5/27/09 - The McDonald's parker

I had planned on making a fancy map for this post to explain my frustrations, but I'm too lazy, and you guys deserve a new post.

Every once in a while I like to eat at McDonald's. 2 McDouble's, a small fry and a small glass for some water, that is my order. Anyways, the closest McDonald's to my office is always busy and when they built it, they either didn't think to purchase more land or they just have bad designers. Whatever the case, the drive through at lunch time backs up to 15 and 20 cars deep. This normally isn't a problem since I almost always go inside to eat. However, at this location, the drive through lane and the "lane you drive in to park your car" lane are the exact same thing. So when the drive through gets backed up far enough, you have to wait for the drive through queue to get smaller before you can get out of the parking lot.

This particular day I had been in a bad mood the whole time. In one of my next posts which details our trip back home from Florida, you will see why I was not in the best of spirits. As I was pulling into the lot, I noticed an empty spot I could access before the drive-thru line got in my way. This of course, was before one of the people in the drive-thru decided to throw it in reverse to get in that spot. Now, I would have been okay with that if that is where it ended.

While doing this, another vehicle is backing out of the spot right next to the currently open spot. This forces the drive-thru car, we will call her "broke-down minivan" to back up even further, which in turn prevents me from getting into the parking lot, causing backups in the street which in turn causes backups on Markham. Now, I'm a little upset because there was no need for it to be this complicated.

Then things get worse. Now that there were two open spots, she pulled in to the one furthest away from us against a curb. When she does this, she does not quite get all of her wheels into the spot and has the right side of her vehicle hanging out in the other open spot. If I were in the car, I would not have had as much of an argument, but I was in the Tahoe and therefore it was a VERY tight squeeze to get in there. Before pulling into the spot though, I waited for a moment thinking this "broke-down minivan" would correct her parking...she did not.

I had to pull in and back up a couple times to get in my spot the best I could and then I was able to squeeze out the driver side door to go in and get my meal. During this whole deal, I still haven't seen the other driver get out of their car and go inside. As I walk around the end of the "broke-down minivan" I see her just standing outside the vehicle. I decided she should know how bad of a driver she was so the following conversation took place:

Me: "Are you really going to leave your van like that?"
Bad Driver: "Naww...i was gunna fix it."
Me: "No you weren't, you aren't even in your car, you were just going to leave it."
Bad Driver: "I was talkin' to my grandmother."
Me: "Whatever, it doesn't even matter."....PUNCH TO THE FACE!!!!

Okay, so I didn't punch her in the face, but she at least needed a quick jab to the kidney. After that I just walked in because I knew I was dealing with someone with whom no intelligent conversation could be held. As I walked away, I did hear her say that she was now just going to leave it, which didn't matter to me because I was about to go eat some wonderful McD's food.

When I got done eating my tasty hamburgers, I was hoping to still see the van there to find out if she did actually move it or not, but they had already left. I made sure to check the side of my truck for dents, dings and other problems (slashed tires, broken glass) but there was nothing. This means that either her grandmother never got out of the van or when she got out of the van, she was much slimmer than the 250 pounds she appeared to be while sitting in the van.

This is the first time I have actually approached a bad driver, and I'm sure it won't be my last. I typically like to leave notes on people's windows if they don't have the mental capacity to properly park a vehicle, so actually talking to someone about it is a step in the right direction.

Although, some of my notes are quite enjoyable to write, I just wish I could see the people's reactions when they read them.

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5/24/09 - Hollywood Studios

On Wednesday of our vacation, after the fiasco that was Makenna getting sick, us spending all morning at the hotel room, Cristi and I spending a couple hours by the pool in the afternoon, followed by one of the worst rain storms I've ever been in (with dime-sized hail and 55+mph winds) we finally made it to Disney Park.

The big ticket items for me at Hollywood Studios were the Rockin' Roller Coaster and the Extreme Stunt Show featuring high speed car chases and stunts. Of course, the Rockin' Roller Coaster was only a feature for me after riding Hulk at Universal.

