Monday, March 7, 2011

Becky Does Orlando: Part One

Sam and I timed our flights to arrive within five minutes of each other late Sunday evening.  But thanks to the Law of American Airports, one of us had to be delayed.  It was Sam.  When she arrived at our hotel a little after midnight, she said, "I thought you guys would be up drinking or something!"  Instead, the welcome that greeted her was me in bed, half-asleep, and Alex in his room down the hall, dead to the world.

"Welcome to vacationing with Alex and me," I told her.


Day One (pedometer count:  13,098 steps)

Near the top of my list of important hotel amenities is a free breakfast, and that is precisely where we started on Monday, our first full day in Orlando.  Alex had left me the night before more than a little skeptical that Sam and I would be up and ready for an early start to the day, but we knocked on his door just before 8:00 and down to the lobby we went.  Though Sam and Alex came to me at very different times in my life, and through very different circumstances, there was no awkwardness with the three of us together, nor were there any formal introductions or greetings.  In all the years I've known Alex, I'd never vacationed with him, and in all the years I've known Sam, I'd never met her face-to-face.  And the two of them had nothing more than a couple of months' worth of Facebook friendship behind them.  But from the minute Alex opened his door, it was as if we did this sort of thing together all the time.  As if we'd all seen each other last week.

Strange.  But beautiful.  God bless the internet. 


After breakfast, it was straight to Universal.

Universal is split into two parks:  Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is).  Day One was our day for Universal Studios, which would be the first theme park your intrepid author had ever set foot in.

According to "everyone I've talked to about this," it is highly unusual that our family never visited a theme park when my brother and I were younger.  Perhaps sensing my childlike curiosity, I was approached upon entering the park by a woman who asked me to fill out an extensive touch-screen questionnaire about why I was in Orlando.  I had hoped that the time I spent carefully spelling out how much I love Harry Potter would result in a free meal or discounted ticket...but it appears that all I got for my effort was free e-mail offers from Universal for life.

And this was what we did once we got fully inside the park:

1.  Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast.  My first theme park ride ever.  I didn't really understand it and it made me nauseous.

2.  Revenge of the Mummy.  My first rollercoaster ever.  Sam called it "full on."  I called it "one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever lived through."

My personal advice to anyone who is looking for a first rollercoaster would be to avoid ones that are almost entirely in the dark and that are designed to scare the shit out of you with prop mummies.  I kept my eyes closed for most of it and Sam and Alex spent the first of many, many, MANY post-ride exits laughing at my facial expression in the photo taken mid-ride.  Apparently, my face is capable of doing all sorts of things I never knew about until last week...

3.  Twister...Ride It Out!  Though the simulated tornado experience was too tame to really be scary (especially after that mummy shit), this ride did instill in me a desire to watch Twister again.

4.  Disaster!  A hologram version of Christopher Walkin interacted with actors and audience members to create a trailer for a disaster movie which we watched in a subway car after a fake earthquake.  It was as pointlessly entertaining as it sounds.

5.  Jaws.  Boats.  Fake sharks.  Screaming boat captain.  Yes, we did get wet.

6.  Men in Black Alien Attack.  A grand time because we got to shoot things.  It was on this ride that I realized how terrible I am at shooter games in comparison to Sam and Alex.

7.  The Simpson's Ride.  Here, we went through a simulated rollercoaster which made me so sick I wasn't sure if I'd be able to choke down...

8.  Lunch.  But I did.  (Kidding, of course.  Like I'd ever consider not eating lunch.)

9.  Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show, which Sam and I were pretty excited about, being the make-up whores that we are.  But the show was less about make-up techniques and more about two actresses screaming at each other while throwing around fake blood.

10.  Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, for Beetlejuice is one of my favorite movies in the history of Earth.  As we were leaving, Alex wisely described what we had just witnessed as a desperate attempt by Universal to "fit in a recognizable character that they had no idea what to do with."  Beetlejuice acted as the emcee as Frankenstein's monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman sang modern hits, from the Black-Eyed Peas to Rick Springfield.  It was arguably harder to sit through than the Mummy ride.

11.  And last (but not least), we capped off our day of theme-park-y goodness by riding Shrek 4-D, which was sort of long and, aside from a few spritzes of water in the face, not all that 4-D-ish.

To be entirely honest, after leaving Universal that day, I didn't have great expectations for what we'd find at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the next day.  Though I could tell, even from my sphere of inexperience, that it was a nice park - and I did, genuinely, have fun - everything we did felt very fake to me.  The rides felt fake, the atmosphere felt fake...  As we walked along Fake Hollywood Boulevard in Fake Beverly Hills, I looked down at the Fake Stars on the Fake Hollywood Walk of Fame...

