Rex and I spent two great days in Orlando, FL on December 19-20, 2008. As Rex described with great accuracy, it was a "whirlwind trip." Here is a synopsis of how it all went down.
I arrived at the Orlando International airport on Thursday night, December 18th, a good two and a half hours before Rex. During my wait, I enjoyed some chili con queso at Chili's Too and then searched out the most comfortable chair I could find in order to do some reading. Rex's flight was a little delayed, but he arrived in good shape and we were ready to grab our rental car and get out of there. As we made our way to the rental car garage, we could feel the excitement already brewing. Just being in the Orlando Airport is a great feeling. We found the Alamo Rental section of the garage and needed to find the "economy" car section. You just pick your own car and take off, so it was up to us to find the appropriate car for the trip. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any section that said "economy" so we decided that "compact" meant the same thing. After a failed attempt for me to try and convince Rex to take one of those new crossover type vehicles that was incorrectly parked in the "compact" section (to Rex's credit, he did try the door handle. It was locked), we decided on a beautiful Chevy Cobalt! Off we went.
Our first stop for the night was to check in to our motel. Tonight was going to be a little different. Since we were getting in so late, we decided it was a waste of money to head to the resort parks at USF. So, Rex booked us at the legendary Rodeway Inn on I-Drive. This motel has quite a history for Rex and the Beast. We had stayed there a few times in the past during previous Orlando trips before the creation of RexandtheBeast.com. We were excited to see if the rooms still had the same unfortunate odor that we remembered so fondly. Rex made his way to the counter to check-in while I perused the brochure material. As I flipped open the USF brochure, I became elated to discover that in the brochure, the ride "Twister" was written with its old-school name: "Twister – Ride It Out!" They have taken the "ride it out" part off the sign in the actual park, so I was thrilled to see that it still lived on in the marketing material. As Rex finished checking-in, I eagerly showed him the good news in the brochure. He didn't seem to be quite as enthralled. Oh well.
Up the trusty and confidence inspiring elevator we rode up to our room. We waited with bated breath as Rex inserted the room key. Would the room have that same smell? We entered, took a deep breath and. . .it actually smelled better than we had remembered. So, we thought that perhaps the Rodeway Inn management had stepped up a bit since our last visit. That is, until I pulled down my bedsheets. There were numerous yellow stains that sprawled out over my sheet, pillow cases, and comforter. Rex's bed was just fine. This was not good, but considering the hour, we just went with it. Yep, I slept on the yellow stains.
Before crashing, however, we decided we needed to grab some food. We found a Denny's where I proceeded to destroy a Create-Your-Own Grand Slam. During the course of our stay inside the Denny's, we were accompanied by some real beauts who sat behind us. I would document the course of their conversation for you, but this post would probably get deleted.
Morning arrived as early as it always does and we were off to USF. The first thing we had to do was check-in to the Royal Pacific Resort. The reason is because the room keys for USF resorts also doubles as an express pass. So, we have to get those babies before we head over to the parks. To our surprise, the room was ready for us, so we went ahead and loaded our luggage up to the room. I then convinced Rex to ride the water taxi over to the parks (he always prefers to walk). I was hoping to have Steve as our captain, but I'm pretty sure he was fired a long time ago. Anyway, the water taxi took off about the same time as Rex and I started documenting our trip on video.
We decided to first hit Universal Studios and save Islands of Adventure for later in the day. I had yet to ride the new Simpson's ride and neither of us had ridden Disaster. The park was absolutely deserted. I have never seen it that empty. We attempted to grab a bite of breakfast, but basically nowhere serves breakfast in Universal. I told Rex that we should have headed over to Confisco in IOA. Anyway, we went straight to the Simpsons Ride and I was impressed! I am not much of a simulator guy, but this is about as good as it get, a significant improvement over the dated BTTF. Over to Amity Island we went for a quick ride on Jaws. Our skipper was a pretty big disappointment. From Jaws, we grabbed a quick bite at Starbucks of all places (where Rex was shafted on the danish situation) followed by a ride on the new Disaster. I will admit, this is an improvement over the pre-show for Earthquake, but I still was like, "come on, let's just get to the ride." The cool addition to the ride is that they have actually created a little "preview" to an upcoming movie that involves the guests during the pre-show and the ride. Not bad. After Disaster, we headed over to ROTM which was fun as always, even though I am more unimpressed every time I ride it.
