Islands of Adventure, arguably, I was looking forward to the most. I had never been there, and had heard nothing but good things. Also they have fifty foot comic book characters nailed to buildings. Thatís a formula for success.
The day got off to a rocky start, starting with the line to get in. We didnít need to purchase tickets; we had them already, so we only needed to give them to the clerk. Unfortunately, we ran into the magic combination of an inept employee, and scummy tourists redeeming free tickets at the turnstile. So we wound up being on the line for quite a while. The line next to us was moving quite rapidly, thanks to an all star clerk who also happened to be three and a half feet tall. That guy was doing twice the job as our clerk, in half the sizeÖthatís efficiency.
Eventually, we got into the park. The first strip of the park is inexplicably some Aladdin style street. Iím not sure why it was themed that way; it didnít fit in with the rest of the park at all. As true geeks, our first destination was the Marvel comics island.
Our first ride was the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. The wait for this is something quite amazing. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be inside your skull during one of the worst headaches youíve ever had, this is it. While you wait inside for the ride sirens blare, lights flash everywhere, and dozens of TVs play an introductory cartoon. Unfortunately for the last part, almost none of the TVs are synched up, so you get to hear the same dialogue thirty times, all slightly off time from each other. For a major attraction, the line wasnít too long, at least. This was one of the rides at the park where you could use the equivalent of Disneyís Fast Pass. I think it was called the Express Pass, but I donít want to look it up, so weíll go with that. It makes no difference, since we waited on the regular line with the rest of the peons. The best part of the ride is, without warning, you accelerate to about 60 MPH out of nowhere. After that, itís a pretty standard Six Flags type roller coaster, which is still a good thing.
We initially had a pretty quick pace for the park; I guess we figured we had to do as much as possible before it started raining like the day before. We headed over to probably the most popular ride at the park, Spider Man. The line for this ride was long, and it would be throughout the entire day. Luckily, they had an option that allowed you to wait a lot less time, the Losers Line. They referred to it as the ďSingle Riders Line,Ē but it winds up being almost the same thing, rides for people who are alone.
The theory is, if a family of three gets into a row that seats four, there will be one extra seat. One person is then taken from the Single Riders line, and placed into that seat. Itís a pretty novel idea, actually. This line works out well for two main groups of people: people with no friends, and people like my group. We figured itís not like we would be talking or hanging out on the ride itself, so we may as well split up and save an hourís worth of time waiting.
The sign makes no two ways about it; you are hereby a second class citizen on this line. If you donít like it, you can feel free to walk your friend-having ass back to the normal line. ďUsed to fill empty seats.Ē I feel like one of those people at the Oscars, who sit down when someone famous has to go use the bathroom or freebase cocaine in the limo.
The line is right next to the room where they wash the 3-D glasses. Apparently the crowd at Islands of Adventure is a filthy, sweaty, disease and germ carrying lot. Now, Iím not the type of person to touch the flush handle of a public toilet with my hands rather than my foot, or to eat food off the floor if I donít know how long itís been laying there. However, I really donít care if my glasses are clean or not. Iíd like to say I canít envision people sucking on the rims, or chewing on them or whatever, except I did the same thing when I was waiting on line. I guess I canít pass up putting some fresh, clean novelty eyewear in my mouth. Look at the size of these things, not only are the guests here filthy, apparently they are all from Easter Island. Apparently thatís what the Universal Board of Directors feels the average tourist here looks like: big headed and dirty. They have definitely spent too much time with their caricaturists.
Armed with my steamed, oversized, and teeth mark riddled glasses, I faced the Spider Man rideÖ.alone, of course. The ride itself was amazing, a great combination of visuals and a fun ride.
Like I said previously, exiting a ride and entering a themed gift shop happens all the time at theme parks. I canít complain here though, Spider Man is something every real man should like. But I like him as well.
In this gift shop, I came upon the possibility of making my first theme park merchandise purchase, a black and white Spider Man shirt. Surprisingly, the choice wasnít as clear cut as it normally is. See, I am the worst person in the world when it comes to holding on to money. Itís as if I have some form of allergic reaction to possessing it, and need to get rid of it as quickly as physically possible. Budgeting is something I just canít do.
