Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Guest Post: National Roller Coaster Day

Today is National Roller Coaster Day!  I thought this was the perfect opportunity to have Eliot pop in for another guest blog post since it's been a minute since his last one.  I've mentioned that he originally dreamed of becoming a roller coaster designer when he and I first met back in college.  Obviously, life took us both down a different pathway, but his love of rollercoasters is still strong.  (He loves to talk about them.)  To celebrate National Roller Coaster Day, I thought it would be fun to hear more about his passion directly from him... 

Roller coasters, like life, have many ups and downs. Each coaster is made of wood or steel, different types of ride systems, and has many different elements to create a unique ride experience. And there are many types of coasters and elements!

I have been riding roller coasters all of my life. I started riding coasters at a young age. I rode my first one at Paramount’s Great America in their kids section, which at the time was themed to the Smurfs. This coaster was called Blue Streak. It was simple in nature, however I have fond memories of it since it's how I got my start riding roller coasters. It has a hill, drop, helix and some small airtime hills at the end. Over the years, it has had many names, but it's currently called the Woodstock Express

Woodstock Express at California’s Great America

While this ride does not have the biggest drop I was able to experience the thrill and realize how much I enjoyed riding roller coasters. Over time, the roller coasters I've experienced only got bigger, longer and faster from here (for the most part).

I was hooked, but since I could only visit the parks so much, I needed to find other ways to get my roller coaster fix. One great option was video games. As I grew up, Roller Coaster Tycoon (RCT) was one of my favorites. I really always enjoyed playing the 1st and 2nd iterations of this game (we won’t talk about the 3rd or mobile). 

Screenshot of RCT2

These games allowed me to "build" roller coasters and design theme parks. More recently there have been other games like No Limits and Planet Coaster. While these games are more focused on the roller coaster design, I have always enjoyed Roller Coaster Tycoon because it allowed me to design the whole amusement park. RCT2 continues to be one of my favorite video games to this day.

When I was able to visit theme parks, I always tried to ride as many roller coasters as possible. My local park, Paramount’s Great America (PGA), has had many coasters over the years with many different types of ride systems.

Entrance to Paramount’s Great America

Most amusement parks try to build a different type of coaster when building new ones to fill in their lineup. People don’t typically like to ride the same type of ride at the same park. PGA started originally as Marriott's Great America.  When Paramount took over the park, they changed many of the names to rides to make them themed to their movies. (New rides also followed this structure.) Some of my favorite rides here were Top Gun (B&M) and Vortex (B&M). Top Gun is a suspended coaster and at the time Vortex was a stand up roller coaster.  One of PGA's claims to fame was the fact they had the first flying coaster. This ride was called Stealth.  

One major problem for the amusement part is that they cannot make coasters or rides more than 225 feet due to airplanes flying low on their way into the San Jose airport. Paramount’s Great America is now known as California’s Great America. (The name was changed when it was purchased by Cedar Fair.) Unfortunately, the park I spent so much time at will be permanently closing its doors less than 10 years from now.

While Paramount’s Great America was not the only park that I visited under the age of 18, it was the one major amusement park I visited the most.

Stealth Coaster at Paramount’s Great America

As a child up until I went off to college, there was only one job that I really wanted... to be a roller coaster designer. Before looking into colleges and programs, I learned that Civil and Mechanical engineering were the best options to study. While at Wentworth Institute of Technology, I got a degree in Electromechanical Engineering.  

Unfortunately, one thing I learned in college was there were not many companies in the US that designed roller coasters. While this is not true as much anymore, I still did not design roller coasters for a living. Some of the major companies that design roller coasters here in the United States and around the world today are the following:

  • Vekoma (Netherlands)
  • Intamin (Liechtenstein)
  • B & M (Switzerland)
  • Mack Rides (Germany)
  • RMC (Idaho)
  • Premier Rides (Maryland)
  • S & S (Utah)

Each roller coaster company usually has many different types of roller coasters they manufacture. Coaster companies (and other companies in the amusement park industry) like to show off their new designs and prototypes at IAAPA each year. IAAPA stands for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Many of the prototypes that are showcased never get made; however it is always fun to see the new ride designs companies are willing to make.  

Some of the different types of roller coasters are the following: 

  • Flying Coaster
  • Stand-Up Coaster
  • Floorless Coaster
  • Dive Coaster
  • Inverted Coaster
  • Suspended Coaster

There are also many other types of roller coaster that are not included in the list above.

There are also many different track layouts that include:

  • Boomerang Coaster
  • Corkscrew Coaster
  • Dual-Tracked Coaster
  • Figure 8 Coaster
  • Out and Back Coaster
  • Shuttle Coaster
  • Twister Coaster

Sadly not all companies always make it. One company that fits this build is Arrow Dynamics. They ceased operations in 2002 after trying to complete X at Six Flags Magic Mountain. They never completed this design and needed to be completed by SF Magic Mountain. (In 1959, Arrow designed and manufactured Matterhorn for Disney.) For me, Arrow’s most known feature of their rides was they were very bumpy steel coasters. Demon at PGA was an Arrow coaster as well.  (That explains why the ride has only gotten bumpier over the years.) Demon opened as Turn of the Century when Marriott’s Great America opened up in 1976.

Demon at Paramount’s Great America

Let’s talk about my favorite rides. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to go on many roller coasters and visit many amusement parks all over the country. To date, I have been to 20+ amusement parks coast-to-coast and I hope to be visiting more soon. Some of my favorite roller coasters (so far) are the following:

Except for Lightning Rod, all of these are steel coasters. Most of them are over 200 feet and have many airtime moments. Each attraction features a very smooth ride and that's probably why I like them so much. If you click the links above, you can see a Point of View for each of my favorite roller coasters. And if you want an extra special experience, try any of them in virtual reality... but make sure you are sitting down for them! (That quick shuffling noise was Melissa running to hide!)