I don't remember the exact order we went on the rides, but the first ride we went on was Toy Story Mania. We waited for about 30 minutes on this ride (twice as long as any ride at Universal), so we were hoping we hadn't wasted our time. By the time we were done with the ride, we both agreed we would be back as many times as possible that day. It was awesome. It's basically a 3-d video game where you have a cannon attached to your "carnival car" and you ride around viewing different screens where you shoot at targets for points. I beat Cristi twice and then on the last round, she finally beat me.

Some of the attractions we did but weren't all that excited about were The Great Movie Ride which was pretty slow and boring. Walt Disney: One Man's Dream was simply a museum type walkthrough of an overview of the Disney company. We did learn some pretty neat things about how advanced some of the Disney stuff was for the time, but nothing real exciting. And then there were a few that we just simply didn't care for so didn't bother with. These included the live performances such as the Narnia experience, Little Mermaid and Playhouse Disney. Also, during the course of the day there were Star Wars fights and a Highschool Musical Dance off which we also didn't bother with. Sounds Dangerous and the American Idol Experience were both closed although the American Idol experience we would have passed on anyways.

Hollywood only had one 3-d attraction we cared about (we later found out that skipping the Star Wars 3-d ride was a good idea because apparently it's not all that great). The Muppets show was pretty cool though and although Shrek and Spiderman were far better, knowing the age of the Muppets show, I was very impressed.

There was a "Studio Backlot Tour" which was very similar to the "Disaster" attraction at Universal only about 20 times better. I wouldn't have waited more than about 15 minutes for it given a 2nd chance, but I'm glad we did it.

For the kids, there is a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground, which we had a quick look at. I was saddened that 1) I was too big to play on the slides and climb through stuff and 2) that I did not have Makenna with me which would have given me an excuse to try to play on the stuff anyways.

One of the live shows was an Indiana Jones stunt extravaganza which was really impressive because they recreated 3 different scenes from I believe Temple of Doom all on one stage. The sets were MASSIVE and so watching the stage change was really cool. The stunts were really neat and the comedy relief got me laughing pretty hard at times. my only complaint is that it seemed to take quite a while and some parts seemed a little slow. I'd watch it again in a heartbeat though.

The other live show was in fact the Lights, Motors, Action car stunt show. We watched this twice during the course of the day because it was so good. It's a recreation of a small European city where basically cars and motorcycles chase each other. They would drift around each other and corners, do donuts and make some pretty impressive jumps. Of course there were plenty of explosions, so all in all, that show was just about worth the price of admission to the park.

Tower of Terror was pretty wicked. Cristi doesn't do heights or big drops so it was out of the question for her to get on the ride. It was honestly nothing like what I had imagined, it was actually quite a bit better. I'm not a big fan of big drops myself and having my stomach in my throat is not my favorite thing in the world, but the rush of not knowing how far, how fast or when you were going to fall or go shooting straight up was quite a rush. I'd ride that ride multiple times given the opportunity.

Rockin' Roller Coaster was AWESOME!!! I can't put it on the same level as Hulk because the Aerosmith themed thrill ride made me a little sicker. I was disappointed that the entire ride is in complete darkness as being able to see that you are updside down is pretty cool. Of course, for my money, the start is worth standing in line for a couple of hours. Going from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds while you have 125 speakers, 24 sub-woofers, and 32,000 watts of Aerosmith blasting in your ears is a rush that i can't describe. Cristi even enjoyed it and I'm really not sure why we didn't ride it a 2nd time.

