Fun Spots America 2017

18FunSpotBannerFun Spots America | Photos | Videos


December 30, 2017
Orlando & Kissimmee FL

Saturday was mostly a leisurely day for me. During the afternoon we hung out at my sister’s house. Eventually, though, I was ready to head out and ride some more rides. I asked my niece and nephew if they wanted to join me. My sister and brother-in-law were going to hang out at home and go out for dinner later. So we headed in to Orlando, thru Disney World for a short cut, and then to our first of two Fun Spot parks, Orlando. This was my first time to either park.

The afternoon was sunny and warm, and as we pulled up and found a place to park, we noticed the area was fairly busy. Lots of families bringing their kids to ride rides. I was impressed with the park from the get go. It was very clean, nicely done, and there were plenty of people everywhere. We took some pictures and headed the long way around the small lake in the middle of the park and over to our first stop…the restroom in the park’s arcade. Then we purchased tickets. I got the 4 rides for $30 bracelet as this would be enough riding for me on this visit. Then we walked towards Mine Blower. My nephew had been to the park for the go-karts, but neither of them had been on the coasters there.

Mine BlowerThere was barely a line. Chris and I rode in the front row and Kaitlyn was behind us. I have to say, I really loved the Timberliner trains again on another coaster. You drop out of the station and head up the lift quickly, where you turn and then hit the first drop. And what a drop it was. Right after, you’re up and over the station, all while upside down. The inversion was really well done, with airtime, making it more like a zero G roll. What followed was a twisted mess of track and turns, with over banked turns, airtime hills, laterals. It was very intense, very much like a mini-Voyage. Very Gravity Group. I loved it!

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SeaWorld Orlando 2017

17SWOBannerSeaWorld Orlando | Photos | Videos


December 29, 2017
Orlando FL

After getting to my sister’s home Wednesday nite we took most of Thursday easy.  Later in the evening my sister, nephew, and I went to Disney Springs to hang out for a while since I’d not been after the change over from Downtown Disney. I had Blaze Pizza for dinner and it was good.  Then on Friday morning we headed into Orlando around 11 AM on our way to SeaWorld Orlando. We were fortunate that my nephew was able to get us tickets thru work at no cost. We had to meet him and some of his work mates there, and once we arrived at the park I saw a packed parking lot.

Of course I knew it would be busy, this being one of the busiest times of the year in Orlando. Normally I wouldn’t want to go to a new park on such a busy week, but it worked out pretty well. We got in line for the tram, but that line was massive so we just walked over to the front entrance and met everyone. I’d been texted the previous day that it was around a 45 minute wait just to get tickets and get inside the park, and this was obvious when you got to the gate. We, however, walked over and got in the ten or so minute line to get in the front gate. Our first stop once inside was to Guest Services as my sister wanted to get a Handicapped Pass, since she has some major back issues and other health problems, so standing in line wasn’t really an option for her.

Once we had that in hand we went to the restrooms and started our day. We passed by some pink flamingos, then Manta on our way over to check out Kraken. I wasn’t interested in the VR, neither was my sister. We went to the entrance and, although the park was super packed, the lines were never bad, save for Manta. And the way they handle the handicapped pass is that you give them the sheet for eligible rides and they give you a return time, much like Disney. They basically looked at the wait time and assigned your time based on that. With Kraken being a 30 minute wait we were asked to come back in 30 minutes for our timed ride. As we walked back towards Journey to Atlantis we noticed that it was a walk-on, so we headed there first.

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Wild Adventures 2017

17WABanner.jpgWild Adventures | Photos | Videos


December 27, 2017
Valdosta GA

As I’d taken two weeks off in September of 2017 to visit Japan I really hadn’t planned a lot of domestic travel in 2017. I knew getting back from Japan would lead into a busy time. The following two weeks after my return to the US were busy with local events including a work trip at Kure Beach. Then there was a pre-planned trip with friends in October to Atlanta. I took most of November easy, but I knew that December would be another busy month to cap off the end of the year. I had tickets to see Janet Jackson in Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA which were rescheduled dates from her Unbreakable World Tour, renamed the State of the World Tour, at the beginning of December. These were the last two dates of that leg of the tour. Needless to say, I was busy.

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to request 2 days of vacation in between Christmas and the New Years holidays at work, which meant I would have 10 days off in a row. I didn’t plan out anything, but in the back of my mind I had considered spending part of the time in the Orlando area as my sister and her family have been there for 6 years and I’d only made the trip down once. Eventually I made the commitment and let my sister know I’d be down for the latter half of my time off. Time slowly approached and soon it was Friday.