I have never been a fan of wooden coasters. In fact, other than Vekoma’s SLC and Arrow Steel coasters, these are my least favorite type of coasters. What all three have in common is they are bumpy and uncomfortable rides. Most times I visit amusement parks, I will only ride wooden, Vekoma’s or Arrow rides once and sometimes not at all. Rides like Kong (at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom) or Riddler’s Revenge (at Six Flags New England) are part of Vekoma’s unforgettable SLC lineup. Riddler’s Revenge was originally called Mind Eraser and that's the exact feeling I had when I rode it. Melissa will even tell you that it's always my least favorite ride at Six Flags New England!

Roller coasters are made up of different elements that create the experience for the rider. Each element of a ride has a different name. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Hammerhead Turn

  • Horseshoe

  • Cobra Roll

  • Butterfly

  • Banana Roll

  • Pretzel loop

There are many names for other roller coaster design elements. While I have not ridden all of these personally, I always love the different names they come up with. And they're always coming up with new names as well!

There are many roller coasters that I have not had the opportunity to ride here in the US and internationally. Some of the US rides I would like to ride someday include:
  • Any Raptor Track Roller Coaster

                    - Railblazer (California’s Great America)

                    - Wonder Woman Flight of Courage (Six Flags Magic Mountain) 

                    - Jersey Devil Coaster (Six Flags Great Adventure)

  • X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain

  • Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain

  • West Coaster Racers at Six Flags Magic Mountain

  • Iron Gwazi (Busch Gardens Tampa)

As you can see, I have enjoyed riding many roller coasters over the years. In fact, I have ridden a roller coaster in 11 states, 20+ amusement parks and over 100 roller coasters in total. I will never get tired of riding them. I hope that someday I can travel internationally to visit some of the high class roller coasters that are around the world!

And there you have it!  Eliot loves rollercoasters and learning more about how they're designed.  Hopefully we can check off a few more of these attractions that he'd like to go on.  (I'll be hiding far, far away from them!)  °o°

Monday, August 15, 2022

Magical Merchandise: Baublebar Disney Halloween 2022

Spooky time is officially here... even though its August.  Disney has already had their first Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.  Merchandise is popping up all over the place and I'm just declaring it spooky season.  Thus, we are moving into spooky editions of Magical Merchandise Monday each week!  

Photo Source

Today, we're taking a look at one of the newest product drops.  Baublebar just dropped their 2022 Disney Halloween collection back on August 8th.  Most of the collection immediately sold out in the first few hours, but they have a waitlist and they will restock!  (I learned that last year when the earrings I wanted "sold out" a few times.) 

I absolutely love this collection and how they added so many more items than they had last year!  So let's take a look at what thrills and chills are available for spooky season!

These adorable little Get Spooked BFF Disney Earrings are sure to put a smile on your face!  They can be worn as multiple piercings on one ear or separately on each ear!  

I really love these Mickey Mouse Disney Jack-O-Lantern Earrings.  They come in an ombre rhinestone and enamel version.  I'm not sure which version I like more!

These Candy Corn Minnie Mouse earrings were very popular last year so they brought them back.  I own them and I can attest to how adorable they are; I adore them!

I thought these Mickey Mouse Frankie Earrings were another fun rhinestone design!

I thought this Disney Halloween Party Earring Set was a fun option too.  It looks like our friends are dresses as a pirate, witches and a vampire!  These are versatile and tiny just like the mummy earrings and can be worn in a bunch of various ways!

I thought these Mickey Mouse Vampire Earrings were a fun addition to the collection!

I love me some glow-in-the-dark action and these fun Mickey Mouse Glow-in-the-Dark Earrings certainly did not disappoint!  I love how fun and vibrant these are!

These Mickey Pumpkin Earrings are another fun option if you like to stack earrings!

I thought these Mickey Ghost Glow-in-the-Dark Earrings were another fun design!

These Mickey Mouse Ghost Earrings are another fun smaller option.  He's so cute!!!

Finally, the stunners in this collection are certainly the new bag charms.  I have a few of these and I was so excited that they were making holiday versions!  The first one is this Mickey Mouse Bag Charm of a Glow-in-the-Dark Frankie.

My favorite piece in the collection is the Mickey Mouse Halloween Bag Charm.  I think he's absolutely adorable and he'd look so cute hanging on my spooky bags!

Are these adorable?!?  I love how there are so many styles available depending on how big or small you like your earrings.  I hope this means that Baublebar will continue to have a wide selection available each Halloween... and for Christmas as well!  °o°

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Priced Out of the House of Mouse

I never thought this day would come... but here we are. 

Today, I'm sharing a painfully honest post that's been a long time coming.  I know it's been all doom and gloom here the past few days, and I'm sorry for that.  But I really needed to release some of this in order to move forward.  I promise after today that I've got a lot of fun, happy posts planned.  However, before we can move onto those, I do have to discuss something that's been bothering me for quite a while now.

Things haven't felt as magical at the parks as they used to.  Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time at Disneyland in March, and part of me knew things would be different because of COVID, but it's not that.  Trips to Disney aren't carefree, fun, fancy and footloose like they used to be.  They're more expensive, and scheduled, and stressful.

Eliot and I have been feeling it creeping up for a while now... but the other day, I finally hit my limit.  We hadn't actually finalized our 10th Wedding Anniversary Walt Disney World trip.  And when it came time to start booking everything, I was stopped dead in my tracks about how much the Disney park tickets alone were going to cost us.