At this point we decided to grab some pictures of the construction for the highly anticipated new coaster, Rip Ride Rockit. I was snapping away and decided to grab a few shots over the construction fence. I wasn't standing on anything or bothering anybody, just simply lifting my arm up and over the fence to snap a few pictures. Rex noticed a USF employee see us and then walk with some determination across the street. We didn't really thing much else about it until three dudes, one of whom was a rather large guy, came over to us. This large guy flashed a badge and said, "Universal security. You don't need to be taking pictures over the fence like that." Being the nice guys we are, we complied and stopped. He let me keep the pictures (as Rex pointed out, he couldn't really have taken them anyway). Kind of a funny moment for this trip.
Next on the agenda was IOA. We busted through the gate, turned right through Seuss Landing, and went straight toward the Dragons. This was the first time I had seen the construction for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so that was cool. After a great ride on Ice, we hit Jurassic Park, a ride that is in serious need of refurbishment, and got pretty much soaked. Rex then brilliantly decided, "hey, since we are already wet, let's just do all the water rides." Oh boy. So, Dudley and Popeye were next, and we were drenched. Just a quick comment concerning the Dudley logs; they are hard as heck to get into. The best part about getting soaked, however, was the opportunity to try out the new dryer system that is set up outside of Popeye. Wow, I loved this thing. And it actually worked pretty well, especially on the hair. It felt so good to have the heat blowing all over you. At four bucks a pop, this is just another brilliant way for Universal to bring in some cash. It remained occupied. Finally, we proceeded through MSHI to ride the classics – Spidey, Doom (ugh), and Hulk. A rather surprising thing happened after our Hulk ride. Rex and both agreed for the first time that the Dragons is a better coaster than Hulk. Not sure why it was so apparent this trip, but that is our current opinion (which could change the next trip). Oh, I forgot to mention that during this time, we decided it was lunch time. We walked all the way across the park to Mythos, which unfortunately was booked up. So, I was able to get my Confisco meal in after all (this all happened because the greatest theme park restaurant of all time, Captain America's Diner, was closed). Rex and I enjoyed a deep and engaging conversation during our Confisco meal.
We made it back to the Royal Pacific (by foot this time) and got in a great nap. It was dinner time and that could only mean one thing: Red Lobster. Now I need to say that in years past, Fish Bones has been the seafood restaurant of choice for Rex and the Beast. But the last few times we ate there, we were disappointed. Rex rightly commented that at Red Lobster, you get "the most bang for your buck." Let me tell you something. This was the best Red Lobster meal I have ever eaten. I got the Ultimate Feast, Rex got the Surf and Turf. We both cleaned our plates. Wow, it was so good! After dinner, we stopped by the local DD to pick up some D-Nuts. But not before we enjoyed a trip to the local Fun Spot! They have a section upstairs of primarily old-school games that you pay like $5 for an "all you can play" bracelet. Rex showed me once again that he is the dominant force when it comes to 80's games, including Joust and another game that I can't remember the name of (he will let us know). I did decent on Donkey Kong. However, I did kick Rex's butt in some Mortal Combat. The best part of that experience was the Shiatsu massage chairs. Dang that felt good!
Well, if we thought that the day's activities at Universal were action packed, nothing could prepare us for the following day at Disney. We arrived at the Animal Kingdom parking lot just past the opening of the park. We did AK in about 35 minutes, jumping on EE and Dinosaur. Despite Rex's commentary on the improvement of EE and his being less impressed with Dinosaur (listen to Audio Journey's with RexandtheBeast #18), I found myself thinking the same thing as last time. EE is a cool ride but not great, Dinosaur is freaking awesome. From there we drove to the Magic Kingdom parking lot where Rex had a rather brilliant idea. We would park at the Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail immediately over to Epcot. Since it was so early in the morning, there was nobody on the Epcot monorail, but the wait for the MK monorail was huge. Brilliant! So, off to Epcot we go. When we got off the monorail, Rex and I did this classic walking in and out of the columns as we made our way down to the gate. We did so without looking at each other or saying a word. One guest who was behind us noticed the brilliance of our actions. It was reminiscent of the legendary Gatlinburg laser pointer incident, but I digress.