So there you go, there is my summary of Hollywood Studios. I can't really say if I liked Hollywood or Universal best so hopefully I never have to pick between the two in the future. One piece of advice that we didn't find out about until later is that the FastPass at Disney is free. All you have to do is walk up to the kiosk and slide in your ticket. It will tell you when to come back to use your fast pass. You can still stand in the long lines if you want, but the FastPass, since it is free, would get you on twice the rides as if you didn't use them (which is what happened to us). We assumed that it was like Universal where you pay an extra $30 and get to jump lines. Now that we know, we probably would have ridden the toy story ride 10 times by the end of the day.

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5/22/09 - Islands of Adventure

This is the 2nd part of our day at Universal Studios. They technically have two theme parks. Of course, to make more money, even though they are right next to each other, you are charged extra to go to each.

We hit this half of Universal around 2:00 after spending about 5 hours in the first half. The parks closed at 6:00, so we actually skipped over some stuff to make sure we were able to see the main points we were interested in.

Our first trip through Islands of Adventure was Seuss Landing. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Dr. Seuss and am now attempting to pass on that love to my daughter. Getting to walk through a world that appeared to be designed by the good Doctor himself was awesome. Several of my favorite books were featured with characters "life-size" lining the walks and buildings that came right off the pages of some of the best books.

We actually didn't ride anything in this area of the park as they were all for children and didn't look all that interesting. We instead went on through to the Lost Continent area of the park. This area had three attractions, and we actually passed on all of them. The roller coaster was passed because I had never been on a roller coaster before and once again, wanted to make it through the rest of the park. There was a live action stunt show that we passed on because we didn't think it would be all that exciting (We learned at Hollywood how wrong we were). Finally, there is a walking tour of Poseidan's ancient temple. We assumed this would be a "history lesson" and although we love museums, we were more interested in riding non-roller coaster attractions. Reading reviews, and since seeing a video of what it is about, I think it might have been one of our favorite things of the park had we actually done it. If you make it to the park, please go through this attraction for me.

Jurassic Park was next in the park and we finally came to a ride we wanted to go on. Although I wanted to go on it more than Cristi. We asked the guy at the front if you got wet on this ride as we had seen several people walking around drenched from head to toe. He said that you got "a little more wet than Jaws". The thing is that at the Jaws attraction, you don't really get wet. So we decided to go on this ride, almost blindly, only knowing that we would be on a boat going through water. Beyond that, we had no idea what to expect. Of course, those that have gone on it, or know anything about it know that at the end of the ride, there is a probably 50-70 foot drop where you get pretty wet, especially if you are sitting in the front row...which we were. Cristi has a fear of heights, so as soon as we came to the ledge, she immediately grabbed my arm and held on for dear life. We both enjoyed it, and if we had known what was going to happen at the end of the ride, we probably would not have ridden it. I'm glad we were clueless.

As we went through Toon Lagoon, we picked up a quick bite to eat and headed on through to the Marvel Super Hero Island, taking note of the log ride and raft ride. The main reason we were at this park was for the Spiderman 4-d Adventure and we were not disappointed. This was the very same concept as the Shrek and Simpsons ride, only the "car" you are in actually makes its way through the theatre and you are treated to different scenes on different walls. On top of the three dimensions you experience, the movement seemed very real in comparison to the orientation of the screen. Basically, when the screen went sideways, you felt like you were sideways. Also, the additional effects, including blasts of air, water spray and intense heat made this one of the best rides we were on. I will say this, if you are prone to even the slightest of motion sickness, I highly recommend taking ginger or some sort of motion sickness remedy before this ride (as well as most other 3-d rides).

After Spiderman, we weren't going to ride on the Dr. Doom or Storm ride as hundred foot drops and spinning around while spinning in circles are not something we are interested in. Since that was the end of the park, we went back and I went on Ripsaw Falls in Toon Lagoon. Cristi didn't want to get wet (this is funny in a second) so I went on this by myself. Luckily, I was back row for this which I was pretty sure would prevent me from getting super wet. Quite possibly one of my favorite rides of the day, there are multiple short drops and a very smooth ride in general. And to top it off, outside of a little bit of spray from the big fall, I was pretty much dry at the end of the ride.