I guess I've been blissfully ignorant for the past few years... and that's all on me.  I will admit that I haven't been checking the Walt Disney World ticket prices since I hadn't had any reason to.  I honestly did not realize ticket prices had gotten that bad.  I knew they were around $100 a day, but I didn't realize the drop off once you get to five days or longer.  It's always been that way... but tickets for less days were never this much.

On top of that, Eliot and I have had annual passes on and off for the past 10 years, and that's really the only reason that we've gone to the parks so much.  We have shelled out anywhere from $1,000 to around $1,500 a piece for our annual passes (to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland).  So when Disney updated the prices of their annual passes for out of state WDW guests to $1,500... that seemed insane enough considering we used to be able to go coast to coast for that price only a few years ago.

We had 100% planned to buy annual passes over our anniversary trip in September, and we were going to use them again when we went to Florida in January for race weekend.  Then, we had hoped to take a trip down for a long weekend over the Flower and Garden Festival.  And maybe even squeeze one more quick trip down around our anniversary next year.  Basically, we'd make sure that we'd get our money's worth out of the annual passes, just like we always have.  

Eliot and I have always felt like we've gotten our money's worth out of our annual passes.  We use as many park days as we've had to... plus more.  We also used the 20% off merchandise discount all the time.  We've "saved" so much money with the passes over the years.  I'll never forget one race weekend Expo when we went a bit crazy and had like $500 worth of merchandise and the lady at the register told us we "saved" $100.  The guest next to us nearly dropped over trying to figure out how we managed a $100 discount, and we simply said we were pass holders.

Being a pass holder was always something that we were proud of and happy to hand our money over to the mouse for... but now they won't even take our money.

Annual passes have been paused for months.  Disney isn't even letting Disneyland guests know if they can renew theirs and they expire this month.  Disney says that the park reservation system "is working" yet they won't even allow anyone else to buy a pass because there aren't any days available.  There hasn't been.  That's been a problem since they debuted it.  They have even gotten sued by a Disneyland guest over false adverting for the passes... and I can't blame the guest for being upset.  It's not really an "annual" pass when you can only use it five times in 90 days.

I understood when they were using the park reservation system during the height of COVID... but we're past all that now... aren't we?  They're claiming that it's working, and it's just creating more stress for their guests.  Maybe it's helping them staff the parks correctly, but couldn't they do the same thing with limiting how many people can buy tickets each day?  Why only allow annual pass holders so many reservations at a time?  Can't they just go back to the old way at this point?

For those of you unaware, you can only hold so many days of reservations at a time as a pass holder.  (It varies for each level of ticket... but I believe five days is the max no matter what level of annual pass you have.)  That basically means you can't plan a weeklong trip and know 100% that you'll be able to get into a park all seven days.  

Unless... get this... you stay on property.  You have to have a reservation on Walt Disney World property in order to secure more than five advance park reservations.

Thus, I feel like they're gatekeeping the parks.  Eliot and I both hate the reservation system and it gives me horrible anxiety.  But on top of that, they're basically forcing your hand to stay on property if you want the "luxury" of being able to use more than five days on your annual pass.  And I think that's complete crap.

Eliot and I had hoped to work around it for our anniversary trip in September, staying part of the time on property and off of it part of the time.  I don't even know if that would have worked.  We won't find out because 1.) we aren't able to buy annual passes even if we wanted to and 2.) we aren't even going on our anniversary trip anymore.

And here's the main reason why we cancelled it altogether... 

It was $900 total for Eliot and I to each get a four day, single park ticket.  On top of that, we were also talking about dropping another $119 per person to go to the Halloween Party... possibly two of them.  That means, it would have been $900 for two full park days, and two half days if we were going to go over to the Magic Kingdom at 4:00 pm to use our $240 worth of Halloween tickets for the night.  That's $1,380 for 4 park days, including two Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties.

We could have skipped the parties, but one of them was on our anniversary and we wanted to spend that entire day at the Magic Kingdom.  So we would have been going to that party anyways.  We did so many calculations and nothing made sense.  I should add that our original plan was to go to Walt Disney World for an entire week over our 10th anniversary.  Now I'm just sitting here laughing at myself for being so naive.

Eliot and I have done so much math the past few days.  As I told you yesterday, we've completely changed our plans.  It didn't make sense to even go on our anniversary trip at this point, so we decided to extend our trip in January.  We'll have already paid for the flights down there and home, so we'll at least save a little bit of money there.  And it makes a heck of a lot more sense to go to Walt Disney World for multiple days.

It's going to cost us $1,340 for both of us to get 10 day single park tickets... 

That's only $440 more for 6 extra days of magic.

That is absolutely insane to me.  I've always known there was more savings in the higher day tickets... but it's only $440 more to get six extra days at the parks?!?!?  

Which begs the question, is it even worth it to go down to Walt Disney World if you aren't staying for an entire week and planning to only go there?  Because to us, flying down for quick "long weekend" trip seems out of the question now.  I'm not sure I want to drop $900 for tickets on a four day trip for two of us.  (I miss you annual pass!)

I can honestly say that I 100% get why people are so on edge.  Doesn't Disney see the writing on the wall?  There are literally fights breaking out in their theme parks.  And it's happening all too often now.  It doesn't even shock me anymore.  Guests are trying to maximize their time and the hard earned money they spent on tickets.  They might only get one day at each park due to the reservation system and the cost of theme park tickets.  People are stressed and it shows.

And no, the fights aren't all Disney's fault.  People are being jerks to others because we're all a bunch of psychos now after COVID and all of that craziness.  But it's pretty sad when crap like that is manifesting in a place that's supposed to be sacred.  (And I suppose... it's sacred to me, but to some people it's just another theme park.)