Some more back story, during my trip to Japan there was a position at an office very close to my house that I’d hoped to transfer to before the year’s end. I knew the position would be available, but unfortunately due the incompetence of some human resource employees I missed my chance at an interviewee even though the local management team tried to set up a phone interview while I was abroad. However, in a surprising turn of events, 2 more unexpected positions became available before year’s end. I was able to secure an interview this time, but the wait in between interviewing and finding out whether I was selected for a position was nearly a month an a half. I was in a bad mood during most of that time, but 3 days before the start of my vacation I received confirmation that I would be transferring, starting effective the first of the year.

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Janet Jackson State of the World Tour Atlanta 2017

17SOTWATLBanner.jpgJanet Jackson | Photos | Videos


December 17, 2017
Atlanta GA
Janet Jackson State of the World Tour
Phillips Arena

SOTW2017

Janet State of the World Tour Atlanta 2017

Janet State of the World Tour Atlanta 2017

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Janet Jackson State of the World Tour Columbia 2017

17SOTWColBanner.jpgJanet Jackson | Photos | Videos


December 16, 2017
Columbia SC
Janet Jackson State of the World Tour
Colonial Life Arena

SOTW2017

Janet State of the World Tour Columbia 2017

Janet State of the World Tour Columbia 2017

Janet State of the World Tour 2017

More pics after the cut…

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Japan 2017 Day 15

17Japan15BannerNarita | Photos | Videos


September 24, 2017
Tokyo & Narita Japan

Saturday morning came as early as ever as we got everything together and headed downstairs to check out and buy a gift for my mom, then walk to the station one last time to take our last couple of trains to Narita airport, about 90 minutes away. The morning actually flew by. We got to the airport, dropped our luggage off at the baggage check, checked in for our flight, grabbed some snacks, had a chair massage, and made it to our gate with plenty of time. We even did some last minute shopping at the store across from the gate.

Eventually it was time to board. This time we would be heading straight in to night instead of chasing daylight. The flight back wasn’t so bad either. It was slightly shorter, though our crew wasn’t nearly as good. I slept a little during the first three hours. This time Isaac and I were sharing a row of only 2 seats, so I was able to not wear the shoes I’d brought which were too tight in the toe section, to give my toes a nice rest and the ability to stretch out. I did watch a movie and type up several large sections of this report on the flight back.

We landed in Dallas around 7-8 AM Texas Time. We got our luggage and went though customs first, which didn’t take long as we were one of the first international flights that morning. Our first order of business after getting through security and re-checking our luggage was to get an American sized burger at TGIFridays. The burger was good, though the kitchen was slow. Our 2 hour flight back to CLT was noisy and annoying. The woman beside me needed 2 seats, but only had one, and decided to put her small son by the window as she sat in the middle beside me, taking up a large portion of my space. Yay.

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Japan 2017 Day 14

17Japan14Banner.jpgTokyo Disneyland | Yokohama Cosmoworld | Photos | Videos


September 23, 2017
Tokyo & Yokohama Japan

The next morning we got up early and made our way to Disneyland.  It was our last day in Japan and I knew it was likely to be busy at Tokyo Disneyland, but we pressed on.  The morning was overcast.  We ate breakfast outside of the park at the train station before heading over to Ikspiari and then the front gate.  When you enter there’s no familiar hill with a train station for you to pass under, but immediately you are standing on a covered version of Main Street U.S.A. called World Bazaar (Still not sure why the covered main streets are all the rage in Japan, but it does cover you from the rain).  The castle in the distance, however, is all too familiar.

The park was already quite busy and it was just opening.  We made our way to the right first to their version of Tomorrowland (or, more aptly titled, we-need-to-upgrade-it-all land).  Tokyo’s Tomorrowland has the familiar Space Mountain building as its centerpiece, and we were able to snag a fast pass for Space Mountain for later.  But it also has a version of Star Tours that never seemed busy (I’m not a fan of those types of motion rides so we never bothered), Stitch Encounter (Stitch is pretty big in Japan, but again, I’m not going to wait for 2 hours for a ride I’m not crazy about and have ridden in the states), Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters (which is fun, but had a long wait and no Fast Passes), and a version of the twirling rockets, though they’re being removed soon for their version of New Fantasy Land.  This part of the park is in desperate need of a make over.  It was very dated and it needs at least one new E-Ticket level attraction.

One ride that I’ve heard is nothing short of amazing though, and had yet to reach a 90 minute wait time, was Pooh’s Honey Hunt  So we got in line with 82 minutes to wait.  The queue is very well done, mostly outdoors.  They should incorporate the queue entertainment from the ride at Magic Kingdom.  Having said that…

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Japan 2017 Day 13

17Japan13BannerTokyo DisneySea | Photos | Videos


September 22, 2017
Tokyo, Japan

Because of the weather we had to push the two Disney parks to the end of the trip. This was less than optimal because once the weekend hits, these rather busy parks become extremely busy. But other parks and attractions were affected by weather and Friday & Saturday called for rain, which I knew wouldn’t affect Disney nearly as much.  On Friday morning, we slept a little later than planned.  It was a much needed rest, but eventually we made our way to the Tokyo Disney Resort by around 11am to spend the day at Tokyo DisneySea.  It meant taking a train to Hanieda airport where we had lunch, then a bus directly to the Disneyland resort.