Obviously, if youíre going to a trip that involves three theme parks, youíre going to lose a lot of cash. For most people, if they are able to finish the trip and still have money left over, it is a success. Me? I consider it a good sign if the trip ends and I havenít had to resort to shoplifting food and drinking water out of the hotel ice machineís filter.
Vacationing was so much simpler when you were a kid. You could mark how well the trip was going to go by whether the ďArchieĒ digest was a regular or a double, and how many ďYes and KnowĒ books you got. Unfortunately, pretty soon you finished all the good stuff in the ďYes and Knows,Ē like the maze and hangman, and were stuck with the presidential trivia. And pretty soon all the good Archie stories would be done with, and all that would be left were the two part ďmystery,Ē and stories that revolved around that stupid girl that could smell money. Penny. Speaking of the mystery Archie stories, I never understood those at all. Were they supposed to be part of regular Archie continuity? If so, why did Mr. Lodge hate Archie so much? It seems like every week Archie is saving Mr. Lodgeís fortune, or rescuing Veronica from kidnappers. Youíd think Mr. Lodge would be happy to have him around. Although I guess he showed his appreciation for Archie by rescuing him from, no joke, a guillotine. Some of these stories were messed up. Even those stories were at least readable, but God help you if you got stuck with the Puzzles and Games Archie digest. Those things were complete scams. There were maybe two stories in the whole thing, and the rest was filled with junk like ďPop Tateís Menu Jumble.Ē Ugh.
Getting back on track, I didnít buy the Spider Man shirt. I liked it, and it actually wasnít too much money. I just didnít want to be one of those people who would walk around with ďUniversal Studiosí Islands of AdventureĒ written on my back. Although I was the kind of person who would walk around with comic book characters on my front, so Iím not sure exactly where the line is drawn.
From the Marvel Island, we moved into the comic island. This area was filled with awful comic characters, from ďGasoline AlleyĒ to ďBlondie.Ē Iím not going to use quotations around things anymore, cause theyíre annoying, and Iíve probably already missed a few anyway. But Iím sure Iíll forget to stop later on.
Itís not that I hate Blondie; itís just a terrible strip. I do respect Dagwood though, he really is living my ideal life. He wises off to his boss, makes huge sandwiches with obscure condiments, sleeps all day, and letís face itÖhis wife is hot. I guess Blondie isnít so bad after all. But there were still a LOT of terrible strips represented here. Such as the worst strip everÖ..
Thatís right. Family Circus. Donít even try to deny it; this strip is 360 degrees of hell. I hate it too much to even go into detail. Check out Timothy Olyphantís rant about it in the movie Go, that sums up my feelings about it quite nicely.
The next ride we went on was some Dudley Do Right log flume ride. I donít know if thatís spelled right, and I also donít know what the name of the ride is. All I know is you can see this building for miles. We saw it from the car, wondering what the hell it was. It is a monstrous, purple-shaded shack. The ride is basically Splash Mountain, released during Easter time. Everything inside the ride is bright and pastel colored, for absolutely no reason. Surprisingly, we didnít get that wet, except Adam. Whatís interesting about that is that heís not me, so I was quite comfortable as we got out.
Next we headed into Jurassic Park. This was definitely the most underwhelming of the islands. There could have been so much more done with it, but all that was there was a kidís ride, a log flume ride, and a TriceratopsÖbut weíll get into that in a bit.
First was the log flume ride, where you float around and see fire and robot dinosaurs. First, like I said before, anything on a boat in the water is going to be good, so it had that going for it. It also had dinosaurs. How could it go wrong? At the end, a big T-Rex pops out and yells at you, and you go down a fall.
Going into the ride, Adam said you never get wet on this ride. Bastard. Apparently the previous dayís rain raised the rideís water level about a foot. Therefore, all of us got completely drenched. Nothing is worse than wet hair gel drying into something of a thick layer of lacquer.
We were now miserable, and needed to be cheered up, so it was time for the best attraction in the park. It was time for the best attraction in the world. Thatís right, the Triceratops Encounter. My family had went to this park about a year earlier, and told me about this debacle. They could not have said enough about this, in fact they didnít, as I was still in shock by how terrible this was.
