Tuesday, August 19, 2008



Orlando was a nice trip. I love Allegiant Air. They reduce an 8 hour drive (speeding with little traffic, so 9-10 at the speed limit) to literally 1 hour from takeoff to touchdown. Aaaaahhhhhh. Thank you Allegiant Air andBernoulli. Flew in Thurs. J was already there so she picked me up with her brother, then we went to where her dad works. He's a nuclear radiation technician, so basically he injects people with a technetium based molecule that is pumping out gamma radiation. It collects in their heart and he used a fancy instrument to take 3D pictures of their beating heart. The half-life is 6 hours so it doesn't last long but 6 hours seems like a long time to me, but I'm no doctor or nuclear physicist. I would definitely invest in lead clothing if I worked there.

Had dinner with a friend who is preggers and due in January. Then went to sleep to wake up early for Aquatica! Hooray water parks! Since we bought tickets online, we could get into the park an hour early, we also got a pretty sweet parking spot too, it even said "preferred". Damn right. We get into the park and we find a nice spot under an umbrella on the "beach" in front of the kiddie wave pool. I get J settled with a couple towels as blankets and pillows and she goes right to sleep. I set off to ride some tubes! I will be using this park map to remember the names of some of the rides.

First I rode Whanau Way, which is a two person tube ride for 1 or 2 people. At the top of the steps, you can go left or right and each side has 2 tubes with 2 entries so the line moves pretty quickly. Each side is different also. I would recommend 2 people cuz by myself it was fun but with J on the tube (later in the day of course), we went crazy fast! After that I rode the Dolphin Plunge which is the ride touted on the billboards where you slide through the Commerson's dolphin tank. There are 2 tubes and the line wasn't bad at 8:30 but it was nuts the rest of the day. J didn't even ride it based on my review. It's kind of stupid. I think I saw a dolphin but was going so fast with water in my eyes that I can't be certain. Also one of the tube's views is completely blocked by the other tube. To maximize your chances of seeing a dolphin on the ride, wait for the blue, or left, slide. A decent idea but I think a lazy river that goes by the tank (which they have) or even under it would be much better. The slide is just too fast to check the dolphins out.

I go back and check on J, she's still asleep and okay, then go to check out the rest of the park! Unfortunately it's all still closed and will open at 9. Oh. Uh, okay. So I wandered over to the conservation tent and check out their cane toad and talked conservation efforts. They had a gorgeous hawk billed tortoise that someone bought overseas and had confiscated by customs because a stuffed turtle is wrong and illegal! Don't buy animal products overseas or here unless you're 100% certain that it is sustainably produced. But they had some tagua nuts from the tagua palm trees and it was gorgeous! The tagua nut is also called vegetable ivory because the nut is incredibly hard and can be polished and shined into a ivory like finish. Very interesting and eco-friendly.

The rest of the park opened and I tried Roa's Rapids, which is a water jet propelled river that is anything but lazy. They suggest life jackets but aren't necessary unless you can't swim on your own. I witnessed several people having to take another trip around because they couldn't swim to the exit because of the current. It was pretty entertaining and I lost track of how many times I rode it throughout the day. It also has two exits and two entry points. Lots of photo ops too since it circles around the middle of the park and goes under several bridges.

Then I went over to Taumata Racer, which is a mat ride that races 8 people down 8 tubes at a time. Lots of fun and the secret is to lean into the turn. The first time I rode it, I tipped over and hit my back on the tube, losing speed and time. Damn you centripetal force! Since they shoot 8 people at once, this line moves really quickly. As I waited on my turn, there was a family of 8 who were all racing. The guy counted 1, 2, then pushed the 2 young sons down the tubes, then yelled 3 and let the rest of the family go. It was funny and entertaining.

Next up was Walhalla Wave, which is a large 1-4 people sized family raft slide. It was kind of fun by myself and later with J and myself but I think with 3 or 4 it would be almost scary fun. There is a 600 lb. limit per raft so keep that in mind. HooRoo Run uses the same rafts, fed by the same raft conveyor belt, but they don't allow single riders on that one, so I didn't ride it, and the line moved very slow so J and I only rode Walhalla Wave and didn't get to try the HooRoo Run, which is a straight slide with 3 humps.

J and I did the lazy river, Loggerhead Lane, which has 2 person or single tubes and gives you the option of floating past the dolphin tank or past a tank of colorful fish. You also have to wade through the lazy river to get to Tassie's Twisters, which are the big toilet bowl type rides that we tried to get on once but they stopped the line because it was too long.

That was about it for rides. They had several shorter slides in the very fun Walkabout Waters area. It's a kid oriented area but also allow adults, as opposed to Kookaburra Cove which doesn't allow anyone over 48 inches to join the fun. Expect to get very wet in this area. There are open pipes, pipes filling buckets that tip over, water guns, water shovels, cords to pull that open faucets, valves to turn that operate water spouts in the floor, water everywhere! There are several slides off this structure, a couple don't allow "big" kids to slide down but I did one anyway. The strangest thing about this area is it really allows and almost encourages you to be an asshole. I witnessed 2 12-13 year old boys on 2 rubber hoses (that you could squeeze the tips of and get some decent water pressure) spray every single person who walked by them for at least 2 hours! Was it really that much fun? I saw another very hairy guy man a water bucket over one of the slides for about that long too. I sprayed him in the back and he didn't even turn around he was so in the splashing people zone.

