Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Better Day Dawns

This day would prove to be infinitely better in every way than yesterday.

Mrs Stevie decided that conditions would be perfect for a trip to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure for the purpose of experiencing the water rides that can be found there. I admit I wasn't enthusiastic, but went along with the demented woman's plan in order to put a stop to all the pitiful whining and complaining.

"At least you've stopped that pitiful whining and complaining" she said as we drove away from the villa.

We set off in the bus for the 40 minute drive under the aegis of the new Garmin GPS, Mrs Stevie having decided to get rid of the Tom Tom. She claimed it was because the company was no longer supplying updates, but this was risible. Mrs Stevie has only once downloaded an update for the machine.

The real reason was she was being driven nuts by the "Keep left, then, turn right" instructions the thing would deliver on three lane highways, and its truly baffling need to take the user into NYC even when waypoints specifically avoiding that possibility have been laboriously punched into it. It also has a yen for Washington DC which only a madman would indulge.

Mrs Stevie had bought the Garmin in an Amazon Daily Deal and we had tried to use it on Monday. She tried to program it but couldn't figure it out1 so she passed it to me. I discovered that no sooner did I get the number and street punched in, the screen went blank preventing me from completing the route programming.

I had searched the internet and found similar tales, but no advice for this specific issue. I did find out that there were two settings for the screen brightness, one for battery power and one for when connected to external power. The first was set to "bright" and the second, bafflingly, to "pitch black". The trick seemed to involve being able to access the settings screen before the screen blanked.

I reasoned that the battery power setting worked fine, but there was no charge in the battery, requiring an external power hook-up that used the second, stupidly dark setting. So the fix would be to charge the GPS overnight using a phone charger and then see if I could get to the settings screen, where I could replace the dumb-ass factory default with what I am going to characterize as "a sensible value".

And for a wonder, it worked.

I also downloaded a firmware update and new maps and that took over an hour and required a software install on my laptop. It wanted even more, but I reasoned that if I gave in it would just keep pushing its luck.

Anyway, we decided to let the Garmin navigate us to Universal and it did a great job, taking us off the jammed-solid main drag and through less-crowded streets. It didn't have us yawing from left to right or veering onto the interstate towards Washington DC either. And the display was much better, albeit a bit crowded when it wanted to inform the driver about the proximity of gas stations and so forth. And the suction mount turned out to be even better than the after-market one I bought for the Tom Tom. An all-round rock-solid win.

Such were the levels of utility oozing from this thing that I began to fear that the accumulation of unrelieved suckage would result in a wheel falling off or the engine throwing a rod to equalize the karmic imbalance.

It told us to turn off the main drag Watery Funward and take a slip road.

Mrs Stevie began a litany of threats against the machine, but I suggested that we should give it a chance on account of it had been recently updated and might be doing us a favor, traffic-wise, rather than attempting to induce a thrombosis by making things worse. I could see that I4 was groaning to a halt and did not want to spend the first two hours standing still in traffic.

And wonder of wonders the machine guided us flawlessly thorough empty streets to Universal Studios in a trice, with none of the rage-inducing "At the next exit, keep left, then ... TURN RIGHT!" that the Tom Tom was so adept at perpetrating. "Huzzah!" we cried and because we were showing unseemly levels of happiness we were promptly flagged into a car park so far away from the park it would have been named "Pluto" had that not broken copyright.

Mrs Stevie and I made our way to the park entrance, she stomping in rage, me whimpering at the thought of the walk ahead. I brightened when I remembered the escalators and airport-style walkway belts2 after a few yards though.

The escalator was shut down, as was the first walkway belt.

Mrs Stevie had a few words to say on the subject. As I recall they were "Stop that pathetic whining and keep up, idiot!"

We stashed all our normal clothes, phones, wallets and so forth in a locker, stripping down to our swimwear and sandals. We had done these rides before and were well-prepared for the watery mayhem to come.

