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Rob's trip 5/31/2007 - 6/9/2007

#1 User is offline   rob_wilson 

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 08:55 PM

We just returned a few hours ago from our trip to WDW, Universal, and Star Wars Weekends. Still tired from the travel, but I'll provide a few of the high points anyway.

5/31 - Lots of riding in a car. Nothing too exciting.

6/1 - More riding driving, but we finally reached the parks late in the day. By the way, Florida and Georgia probably owe us a bit of thanks as I think our vacation plans may have been responsible at least in part for putting out much of the wildfires. In other words, we seem to have brought them plenty of rain. We arrived in Florida on 6/1 and the day was pretty much a complete wash out. Since we had planned to get a Luke Mickey big fig, I was dropped off at Disney-MGM Studios to navigate through the downpour while the rest of my family went back to the hotel. I was successful in my mission, but was a bit disappointed when I picked up the big fig at the Pop Century gift shop the next evening to find that we had received #599 out of 600. We would later be even more disappointed by that fact when we noticed that they were still selling the Luke Mickey figures into weekend 2, but more on that later. Apparently they just randomly distribute the figures.

6/2 - The sun came out again and we spent the day at Disney-MGM Studios. We took in the backlot tour, Star Tours, Great Movie Ride, and Muppets. We also caught part of the High School Musical show and of course the MGMStudios.org meet. If you've seen the picture and are familiar with my family, you may have already known this. If not, my wife and I are third and fourth from the left in the back row. She's the gorgeous woman and I'm the strange looking guy. Our son and daughter are both in the front row wearing WWTBAM-PI! caps. By the way, you may want to note the height differential between my wife and the rest of the adults as this will be somewhat important in another story that I'll be telling further into the trip.

After the meet we also met up with DarthBeagle and his lovely wife for a bit. Then after getting a bite of dinner and seeing more rain moving in, we headed back to our hotel. Oh, lunch was at the 50's Prime Time Diner and dinner was at Backlot Express. Also of note, for my crew, much of the charm to Disney-MGM Studios was lost this trip. Not only was Millionaire gone, but so was the adult Star Wars trivia competition. Our son is a big Star Wars fan and is now too old to compete in the children's competition, so he was hugely disappointed as was I.

6/3 - Originally we had planned to spend half the day at SWW and then the rest of the day at EPCOT. We instead spent all day at EPCOT. We checked out Ellen's Universe of Energy, Soarin', The Living Seas with Nemo, Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment, La Gran Fiesta with the Three Caballeros, and Maelstrom. We also saw Peter Noone fronting Herman's Hermits. They put on a good show. After the show we talked to one of the cast members working the show that we had recognized from WWTBAM-PI! He remembered us and talked to us for awhile, filling us in on where some of the other cast members from the show had ended up. We later managed to hunt down a hand full of them, but many were not working on the days we hit the parks they worked. While talking with him, our daughter got a couple of the band members to autograph her book which was funny since she complained about having to sit through the concert, but I think she really enjoyed it despite her complaints.

We finally left the stage area and walked around the World Showcase lagoon only to hear a familiar voice calling my name. We turned around to find PixieDust, her fiance, and her mother. We chatted with them for quite awhile before they moved on and then we stayed and watched Illuminations at our son's request.

Forgot to mention, lunch was at Nine Dragons and dinner was at Alfredo's. We had booked the dinner specifically because it would be closing soon. In hindsight, we wished we hadn't. Nothing against the restaurant, but it just wasn't the type of food my crew wanted to eat.

6/4 - I hate to say it, but this was probably the day we enjoyed most of the entire week, and we didn't even step foot in a Disney park the whole day. I had purchased tickets to Universal on-line prior to our trip. My wife and I had been to the original Universal park only once, prior to having kids, and none of us had been to Islands of Adventure. We spent most of the day at the original Universal park and managed to get in almost every ride. Since my wife gets motion sickness, she stayed off of a few, but I believe the kids and I did every ride except The Mummy. We did miss a few shows including the one with Beetlejuice and the one with animals.

One show we took in twice, Fear Factor Live. After watching it the first time, the bug had bit my wife to try to get in the show herself. So, while the kids and I rode Jaws, she wandered over the requisite 75 minutes prior to a showtime to stand in line for a shot at being a contestant. We got off the Jaws ride at just the right time to walk over towards where she was to see if she would be chosen or not. Based on the earlier show we had seen, they try to get 3 males and 3 females, and since fewer females show up we felt she had a good shot. As it turned out, she was the only female to volunteer for this particular show so she was chosen along with 4 males, 2 of which were military men. Once they chose the contestants, they were taken out of sight to change into their spandex performance outfits. They were also explained how the show would work and the various safety rules and such. Of course, at the time I knew none of what was going on as the kids and I had been separated from her until after the show.