I do get the stress and general sense of overwhelm though.  Going to the Disney parks used to be carefree and fun.  Now, you have to make reservations for everything and it's just another schedule.  I feel like we're just bouncing from one place to another, and that's not a fun vacation to me.  I miss the days when I used to just sit on a park bench eating an ice cream and watching other guests walking by and enjoying the magic.  

Now, I feel like I have to be going from one thing to another every single second of the day just to get my money's worth.  And I absolutely hate it.

Eliot and I have talked about it a lot lately.  We still have fun on our trips to Disney, but recently, it hasn't been the same.  We don't feel like we're getting the same magical experience in the parks for our money, and it's costing us more money to have a less enjoyable experience.  I keep wanting to give them another chance... but how many more chances am I going to give them before I read the writing on the wall.  (I'm very interested to see how our first post-COVID Walt Disney World trip goes in January...)

At this point, we're probably going to pull back on the number of Disney trips we take from here on in.  It's not financially feasible at the prices they're charging, especially if we can't get annual passes that allow us to come down multiple times a year without worrying about if we'll be able to secure park reservations.  And it's too stressful to try to get everything done the way that they have it set up right now.

I never thought I'd see the day when we'd be priced out of the house of mouse... 

But here we are.  °o°

Saturday, August 13, 2022

A Change of Plans

Blah... this hasn't been a happy few days for this Disney fan.

I've been so excited about September and our trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  And over the past few days, it's like everything has completly imploded.

There are a lot of things that are upsetting me about our upcoming trip to California.  I'll be upfront, there is some personal stuff going on behind the scenes that I don't feel like sharing, but it's put a lot into question and it's weighing on me heavily.  Hopefully, that all gets sorted out in the next few days and we have some answers mid-next week.

Then, the Main Street Electrical Parade being "retired" a few days before our trip has bummed me out.  It probably seems superficial, but I was really excited about it.

I got more bad news the other day.  I was excited when Eliot told me that the D23 Expo panel schedule was finally released.  Then... we started looking at everything.  Literally the two things that I wanted to do at D23 are at the exact same time.  So now I'm going to go the Princess Concert with my family and Eliot's going to the Duffy panel without me.  (If they don't announce that Duffy is coming back to the states... I might revolt!)

Don't even get me started on the nightmare that is trying to get our D23 Expo tickets set up.  That is a complete disaster of a process and I'm not impressed.  Eliot and I never got our tickets in the mail.  They went to his mother's house and she never got them.  So now she's scrambling to get that straightened out.  Oh, and if you have tickets, you're supposed to have them transferred into the correct people's names by tomorrow.  So who knows how we'll do that when we don't even have the tickets... 

And now, on top of that, Eliot and I have had to change our plans yet again...

I didn't let on when Eliot and I decided to cut our anniversary trip in half.  (That was a few weeks ago.)  We had decided to only go through Wednesday the 21st, and then we'd extend our January trip to Walt Disney World for the 2023 race weekend to add a few days to the end of it to make up for the days we'd miss on our anniversary trip.

This Thursday night, we sat down to make our actual anniversary trip plans.  (Yes, we literally hadn't booked anything yet.)  After doing a bit of math and realizing how ridiculously expensive it was going to be for only a four day trip, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 10th anniversary trip to Walt Disney World all together.

I won't lie... I'm completely devastated.  I've looked forward to this trip forever.  But it just doesn't make any sense.  With D23 being days earlier, we really can't afford to do both trips and we had to make adult decisions.  We were trying to make it work, but it just seems like it's a fruitless effort.  Plus, we're realizing that Eliot can't take that much time off from work right now.  He's been swamped with his workload lately... and this isn't the time to take two weeks of vacation almost back-to-back.

On the plus side, we have made alternative plans.  I wasn't thrilled at first, but now that I've had a day or two to let it marinate, it does make a lot more sense.  And Eliot and I are going to get a two week trip out of it... even if that wasn't what our intention was.

Instead, we have decided to extend our January WDW trip in the other direction as well.  Now, we will be going down to Florida a few days before race weekend.  So we'll be able to visit the parks a few days before the races, and then a bunch of days afterwards.  And as sad as I am about our anniversary trip, this makes more sense.

There's also a lot of things in the plus column... Eliot will be missing work when most people are already taking a bunch of time off for the holidays.  He also gets New Year's Eve and New Year's Day off, and since they're both on Saturday and Sunday this year, he should be able to get two days off without using vacation days.  Plus, we'll be in Florida during January when it's cold here in Maine.  And finally... the most important positive thing that was my biggest reason for agreeing to this change of plans... 

Eliot and I will be going to the Magic Kingdom on New Year's Eve.

I love being at the Magic Kingdom on New Year's Eve.  There's no were else that I'd rather be when we say goodbye to one year and hello the next one.  (I think it's extra magical to ring in the new year with Cinderella Castle and fireworks!)  Eliot doesn't particularly love how crowded the parks are, but it says a lot that he's willing to suffer through it to make me happy.  And, it gives me something else to look forward to now that I can't look forward to being at the parks on our actual 10 year anniversary.

The only thing better than knowing that I'll be at the parks over New Years... this is 100% booked.  We were up until the wee hours of this morning booking the flights and by 3 am, this extended two week trip was official.  Set in stone.  It's happening!!!

So while Eliot and I will be missing out on the trip over our actual anniversary, we'll be at Walt Disney World for a belated anniversary trip in January.  For two weeks.  From December 30th to January 14th.  To celebrate our 10 Year Wedding Anniversary.  And Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary.  And celebrating New Years there as well.

