I was having a bizarre dream during the early hours of Saturday morning about a demon that had somehow possessed my parents house in England. I cunningly tricked the hellish beast into manifesting himself in human form so that I could kill him (clever huh ?) when the annoyingly shrill sound of my alarm clock woke me from my slumber. I had a really bad headache, my nose was running and I felt close to death and yet whilst it was still dark on a Sunday morning my wife had decided to have an early start. This could mean only one thing : We were going to go to Disney for the day !
Living in Gainesville we’re able to pop down to Orlando pretty frequently since it’s only a 2 hour drive or $37 dollars worth of gas in today’s terms. As Florida residents we have “seasonal passes” which basically cost a couple of hundred dollars each and allow you to go to any Disney park all year long with the exception of certain blackout dates. (Christmas week, Easter and mid summer) Since I am a fairly rational human being I have no desire to ever be at Disney on say 4th July with a million sun burnt and sweaty yanks and Englishmen waiting in 4 hour lines for “It’s a small world” and complaining about the humidity so the blackout dates suit me down to the ground. This Sunday was our last day chance to go before the summer blackout commenced and we decided to spend the day at the least (?) popular park, EPCOT.
I actually like EPCOT because it’s a bit more laid back than the other 3 parks. During the “Food and Wine Festival” in October you can buy cheap Czech beer and of course Carlsberg which is “probably the best lager in the world.” Other selling points include a gift shop that sells “Mr Men” books and an awesome restaurant that revolves whilst you eat. I had read about a similar restaurant in North Korea and was trying to negotiate my way to Pyongyang when I heard that the “Garden Grill” had the same capability and not only that but rather than eating lunch with evil dictator Kim Jung Il you get to eat alongside Goofy and the chipmunks !!!
Most newcomers to EPCOT are drawn towards the giant golf ball as they enter the park and that is where a little Disney know how comes in handy. Whilst the naive fools are waiting in a long line for the first ride they see I head to “Test Track” and get a few quick rides in before anyone else has even finished learning about Michelangelo and cavemen on “Spaceship Earth.” If you wait until after about 10am then you can expect to wait for a good hour at the major attractions but the smart people (that’s me) get a few early rides in AND then get “fast passes” to come back later. I love strolling past the newbies in their long line with my “Fast Pass” but in truth if they actually opened their eyes they could do the exact same thing. For some reason many people feel like they are cheating or something if they use fast passes but to me it is a no brainer. Recently we were at the Magic Kingdom and it was 4pm. The wait time for the ride was 1 hour and you could get a fast pass that allowed you to return at 5pm ! OK so I could either stand here for the next hour and go on the ride or get a fast pass, go away and have fun elsewhere for an hour before coming back here and walking straight onto the ride ?!!! Oddly enough about 4000 people decided to wait in line whilst I went on another ride and got an ice cream before rejoining them on the ride at 5pm.
One ride I dislike at EPCOT is “Soarin” and that is because it is bloody scary ! I suffer from vertigo and somehow I can’t get my brain to realise that it is just a fake hang glider in front of a giant TV screen. The ride sways a little and they have fake wind blowing you around as you pass over California but the stupid thing is that when we seem to be high over the mountains I feel really nervous and when we seem to be nearer to the ground I relax. In truth the fake glider is at the same height all along but somehow even though I know this I still freak out that I might plummet to my death or be eaten by a grizzly if I survive the fall !
For people who want something more mellow you can ride on “El Rio del Tiempo” or as I call it “The Mexican ride”. The ride takes you inside a pyramid and features sites and sounds of the country that rednecks most fear: Mexico. The ride has been updated recently to feature video footage of Donald Duck and a couple of other birds that at one time featured in some kind of b-movie Disney flop that I’ve never heard of. I used to like the old version of this ride because it was so dated. There used to be video screens showing you what vacations where like in Cancun and they featured sleazy men from the seventies with huge sideburns and bouffants of curly hair slithering their way to swim up bars where a bevvy of blonde’s who made Charlies Angels look unkempt waited impatiently for their over size cocktail glasses to be filled by a man who looked like Manuel from “Fawlty Towers”. There also was a video montage from the seventies of some weird people doing an Aztec ceremony which used to seem nice enough until I saw “Apocalypto” since when I am glad it has gone because I can barely look at a pyramid these days without picturing either a headless body or Mel Gibson and I am not sure which is worse but either way that video has been replaced by a cartoon now.
The day at EPCOT is never complete without a ride on “Mission Space” which is the most intense ride in Orlando. Gary Sinise gives the same speech each time before you board the flight to Mars and no matter how many times you ride it the G-force never gets any easier to deal with. I always liked Gary Sinise even if he is best known as “that bloke who always has a role in Tom Hanks films” and if I were ever going to leave the planet Earth he is the kind of guy who I would trust to train me for life in space. My daughter seemed to think we actually went to Mars and I jokingly praised her for helping us avoid the asteroid field we had encountered on the way. She admitted to having been worried we’d crash but the she explained that “Astronauts never give up.” I didn’t even know she knew what an astronaut was but evidently at age 5 she has already decided upon starting a career at NASA. I guess at least that will allow her to make regular visits to Disney 20 years from now !