Since we had an hour or better to kill, we walked over to a game where you could win prizes by rolling/tossing wiffle balls into a grid of colored and non-colored cups. My daughter was first up and I paid the $5 fee for 15 balls. She managed to keep 14 of the 15 in the grid, but only landed one of the balls in a colored cup (blue) in order to win the smallest level prize which was either an inflatable sword or hammer. Next up was my son. I dropped down another $5 and he played. He managed to knock 3 of his balls out of play, but one of the other 12 landed in a blue cup so he had matched his sister's success rate. By the way, while most of the cups were non-colored, there were several blue cups, a few red cups, and only a single yellow cup which was for the "jumbo" prize. I told the kids that I would try to see if I could do any better. I did managed to keep all 15 balls in play, but otherwise met with about the same success rate. However, while I only got the balls to land in two colored cups, one of them was blue and the other was the solitary yellow cup. I also asked what the trade up rules were and the worker said that we could trade all 3 of our "blue" level prizes for a "red" level prize. So we walked away with a jumbo and medium prize, and of course $15 less than we walked up with as well.

Anyway, we killed a bit more time by making a bathroom trip and then headed back to the Fear Factor show. Since we were with a contestant, we were allowed to sit towards the front with our now slightly extended family of "5" (counting the jumbo Sonic the Hedgehog and medium penguin from Madagascar). The host came out and explained the show's concept and then, after a short video of highlights from the tv show the contestants were introduced. Their first stunt began with each of them standing on a catwalk 50' above the stage. They reached above their heads to hang onto a pair of rods that bent down on the ends. Once they had all taken hold of the rods, the catwalk beneath their feet was removed. After 15 seconds of this, fans were turned on them to make holding on all the harder. Shortly after that, one of the men lost his grip and fell, only to bounce back due to the safety cord each contestant was wearing. After a few more seconds, both my wife and another of the male contestans dropped at nearly the exact same second, but I think she dropped just a fraction of that second earlier. Either way, it didn't matter as 4 of the 5 contestants were going to continue to the next stunt, so she was already in the next round. The guy that ultimately held on the longest was then asked to pick a partner from the remaining contestants for the second round. He chose my wife, which was a bit awkward for her husband watching in the audience.

The second round involved two stages. In the first stage, one person from each team was suspended in the air by a cable while holding a bucket. The other person had to reach into a tank of live eels and pull out beanbags. These beanbags were then tossed to the suspended partner who would attempt to catch them in their bucket. The team with the most beanbags in their bucket when time ran out would score an advantage going into the second half of the round. That team ended up being my wife's team as she (in the suspended position) caught all five of the beanbags her partner tossed. The other team had only three or four. The second half of the round involved the suspended player being swung like a pendulum and tossing rancid octopuses (octopi?) to their partners on the ground who now attempted to catch them in a similar bucket. The catch here was that the person on the ground was tethered such that they couldn't move very far. Since the person swinging had very little control of their movement and direction, they had very little room for error when they tossed each octopus. Oh, and the advantage that my wife's team had won was an extra octopus so my wife threw four while the other team only had three to toss. The round ended with both teams missing one so the score was 3 to 2. This was sufficient for my wife and her partner to compete head to head in the final round.

The final round brough us full circle back to the first stunt, sort of. In the first stunt, the contestants started at the top of a 50' wall. In this stunt, they began at the bottom of the wall. There was a ladder in the center of the wall and two windowsills on each side of the ladder (four windowsills total). On each windowsill was a flag. The contestants had to climb the ladder, stretching to get across the windowsills and tear down the flags. Once they completed this, they had to cross one of the upper windowsills to grab another flag off of a fireman's pole before sliding down the pole. This flag had a key attached to it. Once on the ground, the contestant ran across the stage and jumped into the front seat of a car and use the key to start the ignition. Once that was accomplished, the car was hoisted off the ground to a set height. The contestant then had to climb out to the hood of the car and grab three more flags. After that, they had to climb back into the car, go to the back seat, and fire a gun at a target on the stage. The ladder did not go all to the stage, and my wife being only 5' 1" (or maybe 2"), she had a lot of trouble just getting to the ladder. As such, she lost quite a bit of time and her competition won the round. He hit the target while she was still being hoisted in the car.