After the log ride, we managed to get lost trying to find the exit (this was a recurring theme all day that I have simple not mentioned due to the frequency that it occurred). While lost, we came across the raft ride and since we assumed we were headed to the car, we decided to jump on one more ride. After we were in line and about to get on the ride, we realized that this is where all the drenched folks had come from. If you have never been on a raft, you know what I'm talking about. Why I didn't put two and two together before this, I have no idea. I was okay with getting wet, but Cristi on the other hand wasn't excited about it. Even still, she knew I wanted to ride and she was a trooper and stuck it out. Luckily, we managed to avoid most of the worst parts of the ride, and the worst that either of us got it is Cristi got targeted by the water cannons at one point in the ride.

Now that we were fairly wet, we didn't want to get in the car all wet, so we were going to walk around a bit more and on the way out we passed Hulk. Now, I will say again, I have never been on a roller coaster that can truly be called a roller coaster. Mini-mine train at Six Flags doesn't count I've been told. The problem was that I didn't want to leave a theme park, having spent so much money to come all this way and not ride on a "TRUE" thrill ride. Finally, I talked myself into it and got on. I can't believe I waited that long to get on a roller coaster...that thing was AWESOME. I will say, had it not been for the motion sickness pills I had taken earlier, I probably would have either passed out or thrown up or both as I was still a little sick when I got off.

After riding that roller coaster, I then wanted to go back and ride the Mummy ride at the original Universal since we had passed over it earlier in the day. Cristi agreed only if she got to go see Shrek again. On our way out, we stopped and got a churro, made it to Shrek and headed to Mummy. When we got there, I started handing Cristi stuff out of my pockets only to find out that the camera was no where to be found. I was still on an adrenaline high from the Hulk, so I wanted to get on Mummy and forget about the camera assuming that someone had already taken it home as a souvenir. Cristi on the other hand was heartbroken immediately realizing that we had "lost all of our memories from that day and we'd never get them back" (she can be dramatic at times). Being the husband that I am, we retraced our steps.

Now, I did not mention that this happened at 5:30. By the time we checked the Shrek theatre, and walked back over to the other park, it was 5:55, and I wasn't going to ride any more coasters. We found the camera at the Churro stand where I had emptied my pockets to get to my wallet. The lady there had sent it to lost and found and we picked it up with no problems. Identification was easy as there were pictures of Cristi and I in it.

After that adventure, it was time to leave and get some well earned dinner. We were both exhausted and the conversation was basically dead as we both barely had the energy to lift our food to our mouths.

That is our Monday story for the Universal Parks. I'll have more followup posts about Hollywood Studios and a few other interesting (I think they are interesting) stories.

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5/19/09 - Universal Studios

This is somewhat a followup to the previous post - My first trip to a Disney Park. Although Univesral is not a Disney park, it all has to do with the same week of vacation.

There aren't really any good stories from this park, Cristi and I mainly had just a great time, but I figured I could give some quick reviews on some of the attractions/rides we went on for those that might be planning a trip there in the near future. I will say this, apparently a Monday in the first part of May is the perfect time to be at a Universal Park. We did not stand in line for more than 15 minutes for a ride, and that was only for E.T. The rest of the time, we pretty much walked up, went through the queue line and immediately got on the ride. It was wonderful. No fast pass required for us.

First of all, we got to eat at the one and only Burger King Whopper bar which wasn't all that exciting. We ordered what we normally would for breakfast, drink some nasty coffee and that was about it.

The first attraction we hit was Shrek 4-D, we wound up seeing this twice during the course of the day and HIGHLY recommend this. The 3-d was excellent, making me actually move in an attempt to miss things that I thought for sure were going to hit me. The fourth dimension of interaction was also pretty cool with moving seats, splashing water and bursts of air.