It hasn't been a happy few days here... but I think this is the silver lining.  °o°

Friday, August 12, 2022

Fun Find: Main Street Electrical Parade 50th Anniversary Videos

Happy Friday Friends!  I'm popping in today because it hasn't been a happy Friday here and I could use some cheering up.  Right now, it feels like if something could go wrong, it will.  To put a little pep back in my step, I thought that I'd share a video that will cheer me up, as well as get one of the things that's weighing on my mind out of it.

Photo Source
Three weeks from today is the first night the Main Street Electrical Parade will no longer glide down Main Street with it's iconic soundtrack and dazzling lights.  As of right now, the Disneyland website is still showing that it's scheduled to leave the parks "for the season" on September 1st... whatever that means.  (I literally just checked it...)

I won't sugarcoat it... as soon as I heard this news a few weeks ago, I was ready to write a giant diatribe about what a stupid idea that is.  At the time, I held back, but now that we're three weeks out, I'm not hiding my feelings about this any longer.  I am absolutely furious.  Disneyland and Anaheim are welcoming some of the biggest Disney fans in the world to their D23 Expo in 29 days, and someone thought it was a good idea to "retire" the Main Street Electrical Parade a mere eight days earlier?!?!?

This is a giant slap in the face to the thousands of us going to CA for the event.

It's been speculated that they'll continue the parade into the fall like they have in other years when the parade made it's reappearance over the summer.  However, with time winding down, I'm starting to get more worried that this isn't going to happen.  And if it is, and it's been in the plans all along, it's a pretty pathetic money grab for Disney to make everyone rush to the parks between now and September 1st, only to become the heroes who extended it out of the kindness of their hearts.  This is complete crap.

I've been looking forward to seeing this parade for months.  It's literally one of the top things that I have had on my to do list.  I was so excited to see the new float at the end of the parade with the It's A Small World theme and all of the Disney characters as dolls.  Ever since Disneyland brought back their nighttime shows, I've been counting the days to see this parade.  They're also "retiring" the Disneyland Forever fireworks that same weekend... but it's the parade that's most upsetting to me.  I really wanted to see it, and this feels like they don't care about any of their D23 guests who aren't locals and who are traveling from across the country to also visit the parks that week.

Thankfully, there are plenty of videos of the 2022 Main Street Electrical Parade's 50th Anniversary version (with the updated finale floats) online.  I've watched a few of those videos the past few days since that might be the closest I get to it at this point.  I found two really good ones that I wanted to share on here with you all.  Between these two videos, you get great views of both sides of the parade!

I am hoping that someone at Disney will wake up and give the people what they want... because I'm not the only one that's completely outraged at the audacity of this entire situation.  But I'm afraid that we're going to have to wait it out... 

In the meantime... I'll be watching these videos and wishing on a star.  °o°

Thursday, August 11, 2022

#tbt Virginia Trip Recap- Part 1

Well... I was trying to get these recaps posted last fall right after we took our road trip down to Virginia last September.  But I should have known things would get crazy with the holiday season approaching on our return.  However, I still wanted to post these, so now my Virginia Trip Recaps will just be Throwback Thursdays instead!

Our family trip to Virginia was just what the doctor ordered.  It was so nice to take a break away from our house, the businesses and our day to day lives.  Eliot and I had a ton of fun traveling with my parents, my brother Jeremy and my Nana.  This was our first big adventure since the pandemic started, and it was definitely one to remember!

Since we were gone on our road trip for 10 days, I figured it would be easier to split the trip into two posts.  Here's Part 1 of our vacation!  (Check back next week for Part 2!)

Friday, September 17th

Our trip started on Friday the 17th, with me, Jeremy, Mom, Dad and Nana driving south.  (As I mentioned before, Eliot was flying down on Monday so he didn't have to use as many vacation days.)  We got a later start than we planned, but it worked out!

Mom, Dad and Nana weren't even out of Ellsworth by 5:00 pm, so Eliot and I had plenty of time to finish working on orders.  Our goal was to get anything that needed to be shipped out while we were on vacation, finished before we left.  Eliot had a few loose ends he had to tie up after I left, but it wasn't anything he couldn't handle!  I felt so accomplished leaving the businesses in the state I did.

Other than working really hard, Eliot and I spent part of the day packing and doing laundry.  I was taking most of his clothes and his toiletries with me since there was no reason for him to fly anything unnecessary down.  While we were busy packing, Eliot discovered a doe and fawn in our backyard so we took a few minutes to watch them.  It was a nice break amid the chaos of packing and finishing orders!

Once everything was done, Eliot helped me pack the Jeep up and we headed into Biddeford.  Eliot hadn't planned on taking that day off, so he was still going to work even though it was late and everyone else would already be gone.  We went to Applebee's for dinner and arrived around 7:00 pm.  It was nice to have a few minutes together before I was heading out.  After that, we said goodbye and Eliot headed to work.  I hopped into the Jeep and headed towards Jeremy.  I was officially crossing the bridge from Maine into New Hampshire at 8:28 pm... and the adventure begins!

On the way, I made a quick pit stop at the Epping, NH Lowes.  I knew that Lowes was putting out their Christmas stuff and there was one more thing I wanted to grab before we were away for 10 days.  Thankfully, they had them; I bought them and planned to keep them at Jeremy's for the week we were gone.  I arrived at Jeremy's condo and helped him load his stuff into the car while he took my new decorations into his condo.