Nevertheless, she had a great time. The winner left with 4 tickets to the park and a t-shirt. My wife's second place finish netted her 2 tickets to the park and a baseball cap. The rest of the contestants left empty handed. A few other details: in the final round, both contestants were being hit with water jets and balls, making their climb up the wall even more difficult. They also wore about 20 pounds of gear including a mouth guard, ear plugs, and goggles. Between rounds, audience member volunteers did stunts involving eating disgusting things or having scorpions lowered onto their heads. The kids and I waited for about 20 minutes after the show for my wife to meet us as the contestants had to shower and change back to their street clothes. A few people came up to her later congratulating her. She was sore and worn out. The next day she had bruises from the harnesses and such she had to wear. And like WWTBAM-PI!, she is ineligible for a year to play it. Oh, and she was probably 10 years older than the winning contestant and about 8 inches shorter in height. She also barely passed the height and weight minimum requirements. In height she passed by 1 inch and in weight she passed by 2 pounds. That's why I mentioned earlier to note her relative size in the group photo.

Since Fear Factor is all about facing your fears, I should mention that my wife faced two of her greatest fears. No, not the fear of heights. No, not the fear of holding rancid octopus either. The fear of being weighed and wearing spandex in public. :wink:

Well, that takes you through the first few days of our trip anyway. I'll try to add some more tomorrow.

Rob
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#2 User is offline   Tinkerbell2004 

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 09:50 PM

sounds like fun so far rob! can't wait to read more!



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#3 User is offline   Ward 

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 08:26 AM

rob_wilson said:

6/4 - I hate to say it, but this was probably the day we enjoyed most of the entire week, and we didn't even step foot in a Disney park the whole day.
No shame in that. Universal/IOA is really a lot of fun! :shock:

Great report so far - love the detail. Can't wait for more...
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#4 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:12 AM

Great report so far! Thanks for posting Rob
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#5 User is offline   PixieDust 

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 02:21 PM

sounds like you had a great trip Rob! It was great seeing you and your family again!

Glad to know you ended up staying for illuminations. :lol:
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#6 User is offline   rob_wilson 

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 05:37 PM

6/5 - We spent most of the day at Islands of Adventure. Unlike the main Universal park where we rode almost every ride, we found the rides at IOA to oftentimes be too rough. We started the day with my son and I riding the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Afterwards we got our son's photo taken with Spider-Man. He was a bit surprised when Spider-Man actually spoke to him since none of the masked characters at Disney ever speak.

We next went on Ripsaw Falls as a family. I like Dudley-Do-Right as much as the next guy, but I am not too keen on getting wet. Despite that, I somehow ended up in the front of the log. The dousing that I got was more than I cared to receive and it prevented me from even trying the Popeye raft ride later. I got so wet in the final downward plunge that I couldn't even see the remainder of the ride.

The rest of the rides we went on were basically all kiddie ones. We rode The Flying Unicorn, The High in the Sky Trolley Train Ride!, The Cat in the Hat, and Caro-Seuss-el. We also did Poseidon's Fury, which may have been a mistake as the kids acted terrified through most of it. After it was over though they acted like they had enjoyed it.

We left at a reasonable hour and had dinner back at our resort. We also spent some time at Downtown Disney's Marketplace. By evening, my wife and kids were all suffering from heat rash on their legs. My wife's legs looked particularly bad, and I went to the resort's gift shop that night to try to find some type of lotion or ointment to put on them.

6/6 - This was our Magic Kingdom day and probably the worst day of the week. It was very crowded and midway through the day there was an extended downpour. We managed to get very little done. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean twice, likewise Buzz Lightyear and the People Mover. Other than that we rode It's a Small World, Carousel of Progress, and saw Mickey's Philharmagic. The rest of the time was spent doing VMK Quests and trying to stay dry. We had lunch at Pecos Bills and dinner at Crystal Palace. We tried to switch Crystal Palace to Liberty Tree Tavern but it was booked. Oh, and a note for those who may remember that Pecos Bills used to have cheese sauce on their fixin's bar, they still have it but you have to ask for it when you order and they charge 50 cents for one container of it. The container is a bit larger than the containers provided at the fixin's bar. One of the cast members said that they took it off the bar because some people had burned themselves on it. Of course, that excuse seems a bit flimsy when you consider the hot mushrooms that are still available there. Anyway, just thought fans of the restaurant may not know you can still get the cheese sauce for a price.

