Feb 08 2010

The Florida Trip, in detail.

Published by at 9:32 am under Friends,The Fam,The Man,Travel

We went to Florida, and the place we stayed didn’t have internet.  Or rather, they DID have internet, but it wasn’t wireless, and you had to pay $10 per day to access it in your room.  Instead of that, I kept my journal on my desktop and am uploading it now, from home.

January 29, 2010
We fly out of MBS at around 10:30 AM.  We thought we’d have a 40 minute layover in Detroit, but as it turns out, we just reach our gate as they’re beginning to pre-board.  So, we hustle to the bathrooms and get on a big ol’ jet.  As The Man and I sit down, I realize that we are flying to Orlando, home of Disney, and that’s why there are approximately 8000 children on the plane, none of whom want to sit down, and who all have parents who apparently think “treats” and “candy” are the answers to any misbehavior.  I personally don’t care, as long as they all shut up, and they do as soon as we take off and the crack – or candy – can come out of the carry ons.

Once we get to Orlando, we get our bags and get to the car rental, where we have a whole bunch of cars to choose from.  We almost grab a very boxy looking Scion before settling on the Prius, basically because none of us have ever driven a hybrid and we’re curious.  It’s black and very insect-looking.  BIL christens it “The Dung Beetle”.  It’s surprisingly roomy, and as it turns out, the ideal car for city driving.  We don’t even make a dent in the gas tank until we get onto the freeway, and that won’t be until Sunday.

We get to the resort – Blue Green’s The Fountains, if you’re curious – check into the room, stash the bags, and head out in search of food.  Since it’s already pushing 5:00, we decide just to eat at one of the restaurants on site, and head down to the outdoor bar and sandwich place.  One yummy Cuban sandwich and a much needed rum and coke later, and I feel tons better.

After dinner, we head out in The Dung Beetle to cruise International Drive.  Traffic is intense.  It’s barely even stop-and-go.  It’s mostly stop.  As it turns out, something is letting out at the convention center (which is ENORMOUS, seriously Orlando, it’s OK to stop building once something takes up like five blocks), and once we get past that, it’s pretty normal “Friday night in a large city” kind of traffic.  It seems like every road here is divided, which means lots of “Michigan lefts”, only everyone kind of piles into the turning area willy-nilly and it’s like Russian Roulette deciding of you’re going to Turn, Wait, or Crash.  Driving in Florida is nuts.  I’m glad I’m not the registered driver on the car.

January 30, 2010
It’s supposed to rain today, so we decide to head to Wonder Works, which is a crazy building that looks all upside down.  None of us know what it is.  We kind of assume it’s going to be optical illusions and tomfoolery, but when we get in, the greeter tells us it’s more of a laser tag, arcade, weird simulator place.  We decide that the outside is probably the coolest part of this thing, and opt out of paying $20 per person to feel a hurricane.  This leaves us at loose ends, so J-bird checks radar on her iPhone and figures that any rain won’t be until way later, so we all decide to head to Sea World.

Did you know it costs nigh on eighty bucks to get into Sea World?  And another twelve bucks for parking?  We did not, so there was some sticker shock.  After we coughed up the dough, we headed inside, grabbed a park map and plotted our course.  We saw two shows:  The dolphin show was outstanding, and the Shamu show was only so-so.  The exhibits were very cool.  My two favorites were the sting ray pool and the manatee rescue.  The sting rays exhibit was all open, and there were like a billion rays swimming around, and you could put your hands in there and pet them.  One of them grabbed onto my hand and I was like “OH MY GOD, I HAVE A STING RAY STUCK TO MY HAND IT FEELS LIKE A KOOSH BALL EEEEE!”  Petting them was like feeling a big, wet mushroom.  If you stuck your hand in the water, some of them would veer right for you, I guess because they thought you had food.  This freaked J-bird right out, and everytime one homed in on her, she would scream a little and pull her hand out.  The manatees were in a tank where you could stand at the top and look down on them, or go underneath for underwater viewing.  There were some young ‘uns sectioned off from the adults, and when we got there, they were all sleeping.  We took some pictures up top, and watched them sleep, and come up for air, and generally look like big rocks.  Then, we went to the underwater viewing and they all woke up and started moving around.  Some of them would come right up to the glass and look at you like “Yeah, so what?  I’m a manatee.  My top speed is 2 mph and I have no neck, what of it?”  And I could NOT STOP SAYING, “You live in the ocean ’cause you ain’t got no job, sea cow!” which no one got, and I had to explain, and it really did not translate well.  (It’s from “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and me and the Youngest Miller Boy used to just go on and on with that bit).

