Reveille was blown at dawn, after far too little sleep.
A brief wander around the shower trying to wake up and remember where I was and who the annoying woman shrieking at me about getting a move on was, followed by a cup of foul-tasting coffee (something about the water, something chemical) and we were barreling down the freeway towards Universal Studios Island of Adventure, bound for Good Times (under penalty of death).
We1 decided to fork over an extra five dollars and get "preferred parking", which at that time of day meant right next to one of the Escalators Au Bord Du Merriment allowing us to get into the park in relatively short order, along with about two hundred other loons, all trying not to run and by doing so loose face. In my case I couldn't run anyway, as I am recovering from what we all assume was gout. I could only manage a sort of hobble, and after turning an ankle I crossly ordered the women to either slow down or give me my ticket and let me proceed at my own pace. It was only a jumped-up carousel after all.
We proceeded through Dr Seuss Land2, Lost Continent Land3 and into Hogsmeade, which had been modeled as a winter scene. Across the sky sprawled an admittedly impressive Hogwarts Castle. All around were the sounds of the park coming alive, roller coasters being sent round once to check for breaks in the track and so forth.
After committing our valuables to a fingerprint-secured locker we wound our way through the dimly-lit scenes inside the castle with talking portraits and other JK Rowling stuff dotted around. It was actually pretty well done, and I say this as someone who has never read a word of the Harry Potter books. The kids were having a ball, with the younger ones staring open-mouthed at the various clever special effects.
The ride itself was fun, although I think you probably would have a higher take-away if you were steeped in HP lore (I'm not) and don't think Quidditch is the stupidest idea for a game ever to boil out of the vacuum (I do). The four-seater cars were designed to tilt and swivel between animatronic animation on one side and a wrap-around hemispherical cinematic screen on the other, allowing for a wide variety of fun to be attempted. The simulator rides using film and movement/tilting were very convincing and quite nauseating in places, what with drop-offs and zooming up and down, back and forth and whatnot. But, like all modern rides of any sort, it was all over in far too short a time.
I didn't time this ride, but I'd bet money it was less than two minutes from one end to the other, because I've seen figures that suggest 90 seconds is some sort of sweet spot for ride length - one for which people will still queue (and by extrapolation buy tickets to queue) for as much as three hours. Personally, I wouldn't queue three hours to get a lift into space4 and I won't get on any line longer than an hour, but that's me.
The twinned suspension roller coasters themed for Harry Potter was worth the waiting on line for a place in the front car, and La Famile Stevie recommend the blue one over the red one. All the individual elements are probably the same but the way they are bolted together for the blue route gives a more pleasing ride. The "Hippogriff" coaster is in actual fact a runaway mine train of very disappointing length of ride and I don't hesitate to tell everyone plus his faithful canine to save their time and give it a miss5.
And the rest of the day proceeded in much the expected way, the day getting hotter as it wore on, the weather breaking around 3 pm and a downpour of titanic proportions lasting all of 15 minutes soaking everyone to the skin as it would do every day, and my legs getting achier and achier (they don't take standing on line too well and have little time for hours of walking either). By evening I was in agony, but had he comforting support of my faithful spouse, always a pillar of strength and an inspiration, to buoy me up. I don't know how I could have made it through with her constant encouragement to "Shut up" and "Quit that moaning".
I had been anticipating the river raft ride6 and the log flume with great, er, anticipation, but was disappointed to discover that both had been detuned in the squirty gubbins and each only delivered a mild drenching as opposed to the total immersion glugfest I had been looking forward to all day and which had been my previous gleeful experience.
I got to ride The Incredible Hulk too.
Perhaps I should explain that The Incredible Hulk is a looping roller coaster, about 12 years old or so7 which the Stevieling had wanted to ride the last time we were in the park together about 8 years ago, but became unnerved by the roar of the cars zooming around the track during the wait on line (to the intense relief of Mrs Stevie and me, neither of whom was particularly wanting to ride the thing.
With the passage of time Mrs Stevie and I have grown more adventurous again and so we climbed aboard (I was humiliated by being made to take a "modified" seat as I was too manly for the regular-sized one - modern coasters may be short in duration but they are wide in the seat) and discovered the best kept secret in America. Just as the coaster climbs the ramp it censored, which is just the begining of the awesomeness. Right after the censored it censored censored8 and censored , at which point censored censored happens. I know. Awesome, right?
We left the park at sometime around 9 pm, passing by a merchandizing botique where I bought the Stevieling a nice summer dress in citrus green so she'd have something girly-girly to wear when she and her boyfriend went dancing on Tuesday evening.
Gad, my legs hurt.
to be continued
- IE Mrs Stevie↑
- Interesting scenic props, uninspiring attractions↑
- The thing I would like to do most↑
- A runaway mine train's sole purpose is to provide a high-speed run through banked curves and to grant some air time courtesy of the various hummock contours. This one doesn't have time to do any of that and the operating software causes the train to come to a short stop twice that can cause painful impacts against the lap restraining bar which is entirely unnecessary↑
- In which 12 people sit in a circular boat that proceeds down a wide looped channel of water, being pushed along by strong jets of water and passing under waterfalls and taking every chance to flood the boat and soak the passengers↑
- Which means you get a decent length ride not predicated on the 90 second design principle↑
- And that is right after it censored! ↑