|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Florida
|Related: Florida, Cross-Country, California (Site Map)
|Welcome, visitor. This page has pictures and notes I prepared for family and friends while I was living in Florida. Although I wrote it just to stay in touch with friends, it is a popular web page.
|Apartment complex entry.
|Fountain. A view of this fountain adds $45/month to the rent.
The first six pictures are of a space shuttle. It does not feel as big in
person as it does on television.
|Space shuttle orbiter.
|External fuel tank and solid rocket boosters.
|Orbiter main engines.
|Orbiter wheel well.
|A module for the International Space Station.
|A module being prepared.
|One of the two shuttle launch pads.
|Saturn V engines.
|Florida Central Railroad engines.
On the way home, I had to stop and wait for a train to pass, nearly in the
middle of Orlando.
I arrived just as the park opened and was able to get onto the Mission: Space ride quickly. Disney has a Fastpass system that reduces waiting times somewhat. You go to an attraction, insert your park ticket, and get a ride ticket with a time period on it. When you return during that period, you can get in the shorter Fastpass line. This reducing your time waiting in line, but not all of that is time saved, since you end up walking to and from attractions multiple times. I am sure the system benefits Disney significantly, since people who are not waiting in line can be shopping instead, especially if there is not time to squeeze in another attraction while waiting for the allotted period.
However, some of the attractions have single-rider lines, and I was able to take advantage of a couple of those.
The Mission: Space (presented by HP) ride simulates a rocket blast-off very well. The machinery includes a centrifuge, and the simulation of vibration and g-forces during take-off is pretty good. I did not even feel that I was going around in a circle during the ride; aside from the machinery functioning so well, you are enclosed in a compartment and have no visual cues that you are spinning. I only noticed it when I got off and started walking, and my balance took a second to recover.
Unfortunately, the ride is too short and becomes goofy shortly after take-off; your "mission" goes wrong, and your ship dodges asteroids and crash-lands on Mars. As if simulating a real mission to the moon or Mars would not be exciting enough. Really, the simulation is good enough that they could do a credible take-off, various burns to orbit and to lunar or Martian transfer, a de-orbit burn, and a landing. As it is, the ride leaves you feeling excited but unfulilled. In fact, the park as a whole has that feeling.
On the technical side, Disney has the machinery nearly perfect. The mechanisms are out of sight or camouflaged or incorporated into the theme or unobtrusive, and they work smoothly and quietly.
Near Mission: Space is Test Track (presented by GM), and I was also able to get on that in a reasonable time, although the wait was longer.
With the big rides out of the way, I proceeded around the World Showcase Lagoon, visiting Disney's portrayals of various countries. "Mexico" is first in clockwise order, but I did not take any pictures. Like most of the "countries", you can ride and shop and eat.
"Norway" is shown below. I looked for chocolate in every "country," because
somebody had pointed out to me that Disney's international stores might have
some interesting chocolate. Nope. The best I found was Fauchon in "France,"
and Fauchon's chocolate does not do it for me. There was also Peruga in
"Italy." "Norway" offered some candy-grade chocolate, and I tried a Nidar
Troika gele trøffel and a Freia Firkløver melkesjokolade med hasselnøtter.
They were okay for what they were.
|Stavkirke, Stave church. This church is a mix of Christian symbols and Viking images. 28 of 1,000 Norwegian stave churches build in the Middle Ages survive today.
|Village scene. This is part of the village at the end of the "Norway" ride.
|"Norway" has an immigration problem. This lizard is native to Florida.
"Norway" is next to "China," which has a lot of people in different regions
and a pretty lily pond.
|Lilies in pond.
|Pond with bird.
|Building in "China."
After "China" is a little "African" area which is not described or even listed
on the EPCOT map except for a little box labeled "Outpost."
|"German" town square.
|"German" model village and train.
After "Germany" is "Japan."
|Building in "Japan."
|"Japanese" shrine. It is interesting how the building resembles a character in Japanese writing.
|Monster, robot, and superhero tin toys.
|Circus tin toys.
|Vehicle tin toys.
|Space tin toys.
|Mickey Mouse poses with guests.
I continued to "Morocco," which was represented largely by a bazaar.
Out of all of Canada, Disney found a waterfall and some mining accessories to
represent the huge country.
|A street in the "United Kingdom."
|Not the Beatles. Not even close.
By the way, it rained about five times while I was in EPCOT. If you go, bring rain gear. A lot of people lose time standing under awnings waiting for the rain to stop. Also, you do not want to get wet at a theme park, because they keep the air conditioning pumped way up inside the buildings, so it feels very cold if you are wet.
That wrapped up the World Showcase Lagoon, and I went back to the Future World
side of EPCOT.
|Figment in the Imagination ride.
|Mini-show in the Imagination attraction.
|The monorail goes by.
My time for the Shrunk show arrived, so I went back and sat through
that, and then I moved on to The Living Seas.
