Orlando, Florida

Thursday, July 9th - Sunday, July 12th

Another speaking engagement for Jill from the Coding Institute, another trip to Orlando for us! Bonus! Flew JetBlue from Syracuse to JFK, and then onto Orlando, arriving late afternoon on the 9th. We checked into our hotel, the Buena Vista Palace, and settled in there before heading to the Boardwalk. We wandered around the Boardwalk, stopping to have a couple of sangrias at the window stand, before our dinner reservation at the Flying Fish! This was to be one of our 'new' things to do on this trip, and boy what a great choice it was! We shared shrimp cocktail for an appetizer, and then Jill had oak-grilled North Atlantic Bay of Fundy Salmon which was delicious and I had oak-grilled Hand-harvested Maine Scallops, equally as delicious! We shared a bottle of Riesling, and for dessert we had "A Study in Chocolate". Another 'favorite' restaurant for us at Disney! After dinner, we walked to the other end of the Boardwalk and went to Jelly Rolls! (our favorite bar on site for sure!). We were there until, well, it closed! LOL!

On Friday, we decided to try other 'new' things, so after we got up and moving, we headed for I-Drive to pick up tickets for the show we were going to the next night, and had breakfast at a Panera Bread along the way. After that, we went back to Downtown Disney where we boarded a boat and took a ride up the Sassagoula River, something we had been wanting to do for a while (since Port Orleans Riverside is our favorite resort!). We stopped first in French Quarter and had some yummy beignets, and from there we walked over to Riverside to look around. It was about this point where the trouble started. We were in line to take the boat back to Downtown Disney (where our car was). As we waited, a storm approached, thunder and lightning and all, so....the boats were shut down! All of them! Oye! We ran out front to catch a bus back to Downtown Disney - and proceeded to wait (no joke) one hour before one showed up! Not acceptable! And, once again, the reason we don't rely on Disney transportation for the most part, because you can't depend on it!

By the time we made our way back to the car we were soaked, so we went back to the hotel and changed and then drove to St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Rays game. Jill wasn't feeling all that great, so she actually ended up staying in the car and sleeping. I stayed in for about five innings before driving us back to Orlando.

On Saturday, Jill had speaking sessions in both the morning and afternoon, but at night she got us tickets for "The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show" which was at Wonderworks on I-Drive. Hilarious show with two comedians doing magic along the way - we had pizza and salad and popcorn and unlimited BEER! It was a great time, and we were really glad we went. After the show, we went to Cuba Libre for some drinks before heading back to the hotel and packing up.

On Sunday, we went to the Waffle House for breakfast (the one near the Disney hotels), and then back to Downtown Disney to wander around before heading off to MCO and back to Syracuse before driving back to Binghamton.

July 10th
Tampa Bay Rays 6, Oakland Athletics 0

ST. PETERSBURG - They showed their love for the big fella on Friday night.

A standing ovation greeted Jeff Niemann when he took the mound to start the ninth inning. Since he stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 260 pounds, the crowd of 20,358 at Tropicana Field had a lot to love and had good reasons for their display.

"That was pretty cool, that was actually the first time I heard the crowd when I was out there pitching," Niemann said. "So it was neat."

Niemann had dominated the A's for eight innings at that point, then he survived a little ninth-inning turbulence en route to a complete-game six-hitter for a 6-0 Rays win.

"I thought that we just did not get to the pitcher at all tonight," Niemann said. "I mean we didn't get any runs at all."

After losing four straight to end their previous road trip to Toronto and Texas, the Rays have now won four straight, winning their past nine games they've played at Tropicana Field and giving the team a 30-13 home record this season.

Niemann now leads the team in wins with eight and shutouts with two. And according to manager Joe Maddon, the big fella also leads the team in rebounding and baseline assists. Yes, the Rays' manager was in good spirits. Why shouldn't he have been? Niemann looked like a beast.

"There's no question as Jeff continues to figure it out, the fact that he is so big and creates such a difficult angle, [he] makes it hard on the other side," Maddon said. "There's no question about that. He's probably pitching his best professional baseball right now, and he's doing it here. ... Tall guy like that ... with good stuff, the hitters just don't see that every day."

The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the first thanks to some shoddy glove work by the A's. Leadoff hitter B.J. Upton got a second life when his foul popup fell in between several A's fielders. He made the A's pay by slapping a double down the left-field line off Vin Mazzaro. Upton advanced to third when shortstop Orlando Cabrera could not handle Mazzaro's pickoff attempt at second. Carl Crawford's groundout then scored Upton.

Niemann seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed, getting ahead of the hitters on a regular basis, which allowed him to exploit the count to his favor. Matt Holliday's second at-bat personified why Niemann had success on Friday night. After getting ahead of Holliday, 1-2, in the count in the fourth, he threw a sweeping breaking pitch that the A's slugger chased for strike three.

"Strike one," said Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, when asked about Niemann's success. "That was our game plan before the game. ... He got ahead of almost everyone. He was spotting his fastball. He was using his breaking balls pretty good. But the biggest thing was strike one. It's so much different when you're ahead in the count than being behind."

Navarro felt a nice vibe about Niemann while warming him up in the bullpen before the game.

"His arm angle was pretty good. He's [6-foot-9], almost seven feet tall, he needs to get on top of that ball and that's what he did today," Navarro said. "He was throwing the ball downhill, and he was getting ahead."

Carlos Pena gave Niemann some help in the fourth, when he connected on a 2-1 Mazzaro offering and deposited the baseball into the right-field stands for his 24th home run of the season and a 2-0 Rays lead.

Ben Zobrist drew a bases-loaded walk off Mazzaro in the fifth, and Navarro scored on a wild pitch by Santiago Casilla in the sixth to put the Rays up, 4-0.

Evan Longoria got into the action in the seventh with his 17th homer of the season, his first long ball in 18 games dating back to June 17 in Denver. Pat Burrell added an RBI double to push the Rays' lead to 6-0.

"It was nice to see the big boys [Longoria, Pena and Burrell] get active tonight," Maddon said. "They're going to do that a lot come the second half of this year. Pat's really starting to get some confidence at the plate.

"You can see better at-bats overall and stronger contact. Longo was just a matter of time to get back on board, and same with Carlos. As we move into the second half of the season, I really anticipate all of those guys having good second halves."

Trip Notes:

First leg of the outbound trip was aboard JetBlue flight 657, SYR-->JFK; depart 1001AM, arrive 1111AM.

Second leg of the outbound trip was aboard JetBlue flight 1783, JFK-->MCO; depart 125PM, arrive 419PM.

Return trip aboard JetBlue flight 660, MCO-->SYR; depart 1257PM, arrive 337PM.

Our seats for the Tampa Bay Rays game were Section 113, Row U, Seats 3-4.