...and I thought that somehow, seeing Tom Selleck's star recreated there, rather the stars of any multitude of Hollywood legends, summed up Universal Studios Orlando perfectly.


Back at the hotel, we cleaned up a little and then headed back down to the lobby for the hotel's happy hour, where we could get two free drinks just for showing up on.  On the elevator ride down, I started to tell an embarrassing story from Ireland but stopped when the elevator did, not wanting to continue telling it with strangers riding along with us.  Three older women got on and after a pregnant pause, one of them said, "You know, when you're talking in this elevator, you can hear it up and down the hall.  And I want to know how that story ends!"  Oh, to have been in that elevator and heard the laughs.  Or felt the heat radiating from my face as I turned bright red.

I did not tell them the end of my story.

After our two drinks (where Sam had her very first Bud Light), it was back to Universal for dinner at the world's largest Hard Rock Cafe.

And though we'd already gone long and hard that day, we decided to go to a liquor store and buy a bunch of rum to drink while we sat in Sam's and my hotel room watching YouTube videos and Sam's wedding DVD.

(Excuse my camera's inability to open its lens cap all the way...and my inability to notice it before taking this picture.)

And that was Day One.

No lie, it was probably the least exciting day of the trip.

NEXT TIME...Hogwarts, hardcore rollercoasters, and a bar where the temperature inside was 27 degrees.  Stay tuned...


  1. ET!! Sam and/or Alex, when did we do the ET ride?? I forgot to write that one down. :(

  2. OMG, I love this post! I have to admit I was very surprised you had never been to a theme park or ridden a ride before though. I love theme parks & used to go to our beloved AstroWorld here in Houston all the time, before they closed it for good a few years ago. I have been to Disney World once, but never to Universal Studios & of course Potter World is like my dream, & I vow to get there one day if it kills me.

    That's so cool that you 3 could meet like you did & have an excellent vacation together. I can't wait for tomorrow's report on Potter World, YAY!!! & MORE pics, you definitely must post the one of you mid-ride on the roller coaster! >;-)

  3. Rachel and I *STILL* discuss the mid-ride photo taken of us on the MIB ride and our deep regret that we had no money to purchase it.

    I was really excited about this ride, and thus so incredibly disappointed when I was given a tiny gun that fit entirely in the palm of my hand with which to shoot aliens. Instead of the dramatic shoot 'em up pose mid-ride that Rachel and my co-riders exhibited in the picture, I am sitting there with an elbow resting on a knee, my chin resting on my hand, looking bored as hell. It was CLASSIC.

  4. ET was somewhere after MIB but before Shrek,... I dont know how we forget that one!

    This blog is pure genius. Another reason we should travel more often is that you write my journel entries perfectly! I giggled throughout... Thankyou! Cant wait for tomorrow! ;)

  5. ^^^ I don't know how we forgot that one, either! Maybe when they're all up, I'll go in and add ET to the list.

    So...WHEW! Day Two is done. It's exhausting writing these things. I feel like I'd be doing a lot better job if I wrote it all out and then edited it a week from now but, eh. I'm more interested in getting the details down at this point (before I forget them!). :)

    Vanessa, ALAS, we never bought a rollercoaster shot (actually, THANK GOD! :D). They were all so freaking expensive! Like $16 to $20 a pop. I'm pretty sure Alex took a cell phone pic of one of the pictures when it was up on a screen, though, but I'm hoping he accidentally deleted it because if it was the one I'm thinking of, he has blackmail material on me for life... *shudder*

    Kathryn, HA!! That is HILARIOUS!!! :D If ONLY we had that picture...what makes this even funnier is that I thought the Men in Black ride was way better than the Buzz Lightyear ride in Disney World, but Sam got a picture of Alex (which I fully plan on posting) on the Buzz Lightyear ride looking like he's about 6 years old and has never had more fun in his life. Clearly your standards for shoot-em-up games are WAY higher than his. :D

  6. OMG, i'm crushed i wasn't more on top of things! I'm so ezcited you guys got together!


  7. Becky, I'm staggered-stunned-flabbergasted-amazed-astonished-gob-smacked that you'd never been to a theme park until now! and your [i]first[/i] rollercoaster ride in your [i]life[/i]?!!?!!!!!!?!?!!!!!!!! ho-ly!!!!!!!

  8. ^^^ Such has been the general reaction. ;D