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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:45 am
by TBpony414
Really great review of USF! I was at USH last month so it's neat to see the differences. Looking forward to your next installment.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:50 am
by jynx242
Hey Andy! Love the pictures as always! Sorry I missed you when you were down here. I agree about Rockit - I really, really like that ride.

Islands of Adventure

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:04 pm
by The Great Zo
Finishing out a two-day two-park run at Universal, my fourth trip report segment covers Islands of Adventure!

Out-of-sequence night shot!

Unlike SeaWorld and the original Universal Studios park, I'd legitimately never been to Islands of Adventure, so everything was new to me. I had higher expectations for this park, given some of the things I'd heard about it over the years, so I was wondering if it would meet those expectations. The final answer: maybe not quite, but close.

I visited on Wednesday, February 15. Scorecard for the day:
Forbidden Journey (x2)
Dragon Challenge (blue)
Dragon Challenge (red)
-- Lunch --
Poseidon's Fury
Cat in the Hat
Spider Man
Dr Doom
Hulk (x2)

I might be totally off base, but my biggest takeaway from Islands of Adventure is that there just doesn't seem to be that many attractions. I say that while acknowledging that I skipped all the water rides, with a late-day attempt to ride Jurassic Park River Adventure thwarted by a thunderstorm-induced shutdown. I'd hate to think I missed some stuff, but I usually prepare for park visits in detail, and I think I got on everything I really wanted to.

It's probably one of the biggest travesties of my Universal experience that I didn't ride Spider Man until after experiencing every other simulator (of varying quality) at the resort. Spider Man has sort of a legendary status, and in retrospect, I can see why it was such a game-changing combination of ride, media, and physical sets. At the time, though, it didn't have the effect on me that it should have. I'd seen all the tricks already, though probably not done as well. I kind of wished I'd have started with this one!

Oh, but IoA had one of my favorite rides of the whole Florida trip -- Forbidden Journey. Got on twice with no wait shortly after the park opened (not that there were lines for much of anything all day), and really thought it was spectacular. A fantastic example of how a media-based attraction can work seamlessly with physical sets and creative ride motions. Best of all? No 3-D! Forbidden Journey was so much better than the other rides at Universal that have come after it -- even Gringotts. I hope other park franchises eventually take advantage of this ride system, because it's a lot of fun.

Have to give some credit to Hulk -- that's about as fun a first-half as any B&M sit-down looper I've ever been on. It's big, it's actually reasonably intense, and it launches into a zero-G roll. I even thought the cobra roll was comfortable, and I usually hate those! Really good ride, and probably sneaks just above Rockit as my favorite coaster at Universal.

Otherwise, my reviews are mixed. Kong was the Transformers of IoA -- loud and incoherent. Cat in the Hat felt like it was trying to be Magic Kingdom's Pooh ride, and that ride isn't even all that great. Was very disappointed by Dragon Challenge, though I'd just been on Montu a week before, so that's kind of an unfair comparison. I remember thinking one of the sides was the worst B&M invert I'd ever been on, and one was about average, though I can't remember which was which. Poseidon's Fury was a little better than expected, actually -- some cool effects to make up for the cheese-filled storyline. The little show in Ollivander's Wand Shop was cute, and Dr. Doom's a decent tower ride.

So, after full days at each park, what's my final opinion of Universal? I like it, but I don't love it. It all goes back to something I said in the last post -- I don't care much for 3D-media, and I don't have any connection to the franchises represented at the parks. I could overlook those facts if the parks were filled with outstanding rides and attractions, but to me they were more hit-or-miss, and IoA seemed a little sparse on attractions in general. With that said, there are definitely a few outstanding rides at each park, and I loved the detail in the theming -- especially at IoA. If I was back in the Orlando area again, would I revisit Universal? Sure, but I'd be more likely to do one full day split between the two parks, knowing there are things I can skip over. If I'm planning my next week-long family vacation to Orlando, would I skim some time from Disney World to bring everyone north on I-Drive? Not as likely.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:04 pm
by The Great Zo
Pictures from Islands of Adventure (part 1)

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:04 pm
by The Great Zo
Pictures from Islands of Adventure (part 2)

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:05 pm
by The Great Zo
As has been tradition for this post -- yet another "other stuff in Florida" addendum! This is the longest of these segments, but covers a bunch of stuff heading north from Orlando and up the Atlantic coast of the Sunshine State.

See ya later, Orlando!

My first stop was at Blue Spring State Park, about 45 minutes north of Orlando. It's heralded as one of the best places in the state to see manatees in winter, and it delivered.

The sign does not lie.

This was another great spot to see lots of Florida wildlife, including manatees.

Yup, all those dark spots in the water are manatees. The park said there were just over 100 on the day I visited.

More manatees.

Even more manatees.

A short walk leads to Blue Spring at the source of the manatees' stream. It's like a giant blue hole in a lush forest. Maybe something out of a Roger Dean album cover.

One lone manatee was exploring the source of the spring.

Plenty of birds, too, such as this green heron...

...and this red-bellied woodpecker.

That lone manatee made its way down the stream, and I got to see it from about 10 feet away.

Probably floating back to find its friends.

Next, I headed to Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic coast. It's a pretty quiet stretch of beach just north of Cape Canaveral.

Here's Turtle Mound, an obviously-unnatural shell midden on the inlet side of a narrow barrier island. It's a prehistoric archaeological site built many, many centuries ago.

The entire mound is made up of shells like this!

There are boardwalks that lead to the top...

...with views over the inlet (left) and ocean (right).