I was afraid since we’d let the morning get away from us, and it was a Friday, that wait times would be unbearable at DisneySea but we actually lucked out for the day.  We headed from Ispiari, their version of a Disneyfied shopping district, to the ticket booth at DisneySea, then into the entry plaza.  Once we passed under Hotel Miracosta, I was just in awe of the entire place.  The entrance was nothing like I’d seen at a Disney park, but once inside everything is just so… amazing.  A high level of detail goes in to everything.  It is absolutely astounding.

Our first destination was Port Discovery as we headed over to our first ride, Aquatopia.  This ride uses RFID pucks to guide water based vehicles around in a very shallow pool (6 inches deep or less) spinning, stopping, and swinging around rocks, waterfalls, and whirlpools.  I anticipated a multi hour long wait, but it was only 25 minutes, so we got in line.  Aquatopia was really a lot of fun!

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Japan 2017 Day 12

17Japan12BannerTobu Zoo | Tokyo SkyTree | Photos | Videos


September 21, 2017
Minami & Tokyo Japan

Isaac and I had slept later than we’d planned and after discussing what to do we decide to go to Tobu Zoo together so that Isaac and I could check out the Zoo, and I could get the credits he got a couple of days prior. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to go back with me, especially with the train ride and cost, but he was happy to go back to the zoo, which he’d not spent any time at on his first visit. Also, he liked the coasters so much, he wanted to ride more, and wanted to see what I thought of them. The only downside is that Tobu Zoo is really rural to the north, about 2 hours from Yokohama, which is already on the south side of Tokyo.

Having said all of that it was definitely worth the trip out to Miyashiro for the zoo.  Getting there on the train takes you to a newly remodeled station on the Tobu line, out in the Tokyo suburbs and farmland. The quaint little town of Miyashiro didn’t seem to see much in the way of Caucasian or generally non-Asians from what we saw on our visit (Isaac’s second). We walked from the station to Tobu Zoo, passing through the town and by Nippon Institute of Technology, a 100 year old college in Japan. We walked to the zoo in the beautiful weather (another reason the visit to Tobu Zoo ended up being today).  I’m not sure what the park is like on the weekends or when school is out, but during midweek with school in the park was absolutely dead. We paid our entrance fee and for a ride all day pass and headed in hopes that all of the coasters would be open, and they were.

You can walk for quite a ways in Tobu without seeing anyone, employee or patron alike.  Our first stop was a walkway to the left of the lake to Regina, the Intamin built wooden coaster built over a small lake, as it was further out from the rest of the rides. I’d heard good things about this ride when people started going to Japan to ride coasters, many years go, but in recent years reviews hadn’t been so good. Isaac wasn’t able to ride in the back on his initial visit and wasn’t so impressed with his front row rides. But today the crew didn’t seem to mind where we sat, so the back it was.

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Japan 2017 Day 11

17Japan11BannerFujikyu Highland | Photos | Videos


September 20, 2017
Fujiyoshida, Japan

The next morning we had to get to Fuji Q Highland early.  I’ve read nothing but horror stories from both coaster enthusiasts and non enthusiasts, locals and visitors about how terrible the operations at Fuji Q are, and how long the lines are.  During the day, those horror stories would prove to be correct, and they make any poorly run park in the U.S. look like a walk in the park.  So the plan was to get there and be close to the first ones in line.  We woke up from our hotel, headed to the Kawaguchiko station which proved to be quite a walk, stored our luggage, and headed back to the cute Fujikyuko train.  We arrived about an hour before the park opened, and I was shocked (and didn’t quite believe) that we were the first ones in line at the back gate.  There were some Russians staying at our hotel that showed up after a bit, as well as some locals who had internet tickets.

In order to get to do all of the major coasters, we were planning to quickly exchange our tickets then, once the rope dropped, literally running to the middle of the park where the very limited express passes could be purchased for rides. Express Passes are sold at the resort, online (but only on the Japanese site), and a few local convenience stores which means they sell out very quickly on the morning of.  So at 8:20, we were able to exchange our passes and, even though they were letting in resort guests early, we were at the front of the rope for the rope drop. Once the park was opened it was go time.

EVERYONE runs, either to whatever coaster they plan on hitting up first, or towards the middle of the park to buy express passes. We were at the back gate, so you had people at the front gate all heading to the Express Pass booth. Isaac sprinted, and though I tried to keep up, I just couldn’t do it. So I briskly walked as quickly as I could after the first initial burst, and was happy to see Isaac being the second person in line when I rounded the corner. Score!

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