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A cautionary tale: The good, the bad and the ugly from our trip to Orlando (Part Two)

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A cautionary tale: The good, the bad and the ugly from our trip to Orlando (Part Two)


I ended my post yesterday this way:

“I titled this travelogue “A cautionary tale:  The good, the bad and the ugly” for good reason.  I’m glad I pushed myself to take this trip.  But I do have some regrets.  Hopefully, both you and I can learn from my mistakes!

But you are going to have to wait until tomorrow for more.  As it turns-out, trying to keep up with kids at a place like Universal led to a lot more drama than I needed.  So stay tuned for some fun pictures and a few close calls.”

I had also mentioned how I almost fell asleep at the wheel while driving over that bright, sunny morning.

There was no question that I didn’t feel well.  I still had a cold, my white counts were low and my platelets were only at 77.  But the adrenaline kicked-in a bit once we hit Orlando traffic–and the anticipation and wonder (Universal is a pretty amazing place!) lifted me up as we entered the park.

To think that all of this was just a swamp fifty years ago!  A perfect example of how the expression, “If you build it, they will come.” can be so true.  Las Vegas is another example.

And actually, that’s what the original Universal part of the property reminded me of–Vegas.  Street replicas of New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles.  The only difference being in Vegas, the majority of build-out is inside, where in Orlando it’s outside.

Pattie commented how Las Vegas might have it right if it were really hot–to have more attractions inside and air conditioned.  But this Saturday was unseasonably cool and overcast.  A perfect day for covering some ground and getting to know the parks.

Notice “parks” is plural, because I soon learned that there are two different theme parks at Universal.  The original that I just described, and a more ride oriented and whimsical side called “Universal Islands of Adventure.”

That’s where the new Harry Potter wonderland is located.  And it is pretty amazing–to think the mountain on which these castle like buildings are built are all man-made.

Here’s a picture I took of my lovely wife and our brother-in-law, Tom:

Note the snow on the roofs of the village buildings.  No, it wasn’t that cold!  But it sure looked real…

My pictures didn’t turn-out the best because it was so overcast on Saturday, but it does make the setting seem all the more forbidding…

I must admit that the Harry Potter ride–located inside this massive mountain structure–was amazing and a lot of fun.

Here’s a picture of me, just before we left the village:

Just the fact that I’m calling it “the Harry Potter Ride” lets you know that I haven’t followed the series closely.  Yes, I saw the first movie–and parts of others.  But I never read any of the books.  My mother and older nephews were huge fans.  She even took a Harry Potter walking tour of England a few years back–and flew my oldest nephew over there to play “Harry Potter tourists.”  As a matter of fact, I called my mom from the park, just to describe the setting and of course she gushed about how she wished she were there.

Speaking of rides and fun… While I’m enjoying showing you my family “slides” of our trip to Orlando, that’s not why I have brought you here.

Remember I termed this a “cautionary tale.”  I want to share some mistakes I on our weekend adventure, so you can hopefully avoid doing the same.

I’m not a big roller coaster or ride guy.  But there is a lot of pressure to try things on an outing like this.  I was prepared for the Harry Potter ride.  And while it twisted and turned as we “flew” through the castle, I wasn’t jolted or dropped.

However, earlier in the day I rode a similar “tame” themed Jurassic Park ride.  It was also a lot of fun.  But at the end, the coaster cars drop hard into the water unexpectedly.  Of course–that’s part of the fun.  But that drop jolted my back big-time!  Four days later and I am still experiencing bone pain in my lower back where I have a number of partially collapsed vertebrae.

The pain is slowly subsiding, so I’m pretty sure no permanent damage was done.  But at the time I was in a lot of pain–and I was very concerned.

So while I should have known better, I was “sucked-in” by my nieces pleading with me to take them on the ride–and my own curiosity and wanting to have fun.

After we dried-off, I tried not to let anyone know how much I was hurting–and that was also a mistake.

I was wet and in pain.  It was already 2 PM and we still hadn’t slowed down for lunch.  Mistake number three!  My blood sugar was low.  I mentioned several times how we needed to eat.  After the fact, Pattie scolded me for not being more assertive and insisting we stop and eat.

But (there always seems to be a “but”) everyone wanted to eat at Jimmy Buttett’s Margaritaville–and that was clear on the other side of the park.

So as I hobbled along–wet and cold and in pain–all I could do was take some extra oxycodone and try to keep up.

As the day wore-on, I finally sat down in protest and told everyone that we need to eat.  The girls and other family members had been munching on popcorn and candy–all high carb junk food that I was determined to avoid.  Ever tried to eat healthy at one of these theme parks?  It can be done, but you need to sit down in one of the many restaurants to do it.

So we did finally stop to eat.  I was still wet and cold–so I walked back to the car to grab a jacket.  It was all a bit odd–the forecast was for temps in the mid 80’s–so I hadn’t brought a coat or sweatshirt.  Possibly lesson number four?  Bring a light coat or pullover just in case…

We continued on until we covered both parks.  It was already 6:30.  Pattie and her sister, Mary, decided to stay for the evening concert.  I volunteered to take Tom and check-in to our motel, which was about three miles away.

By the time we stopped to get something to eat, Tom picked-up provisions for the family on Sunday and we checked-in, it was 8:30 PM.

I was exhausted and running a fever.  I felt really bad–and I wasn’t bouncing back like I usually do.

Pattie returned by 11:30 PM.  I was pretty out-of-it by the time she came to bed… Cold meds and the activities of the day had knocked-me-out!

Sunday morning I still felt poorly.  So bad, in fact, that we discussed not returning for the second day.  This is very unusual for me.  I can feel bad, but a bit of sleep or well-timed meal and I’m usually good to go.  So I must admit I was concerned.

But we had come all this way, we had these great VIP passes and the weather was warm and sunny.  Time to suck-it-up and join the family–even if we were a bit late.  Mistake number five?  Or had I learned from my mistakes the day before?

Tune-in tomorrow as I wrap all of this up–and share more of those “family slides” that sends everyone heading for the exits!

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat