’ boy sandwich! The décor of the place was really fun voo doo art and primitive colorful art, everything was painted, even the floors and ceilings. After strolling around some more we decided to go to the Disney flick “Holes”. It was a really cute movie. I loved Jon Voit's character. The weather has been consistently hot over 90 degrees each day so sitting in a cold movie theater was cool and relaxing after walking and standing all day!


Wednesday, May 7, 2003-We went to the convention center and I helped at the reception desk and visited some more booths. Tony went shopping. We tried to rent a Harley but to our disappointment Tony needed a motorcycle license. So we headed back to the hotel for a rest and then I went shopping at the FAO Swartz toy store and mall across the street. The evenings are really nice in Orlando, still hot but breezy and pleasant. The mall had a court yard with lots of misters to keep you cool. I lady asked if I wanted to her to place a Cockatoo bird on my arm, I said sure, the bird was busy eating a cheerio and didn't even care that I was holding him! Very beautiful white bird and his buddies were so beautiful too, multi-colors of blue and reds and golds. We just chilled in our room at the Peabody watching HBO and munching on stuff in the mini-bar inside the chest of drawers, lots of yummies and drinks.

Thursday, May 8, 2003-Daytona Beach was our day’s destination with about a one hour drive. We drove into Daytona and were amazed at the size of the Daytona 500 Speedway! We just had to go on the tour. Riding a tram we embarked into the tunnel under the speedway to the pit area. The center of the speedway has a lake that they use for irrigation and fire dousing. There were several 76 towers that spotters sit in to watch for debris and trouble on the track! As we listened to the tour guide we were also entertained with recordings of highlights from past races. Off the tram and on to the beach! What a beach! You are allowed to drive you car right onto the beach and park and enjoy. I can see what a party place this must be on Spring break! There were many refreshment stands and bar areas at the hotels that backed up to the beach. We rode the waves and cooled off with margaritas. The sand is a beautiful white and the beach is so long, lined with hotels and condos and lots of beach bathers. You could parasail, or rent a four wheeler. We drove up and down the beach just watching and enjoying the ocean and the people. The water was cold but you adjusted very well after a wave dunked you, lots of waves to float over and get plunged, but the water never was over our waist with smooth sand to walk on. Our day at the beach ended with a walk on the  Mainstreet Pier. For one buck you can sit and enjoy the ocean below as people fished and relaxed. We dined at The Wreck a local biker bar. It had a really nice view of the river between Daytona and the beach with sailboat bridges and entertainment by a dude singing requests. Eric Clapton was mine. When we returned to our hotel the national news was informing us of tornadoes touching down in the Moore, OK and learned of the destruction.


Friday, May 9, 2003-By 6:30 am we were off to the Richard Petty driving experience in Disney World (Video). Tony joined a large group of people for training in driving a NASCAR. After watching a short video introduction about the racetrack and cars Tony suited up for a one hour training with a professional racecar driver. He learned how to read the flags, track layout, how to use gears, and fire extinguishers. I was able to sit in the fan stand to watch him board a van and go around the track with the trainer who explained the procedures. They really stressed to stay 3 car links behind the pro when driving. As each driver had a helmet placed on his head and strapped into a harness and walked to the car the pit boss introduced the rookie and the fans cheered! Tony slid into the car through the window and was harnessed tightly into the seat. He was given the go ahead and took off at a high speed. His average speed per lap was 124mph. Tony was driving a Pontiac with a 160 horsepower engine. Racecar #17, red! Even though the car had a lot of power Tony had to hold back and not pass the trainer. It was easy to drive the car, it held the curves and lanes very well. As he drove around the track on the turns one  cone was for deceleration, two cones were for acceleration down the straight aways. After the eighth lap Tony received the checkered flag and coasted into the pit. Now it was my turn to speed around the track with racecar driver Tommy King, he had been driving since he was 14. I wanted to ask him if he had ever crashed in that time! We shot out of the pit and did three laps at top speeds 145 mph! Holy speed bumps…that pro could take the turns! He would take me into the turn as if we were going to go straight into the wall and then turn fast. Of coarse I was screaming and laughing through each lap. The way they harnessed you into the seat was great because I know I would have taken flight without the harness! My ride was way too short but I don’t think my body could take much more anyway. What a rush! I struggled out of the window and took off my gear and we headed for Tony’s graduation experience. The crew were a great bunch of guys and really were entertaining and friendly. They asked everyone about their rides and gave a print out of the speed statistics and a graduation certificate with top speed listed. The highest speed that day was 126 mph. We really enjoyed the time at the track and considered it an experience of a lifetime! Next we hopped on over to MGM Studios for the rest of the day. We entered the park and headed for the Back Lot Tour. We boarded a tram and traveled through the back lot of the studios to view the houses used in movies, they were facades only without any backsides. We saw a room of props from famous movies, like the planes from Star Wars and the trucks from Indiana Jones. The tram carried us up a large man made mountain into a set designed for demonstrating special effects of water, fire, explosions and trucks crashing. A large water tower spilled gallons of water at the tram! We walked over to the Indiana Jones set to watch how a movie scene was taped, the actors and directors performed as if we were viewing a movie. Lots of extras from the audience made it a lot of fun. The costumes and sets were just like Indy’s movies. Next on our adventure was Disney Animation Studio, we were able to watch animators drawing the scenes for the new movie The Bear. We viewed a short film with Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite. It was so funny and explained the animation process before we went through the studios. We traveled to a galaxy beyond in the Star Wars ride, it was a simulator ride into the stars. For a huge thrill be were invited to be a guest at the Ghost Hotel in the Tower of Terror ride. The hotel was haunted by ghosts that were struck by lightning in an elevator. We had to ride that elevator and see the ghosts and fall several floors at time. It was a really wild experience! The stage performance of  Beauty and the Beast was so lovely with great costumes. Before the show we were treated to a quartet of singers. Our day ended at MGM with the show Fantasmic! It was fantastic, a light show and wonderful projection of movies on the fountains of water. Mickey was our host and several Disney characters joined him to celebrate Mickey’s dream Fantasmic! While listening to the news the national news reported more tornadoes headed to Bethany and The Village and on to Edmond, it was surreal the weather channel brought in feeds of the KOCO news report and we watched the tornado news in our room in Orlando!


Saturday, May 10, 2003-We traveled to Cocoa Beach for some sun. The first stop was Ron Jon’s Surf Shop for shopping and browsing. It was a really huge store with everything you needed for the beach. We drove into Fischer Park to enjoy the surf. The beach is very different from Daytona, not white sand but it was nice hot sand! Very quiet beach compared to Daytona, very beautiful and the waves were just as nice. We sunbathed and relaxed for the afternoon. Then a mad rush back for the 6:00 pm show of Sleuth Mystery Dinner Theater. The show was very entertaining and fun. Four characters were suspects in the murder of the former owner of the Squire’s Inn. Three were British and one American. Truly a great evening of fun. The audience had to determine who was the murderer after listening to the whole performance and then asking questions. Nigel did it! Shhhhh...don't tell anyone!


Sunday, May 11, 2003-We enjoyed a relaxing Sunday morning at the hotel Quality Inn and ate breakfast and walked around the shops. Boarding Northwest airlines we flew back home to Oklahoma City full of wonderful memories and adventures for a lifetime!  Happy Mother's Day to me!

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