The next and worst attraction we went on was the Simpson Ride. We waited about 10 mintues for this crap and based on the length of the queue lines available, you might have to wait for as long as over an hour and more. Not only did it make us both sick from the motion and screen, the actual content of the ride was pretty crappy. Too much too fast prevented you from ever really knowing what was going on.

Because we were sick, we skipped over the MIB ride. After our trip to Hollywood Studios (more on this in a future post), I wish we would have gone back and done this.

Next were the Jaws ride and Disaster (previously known as Earthquake). Jaws was a pretty big let down. If we had not been the first people in line for this attraction and I waited more than 30 seconds, I would have been upset. The only upside was a big fiery explosion at the end. Everything else about it was lame. The same can be said for the Disaster attraction except it was a large gush of water instead of a fiery explosion. The lead in to Disaster was pretty cool though with riders being part of a movie shoot directed by a hologram of Christopher Walken (who might be one of the greatest comedy geniuses of our time).

From this point, we made it over to the Twister attraction. Once again, the lead in to this ride made it seem like you were really in for a treat. Unfortunately, I did not feel like the ride itself lived up to the hype. They could have made the effects a bit more intense and possibly a little longer. It was fun and I'd do it again, but don't expect to be blown away (pun intended) with excitement.

When we passed the Jimmy Neutron ride, we made it all the way past it and decided to turn back around. It was still early in the day and we didn't have many more things to see so we figured we'd go ahead and see what it was all about. I wish we would have kept walking. Just like the Simpson's ride, I don't really know what was going on, but was only concerned with not throwing up on the kid sitting next to me. I did feel really bad at the start of the show as they had to ask one guy to leave the ride because he was too fat.

As we made our way through the park we stopped at the Terminator show/attraction. It was also 3-d and had live actors as well. Some of the effects were pretty cool, but for the most part I would say it was average. The best part of the show for me was how they included smells in the act. I guess they pumped "perfumes" into the theatre during different times to give the feel of actually being there and smelling the gun powder and the burning rubber.

The next thing we came across was a Horror Makeup Comedy Show. The best part of this portion of our trip was that as we were walking in, the usher snuck out a fake hand and grabbed Cristi's arm causing her to shriek. She was very scared and it made me laugh a lot. The show itself was pretty lame. The guy and his assitant were funny, but I guess I was expecting a little more information on the way they do makeup in horror films. Not a waste of time, but I wouldn't do it again given the opportunity.

Next on our list was to make it to the E.T. ride which turned out to not only be the longest wait we had all day but also about the only ride worth that long of a wait. Some parts were pretty cheesy and showed their age, but for the most part, it was really cool with the bike style seats and just the way things were presented.

We bought the park jumper thing so we could go to both parks. It was only an extra 20 bucks or so and we were wanting to see the Spiderman attraction at Islands of Adventure so we figured it would be worth it. We were correct and recommend both parks in one day if at all possible. Now, to save time and give me something else to write about, I will be posting another follow up that will have all the Islands of Adventure reviews. Look for that in the next couple of days.

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5/16/09 - My first trip to a Disney park

Well as some know, I spent the last week or so in Florida. It was my mother-in-law's 50th birthday party, so we went down to celebrate with her. Of course, the party was only one night, so we decided to turn it into our summer vacation. The plan was originally to get to Tampa Bay around noon on Friday and drive straight to Clearwater. On Sunday night, Cristi and I would drive to Orlando (leaving Makenna with Cristi's mom in Clearwater) and go to three different parks in the next three days. We would then return to Clearwater for one evening and fly back home on Thursday.

Unfortunately, Cristi's mom got really sick about a month ago and wound up having to have emergency surgery. This turned out to actually be a blessing in many ways. First, her mom has had almost persistent medical problems for as long as I have known her (over 10 years), and the surgery may very well have fixed most of it. Second, this gave us the idea to have Makenna and her travel with us to Orlando so we could see our baby at nights, but still have a babysitter during the day.