The Triceratops Encounter
All of us knew about the badness of this attraction except for Mike. We thought it would be funny to build it up so it seemed like the best attraction in the park, while waiting on the line. Iím not sure who the joke was on. We waited in the line for probably 30 minutes, and we knew that it was bad. Yes, we knew it was bad. But at the time, we didnít know what an abomination it was. The entire attraction consists of waiting in line for a half hour to an hour, standing in a jungle setting. Then when itís time, going into a room and seeing a Triceratops in person.
Let me tell you, not even finding out you were adopted for the sole purpose of tax deductions can compare to the letdown you are faced with. This dinosaur is not realistic in the slightest. It looks like the ones you see in childrenís museums. Thereís even a ďscientistĒ who is clearly ashamed to be part of this, probably wishing he was dancing in a Captain EO revival. At least when dressed as a theme character, you donít have to look the customers in the eye, and meet with their accusing glare.
They try to make the dinosaur more authentic by having it go to the bathroom, but itís not realistic. It is just very awkward. You can even see the track its feet move on. This whole mess is less realistic than the claymation dinosaurs in that old movie ďDinosaursĒ with Fred Savage.
That comparison should be quite humbling for the stupid Triceratops, as Fred Savage hasnít had the most storied career. He somehow managed to peak with ďThe Wizard,Ē which in itself is shameful. After that, the only noteworthy work heís done was that NBC movie where he plays the violent half of an abusive relationship with DJ from Full House. I assume this role was somewhat true to life, based on occurrences that happened after ďLittle MonstersĒ was re-run on TBS, or one too many people asked how Winnie Cooper was doing.
After this garbage, we headed to the next island. I donít know what the actual theme of it is, I think it actually is just ďadventure.Ē This island had the second roller coaster, Dueling Dragons. The theme of it is itís two roller coasters that fight, or something. One is fire, one is ice. That seems like a stupid concept, because in a fight between fire and ice, we know who is always going to win.
The ride is pretty good, nothing stupendous, but interesting. The most interesting part is being in the front row, where it seems you are going to collide with the other roller coaster. I worried that if two especially tall people were in the front, they would hit, because it seems like youíre only about three feet apart. Apparently youíre much further apart, but if itís close enough to seem like you are going to collide, thatís probably a solid enough argument to win a lawsuit.
After this ride, we ate lunch. The restaurant was really nice inside, it was supposed to be a cave, I think. The menu had some really good stuff, unfortunately half of us were looking at the wrong menu. The man outside gave us double sided menus, apparently the sides were for different restaurants. Luckily I wasnít the first one at the table to order from the wrong menu, so instead of being wrong myself, I just joined in the mocking. I wound up getting a dumb chicken sandwich. Although that is better than spending $8 on four shrimp, like Josh.
After the meal, we headed into another abomination of an attraction, some Poseidon adventure. I donít even want to talk about this thing. It is a college drama studentís dream job, all it is is overacting, and over emoting. Thereís a bunch of fire, and water, and light effects and all that hoopla. Unfortunately it all adds up to a huge load of compost.
We needed cheering up after this, and we knew where to find it: back at Marvel island. Luckily, the man himself was thereÖDr. Doom. Not only did I get a picture taken with him, I also got to hear him call Mike a ďretardĒ for screwing up this first picture. I was able to crop out the thumb, so I wound up with two pictures, since I took another one after the first messed up. Iím not sure what Iím doing in the first picture, it looks lewd. I guess I thought it was a really good idea, since I do it again in the second.
We then went on Spider Man again, and the Doctor Doom ride. The Doom ride is fun, basically itís a tall pole than you shoot up on, then it shakes you up and down. The flight up is pretty scary, cause it goes so fast. Being up that high is also really scary, because all you can really think about is whether or not the people that maintain this ride graduated high school.
After this we took the challenge to partake in an adventure only the most bold and daring would endure. Based after the X-Men character Storm, it was a ride about how you had to go into this contraption in order to defeat their arch-nemesis Magneto. And what is this risky device? Tea Cups. I like tea cups though, Iíve been so sick from them, and have made many people sick. As long as that ratio is 50/50 Iím fine with it. Unfortunately we didnít realize until after that it didnít matter how fast you spun the wheel, it went the same speed. Damn modern technology limitations.