By about 5 or so, we were washed out and decided to go back to our room. One other thing I forgot to mention, we also helped get a lost child to cast members who assisted in tracking down the child's parents.

6/7 - Our last full day at the parks - We decided to spend it at EPCOT. We rode essentially the same rides as our previous EPCOT day. I think the only additional ride was Livin' With the Land. Lunch was at San Angel Inn by request of our son. Our daughter had arranged to meet a friend she had met on our last Disney cruise around 2 pm. We met up with her friend who was accompanied by her brother, her mother, and a cast member friend of her mother's. We rode Spaceship Earth with them and then wanted to ride Soarin'. The cast member said she would see what she could do since it was late in the day and Fast Passes were likely already gone. The rest of us rode the Nemo ride at the Living Seas.

When we got off the ride, we were surprised to find the cast member friend and another cast member friend of hers. That cast member worked in the Living Seas and had suggested that we take a tour of the facility with him. He took us up to the top of the aquarium tank where we could see several of the fish as they surfaced. We also saw several divers who were in the process of feeding the fish. We weren't allowed to take any photos, so I have none to post, but it was interesting getting a behind the scenes look.

Afterwards we tried to go on Test Track, but the Fast Passes were gone and the line would have made the group we were with late for their dinner reservations at Marrakesh. They asked if we could join them, so we checked the availability as we had no dinner reservations. It turned out that they had quite a bit of availability and when we checked in at the front counter they even accomodated putting our two groups of 4 together to be a group of 8. This was another first for us as we had not eaten here before. I must confess, I had always wanted to eat there for the belly dancing show, but the thought of the food had kept me away. I liked the food better than I thought I might, but still not enough to make me want to go back anytime soon. The show was okay, but our table was fairly distant and with all of the movement from the waitstaff we couldn't see very well.

After dinner we parted ways and returned to our resort to start packing. We timed it right, because rain moved through on the way back to the resort.

6/8 - We loaded up the car in the morning and left the resort bound for SWW #2. The car was a lot fuller than when we arrived a week earlier due to our purchases, including large items like the Sonic the Hedgehog stuffed animal I won at Universal and the Luke Mickey Big Fig. We wondered how we could manage to get the Leia Minnie Big Fig to fit if we were able to purchase it. We finally figured out a way to do so, and headed into the park to see how easy it would be to obtain. Once we got into the park, we made a beeline for Jabba's Hut, where the event merchandise was being sold. We got in line and this is when we learned that they randomly assign boxes as they still had a limited number of Luke Mickey's available. A limited number, but it was a number larger than 1 as was suggested by our receipt of number 599. Since this was our last day, having the figure delivered to our resort wasn't an option, so I knew I would be forced to carry it through the park and to the car. After paying for it, we went to pick it up and noticed that several boxes were stacked up near the door and the numbers were all over the place. The person in front of us was handed a number that was somewhere around 170 if I recall correctly. The cast members were handing boxes out from two stacks and I hoped that they would hand us the next box below the one that was just handed out. They did, and I walked away with number 15. The box was actually heavier than the one for Mickey (and that wasn't just my imagination, it was printed on the box). By the time I made it out to the car, I was exhausted. We managed to get the box in the car and then headed back into the park for awhile.

We found a handful of former Millionaire cast members and spoke to them before grabbing lunch at the ABC Commissary. We also stopped in at Sid Cahuenga's where our son received a certificate for correctly answering the Star Wars trivia questions posted on their chalkboard. Oh, and we bumped into DarthBeagle and his lovely wife again. Finally, around 12:30 or so, we headed out to hit the road.

We managed to get above Atlanta before stopping for the night. We stayed in a hotel that was maybe a mile away from our former home in Acworth, Georgia, where we had lived a decade ago. We got up early and drove the rest of the way on 6/9, arriving home around 2 pm.

All in all a pretty good trip I suppose. We could have done with less crowds and less rain. It would also have been nice to have been surprised by a Dream Team member, but that didn't happen. I know, Matt is going into shock now knowing we didn't win anything. :wink:

And of course, we would have had a much better time if Millionaire had still been running, but we knew it was long gone. Still, we did some of our other favorite things and a few new ones as well. I think everyone enjoyed the trip.

Rob
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#7 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 06:35 PM

Sounds like a great trip Rob, thanks for sharing it with us :lol:
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