The Living Seas attraction has a variety of exotic sea life displayed so the creatures are quite visible, including jellyfish, rays, dolphins, manatees, coral reefs, and more. Although they are easy to see in person, my only good photographs were of the jellyfish, because it is difficult to shoot moving animals (cannot get a focus) through glass (flash would reflect) and water. I suspect the manatee tank is too small. The dolphin tank was also small, but the dolphins were going in and out through doorways to some other tank I could not see.
Next to The Living Seas is the Coral Reef Restaurant, where you can eat some of the creatures you just saw.
My final Fastpass of the day was for Living with the Land (presented by
Nestlé). There was a long wait for that, so I had time to walk to the opposite
side of Future World, take the 45-minute Ellen's Energy Adventure ride
(presented by Mobil), and walk back. Ellen's Energy Adventure shows that
energy has something to do with Jamie Lee Curtis, realistic models of Ellen
Degeneres getting attacked by a little dinosaur, Jeopardy and Alex Trebek, and
riding in the dark. In one bit of realism, they portrayed a contestant earning
$17,800 in the first round of Jeopardy, which is in fact the maximum possible
(five $100 questions; six each of $200, $300, $400, and $500; and betting
everything on a Double Jeopardy question in a $100 position).
Disney also grows watermelons in an odd way.
|World-wide soft-drink dispenser.
I finished the day on Spaceship Earth, which either replaces the ride
that used to be in the big silver sphere or has had some things changed to make
it more humdrum.
|Squirming Illusion. When you look at your hand after staring at the spirals (moving but not shown in this still photograph) for about twenty seconds, your hand appears to squirm in-and-out for several seconds.
|Circle Illusion. The lines going around the center are actually circles.
The wetland display to the right is in the center of the building. The silver columns on the right are the elevator housing.
The math section needs a total overhaul. One exhibit is two ramps, one a straight slope and the other perhaps sinusoidal. Balls placed at the tops of the ramps and released simultaneously reach the bottoms simultaneously, although the one on the sinusoidal ramp speeds up and slows down. However, there is no information about why this is interesting or why it occurred. The Mathematikum in Gießen has a similar display of two ramps, but with interesting properties that are stated on the exhibit labels. The rest of the math section was generally simple arithmetic stuff.
However, the exhibit on light and at least part of the dinosaur exhibit were
not bad. Overall, I would say the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, which
is comparable in size, is better.
|Street in Universal Studios park.
I visited Universal Studios first and Islands of Adventure later. Universal has some nice attractions, but, to make a long story short, I suggest you visit Disney before Universal.
Universal has an Express Plus pass like Disney's Fastpass, but you have to pay
$30 more for it. Disney's egalitarian Fastpass is nicer. At 11:22 a.m., I saw a
sign saying, "Express Passes for Revenge of the Mummy have been distributed for
the day." That must be annoying, to pay extra for special access and find out
they will not provide it.
I passed the Terminator 2 show because the first show was not until almost 10 a.m. Okay, Universal, for the prices people pay for tickets, you should open the whole park at 9 a.m.
Some of Universal's rides do not permit carrying on items, and they have lockers nearby that are free for an hour or two. They are very high-tech lockers. You use a touch screen to start a rental, and you put a fingertip on a scanner, and the machine assigns you a locker number. Put your stuff in close the door, press a button, and walk away. When you come back, you have to type in your locker number and scan your fingertip again, and the door unlocks.
Okay, great, but what is wrong with having a key in each locker? Put your stuff in, take the key, and walk away. This has many advantages: It is cheaper. You will not forget your locker number, because it is written on the key. Several people can open lockers simultaneously, whereas the high-tech locker system has only one access panel for about 50 lockers. The high-tech locker system does allow the park to charge for using a locker beyond the free period. Is it worth it?
When I returned to my locker, some woman had forgotten her locker number, and an attendant was opening lockers one by one, looking for her stuff, while four people had to wait to get into their lockers. Their high-tech machine ought to print a receipt with the locker number on it. Or give each locker a cute, memorable name instead of just a number. Or try to match your fingerprint with one of its lockers. Or have windows in the doors so you can see your stuff.
The Men in Black: Alien Attack ride has new features, with fancy
spinning carriages and interactive laser guns with which you shoot at evil
aliens. (As far as I noticed, all the aliens in the ride were evil, unlike in
the movies.) The system keeps score for each rider-player, and I did not see
how it could tell when you were hitting an alien, let alone how it could tell
which alien you were hitting. (It had to know which to avoid giving you points
for hitting the same alien twice.) Anyway, the ride is interesting, but overall
it is not greatly entertaining.
|Jaws set. The Jaws ride is okay.