Oh, and it's Florida, so the wildlife also includes things like the spiny orb weaver spider...

...and its much, much, much larger cousin, the golden silk orb weaver "banana" "leg-span the size of a softball" "get this thing away from me" spider.

I took the road as far south as I could, but obviously they don't let you drive all the way into the Cape.

The beach at the end of the road -- as far south as you can drive.

It's a very quiet beach, which is good.

Probably not quiet if a rocket's launching, though. The launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center are visible way in the distance!

Ponce Inlet (south of Daytona Beach) is home to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light, a pretty awesome lighthouse and museum.

Not the only lighthouse in this post, but it's the first.

Palm tree shadows on a lighthouse = you're probably in Florida.

Spiral up.

A view over the Ponce de Leon Inlet.

Looking north toward Daytona Beach.

There's the built-up area near Daytona Beach, many miles in the distance.

This lighthouse provides a great view of boats...

...and blimps, apparently. The Goodyear blimp (which isn't actually a blimp) was in town for the Daytona 500.

This lighthouse has wires above the railing, but they're easily wide enough for a camera lens, so it's no problem for photography.

A look down from the top.

The museum contains one of my favorite artifacts -- a first order fresnel lens. This one was originally used at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse starting in 1868.

This thing is 16 feet tall and weighs almost 13,000 pounds!

After visiting the lighthouse, I went down to the inlet.

I was not planning on doing either.

Here's the scene at Lighthouse Point Park on Ponce Inlet.

A reflective ocean looking north.

Looking back to the west at the lighthouse.

Sunset over the inlet.

A good time to fly.

Almost iridescent.

Waves crash on Ponce Inlet's north jetty.

Birds on the water.

Bikes on the beach.

Sunset behind the guard shack.

A farewell to Ponce Inlet.

I made a quick stop in Daytona Beach, curious as to if their little Pinfari was operating. It was not. I did not find Daytona Beach particularly pleasant, so I did not stay long.

Yeah, this was not my favorite beach, and this one picture is about all I have to show for my visit.

I started my next day at two big attractions in St. Augustine, a city most noted as the oldest occupied settlement in the continental US.

Next day, first stop -- Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

This is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, built by the Spanish in the late 1600s.

It's changed hands several times, as has Florida. It's now managed by the National Park Service.

Most of the fort is made of Coquina -- rock made from fragmented shells.

Crossing the moat into the fort.

The inner courtyard, where demonstrations sometimes take place.

Cannons on the top of the fort, looking out over Matanzas Bay.

The collection of old cannons is pretty impressive.

Oh, and the fort has a nice view of both downtown St. Augustine and...

...the St. Augustine Light Station!

It's about 10 feet shorter than the Ponce Inlet light (165 feet vs. 175 feet) but it's equally as impressive a structure.

Unlike the Ponce Inlet light, this lighthouse has a half-spiral staircase with landings.

A wide view toward St. Augustine from the top.

Looking out over the water.

This lighthouse is completely open at the top.

The Castillo is clearly visible...

20170218_0492.jpg is downtown.

Took a walk out on the St. Johns County Pier in nearby St. Augustine Beach.

Walking out on the pier.

This is a modestly-built-up beach area, nothing like Daytona, but not as secluded as some of the nearby state / national park beaches.

Flattened perspective looking south.

Also, a pelican.

Amelia Island is Florida's northernmost point of land on the Atlantic coast. It's home to another old military installation -- Fort Clinch.

Fort Clinch, built in the mid-1800s, is much younger than the Castillo de San Marcos.

It's primarily a masonry fort built with bricks and earthen rises along the edges.

Fort Clinch was important during the Civil War. It was seized by the confederates, but abandoned and re-occupied by the union.

Like the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Clinch has cannons. These cannons sit on swivel rails so they can be aimed.

A 35-star flag sets the year -- some time from 1863 to 1865.

Finally, closing this segment of the trip out with another night-time downtown visit.

Jacksonville's Friendship Fountain and the very-blue Main Street Bridge.

On less windy days, the fountain shoots water much higher in the air.

Downtown Jacksonville looks nice just across the St. John's River.

Not many bridges that photograph as well as this one.

With that, the Floridian segment of this trip is basically complete. However, there's one more trip report segment to go, and it's going to go in a very different direction. More to come!

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 1:33 pm
by PKI Jizzman
I think I liked your out of park photos the most in this update! Really good work, and excellent story telling as always.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 7:20 pm
by Card
Please never stop taking photos. Awesome stuff as always. Your long exposure shots of Hulk are the stuff of legends. Also, bonus points for nabbing a tricolored heron in the park (wonder why it's not in breeding plumage?).

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 12:50 pm
by dreynolds1982
Fantastic TR with some really excellent pictures!

I agree with your assessment of UO in general, but especially IOA. It was really phenomenal when it first opened, but I actually don't feel like it has aged very well (especially the original sections/rides). I agree with you on FJ though. I think it is a prime example of the proper mix of physical sets/effects, a unique ride system, thrills and media. I think Gringotts and others focus too heavily on the media portion.

As you said, really it's pretty easy to do both parks in one day depending on crowds, especially if you're by yourself as almost every ride has a single rider line. If the barks aren't busy and you avoid the water rides (as I do as well b/c they really do get you soaked) IOA almost becomes a half day park. The only downside to doing both in one day is IMO it really does give you media-based attraction burnout, hitting one after the other after the other.

Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 8:29 am
by 805Andrew
Amesome pictures of IOA, the Florida wildlife, and the Florida beaches.