Sunday, January 25, 2009

Islands of Adventure

Brian and I decided to spend Christmas in Florida with my maternal grandparents and cousin who live in Winter Haven. Winter Haven is just south of Orlando so we decided to spend the Saturday after Christmas at Islands of Adventure, which happens to be part of the Universal Studios complex.

We knew what we were getting into. According to information we found on the internet (which is always correct....) the Saturday after Christmas is THE busiest day of the year for theme parks in Orlando. On our drive down, this information was further enforced after being stuck in horrendous traffic just trying to make it to the IKEA right off Interstate 4. (Side note: Our visit to IKEA consisted of a hurried walk-through of the store while dodging disoriented adults and screaming children). Since neither of us can handle crowds of little more than 5 or 6 people, we decided to spend the night before our theme park adventure strategizing on how we would conquer the rides before the swarms of people descended upon the park.

First, we get detailed instructions on which rides to go to first from Brian's brother, who happens to be a huge theme park enthusiast. Next, we wake up while its still dark outside and get to the park by 7:45 (15 minutes before the opening). From there, we basically run from ride to ride with little to no wait and have basically experienced every ride by 11:00. (i should also mention that by this point I look like a sewer rat between the wet rides and Florida humidity) Right before we leave the park, we notice a bridge where you can insert 25 cents into a machine which then lets you aim and fire a water cannon at unsuspecting riders on the raft ride. This was probably the best part of the day- myself, Brian, and a nearby teenage girl even coordinated to fire all the water cannons at once on a group of people. I know- we're horrible people and deserve retribution, but we ultimately get it at the end of the day.

Before we leave the park, we decide to do one last ride that will most definately get us wet. It's a log ride with a huge descent into waves of water. We figure, "what the hell" since we were leaving anyways. The only question was what we would do with our camera/phones. So I stick both phones in my bra (one in each cup) and we use an empty Doritos bag to secure the camera (resourceful, right?). We got absolutely DRENCHED!! As we left the park, we walked against the masses of people just arriving for the day and noticed everyone staring at us since we looked like total freaks with our dripping hair and wet, clingy clothes. Islands of Adventure pales in comparison to Opryland (R.I.P.), but definately had its moments. Overall, it was a good way to recapture our youth for a day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mountain Biking at Lock 4

Back in December on a semi-warm day, Brian and I drove out to Lock 4 in Gallatin where we met our friend Brad for a day of mountain biking. For those of you unfamiliar with Lock 4, it is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. This is why I am crazy- it was the first time I've mountain biked, ever. To be fair though, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just thought I'd be riding in the woods along some nice even trails. Maybe, just maybe, there'd be a challenging hill or a low branch to watch out for. Little did I know I would cheat death several times and nearly destroy my bike in the process.

First of all, they have these things called whoop-de-do's, which are basically these deep U-shaped dips that causes a bike to often go airborne. I didn't get enough speed going before I hit the whoop-de-do, so I ended up almost getting to the top before gravity dragged myself backwards and I ended up back at the beginning. It was like something you would see in a cartoon. I spent the rest of the time getting off my bike and walking through the muddy whoop-de-dos. Below is an example of a Whoop-de-do, but isn't an actual picture of me or Brian:

Also- did I mention that part of the bike trail runs along the edge of Old Hickory Lake? I almost learned this the hard way as I nearly lost control on a hill and tumbled into the icy-cold lake. Several times thoughout the ride, either Brian or me would let out a big "Ooph" as we fell (or ran into a tree) and hit the earth. Autumn leaves make for a nice padded fall.

When we finished up and got back to the car, it was such a sense of accomplishment despite all the challenges and bruises. My reward for all our physical activity was stopping at the gas station and buying Pringles, Laughy Taffy, and a diet Coke, thus throwing out any calorie deficit that I accumulated throughout the day. I'll leave you with a picture of my mud-covered leg.

Final days in Mexico

I'm finally getting around to posting about the tail end of our honeymoon in Mexico. In my last post, I ended before writing about Xel-Ha the Cultural Water Park, a.k.a. Tourist trap. Here- we planned on spending the afternoon snorkeling. That lasted about 5 minutes. Between the confusing life jackets, suffocating face mask, and snorkel that caused me to gag, we abandoned all hope of enjoying this activity and instead spent our time wandering aimlessly around the crowded park just praying for the time for our departure to draw nearer. We got stuck walking behind an annoying hippie who wouldn't shut up about the Grotto at the Playboy mansion. Who knows why....

Lastly, we attempted to relax on the isle of hammocks, but I quickly learned that I have the balance of a drunken fisherman as the hammock not-so-kindly spilled me out. When we finally got on the bus, we ended up in horrendous traffic due to construction. While Brian dozed off, I watched all the locals walk in the dark on the side of the highway and construction workers labor in the dark with nothing more than some cones lit up with tiny bulbs on the inside. This would definitely not occur in the U.S.- OSHA would throw a fit.

On Friday, our last full day, we spent the somewhat overcast day lounging around, but in the evening, a hotel shuttle took us into the fishing town of Puerto Morales where we ate dinner at a real Mexican restaurant and shopped for gifts. We ate at a place called Posada Amor and I had this yummy chicken enchilada thingy and Brian had chicken fajitas. When the waitress brought out our chips and salsa, we dug into the pico (Mexican salsa in this region is chunky and very unlike the saucy salsa that we get in Mexican restaurants here in the States). We wrongly assumed that the red chunks were tomatoes, when in fact they were extremely hot habanero peppers. Brian loved it and sweat with his meal.

Saturday morning we woke up and sadly began to pack. It was good to get home, but depressing to get on the plane and head to our layover in Chicago where the temperatures were in the 30s as opposed to the 80 degree weather we left hours earlier.

Over the next couple of weeks, we would ocassionaly catch a whiff of sunscreen from our laundered clothes and it was the most depressing feeling to know we were back in Tennessee, working the daily grind, and facing cold, wintery months ahead.