Subtitle: Tekno & Jamaal's SoCal Solace Vacation
I had planned it for months. I wasn’t planning on it originally, but Mike (boblogone) informed me I needed to go to Knott’s Winter Coaster Solace IV. The original plan for the year was Florida in February and SoCal later in the year for 2 major coaster trips. But one nite in an IM chat, Mike talked me into Solace, so planning begun.
One thing about my job now is that I can get off work really easy, and I started accruing leave from the first day I started working (gotta love working for the state). And since the DHHR of West Virginia (the dept. under which the Hospital I work for operates) got a $1000 bonus at the end of last year, I was more than on my way to a SoCal trip fund.
So I talked one of 2 best friends into going with me. Jamaal had been to Frisco and Sacramento before to visit his aunt, but that was about 10 years ago, and now we were both adults, and going without parents or restrictions of being children. So after literally months of planning, saving, and hard work Monday and Tuesday nites, Jamaal and I had our trip planned. It was rough at first; we had problems getting the airline tickets thru American Airlines and tickets for Maroon 5’s first concert on their Honda Civic tour.
The week leading up to our trip was busy. A couple last minute reservations and almost not getting our ultra cheap Disney/DCA park hopper tickets, and then Saturday started. Saturday was going to be busy, as I had something important at 3pm, and then work that nite, then Sundays, which are always busy for me, and then leaving around 2pm, driving 5 hours to my Grandmothers was grueling. I had about 2 hours of sleep in 2 days, it sucked. But once we got to my sisters to visit, I was okay. Then we headed through town to my Grandmothers house, where I visited a bit, used my brother’s computer (and my brother to do it) so we could check in for our flight the next morning.
We decided since it was cheaper, that we would fly from Dulles to L.A. I live about 6 hours from Dulles, but we were able to get to my grandmother’s and stay there the nite before, and she lives just 2 hours from Dulles. So Monday, March 7, we woke up early (though later than we should have), got ready, and headed the 2 or so hours to Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C. I have 2 friends that work there (2 brothers, Jon & R.W.), so I was able to get there and park for free thanks to them (I owe them big time!).
We got there around 8ish, and our flight was for 9am. We got to the baggage check in about 1 min. before our flight’s cut off (whew!). After hurrying to check in and thru security, we were at our gate. We got in to our plane on time and took our seats near the back. I hadn’t flown in over 14 years, and was excited to take off. Promptly on time, our plane took off. I had almost forgotten how it felt. Our lady pilot must have had a ‘lead foot’, as we took off and arrived 20 minutes early. We would have had almost an hour early arrival, but the pilot had to slow down over the Rockies so that that didn’t happen.
The flight was very nice. We flew over the Appalachian Mountains, over the plains of the Midwest, then over the Rockies and Grand Canyon. Our in-flight movie was ‘The Incredibles’, which I had seen and loved. I kept trying to sleep, since I hadn’t slept much the night before, but it was pretty useless. I hated Jamaal for being able to. So instead, I took pics from the air, watched some of the movie, and tried to doze off.
Not long before noon we finally arrived at our destination, touching down at LAX. The flight had been fairly turbulent (yay!), and the touchdown was again fun. So after touching down, we went to baggage claim, and then hopped a shuttle to Alamo, where Jamaal had rented the car. Thankfully, the girl at the counter thought he was cute, so we got an upgrade from the economy car to a slightly sportier Cavalier. At least it was comfortable and had a CD player. Oh, and the unlimited mileage was good too, but we’ll get into that later…
So we got directions from Sepulveda Blvd. to Universal City for our first park. The ride took about an hour, but it was, according to mOOSh, the long way around. Oh well, we got to see L.A. and the Hollywood sign, so that was cool. After arriving to Universal City, we headed up the hill to park ($10, yikes!), changed cloths, and headed into the park. We entered first into Citywalk, which was neato. Then I gave them my $15 off coupon for admission (thanks again CoasterMom Jodi!). I was impressed by USH. I wasn’t expecting it to be as cool as it was.
We passed by the Van Helsing walk thru, which was only operating at certain times, and not at this point, so I looked at our map and decided that we should head down the hill towards Mummy, our fist coaster of 2005.
Can you say ‘Escalator’? I’d never been to a park with so many of these before. It was odd going down the mountain side to the lower level of the park, but once down there, we saw ‘Revenge of the Mummy’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ rides. Of course, we headed to Mummy. The line was about a 5 to 10 minute wait, but we weren’t allowed to pick our seat. The queue of Mummy was highly themed, with booby traps and a pre-show.
We got into the loading station and got in next to the back of the car, which was rather comfy. Then it was into the themed section of the ride.