The wave pools, Cutback Cove and Big Surf Shores, were okay but it was like being a drift at sea. Up and down and occasionally you didn't make it and get splashed. It was like being in the ocean without the possibility of riding the waves and enjoying the up and down motion. I would have really preferred one of those standing wave things instead of the second wave pool.

So if you're looking for hardcore fast rides, look elsewhere like Wet & Wild or Blizzard Beach, but if you have a family of differing ages, this is a pretty awesome place with a little something for everyone.

For food, J and I opted to go with the Banana Beach Cook-out. It's $13 for one all-you-can-eat-and-drink visit or $20 for an all day (11 am to 7:30 pm) pass. We opted for the all day deal. It was the only money we spent on food and drink, besides an ice cream Shamu for J. You walk in and are hit with a blast of freezing (since you're soaking wet) A/C and grab a plate. Potato salad (didn't try it), cold tortellini salad (good tortellini but the cold tomato sauce was a bit weird and unflavorful), cole slaw (a tad too wet but not bad), caesar's salad (again not great but not horrible) and then you hit the dessert. I don't know why but that's how it's set up. They had good basic brownies, chocolate pudding, banana pudding (with maybe 1 or 2 Nilla wafers, for shame!), honey dew and cantaloupe slices. For the main dish, they had mac & cheese (J's favorite), spicy baked beans, hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken (but only drumsticks?). I knew they advertised veggie burgers but didn't see them on the line, so I asked and they keep them behind in a warming tray. I really enjoyed the spicy baked beans, the fruit was decent but not really sweet, they had shredded cheese to put on burgers or hot dogs (or your mac & cheese like J did), some shredded lettuce, sort of sliced tomatoes, packaged butter and mayo. Outside they had packaged mustard, ketchup, relish, salt and pepper. My cheese, mustard and relish hot dog was solid. The burger tasted like a dead cow who was not happy, or maybe some other animal. I went back to try a veggie burger. Wow! Flavorful, great texture, lightyears better than that crappy hamburger, and probably at least a little healthier. I stuck with the vegetable based foods from then on. They had Pepsi products and I had some Mug root beer and then their unsweet tea which was strangely too thick. I probably should've tried diluting it with lemonade or water. They did have a Sobe zero calorie grapefruit beverage that I didn't try but seemed like a nice option besides diet Pepsi for people who can stand the taste of that fake sugar stuff. I can taste sucralose a mile away.

As we were leaving for our mid afternoon dinner, a British couple asked if we had just eaten there and if it was "quite nice". Quite nice is a bit strong. It's okay but if I wasn't super crazy hungry, I would try Waterstone Grill or the Mango Market. I saw pizza and a big sandwich coming out of Mango Market that both looked really good.

J and I never actually got a locker for our stuff. Once J woke up, I just put my money and important cards in my sealed pocket. If someone really wanted my library book, crazy old cell phone, towels and sunscreen, they could have it. But I saw lots of other families leaving their stuff in the open and assuming that if someone paid $42 to get into the park, that they weren't going to steal their beach towels. We had no problem paying for lunch with wet money but the ice cream lady tried to claim she didn't take wet money. Uh, you work in a water park, it might happen. The lunch guy actually showed us his pile of wet money under his money tray.

Also added note, I now know what good Muslim women wear to water parks. Full length synthetic (quick drying?) abbayas. It wasn't as harcore as that one, but it was long sleeved, covered the legs and had a hood. They were also all wearing sunglasses but wasn't sure if that was required or not. As I looked around at what everyone else was wearing (I think the guys with them were wearing regular trunk style bathing suits) I couldn't help but wonder how they view the women around them in their one pieces and bikinis. I'm not assuming they judge them but was just wondering how they feel being completely covered when no one else was, not even the male adherents to their religion/culture.

We left around 5 even though the park was open until 10 pm. I had ridden most everything at least twice, J at least once, got our moneys worth out of our day food pass, were a bit sunburnt, tired and were ready to leave.

Brother-in-law and I picked up dinner for everyone from Fazoli's (we wanted to eat there since they all went out of business here in SC), watched the Olympics, slept, woke up, went rock climbing at Aiguille which was some much needed exercise but the humidity made the holds slimey and once you got about 10-12 feet up in the air, you left the coolness of the A/C and entered the rising hot air and starting sweating buckets, which didn't help hanging onto the slimey holds.

Home, shower, then lunch with one of J's good friends and her new man who was nice, had 2 cute dogs and a motorcycle (although he said he hasn't ridden it much since he started dating J's friend), then back home where I cleaned the inside of the Escort wagon we were using while we were there, then out to birthday dinner for J (who turned 28 on August 13th) and her brother (who turned 42 on Sat.) and had delicious sushi at Seito Sushi and got to eat outside and watch an evening thunderstorm roll in which cooled central FL down very nicely and barely sprinkled on us.

Home, Olympics, wake up, pack, fly home, stop for breakfast, home, relax and cats!

There are no Orlando pics even though I did take the camera but I still owe you other pictures so I should get those up this week.

Thanks for reading this crazy long post!

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