Denver & Orlando: A Birth, U2 and THE Rolling Stones

Saturday 6 June to Tuesday 16 June 2015

travellingross rating = 10/10

The flight to Paramaribo on Surinam Air has become a little bumpy. The big black woman next to me who prayed when we took off from Miami has now started singing softly. To calm herself I suppose. I’ve just watched ‘The Accused’ with Jodie Foster on my phone. A 1988 movie that I’ve long overdue watched. And one of the few movies that survived the great external hard drive loss of 2015. This is where it ends. Where did it begin I hear you yell, let me tell you…

I met up with Melissa in Miami and we rented a car to explore the shops and see ‘Entourage’ movie at the cinema. One of my fav tv shows of the last 5 years made into a movie that doesn’t leap from small to big screen but entertaining nonetheless. Melissa returned the vehicle to the airport and had a few more days in town before returning to site. I on the other hand was off to Denver. First time I’ve ever booked flights the night before. Spontaneous is not really in Travellingross vocabulary.  Leaving things to the last minute is. So I had known for months that this weekend 7 June was the date my close friend Matt’s (re Rockies January ski trip) 1st baby was due along with the U2 tour hitting his home town of Denver. Good enough reasons for me to visit. And it turned out fateful given as I stepped off the cruise boat into Wi-Fi freedom, baby labour was on and during my flights to Denver the baby boy was born 2 days early. Layover in Charlotte which is also the first time I’ve ever googled “where am I” and intriguingly told North Carolina. Ok.

Staying in the Courtyard Marriott downtown off the 16th street mall was a nice choice. But for the 5 nights I needed, it was only available for 3 so I had to shift to a dodgy motel near Matt where my neighbours were permanent residents with cats. On the Saturday, I was able to see baby Tucker within 24 hrs of birth and introduce Matt to the concept of ‘wetting the baby’s head’ at the local bar. Sunday was a wander around town and then meeting my former Boddington boss at a bar near the Pepsi Center ahead of U2. I saw him for a brief moment in my January Denver visit but this was first real time hanging out for 6 years. When I first met Tom in 2006 it was a pivotal moment in my life when I was meant to transfer to the Adelaide head quarters and so I bought U2 concert tickets for their Vertigo tour at the Adelaide oval. It was a hit album and everyone, including long-time fan Tom, wanted to go so he got tickets as well. But I was abruptly transferred to join Tom in the small town of Boddington for a new gold mine expansion project I’d never heard of and we both sold our U2 tickets. So attending a U2 show 9 years later in Denver with the man who made my career is a bit special for both of us. And the show did not disappoint. Although an arena rather than stadium show (like the one I saw in Perth in 2010), it was epically grand with amazing effects, lighting, vocals, and twists that make me admire this band even more. I’d read that most songs were from their latest less-than-successful album, but this show is sold as every night being different and every song I wanted to hear was there and the encore 3 were my 3 favourites in an order I predicted to the randoms we befriended: City of Blinding Lights, Where the streets have no name, and One.

I caught up with Matt’s new family a couple more times before flying out Wednesday morning 10 June to Orlando. It was time to save some money so I booked a Days Inn, which are budget hotels that have been adequate for me in the past. This one was next to the county jail. But 50 bucks a night! I was more worried about the reviews of bed bugs than the prisoner visitors over-nighting creating fights. I heard plenty of arguments and a few late night parties with the obligatory car park burnouts, but above all no bed bugs. Phew. The only reason for Orlando on my itinerary was The Rolling Stones concert Friday night. Many encouraged me to visit the theme parks and Disneyworld. But my Disney dream was to put up the do not disturb sign for 6 successive nights and do what everyone else does on their weekends.

The Stones were beyond brilliant.  Enormous stadium, high energy show for anyone let alone 70+ year olds, hit after hit, and exceptional seats right next to the ‘cat walk’ as the woman next to me called it. It seemed the whole city was excited about this show as it dominated news, radio and bars around the venue. Even my hotel price tripled for the night. Similar to U2, attending this concert had history. Seeing the Stones in concert has been on my list for years and they were scheduled to play Perth in March 2014 and better yet I was home for it. Cancelled. Due to Mick Jagger’s girlfriend committing suicide. So when I saw a 12 date North American tour scheduled a couple months ago, I got VIP tickets and planned the entire break around the 12th June in Orlando. Crazy for some, exorbitant for others, life for me. Long-term mega successful artists and entities like the Rolling Stones inspire me, and yes I have a list of artists I’d like to see. Irrelevant whether u like their music, it’s undeniable they perfected their craft and sell a product that still packs 60,000+ seat stadiums. Lyrics written 50 years ago that connect to an audience today. And I like their music. It reminds me of family car trips, cleaning my Bodd house and that I can’t always get what I want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

The concert finished just before midnight and I didn’t get to sleep til 4am. Mostly because there seems to be no taxi stand or hotel in downtown Orlando. I had to share with two women heading to sea world and I had to give directions to the driver. Orlando is not somewhere I’d return. Unless you come with friends to do the theme parks and stay at one of them. But it was a good opportunity to visit a suburban mall and catch up on things.

Feeling fulfilled after a productive relaxing entertaining break, the bumpy Surinam Air flight landed in Paramaribo in the early hours of 17 June and I arrived at the hotel at 2:30 am, couldn’t sleep until 4am, awake at 7:15am, in a vehicle to site at 8:30am, straight into the Managers Meeting at 1:30pm. Hitting the ground running. Time to pay for an expensive break.

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