Back in the early nineteen nineties I was staying at my home in Orlando & decided to go to Clearwater Beach for a weekend.
My trip was just for something to do & maybe to do a little fishing offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. I was in no hurry as I had no plans other than to check into a hotel on the beach & have a relaxing day.
As I got closer to Clearwater I couldn't help noticing how much traffic there was on the other side of the freeway & thought that there must have been an accident somewhere that was causing a hold-up & all the extra traffic. I was just glad that there seemed to be no traffic going my way as I hated getting stuck on the freeway for hours. As I went across one of the main causeways onto Clearwater, I noticed that right in front of me was a Holiday Inn hotel right on the beach & thinking that it would be ideal I pulled into the car park hoping that the hotel would have some rooms. Luckily the car park only had a few cars in it & I was able to park right outside & walk straight into the hotel lobby & up to the registration desk.
As I walked up to the desk I noticed a couple of staff stood talking to a policeman at the desk. I asked one of the girls if I could book a room for a couple of nights. She looked at me & told me they were closed, the policeman turned to me & asked how I got there. This seemed like a really dumb question to me but I didn't want to upset the local police so just told him that I had driven down from Orlando on Interstate 4. He then asked me if I had seen any roadblocks & I told him that I hadn't but thought there was an accident somewhere as all the traffic was going the other way. The girl behind the counter said don't you know there is a very big hurricane coming, I replied that I didn't know as I hadn't watched any television & hadn't had the car radio on.
The policeman & the girl talked briefly before the policeman told me that it would be too dangerous for me to leave now & that Clearwater Beach had been given a mandatory evacuation order. This was why all the traffic had been going the other way, he could only assume I had been the last car to come through before the roads were closed. Asking what I could do the woman behind the desk told me that the hotel was being used to house the local residents that had to stay or couldn't leave for various reasons & that she could give me a room until it was safe to leave. She then went on to tell me that the hotel bar would be open for food & drinks as all other places would be shut. On top of this, I would not be charged for my room or anything in the bar whilst the evacuation order was in place.
I went to my room & switched on the TV to watch the news to discover that there was a large hurricane heading our way. I watched a bit of TV & decided to walk to the bar to see if I could get something to eat. When I got to the bar there was a buffet set up & I had free food before getting a pint from the bar. I got talking to the girl behind the bar & we got on quite well. Later in the evening, she came up to me & asked if I wanted to go with her to a hurricane party that was going on in a local bar. I of course said yes & we walked up the road to a bar on the beach which she told me was actually owned by Hulk Hogan. When we got there the big man himself was there serving free beer to locals, who had to remain behind & wait out the storm. I was introduced to him & he talked to me whilst he was pouring beer for people. I spent the rest of the night in his bar playing pool with him & the locals who hadn't left because of the Hurricane.
The following afternoon the evacuation was lifted as the storm changed direction & moved back out into the Gulf of Mexico. I didn't have to wrestle Hulk Hogan but I did meet him in his bar at a Hurricane party. I had a free stay in a hotel on Clearwater Beach, I had eaten lots, drank lots, & had a great time & it didn't cost me a penny. Another great time that I will not forget.