Thursday, October 23, 2008

Travel Diary - Thursday, October 23rd

Woke at 4:30am with a bout of constipation. Took two teaspoons of Milk of Magnesia and hoped for quick relief but none arrived. Read Palin until 6:30am. Did you know King Olaf of Norway was a compulsive farter. You do now thanks to Palin's cogent recording. Looks like today will be a long day at Epcot Center on only four hours rest but I will get through it.

Departed the house at 8am. I revealed the details of a practical joke I played on Joyce to Sue while we dodged commuters on I-275. Joyce left me a mailer from the Republican National Committee that outlined the defects in the Obama candidacy from their prospective. She propped it up on the end table next to the chair where I sat in the living room. It featured an Obama head shot and I tiptoed into the kitchen and cut it out with a small pair of scissors I found in a junk drawer. I thought of posting it in a picture frame somewhere but I found a better target. The Wises had a Mount Rushmore calendar on the wall next to the kitchen sink. Guess who the fifth face is?

We arrived at Epcot around 9:15am and the Magnesia Magic sent me the long-awaited signal, not a subtle signal, but an urgent signal. I saw a restroom at the entrance near the dog kennel. A security guard ran over and told us we'd have to exit and take our knapsack through the bag check area, but allowed us to use the facilities if we took turns staying outside the building with the bag. Emergency situation mitigated. Now if I could take a three hour nap.

My first Epcot experience and I was impressed with the layout and the big Buckminster Fuller Dome and the soundtrack music they piped in. We decided ahead of time to make the Soaring ride our first stop. Patrick Warburton appeared on the video monitor to relay ride information. We sat down in a harness rig with no floorboard or footholds. They swung us out and up in the air in front of an IMAX-style screen. The ride simulated flying. The rig tilted us forward as we swooped over mountain tops. A wind machine simulated a gentle breeze. There was music and lots of oohs and ahs. I got irritated with Skyler when we exited the ride. He said he didn't like it in spite of laughing along with us during the experience. He was a bit put-off by the whole Epcot venture, despite never visiting before and was determined to negatize the whole affair. My lack of sleep did little to hide my irritation. I whispered in his ear that I was not about to allow him to ruin everyones day and he'd better shape up.

Our next ride was a clam shell excursion to Nemo's underwater land of laughs and projected film bits. Where Soaring was a unique experience unlike anything I'd been on in the Disney Realm, the Nemo ride seemed Disney generic, like it would be equally at home in the magic kingdom or the animal kingdom.

We walked across the Futureworld section of Epcot Center, with the other half being the International Pavilions. The Futureworld part contained the thrill rides and opened two hours before the other half, with the restaurants, liquor stands, and cultural displays. We talked to Skyler about his disposition again. I was cooler this time and told him that choosing to have a good time or a crappy time was his decision. He lightened up after that, in part because our next stop was Mission to Mars.

We opted for the more intense experience and they weren't joking. Our ship crew consisted of the Jones family, Sue as navigator, Skyler as pilot, Leah as commander, and myself as engineer. The ship was enclosed so I have no idea how it simulated the g-forces we experienced on take-off and during evasive maneuvers, or the negative-g feeling during the outer space portion, but the transitions were quick and exciting, too exciting for the wife and I. My stomach is iron-clad but my recent dose of Milk of Magnesia made me queasy today, long before I arrived. We both came close to barfing on the visage of Gary Sinise, our mission guide, as he coached all the way to the red planet.

We trekked over to the imagination pavilion for a slow-moving tram ride. Eric Idle lit up the screen as the mad professor in residence. We also took in the Rick Moranis "Honey, I shrunk the audience" 3D glasses movie.

It was lunch time and Sue picked a French restaurant for us. I'm not sure how French the food was, but everyone liked it, the atmosphere was Parisian, and the waitstaff were real French people. We also saw a 30 minute film on the glory of France with wide screen photography and music. Very nice. Skyler was disappointed to discover "Arcade" did not mean video games in French lingo, rather it was a short hallway that led us to perfume shops.

We spent the afternoon exploring the different countries as they are in Epcot. We stopped for the drawbridge. They raised it for the fireworks ships that motored over for a show to be held later in the evening. We explored Morocco and Leah got her name rendered in the native characters, Arabic perhaps? I'm not sure. Every country featured a wine tasting stand. The American display also featured a Sam Adams beer tasting exhibit with presentations on the hour. We found a log ride in the Norwegian building and a boat ride in the Mexican section, enough to keep the kids interested.

I was impressed with the architectural touches in the various sections. The Italian pavilion had fountains, statues, and Roman columns. We made our way back to the ride section about 4:45pm and decided on the test track ride, touted as the longest and fastest ride in Disney history with speeds approaching 65 miles an hour. The track was outside and it was elevated over the entrance. One saw and heard the cars zoom by. The line was long: Our wait time was 40 minutes. They shut the ride down for five minutes before we entered the briefing station. Groans all around. We boarded our vehcile 10 minutes after they resumed operations. The ride was more than a speed loop. They took us over bumpy roads, they tested our brakes, and sent us through hot and cold tests. The speed test was the final bit of fun with a transition through a fake wall that dumped us outside, looped us around a large banked curve, through a straightaway and back into the building. We blasted off and then the ride shut down. We got stuck on the banked curve. The PA system advised us to stay in our car and wait for a ride technician to visit us if there was a problem with our vehicle. Not only were we on a 30 degree bank, but we were on an elevated track 25 feet in the air. There was a small level walk space that led to a safety stairway if needed but we waited and suddenly the car accelerated to 60 miles an hours down a straightaway before it braked and returned us to the loading bay. We bargained with the staff for another go since we got trapped on the first circuit and they agreed. All went well on the second cruise and the speed test was much more exciting without an unscheduled stop.

We bought the kids ice cream and rested. Our last stop was the iconic dome. The tram ride featured technology through the ages. It was cooler that I thought. They took a snapshot of us in the tram and worked into an interactive cartoon that showed us using futuristic technology. Judy Densch narrated.

I heard mixed reviews about Epcot but I liked it, even on four hours of sleep. I wanted to visit again. We made it back to Tampa by 8pm. I fell asleep before the end of game two of the World Series.

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