That worked out well, but then we had a problem with getting back to Clearwater as they would have to check out early on Thursday with no place to go. That set us back to only 2 days at parks, which I was not too upset about...yet.

So, everything worked out well in Clearwater for the most part. Spent pretty much the entire time by the pool, in the pool or within view of the pool. we never made it to the beach which is awesome because sand pisses me off. The only downside is that I think i got dehydrated Saturday and puked in the middle of the night. The bed also wasn't all that comfortable, so I didn't sleep great. I would still trade that for the lack of responsibilities I had those two days.

We made it to Orlando and checked into our hotel only to find out that it was FRIGGIN' SWEET!!! It was a one bedroom suite with a fully stocked kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom. The sectional sofa seated 6 comfortably and pulled out into a bed. The television was what appeared to be an old style projection big screen, around 40" or so...if not larger. the bathroom had a jacuzzi tub that seated 4 comfortable (I know this because there were actually four "seats" in it), a large stand up shower, dual sinks, a toilet, and of course, what fancy bathroom would be completed without a bidet. The balcony had another dining table and a lounge chair with a partial view of the nearby lake. I should also mention it was within 10 minutes of both the Disney parks and Universal. (oh yeah...since it was cristi's mom's timeshare, we got all of it for a total of $130, and yes, that is for all 3 nights).

So Monday we decided to go to Universal as we had heard lots of good things about it. We were not disappointed, but I'll have another post for that later. We had a great day which wound up including two parks instead of just one, and were looking forward to another day of the parks on Tuesday.

That is until makenna started vomiting at 11:00 that night as we were trying to sleep (theme parks will wear you out). She threw up multiple times over the course of the next 5 hours which prevented either of us from getting any real sleep. Lack of sleep plus a sick baby meant that there would be no park for us on Tuesday. Now, flash back in this post where I said that I was okay with only having two days to see parks, now I was upset about the fact that once again I would not make it to a Disney park.

Flashback - When I was roughly 10 years old, my parents made a deal with me that they would take me to Disney World when I was 13 years old. I was pleased with this and reminded them on a fairly regular basis. When I turned 13, I do not know all the details, but I know there was a large family financial crisis that zapped pretty much all of my parent's money. This meant no trip to Disney World. i still do not remember why we did not reschedule for the next year, or the year after, but whatever the case, I never made it.

About 5 years ago, just before Cristi and I got married, my parents had another opportunity to go to Orlando for the parks with my brothers, but unfortunately, I was unable to go. I don't remember why, but it was probably due to work and lack of vacation time.

Needless to say, you hopefully can see why I was so upset. Since I was about 10 years old (about 18 years ago), I've wanted to make it to these parks, if for no other reason, just to say I've been there.

With that out of the way, and several arguments with my wife, a couple of hours of pouting and moping and several phone calls, it was decided that we would stay one more night in Orlando, skip our return trip to the beach and go to a theme park on Wednesday.

My choice was Hollywood Studios (previously known as MGM). It seemed to have the type of things I was most looking for in a theme park, and it was a Disney park. I was pleased to have finally made it to a Disney Park and can now say I have been to one. I'd still like to go back and do Epcot and Magic Kingdom, but I'm pretty sure I can wait until makenna gets a little older so I can be sure she has chance to see the parks before she is nearing her 30th birthday.

The rest of the trip was pretty cool as we woke up Thursday and spent a few minutes at the pool before we packed up, made a quick stop at the Outlet mall, ate dinner at International Plaza and flew home. Of course, anyone following me on twitter knows that adventure we had coming home was quite the blood boiler.

I've already got 4 other blog posts I'd like to write about. Our trip to the Universal Parks, the Hollywood Studios day, the return flight story and more recently, my run in with a horrible driver in a McDonald's parking lot.

For the record, Makenna is still a little sick, but doing much better from just a day or two ago. At this point, she is mainly just sleepy and doesn't really have much energy to play like her normal self.

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