Meanwhile, Mom, Dad and Nana had been continuing on the road.  (It made more sense for them to do that than to stop to pick up me and Jeremy.)  We were meeting them in Marlborough, MA.  Jeremy and I pulled into a parking lot near the Solomon Pond Mall where they were waiting for us.  We didn't have a hotel booked, and they hadn't been able to get two rooms at the one Mom had planned to stay at.  After a few phone calls, I found us a hotel and we got back on the road.  We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Hudson, MA and I was shocked at how nice the room was.  (It was probably the nicest place we stayed the entire trip!)  We bid Mom, Dad and Nana goodnight and Jeremy and I went to bed as we had a long day of traveling ahead of us.

Saturday, September 18th 

Saturday was our big travel day.  The day started earlier than it should have, and both Jeremy and I were exhausted.  But, we got up, took turns showering and headed downstairs for breakfast.  Jeremy helped Dad pack up the cars and rearrange things so we were ready for our road trip.  Then, all five of us hopped into our transportation- with Jeremy and me in the car with Nana and Mom and Dad in their Jeep.  We drove next door to gas up and get Dunkin Donuts for Nana, and then we were on the road! 

We got on the road and traveled through Worcester on 290 and and over to 90.  We drove on that until we reached 80.  Before we knew it, we were leaving Massachusetts and crossing the border into Connecticut.  I drove the first leg of the trip.  We stopped every 2 to 2.5 hours so we could stretch and take bathroom breaks.  Along the way, we grabbed drinks, snacks or food if we were hungry.

Jeremy took over somewhere in New York.  I didn't want to drive over the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge).  I have done it in the past, but it kind of freaks me out.  Instead, I sat back and tried to focus on the scenery all around us.  I spotted New York City and Manhattan off in the distance.  Then, I took some cool architectural photos of the bridge.

Jeremy and I passed the time by talking and joking around.  There was a lot of laughter.  Nana told us a few stories here and there.  Papa lived in Connecticut when he was younger, so she told us about that.  Mom kept calling us when we were passing certain landmarks- like the rest stop she accidentally left Nana and Papa at.

We stopped again at a rest stop in New Jersey.  We've stopped there a bunch of times in the past and I remembered it.  Mom, Dad and Jeremy went inside to get food while Nana and I sat out in the car.  We hadn't traveled too far south, but you could already feel the heat just sitting in the car.  (Yay for AC!)  Once they got back, we got back on the road with Jeremy driving again.

The afternoon got interesting as Dad almost missed an exit we were supposed to take; a few minutes later, he turned onto a street that he wasn't supposed to.  Jeremy got a little frustrated, and it was time for us to take another break.  Thankfully, we found a McDonald's nearby.  I went inside to use the bathroom, and then I ordered a Happy Meal since I was hungry.  I haven't had a Happy Meal in forever so I took a picture with it and the Walt Disney World poster outside!  And I got a WDW 50th toy!

Later in the day, we arrived in Delaware.  We stopped at the Biden Welcome Center rest stop to check the maps and use the bathrooms.  We weren't able to stay in our first choice of location, Christiana, DE because none of the hotels in the area had rooms.  We drove to three different hotels and called a few others.  There was nothing available.  Finally, I called a Days Inn down in Dover and they had rooms.  It was another hour away, but we pushed through.

Once we arrived, Dad went in to the office get our rooms.  Jeremy and I connected my cell phone to the car via Bluetooth.  We could listen to my music!  We settled into our room for a few minutes before Dad and him were going to get dinner.  Unfortunately, the Friendly's next door had already closed.  They went to McDonald's, but since I'd already eaten there earlier in the day, I ate my leftovers from Applebee's instead.  After calling Eliot to say goodnight, I crashed and promptly fell asleep.

Sunday, September 19th

Sunday was the last leg of our journey.  I had checked how far away Virginia Beach was, and my phone said about 4 hours.  Jeremy and I got up and showered, then packed everything back into the car.  Mom, Dad and Nana also got ready and we got back on the road.  Little did Jeremy and I know, but the road our hotel was on was actually the road we needed to travel down to get to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

This was an easy drive.  We were on Route 13, a country road with pockets of shops every once in a while.  It was a two lane split highway, so it was nice compared to highway driving.  I drove most of the way towards the bridge.  (I made an agreement with Jeremy that he would drive over the bridge.)  We passed corn fields, farms, silos, shopping centers, Walmarts, fast food and other restaurants.  Before I knew it, I had driven through the rest of Delaware and we entered Maryland.

We stopped for a break when we reached the rest stop and Virginia Welcome Center in New Church.  We got out to stretch and use the bathrooms.  While inside, Jeremy, Dad and I looked over the brochures in the Welcome Center.  I came out with a stack of them to read over.  Then, I walked to the sign at the entrance and took a few photos of the "Welcome to Virginia" sign. 

I got back into the driver's seat and we continued on.  We passed more farms, both the Tyson and Perdue chicken facilities, and more shopping centers.  As the miles on Jeremy's GPS ticked by, I started to get more paranoid about the bridge.  Mom and Dad were driving "by memory" and not by GPS so they didn't know how far away the bridge was.  Jeremy finally called them to tell them to pull over at the gas station that was coming up so I could get into the passenger seat.  After using the restroom and grabbing some snacks, we were on our way.

At the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Mom and Dad paid for our toll since they were right in front of us.  Jeremy was a champ and drove across the bridge with ease.  It's not a high bridge, but it's really, really long.  The bridge spans across the bay, and it's 17.6 miles long.  While driving over it, you go through two tunnels.

I tried to keep myself busy instead of overthinking it.  (I don't like feeling "trapped" on it for so long.)  I noticed how most of the light poles had sea gulls sitting on them.  I pointed out the nine Navy ships off in the distance to Nana.  I took a bunch of photos and two videos of us traveling over the bridge.  We had planned to stop at the gift shop after the second tunnel, but it was closed due to construction.  (Dad thinks they're building a second tunnel to separate the bridges.  Thus, the gift shop was now a construction zone.)  We were disappointed, but I was happy to get off the bridge faster.