First up was Popeye's Paradise Tours and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, a rather neat thing in which riders sit in a large, circular, twelve-seater raft in which they sail around a rapid-infested, waterfall-riddled course as onlookers squirt them from small water cannons. The raft is pushed on its way by rather larger cannons that work automatically. Every turn, dip and overhang results in water cascading over the gunwales (usually over someone's shoulders) or dumping on the crew's heads.

It is all great fun and very irrigating. The only things that stay dry are whatever people put into the small container in the middle of the boat. This is covered by a canvas tarp with elastic edges and is surprisingly good at keeping water out, as long as you batten down the tarp.

Mrs Stevie likes to tell the story of the elderly man who rode with his grand-daughter in the same boat as Mrs Stevie and the young Stevieling. He was from Yorkshire, and was wearing beautiful leather brogues. Mrs Stevie begged him to remove them and put them in the locker, but he just said "Oh no lass, Ah'm from Yorkshire and used to a bit o' wet". The boat was launched and according to Mrs Stevie every wave, waterfall and canon found the old gent. Not only that, the decks were awash from the get-go, and he left the ride with the prospect of walking the rest of the day in wet, ruined brogues. Apparently his face was like thunder as he stormed off the ride, kid in tow.

Those days are o'er, of course. Now, the kids were lining up to ride while texting on nice expensive cell phones. Most of them did not speak English, being Brazilian.

The nearest family to us had several teens, only one of whom spoke any English. We warned the family via this kid about the sheer levels of wet about to be visited on them. It took most of the queue to persuade them to start packing their stuff into their backpacks and watch the people getting off for a clue as to the dampness to come.

And it was a magnificent deluge. Everyone had fun and no-one's phone had its warranty invalidated with extreme prejudice. We climbed out of the boat, exited the ride, and immediately went on again.

This time we got talking to an English family. The father was weraing leather sandals and socks, and was carrying his iPhone. We began the warnings, and were laughed off again, this time in a Yorkshire accent. I broke into Mrs Stevie's impassioned reasoning and said "Look at us. We just rode this blasted thing. This isn't perspiration you know, it's bits of the ride that came into the boat for a hug. At least take your socks off. There's nothing so miserable than traipsing around the park in ringing wet socks."

After a few minutes of watching others get off the boats (it is hard to see until just before boarding) he became convinced and now rushed to de-shoe. Unfortunately, he was instructed by a stern 18 year old to put them back on. It seems that since Mrs Stevie's Yorkshireman Episode, mandatory shoe wearing was the order of the day. At least his sock were off.

And we shared a boat, and he got much the same ride as Mrs Stevie's Yorkshireman got. His little girl was laughing like a lunatic every time water sluiced over them. I might have been too.

We rode that ride a total of four times, until the line built up to half an hour, and then quit to ride the Dudley Doright log flume, on which I lost a pair of sunglasses many years ago when the back-blast as we dived through the shed tore them from my face and dumped them in the lake with about 20,000 other pairs.

Mrs Stevie suggested we ride as "singles" which meant we rode in different logs. This would have been a blissful escape except my log seemed to be full of lunatics who were yelling and screaming about the lightning one of them saw. It was Florida in the summer, and they were surprised that there was electricity in the air? I wasn't even tempted to ride that again.

Then, nothing would do but that we ride the Jurassic Park boat trip.

Mrs Stevie had been driven into a flat panic3 by news she had read that the ride was due to close down. Why this was such a tragedy is a mystery to this day, but it turned out that she had mis-read the article and the Florida version was not going to close, only the Californian one.

After that we wandered around for a bit, then decided to go and get our clothes and get some early afternoon tea in the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. She had duck flatbread, I had a croque-monsieur and for desert she had a sundae and I went for a Nutella milkshake. All very good. The shakes in the restaurant are huge, served in large one-pint mason jars.

After which we waddled back to the car, drove back to the timeshare through a thunderstorm and flopped out to recover.

and so to bed.

  1. Having not read word one of the laughably inadequate instructions
  2. Or do airports have Universal Studios-style walkway belts?
  3. Like a regular panic except you must assemble it yourself

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