This ride was in the same spot as the Hulk ride, so we figured we might as well pick up an Express Pass for it and come back. But no, we wouldnít be doing that. Why, you ask? Well Universal knows being away on vacation can make you homesick, so they took a small part of your home life, and brought it here.
The Blue Screen of Death. Not even hundreds of miles away from your PC is a far enough distance to escape this. It is an accurate replication of my home PC usage, and at least one of the display models at every Staples.
Seussville is just ridiculous. Dr. Seuss must have been a complete acid dropper, there is no other explanation. Was he even a doctor? I might look into that, there seems something terribly amiss about a legitimate doctor writing tales like these. Maybe he was a psychiatrist; theyíre not real doctors anyway.
Another photo opportunity was here, the opportunity to take a picture with the big man on campus, The Cat in the Hat. Also those blue haired things. 1 and 2. I donít know why, but for some reason during the shot, Mike decided to grab the Catís thumb. Somehow, the Cat is able to convey an expression of surprise, disgust, and anger, all at the same time. And through a stationary, fuzzy mask. Amazing. I also have no idea what heís doing with his other hand. Man, there are kids around. Save it for later.
Back to the ďadventureĒ island we went, to ride the third roller coaster. This one wasnít as impressive as the other two, but we werenít expecting much. Not when the average rider was four feet tall, and the car was supposed to be a magical unicorn. I hate unicorns. The ride would have been approximately a billion times better if it was the big dog thing from Neverending Story. You know it, I know it, Atreyu knows it. Not that it would fit this park any better, it would just be way more entertaining. This ride wasnít fun, but we knew that going in. I think we were seeing if the added weight of four adults would make the car fall off the tracks. I guess we werenít thinking far enough ahead that if that actually did happen, we could die. But that is definitely the most interesting way I could possibly go out, at least for now, so it seemed like a win-win situation. Except for the ride itself. That was a loss.
Corkscrews on this ride? Not if Bastian has anything to say about it!
Never let it be said that big theme parks donít care about the environment. Look, a recycling can. They even go far enough to separate it into bottles and cans. Although upon further inspection, we discover they both lead to the same canister.
I canít come up with a single reason why they did this. And why is the bottle slot shaped like a bottle, but the can slot shaped like a book? Nothing about this stupid thing makes sense. Screw recycling. Everything just goes in the garbage. Itís simpler, and you donít have to deal with mind boggling situations such as these.
Our day was beginning to wind down, as we had lapped the park quite a few times by this point. We headed back to the comic strip area, because when we were there before, the PEZ store wasnít open yet. Unfortunately the store sucked, there was only one small PEZ section, and the rest of the store was just prepackaged trail mix with the Universal logo on it.
Placed sporadically throughout this island were comic speech bubbles. Here you can live out your wildest fantasies of having anything witty to say. Unfortunately, that isnít even true. Since this is a family park, gone are the punch lines involving racism, sexism, making fun of the disabled, or obscenities. What weíre left with are verbal duels such as these. I got burned pretty badly in the first one. You see, when I asked what my best side was, the answer I was expecting would have been ďleft,Ē ďright,Ē or something of that ilk. Instead, I got dissed and dismissed by Adam, who implied that my inside was the best, because my outside is so unappealing. That was a good one. Quite the appropriate time to blush, I must say. Pinned to the ground by this vicious attack; ruined by a single word. But foolish be the man who thinks I will lie still after such an assault. In fact, I was merely playing possum, readying my blistering comeback.
In response to Adamís rhetorical question, I surprised him by actually answering with the available option! We decided that if this continued, neither of us would be able to go home standing, and ended our sparring with a respectable tie.
I then had a chance for a monologue, because while these two bubbles seem like they are meant for two people, there was only room for one person. Unfortunately, due to the poor picture taking, the bubble is coming straight out of my mouth, like the Red Meat comics where the artistís son draws the strip.
At this point we started to get a bit hungry, but our appetites were immediately lost upon seeing this. There are so many things wrong with this, where do I begin? Letís start with the fact that one of the biggest themes of the Cathy strip is that she has eating disorders. Why would they decide her best license for this park would be an ice cream stand? Secondly, that pose. Nothing is less inviting than that.
Oh no! Rain!