Revenge of the Mummy-
I won’t give away any of the ride, but it had some good special effects in the first themed part of the ride. The launch was cool, as well as the launch backwards. I do wish that it was a bit longer, but the ride was really good. The animatronics and such were working correctly, the sound was working, and the last room was neat, even though the ending was slightly a let down. Still a great coaster, #95 for me and first of the year.
That was a lot of fun, and I appreciated the free (for an hour) fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo located there, even if we did leave our stuff in over an hour and had to pay. So next, Jamaal needed food and I was rather hungry, so we went to the Jurassic Park Café for some grub. Although expensive (shoulda took advantage of the $20 all you can eat all day deal they offered), the food was good. I had a large soft chocolate chip cookie, a grilled chicken sandwich with fries, and a peach Arbor Mist Chardonnay.
After eating, I noticed that we just happened to be sitting very near to Jurassic Park- The Ride. I’d wanted to do this for quite some time, and was told we wouldn’t get very wet, so we gave it a shot. It was nearly a walk on, so we hopped into the back seat of our boat.
Jurassic Park: The Ride-
The ride was very nicely themed, and all the effects were working well. The only thing that didn’t seem ‘on time’ was the falling Jeep. I was kind of amazed at the forced perspective as you get near the top of the lift. I guess because of it being darker in there, I was fooled. The T-Rex were cool in the building, as well as the Raptors and smaller dinos outside jumping thru ‘boats’ and fighting over popcorn. The last T-Rex (won’t spoil it for anybody who hasn’t been on yet) was working great as well. We didn’t get very wet on the drop, which was a good thing even though the day was hot. All in all, I was not disappointed.
There were quite a few decent attractions on the lower level of the park. After taking a few more pictures, we did the Backdraft effects show, which was also very interesting. I jumped at the end when the ceiling came down.
After Backdraft we once again got in the very short line for Mummy. During our time in the station house, I heard the ride ops say “Welcome to Superman: The Escape”, which was kinda funny. The ride ops looked more like Pirates, though. The second ride was just as fun from the second row. I liked the ride, and can’t wait to try the different Florida version some day soon.
So after spending some time at the lower end of the park we headed back to the first level. The first attraction we did at the top of the park was Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula. More parks need walk thru attractions, but…
Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula-
They should be slightly better than this. Don’t get me wrong, the actual themeing was good, the rooms were filled with sets and effects, and there were Scaractors in there as well. The last huge guy did scare me a bit. But the attraction falls short. You know there is someone lurking around because there is a Scaractor ‘guard’ standing around each scare actor. It could have been better if it was actually more ‘PG-13’ like advertised, instead of a neutered PG.
After that, it was getting late. The park closed at 6pm, and we had to make a decision on either watching Waterworld, which I really wanted to do, or the Studio Tour, which we decided upon. It was an hour tour, but very worth it.
Universal Studios Studio Tour-
This was the best part of the park, and I loved the rest of the park. The tour goes thru many things such as the subway scene, the King Kong scene, which I was really happy about since I didn’t get to do Kongfrontation at USF, as well as the Mexican town with a flash flood, and many other things. Jaws was fun to finally see, even if the Shark needed some skin work. One of the last things we saw was a just added scene from the forthcoming ‘War of the Worlds’ remake. It looks like this might be a good film. Jamaal took pictures and filmed quite a bit. We both enjoyed the Back lot tour.
I had wanted to do Terminator and Shrek as well, but we didn’t have enough time. We did opt for Back to the Future: The ride, and I’m happy with that choice.
Back to the Future: The Ride-
I had and have heard bad things about the ride, but it was still fun for a first time. The queue was nicely themed, the pre-show was funky, and the actual simulator was pretty good with the movement and fog, etc. A fun ride, but something I could skip the next time.
At this point, the park was closing, and my Cell was dying. But we were making plans to hook up with Matthew (Mamoosh) for dinner. I called Matthew and he called me, but we were at different parts of the park. After finally meeting (for the first time) we said our introductions, and M@ took us into Hollywood. We parked near the Kodak theater, which we walked thru part of, and down by the Chinese Theater, which was beautiful, as well as the Disney owned theater. I still didn’t get to see Janet Jackson’s star on the walk of fame, but we did see Michael’s (whatever) and ate at Hamburger Hamlet’s across from the Chinese Theater.
Dinner with Matthew was very nice; I really appreciated it, and owe him big time once he gets back to the east coast. The food was good, and though I’d have liked to spend more time hanging with him, we had to get some sleep. So we opted to call it a nite and headed to Anaheim to our Motel 6. We talked to Tina (coasterqueenTRN) and Billiam (rollergator) who were staying at our motel…or were they? After a new episode of 24, I fell fast asleep.
Day one was over. Universal Studios was great, Dinner with Mooshy was great, and sleep was even grater, after only about 6 hours of sleep in the previous 3 days.