While we were watching the Shamu show, it started to rain, and it rained off and on for the rest of the time.  Lucky for us, the rest of the stuff we wanted to see was inside, so we hustled from place to place until we were all done.  Then we went back to the resort, cleaned up, and headed out for dinner.  We ate at some Caribbean place, where we waited on the patio for a table, and all wished they would have just served us out there, because there was a dude playing steel drums, torches burning, and those nice infrared heat thingys.  But, they took us inside, and I got a delicious seafood paella that was about twice as big as I needed.  The Man had jerk chicken and cinnamon mashed sweet potatoes, and he said it was good, but everything was very sweet.  After dinner, we headed back to the resort and sat in the hot tub for awhile, even though it was really more like the tepid tub, because I swear the heat was not going at all.  It was warmer than the outside, but since the outside was like, 55 degrees, that’s not saying much.

January 31, 2010
Today, we get off to a late start.  We were supposed to be on the road by 8:00, because that’s what we told Dad, but after we get up, and get around, and have breakfast at IHOP, it’s 10:00 AM and we’re just setting out on I-4, heading toward Tampa.

We get to Dad’s house in New Port Richey at about noon, and not long after that, he starts the grill.  We sit around BSing for about three hours about who knows what, and checking out his house and yard, and looking at old pictures, then we eat and BS some more, and then we head out to a beach in Tarpon Springs so that The Man and I can see the Gulf, because neither one of us ever has.  Unfortunately, it’s only 50 degrees and there is a nice wind a-whipping, so it’s not ideal beach weather, but it’s still gorgeous scenery and I get some nice pictures of the sunset, and the ocean, and Dad before we have to leave because the park is closing.

This area is full of gorgeous live oaks just dripping with Spanish moss, and Dad warns us not to try to grab the moss because mites live in it that will burrow into our skin and cause Pain and Suffering.  Anyway, that’s what he’s heard from the people who’ve lived here their whole lives, and it’s not a theory we’re anxious to test, so we leave the Spanish moss on the trees and just look.

At around 7:00 PM, we all realize that it’s going to take us two hours to get back to Orlando, so we say goodbye to Dad and get in The Dung Beetle.  We get back to the resort at around 9:00, order a pizza, and chill out for the rest of the night.

February 1, 2010
Today, the plan is to head to Winter Park, which is this little community somewhat north, which is supposed to have museums and all kinds of shops and great houses.  We do get there, after only a little confusion, and it is a very pretty place.  It’s very European in feeling, not that I’d know first hand what Europe is like.  However, all the museums and many of the shops are closed on Mondays, and before too long it starts to downpour rain.  we head back to The Dung Beetle and drive around the town for awhile, looking at all the mansions and the campus of the private university (Rollins College) which is in the town.  We head back to the resort and decide to spend a few hours in the pool before heading out for dinner, which tonight is going to be at Medieval Times.

I’m actually the only one who’s ever been to Medieval Times, although I went to the one in Toronto, so The Man is asking me all sorts of questions that I can’t answer, because I was there when I was 18, which is a long time ago.  The dinner is good, and the show is not too bad, although our seats are not the best.  We’re in the front row, but way on the end, and pretty much right in the path of one of the spotlights.  Everyone agreed, it was something fun to do ONCE, but nothing we’d go back to again.

February 2, 2010
This is the first of our two Disney days.  Jimmer, who moved to Orlando a couple of years ago, works for Disney and can get us all into one park for free.  We decide to go to Magic Kingdom, partly because J-bird and BIL have never been to that one, and partly because if you go to Magic Kingdom you can also get into Epcot, so it’s a two for one deal.

Jimmer meets us at the resort and we all ride over in The Dung Beetle and park at Epcot, since we plan on ending our day there, the parking is easier, and we don’t have to tram in as we would if we parked at Magic Kingdom.  It is raining at the beginning of the day, but that’s all right because we’re all armed with rain ponchos and umbrellas.  After we ride the monorail and get into the park, the rain is pretty much over, so we stash our rain gear and start hitting rides and attractions.  The rain has scared off a lot of people so we never have to wait for anything.

We go on the Buzz Lightyear ride and Space Mountain, and then start working our way around, hitting the Snow White ride, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion.  We get to see the Hall of Presidents, which is pretty impressive.  We get a good spot for the afternoon parade, and then get on the Jungle Cruise and walk through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.  After that, we head back to the monorail to get back to Epcot.

By the time we get back to Epcot, it’s about 6:00, so we get onto Spaceship Earth and then start hitting the countries.  We do a lot of walking, checking out the shops and different buildings, and some snacking, but we kind of have to rush through the last two (Norway and Mexico) because the fireworks start at 9:00 PM, and that’s also when things shut down.  We watched the fireworks, the theme of which was “Reflections of Earth”, and then headed back to the resort so Jimmer could get his car and go home.  After Jimmer took off, we headed out for a late supper (it being about 10:30 at this point), and had a very unsatisfactory experience at a Friendly’s.  We got back to the resort at around midnight and collapsed into bed.