Funny, I made a note that the Revenge of the Mummy ride was good, but
now, 12 hours later, I can barely remember it. I guess I will take my word for
it. It is one of the newer rides, and the technology has improved. Oh, wait,
I seem to recall fire and real heat and a false end-of-ride.
|Blue screen demonstration. Monitors above the stage show the people in the conning tower, prepared background footage, and the combination.
|Earthquake ride. Notice the foreground and background cars are at different angles.
|A tanker fallen into the subway station from above. We are in trouble now.
|The scene resetting.
|Ghostbusters scene. There is a show here periodically, but I did not catch it.
I skipped Shrek 4-D and Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast because
the wait times were 70 minutes and 65 minutes, respectively.
|Locomotive from Back to the Future.
|Jet ski stunts.
|Lake at Islands of Adventure.
|Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. The barge is empty. This was probably a test run before reopening the ride.
Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, pictured below, is not a bad ride. You
will get drenched. It has several drops and surprises and has the redeeming
virtue of being fun, something many of the flash-bang gee-whiz rides omit.
|Aftermath of Jurassic Park.
Universal is not as advanced as Disney with the merchandising. Their offerings
are less varied, and I was even able to exit one ride without going through the
|Rear of Poseidon's Fury.
The Poseidon's Fury show itself is so-so. However, there is an
interesting bit of engineering in its water tunnel. This appears to be a
spinning tube of water, with centrifugal force holding water against the tube
overhead. Pictures are below.
|Front of Poseidon's Fury.
|Spinning tube of water.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride is excellent. It is a
combination of movement on a track, simulator motion, and projection with 3-D
glasses, and it works well. At one point, they do a great job of making you
think you are facing downward when you are really horizontal. Its length is
okay, and the pace is reasonable.
It rained again, so I missed a ride on Doctor Doom's Fearfall, basically a simple vertical drop, maybe accelerated downward. When the weather closure was decided, they took people off the ride rather than finishing up the current run.
I did not ride any of the roller coasters. I was considering riding Incredible Hulk Coaster but had gotten tired of waiting in lines.
It is a shame none of the theme parks have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer attraction.
The weather was fine in the morning, when I went out. Around 2:30, the wind and rain surged and was quite heavy for about an hour. It calmed down and picked up around 6:00 and again around 9:00, at which point the electric power flickered repeatedly. I was out from 6:40 to 7:10, and the rain was so light my windshield wipers were on low speed. In spite of that, the roads were nearly empty. So I was surprised when I got on Interstate 4 and saw an electronic sign informing me that the congestion cleared at Princeton Street. Perhaps the sign was incorrect and never says the road is clear because it never occurred to the designer that this could happen.
In one place, somebody had propped up trees with planks. I think that may have been recent landscaping, so the trees were not firmly rooted yet.
Supposedly there were winds up to 145 miles per hour. You couldn't tell by me. Certainly I have seen worse storms in New England than what I observed here, and I have even seen heavy traffic on Route 3 in rain as strong as it got here today. This makes Floridians seem like wimps.
WMFE's public radio and public television stations are both off the air, and so are some other television stations. Do not count on them when a real disaster strikes. Traffic signals at many intersections are not functioning. A few are in a fixed blinking pattern (yellow one way, red the other), but many are simply off. There are police directing traffic at some of them. By and large, Orlando does not seem to be prepared for Florida weather.
I had to go out again in the afternoon. The weather was nice when I started, but a downpour began and became heavy quickly. After I crossed Orlando and left I-4 for surface streets, driving conditions were bad, and power was still out in many places. I aborted most of my trip. However, I did notice a sign for a fine Swiss chocolate store. So, in the middle of the hurricane aftermath, I found Orlando's best chocolate store, Notter. It is a shop incidental to a school for pastry chefs.
After Notter, I turned around and went home. Back on I-4, one section of the
road was flooded with a few inches of water. Perhaps that would not be
surprising after a hurricane, except this was an elevated section of the road,
standing on columns above Orlando streets. It would drain all by itself unless
you went to the trouble of sealing it, so I cannot imagine what the road
designers were thinking. Several other sections were flooded across two lanes,
the inside and low lanes of banked curves. These were not elevated, but they
were on hills or embankments, and I would not expect an interstate road to
flood so easily. The hurricane had been the day before; this water was just
the result of an hour's rain.
On the way, very near Disney, I saw the downed tree at the right, probably a result of Hurricane Charley.
There is a Lego store in Downtown Disney, which of course reminded me of
Legoland in Germany. Below are several photographs of an alien fixing its
|Alien with flying-saucer trouble.
I walked around Downtown Disney, confirmed there really was not much to see,
grabbed a sandwich at Earl of Sandwich, and went home. And that is it for
Florida. The movers loaded my stuff the next day. That was also finished early,
so I drove to Atlanta that evening, a day early. I will describe the
cross-country drive in another web page.
|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / Florida
|Related: Florida, Cross-Country, California (Site Map)
© Copyright 2004 by Eric Postpischil.