Orlando With Kerri - August 2011

Bravely hoping for a cold wave, Sandy and Mike took Great Grand-daughter Kerri to Florida in mid August for her 12th birthday. They stayed at a large Sheraton resort in Orlando, swapping some Hawaii time-share options for the Florida week. Of course Disney World was on the agenda, as was Sea World, Universal Studies, and other nearby attractions (of which there seems to be thousands).

One thing immediately different here is the mix of tourists -- large numbers of Europeans enjoying the weak dollar, with the exchange rates giving them lots of "bang for the Pound," (or for the Mark, or the Franc, or whatever). There also were lots of Spanish-speaking tourists, but unlike typically seen in California, many were very light complexioned - from Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, etc.

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Here's where they stayed -- the Sheraton Vistana Resort, with 7 swimming pools, storm clouds overhead, an in-house magic show (where Kerri volunteered), and and amazingly trained resident ducks that only cross the street in the crosswalks.

The first day in Orlando was all about getting organized, buying the various tickets, and learning the local transportation routes and options. Of course they found time for a little swimming.

The weather was awfully hot - 94 high this afternoon, with much higher humidity than Mike & Sandy are used to, so they quickly learned to do things in spurts, between breaks sny where it was air conditioned.

The second day was all about Sea World -- but not the dolphins, whales, etc. that one might think. Kerri had researched the parks here, and knew that Sea World had two huge "turn you upside down-type" roller coasters she wanted to ride -- so she did that, over and over again. Sandy went on one of them with her, and vowed "never again," while Mike stayed on the sidelines and held their belongings. (With these roller coasters, you are upside down a lot, so you can have nothing in your pockets. Mike did finally go on a tamer one -- of the variety that drops you into a big pool of water at the end -- that was fun, not too thrilling, and the water at the end was rather refreshing!

Our second day saw us sleep in a bit - the all-day activity plus the heat and humidity are rather tiring -- and then we were off to the Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios. While there was a roller coaster ride there that Kerri liked, overall, we weren't impressed -- this park is practically all concrete, with very few trees or shady spots for those waiting for riders to come back.

The next park we visited was Disney's Animal Kingdom, where we saw one show, but Kerri again found several wild roller coasters to try out.

For the next two days, our pattern was the same: go to one of the Disney Parks first thing in the morning, enjoy the park until around mid-day, return to the Sheraton for some rest and swimming, and and then go back to the park at night, which is both cooler and offers the big fireworks shows.

Disney Hollywood Studios has a star attraction that does not turn you upside down or hurtle you around corners at 80 miles per hour -- no sir, this one takes you several hundred feet straight up in the air, and then drops you -- sort of like being in an elevator whose cables suddenly break. Of course Kerri liked that, too.

But arguably the best was the Magic Kingdom.

Next adventure destination was the Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, where Kerri enjoyed one of the big slides that takes you through dark pipes so you can't see ahead when you are about to hit the water. This day was cut short, as a huge thunderstorm showed up, and they chased everyone out of the water. (That night we learned on the evening news that lightning had actually hit ground at Sea World, with 6 people hospitalized with burns.)

Our last adventure day was spent at Epcot where highlights included a band playing garbage cans, an ecological exhibit that included an incubator of sorts for baby alligators, a ride called Spaceship Earth which had an ingenious gadget that took pictures of the riders in each car, and then used those pictures later in the ride as part of the "story." Since Mike hadn't been on the big roller coasters, he got in a "no hands" thrill riding at 30 miles per hour on the Monorail. And of course Epcot is famous for its evening fireworks over the big lake.

Finally the big day came, and we were ready to pack up, and head back to the relatively cool weather of central Contra Costa County. We had lunch at the Orlando airport with some friends who used to live in the Bay Area, and headed off to "cheat the forces of gravity" one more time. A nice surprise - Mike got upgraded to first class, so he sat up front half the trip, and let Sandy enjoy it the second half.