Thankfully, we made it back to land and the last little part of our road trip!  Jeremy drove the rest of the way down the coastline to Virginia Beach.  I really enjoyed this part of the trip.  I even remembered some of it from our previous trips when I was younger.  I recognized the state park that we drove though.  I also saw the turn off for the lighthouses we went to when we were kids.  Eventually, we made it to the main section of Virginia Beach where the hotels were everywhere.

We made it to our hotel with ease.  Actually, Jeremy, Nana and I got there before Mom and Dad because our GPS guided us right there.  Dad checked in and we started to unload the cars.  We were on the 4th floor (just as Eliot and I had requested when booking online) in rooms 45 and 46- right next door to each other.  It took us a few minutes to unload the cars and take our stuff up to the rooms, but it wasn't a far walk.

At this point, I was completely exhausted.  I think the relief of getting to our hotel was overwhelming my body and I totally crashed.  Jeremy and I relaxed in our room.  I sat out on the porch overlooking the beach.  I took a nap.  Jeremy went with Dad to get Wendy's for dinner at some point.  After eating that, I chilled out some more.

Later in the evening, I walked across the street to get Ben & Jerry's with Mom and Dad.  (Our hotel was literally across the street from it!)  I tried the new Tonight Show ice cream and added hot fudge and rainbow sprinkles.  It was so good!  Plus, I saved some of the sprinkles for the rest of the week!  We sat outside on a table enjoying the nice weather.  Even at 10:00 at night, it was still warm enough to be in a t-shirt.  After enjoying our ice creams, we returned to the hotel and went to bed.

Monday, September 20th

Monday was Eliot's and my ninth Wedding Anniversary.  I woke up and immediately checked my phone for Eliot's text message.  He had taken off from Portland and had landed safely in Baltimore.  Then, a few hours later, he texted that he was on his plane down to Virginia.  The plan for the day was to shower and get ready to head over to Norfolk to pick him up at the airport.

Dad and Jeremy went to get breakfast.  Then, upon their return to our hotel, Dad, Jeremy and I all loaded into the Jeep to get Eliot.  The ride over to the Norfolk airport wasn't too long, maybe 20-30 minutes tops.  Eliot's plane was landing around noon and we arrived a little bit early.  We found the parking and then walked inside.

Once we got inside of the airport, I texted Eliot to let him know we were there.  Then, I sat in the luggage carousel area while Dad and Jeremy wandered around.  After all of the driving Dad had done the past few days, he wanted to walk around a little.  And let's be real, they both also wanted to go get snacks.

After a little bit of a wait, Eliot finally sent me a text that he had landed.  A few minutes later, I saw the luggage from his plane arriving on carousel #1, right next to where I was sitting.  I grabbed his San Jose Sharks bag when I saw it slide by; and a few minutes later he was gliding down the escalator.  I ran over and gave him a big hug and we made our way to the car.

I pointed out landmarks on the ride back to to hotel.  Eliot had never been to Virginia Beach before, so I wanted to show him everything that I remembered.  After arriving at the hotel, we dropped off his bags and went next door to visit with everyone for a little bit.  Then, Eliot, Jeremy and I made our way back over to our room so Eliot could take a nap.  (His flight from Portland left at 6 am and he hadn't slept at all the night before.) 

He was completely out, so when it came time for dinner, Jeremy and I went with Mom and Dad to get food.  Nana was eating some food we already had at the hotel.  Mom felt bad that Eliot and I weren't able to enjoy a meal together on our anniversary, but I knew sleep was more important if we were going to enjoy the trip.

After walking a few blocks down the road, we stumbled across a place called Bella Gina's Pizza.  We decided to eat there and I'm so glad we did because the food was delicious.  Mom and I ordered pasta, while Dad and Jeremy each got a pizza.  Mom and I both tried a piece of Dad's pizza and it was so good.  My ravioli was really good, but the pizza was amazing!  We had a great dinner together as a family.  There was a lot of laughter and smiles as we sat in our booth. 

Once we returned to the hotel, we all decided it was time for an early bedtime since we were all still exhausted from our travels.  We bid everyone goodnight and went to bed.

Tuesday, September 21st 

Tuesday, I woke up around 8:30 am and everyone else was sound asleep.  I played on my phone for a bit before trying to fall back asleep.  Around 9:30, I finally got out of bed and went out on the porch to look out over the beach and the ocean.  It was a pretty chill morning.  Eliot and I sat out on the porch together for a while.  It was nice to just sit there and be.  Eventually, we got moving and took turns showering.  

We decided to get a late breakfast at the IHOP down the road.  On the way, we drove by the aquarium and I had a memory flashback of when I was there as a kid.  My parents had bought me Aladdin and Jasmine dolls at the mall, and I was looking at them while we were in the parking lot.  I don't remember much, but I remember sitting in the car under the trees and Mom telling me not to open them.  (She was worried that I'd lose some of the small pieces while traveling.)  They were those color change dolls where their clothes changed in the sun and I remember being so excited when I put my doll in the sun and Jasmine's jewel changed from purple to pink!

I told Eliot and Nana about my memory after we drove by and I remembered it.  A few minutes later, we were pulling into IHOP behind Mom, Dad and Jeremy.  It was a little after 1:00 pm when we finally arrived so the restaurant wasn't very busy. 

We had a delicious breakfast at IHOP before heading back to the hotel.  Dad needed to get some work done on his laptop so the three of us kids were going to use the afternoon to go shopping.  After getting Mom, Dad and Nana settled at the hotel, we jumped into the car and drove over to the toy store Jeremy wanted to check out.