February 3, 2010
Disney day number two is taking us to Animal Kingdom, so after breakfast, we head out.  Today is sunny and not raining, so we know there are going to be a lot more people.  Jimmer recommended we get a Fast Pass for Expedition Everest, but since we got kind of a late start, Fast Pass distribution was over by the time we got there.  None of us really cared, though, since Animal Kingdom closes at 5:00 PM.  We didn’t want to waste a lot of time waiting in lines when we could be looking at animals.

We headed off toward the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which is a nice walk-through exhibit of Asian animals.  After that, we booked over to the Africa section to get on the safari.  We had to wait in a little bit of a line – only about 30 minutes – but it was worth it.  We got lucky, and a lot of the animals were out and active.  Several of them came pretty close to the vehicle, which was cool.

After the safari, we walked through the Pangani Forest trail, and saw some more African wildlife.  Next, we jumped on the train up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which sounded MUCH cooler on the guide than it ended up being.  It was more of a spot for smaller kids.  The petting zoo (called the Affection Section, of all things) had the standard goats, sheep, and llamas.  We got out of there pretty fast, rode the train back to the main section of the park, walked around the big Tree of Life in the middle, and that was it.  We got out of the park just before the ending parade, and we didn’t want to see any of the shows.  It was a relatively quick park day, but it was still five hours, and all of us were dead on our feet.

We drove back to the resort, changed into jeans, and had dinner at Benihana.  After that, it was hot tub time to soothe our aching everythings, and then back to the room for relaxing.  The Man and I headed back early, J-bird and BIL stayed to sit in the sauna and maybe swim in the pool.

February 4, 2010
On our last full day here, we head back to Winter Park to go to the museums and see the shops that we were denied on Monday.  The weather is gorgeous, and I’m glad that we did all our parks early, when the weather was not so good, because the crowds today are probably horrible.  Winter Park is busier than it was on Monday, which makes sense, because not only is the weather nice, but everything is open.

We head first to the Morse Museum, which has a large collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass, and some oil paintings.  Then we decide to walk around the shops and see what there is to see.  The shops are very upscale, and no one buys anything, but we stop at a cafe and sit outdoors eating ice cream, and in The Man’s case, the biggest piece of carrot cake EVER BAKED.  Seriously, his piece of cake took up the whole plate, and they served it on a dinner plate.

After that, we head over to the Cornell Museum, which is on the campus of Rollins College, to check out the small exhibits of fine art.  Once we’re done with that, it’s almost 4:00, and we head back to the hotel to figure out what we’re doing for dinner.  We decide to head to Bogard’s, which is supposed to be a seafood/steak/BBQ place.  The food is all right, nothing to write home about.  We stay at the resort for the rest of the night, reading and packing.

February 5, 2010

Everyone is ready to go early in the morning, which turns out to be a good thing.  We’ve decided not to eat breakfast until we’re through security at the airport.  When we get to Orlando International, we find out that our flight has been delayed, and delayed again, and we’re likely to miss our connection in Detroit.  J-bird and BIL find a Delta agent who shoehorns us onto a flight to Detroit that is leaving in the next few minutes, so it’s fortunate that we got to the airport so early. The only downside is that our bags have already been assigned to the other flight, so if it is canceled or delayed more, they might not be waiting for us at our home airport.  Nothing we can do about that, and as The Man and I live ten minutes from our home airport, it’s not that big of a deal to drive back and pick them up later, if we need to.

The flight into Detroit has a lot of turbulence, but nothing too hair raising.  We land at DTW at the time our other flight should have taken off from Orlando.  We’re not due to fly out of Detroit until 4:20 PM, so The Man and BIL try to get us onto an earlier 2:00 PM flight, but the Delta agents in Detroit are nowhere near as helpful as their Orlando colleagues, and the two boys are told to use the Help Line, which of course never even gets them to a real person.  J-bird and I, meanwhile, are sitting in a pub across the way, and once our food arrives, we kind of motion “never mind” to the boys.

By the time we’re done eating, we are all pretty well resigned to waiting for the later flight, and head to the gate to wait.  The flight is only delayed ten minutes, and pretty soon we are flying home.  When we land, we head straight to baggage claim, where by great good luck, our bags are waiting for us.  We load up the car and J-bird and BIL drop us off at home.

I am avoiding doing laundry by rationalizing that it’s all summer clothes and therefore not stuff we need right away.  Let’s see how long that will last.

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