Well, not quite...it's just the magic of the movies. Although that might just be at Universal Studios. Here it's the magic of Beetle Bailey, or something to that effect. It's similar to the black magic that is the cause of that strip still being printed in newspapers. Regardless, today was relatively rain free, which was spectacularly fortunate.
Before exiting this wonderful area, we stopped for photo ops with Americaís least favorite dog.
We headed over to Seussville, because we were beginning to regain the grip on our sanity, and needed the reigns to be completely loosened again.
Now, common sense would tell you if you name a product something disgusting, people will not buy it. If you market a lemon drink named ďDog Piss,Ē people will be so disgusted they will flee in horror. Right?
Case in point: Moose Juice. They had two flavors of this vile concoction, Moose and Goose Juice. I decided to get the Moose, and Mike got the Goose Juice. As sad as it is to say, I got the better end of the bargain. Mine was bad, but Mikeís was awful. It was apple flavored, which is one of those flavors that is so rarely good, itís, ummÖ Bad, I guess. Hostess apple pies are good, though. As long as Hostess is the big one piece pie, and not the one that comes in two pieces, but I think thatís Drakeís. I donít like those.
Mine was probably meant to be tangerine or something. However, this is the first thing I have ever had that actually tasted neon. Look at the cup, itís glowing. Unfortunately, the picture of my reaction was so marred by the sun, it was unusable. Regardless, it can be summed up easily:
Our time at this park was at an end. We made out way down City Walk, which is basically Pleasure Island but with less possibility of seeing an intoxicated actor dressed as Donald Duck staggering around without his character head on. I must say, it was a lot of fun. Especially compared to the day before. Where Disney is best for kids, this park is best for other people. Kids too, but also olders. Thatís not a word.
On the way home, we encountered this suspicious fellow. Of course... a man walking around with arms filled with parrots. Why not? I'm not kidding, Orlando really should just be considered its own country, with its own set of bizarre laws and immigration standards.
That night, we decided on a meal that was more formal than last nightís Taco Bell drive thru. Therefore, we opted forÖMexican Food. At least it was a sit down restaurant. I canít believe I forgot to, but I didnít take a picture of the table right next to us. Instead of bringing all the garbage and dirty dishes all the way back to the kitchen, they were piling them all on this table. I couldnít wait to eat.
Before the food comes the booze. The food would taste a lot better when I wasnít completely aware of what it was or what was in it. While that is probably the case with most foods, it definitely applies towards Mexican cuisine. I went with Margaritas, because theyíre big, and donít look overtly feminine. Adam went with some sissy peach drink. Some day he might grow into a real man, and move on to a real manís beverageÖ
This wonderful drink is marketed as a glass of mud, covered in dirt and worms. If youíre wondering why this is so alluring, refer to my explanation of the Moose Juice tomfoolery. Josh and I both ordered it, but as you can clearly see Josh is a floundering moron. He removed the worms. That completely vanquishes the visual appeal of the drink. Half the quality is in the aesthetics. Itís not as much fun when you realize itís just a milkshake with Oreo crumbs and gummy worms. Not even gummy worms, bright sour worms, I hate those things. Since they describe the drink as such, I think much hilarity would ensue if they occasionally brought out a drink actually made from the specified ingredients of dirt and worms. You know kids would still drink them, just to bring waves of shame to their parents. I have also learned that it is impossible to take pictures of yourself without looking completely flamboyant.
After the meal, we retired to our room, which, for some reason, had this. The sign says to depress the button. We could have just gone on about Disney World, that would have probably worked. The sign doesn't actually say what will happen after you press the button. I can only imagine what hellfire would result if you pressed that button while being perfectly un-disabled. Maybe the button is meant for people who arenít already handicapped, but need to be in order to receive a discounted rate. Probably not, I canít imagine a hotel known for crippling its guests being very popular with the tourists. I think that's why Howard Johnson's do so poorly.
I donít even know where the handicapped aspect even came into play with our room. The bathroom wasnít accessible; it was way too small to fit a wheel chair. No ramps, Braille, or buttons to press that announce, ďTHIS IS THE FIRE ESCAPE.Ē I also canít imagine crippled people being very handy with a pull out couch.
Now it was time for rest, our last park still awaited...