I love Epcot. I used to hate it. But it is probably, well besides the Magic Kingdom, the park I could just hang out in the longest. Rex and I hurried over and grabbed a Fast Pass for Soarin' and then headed back into the World Showcase. We were hungry. To our dismay, the Japanese restaurant, Teppanyaki, was not opened yet. So, we decided to grab a coke and head over to Maelstrom while we waited. Rex allowed me to drink a bit of his coke by pouring some of it into the bottle cap for me. It was slow going, but tasted great! Maelstrom was crappy as ever, but terrific! Back to Japan we went for a decent meal at Teppanyaki. We decided, because of the way, to not go the "cook in front of you" route which was a terrible mistake. But, still great. And the service is top notch (top notch!). After riding Spaceship Earth twice and Soarin' once, we agreed that both rides were terrific. Oh, and I have to thank Rex for agreeing to head over to the "Living with the Land" ride. I like this ride for some reason.
Let me say a few words about Spaceship Earth before we move on. This ride keeps rising in my list of favorite rides. Not only is it incredibly unique, but as far as dark rides go, it is just amazing. The addition of the new elements to this ride really spice it up. As you begin the ride, a face recognition camera snaps your picture. Then, at the end of the ride, a small movie is played using your picture about the future. You can watch mine an Rex's movie under the Video section. There were a few updated scenes along the way, but I could really ride this baby over and over and never get tired of it. Rex is not quite on the same page with me here, but he does enjoy the ride. (although he slept through it the second time around).
Before we left Epcot, we managed to find the picture of our niece Bella on the wall as you come into Epcot. Rex waited in the wrong line for about 10 minutes to find out the location of her picture, primarily because I failed in my duty to find out which line we were supposed to be standing in. But in any event, we were through with Epcot and were now heading to Disney Studios.
Amazingly, we didn't even head down toward Aerosmith or TOT, we just didn't have time. Instead, we grabbed a bit to eat at the pretty crappy Commissary and then enjoyed Muppets 3-D vision, which is downright hilarious. Sam Eagle is the greatest! We basically just waited for it to get dark so we could see the Osborne Festival of Lights. In the meantime, we grabbed a quick ride on The Great Movie Ride. Our host was pretty bad, we couldn't understand a word she said. The lights were incredible though and made the trip to Disney Studios completely worthwhile. You can see a bit of the lights on our trip video.
Finally, the Magic Kingdom was our last stop. This is my favorite park and it once again didn't disappoint. It was packed out. We were able to hit POTC and the Haunted Mansion, both of which were amazing as always. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Columbia Harbour House which was very good. We enjoyed eating upstairs and taking a break. As we made our way around the back of the park to avoid the parade, we hit a traffic jam around the area of Cinderella Castle. I have never seen the park so jammed packed and it took us about 20 minutes to get from the castle to the park entrance. I ducked in the Disney Store on the way out to grab my baby girl a Tinker Bell toy. Rex found a great Tinker Baby that was perfect!
Well, we headed toward the airport to check into our third and final motel for the trip. We turned in our rental car and the dude who checked the car back in noticed a pretty big scratch on the front of the car. Rex and I had no idea how it got there or if it was even new. The dude seemed at first to want to give us grief about it, but then was totally cool and told us not to worry. Which we didn't! I was pretty much freaking out when I saw how nice the motel was when we checked in. We stayed at the Hyatt inside the Orlando Airport and it rocked big time. Not only is it awesome to walk outside the room straight into the gates to catch your plane, but the room was terrific. I told Rex that this needed to be the tradition from now on.
Well, as you can tell, it was a great, action packed trip. Thanks for hanging with us and until next time, Join the Journey!