The toy store actually ended up being inside of a larger antique store.  Eliot and I don't usually go to antique stores, but I'm really glad we went.  We found so many treasures!

The toy store part was upstairs and it basically took up the entire upper level.  While the guys were checking things out, I was exploring myself.  I happened across tons of Disney items.  We found old Disney McDonald's toys and I saw some Barbie stuff that I had as a kid.  It was definitely a trip down memory lane!

While Eliot was in the Funko pop aisles, I discovered some Disney prints that would look good at our house.  We eventually found our way down to the check out where Eliot and I bought some of the prints and I got a little Cookie Monster bag.

After that, I drove us over to the Lynnhaven Mall.  I wanted to check out the BoxLunch store there.  On the way to the BoxLunch, we came across a jersey shop in the mall called All Star Elite.  We went in there for quite a while checking out all of the different designs.  We saw Sesame Street and Darkwing Duck basketball jerseys.  They had a small supply of hockey jerseys since they weren't quite in season yet.  Jeremy and Eliot were both completely entranced.  The guys at the store were really nice and they gave us their card so we could check out more of the jerseys online.

We eventually made it to the BoxLunch where Eliot and I found a few things we wanted to get including the McDonald's shirt I had been looking for.  Then, we made a quick stop at the bookstore and Build-A-Bear before we left the mall to go back to our hotel.

We had told Eliot how good the pizza was the night before, so we decided to get a to-go order from Bella Gina's Pizza for dinner.  Eliot, Jeremy and I walked down the street to order it and bring it back to the hotel.  Then, we gave Mom, Dad and Nana their food before returning to our room to eat our pizza.  It was so good!

That evening, Eliot and I joined Mom and Dad for a swim in the pool at our hotel.  The water was warm and it was nice and relaxing.  Then, we got dressed long enough to walk across the street to Ben & Jerry's.  We had some delicious ice cream for dessert before calling it a night and heading to bed!

Wednesday, September 22nd

We slept in and had a lazy day on Wednesday.  Eliot and I sat out on our porch for a while watching the dolphins swimming by.  That was one of my favorite parts of Virginia Beach as a kid... dolphins are often spotted swimming right off the beach!  Eventually, we dragged ourselves away to take showers and get ready for the day.

Our big plan of the day was to walk down the boardwalk.  If you've never been to Virginia Beach, you should know that there's a really long paved boardwalk down the entire length of the beach.  Beside that, they also have a bike path.  (Riding along the paved bike path was one of my most vivid memories from when I was a kid!)  It's a really nice place to walk and bike.

Our hotel was a few blocks away from the giant King Neptune statue that sits in the middle of the boardwalk.  It was going to be quite a walk for Mom- who was a year out from heart surgery and still recovering.  But she was determined to do it even if we had to stop a lot along the way.  The entire family started the trek around 1:45 pm and we arrived at the King Neptune statue around 2:10.

We spent about 15 minutes at the statue taking it in.  I vaguely remembered the statue from my childhood, but I'd forgotten all of the details on it.  Neptune is surrounded by tons of sea creatures: a sea turtle, octopus, fish, dolphins and a lobster!

While there, we took a few pictures: of the entire family, of Eliot and me, and of our little donkey friends sitting on the octopus.

Then we started the walk back to our hotel.  Along the way, Eliot and I wandered down one of the pathways to the beach to check it out and take a few pictures.

We made it back to our hotel around 3:00 pm.  Eliot and I took a few minutes to get settled and organized before we headed out on our next adventure.  (We had seen a few mini golf courses nearby, and we had decided we wanted to go check them out!)

First was King Neptune's Mini Golf... 3D Blacklight Mini Golf a few blocks away.  The 10 hole miniature golf course was inside of a building and had glowing decorations and displays everywhere.  I really loved this.  The murals on the wall were very cool.  

They gave you 3D glasses to make the effect more intense.  The course itself wasn't very hard since it was built in a large room, but that made it more fun.  Plus, it was easy to get distracted by everything around you.  And the 3D glasses made it more interesting.  I almost tripped over myself a few times.

Eliot and I had so much fun.  We giggled through the entire course.  We only spent about 30 minutes there, but it was totally worth it and I'd definitely go there again!

Our next stop was the Jungle Golf miniature golf course a few more blocks away that we'd spotted near the Wendy's.  This was more of the traditional style of mini golf that we are used to... except on this course, they had these spinning wheels with other things you had to do.  That made it really interesting.  Depending on what you landed on, you had to do things like switch ball locations with your opponent, or stand on the course in their way, or use only your foot to hit the ball.

The tasks on the wheels added another whole level of silliness and competition.  Eliot and I took it in stride and spent most of this course laughing at ourselves too.  This course took us about 45 minutes to go through.  It was pretty warm at this one since we were outside.  Before leaving, Eliot and I grabbed some drinks to cool off and I sat and watched the koi fish for a few minutes.  Then, we walked back to our hotel.

Later that evening, my family decided to go over to the Golden Corral for dinner.  We love going there because everyone can get whatever they want.  I wasn't starving so I took it easy on myself.  I had a salad as my first course.  Then, I got ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans and broccoli for my second plate.  I ended the evening with a small assortment of desserts opting to try small pieces of a few things instead of indulging in only one.  It was the perfect amount!

After that, we drove back to our hotel completely stuffed and ready to enjoy our last night on the beach since we were leaving for Williamsburg the following day.

As you can see, our Virginia vacation started out with a lot of relaxing along with a bit of fun!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Virginia Trip Recap next Thursday!  °o°