Hi everyone. How is everything going? I am doing well myself. I just got back to Daytona Beach after Spring Break so I am feeling refreshed and ready to complete the semester. It is hard to believe that there are only about 20 days of classes left until the summer.
Since I last wrote, classes have been good and the workload has been manageable. Work at the airport has also been fun and I have been working hard there on designing a training program for employees that drive on the airport ramps and aprons. It should be a very good program when it is completed.
As I have mentioned before, the spring is a very busy time in Daytona Beach. Now that the majority of the racing events and Bike Week is behind us, college spring break has been filling the area, including the 5 daily Boeing 757’s that Delta Air Lines has been flying into Daytona Beach International Airport. Going down to the beach area, normally very quiet during the year, you can see college kids everywhere on break, just enjoying the sun. It makes things exciting. My friends and I have gone down to the OceanWalk area of the beach several times to eat dinner and see what was going on and it is always fun.
As I said earlier, our Spring Break just ended as well. Many students either go home or on vacations to other areas of Florida during this time. Many, though, take advantage of the area that the school is in and stay around to socialize with the thousands of other college kids doing the same thing. I, personally, have a tradition of vacationing with my family during this time, and that is what I did. We always have a great time and this trip was no exception.
Initially, I planned on starting the trip on the Friday prior to the start of Spring Break by heading down to my parent’s house in Boynton Beach. However, when I woke up on Thursday, I discovered that my two classes on Friday had been cancelled so I actually ended up leaving Thursday afternoon, adding a whole day to the vacation. When I got to the house, I saw it furnished for the first time and I have to say that it now finally looks like a house. We stayed there until Monday, just looking around the area, going to the beach and pool, and visiting with my grandparents.
That Monday, we drove to the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando until Thursday. While I did attend Halloween Horror Nights here in October, I had actually not visited the park as a whole for many years, since the last time I vacationed there with my family. We stayed at one of our favorite hotels on the property, Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, which is themed around the Italian town. The best part of staying at a Universal hotel is that by showing your room key at the entrance to the attractions at the park, you can bypass the line and walk right onto the ride. It is a great perk. They also run water taxis back and forth from the resorts to the parks, which is very convenient.
We actually found the parks to be surprisingly empty. With the exception of the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure (which I will talk about in a second), the park’s attractions seldom had wait times greater than 20 minutes. Using my iPhone, I looked up the Disney World parks and saw wait times of over 60 minutes in some cases, definitely much busier than where we were. This made it a lot easier to get around though and it was actually nice.
At the Universal Studios Florida park, a brand new roller coaster opened called the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket. It is very similar in theme (of course, not as detailed as a Disney ride would be) to the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, but slightly more intense. The coaster begins with a 90 degree vertical ascent to the top, followed by a not much shallower descent down, combined with many twists, turns, and loops. During the ride, a song of your choice is blasted into your ears and the entire ride is recorded—some attempt at filming a music video. The videos come out really cool, but of course cost $50 dollars to purchase.
As I mentioned before, at the Islands of Adventure park, a new “island” based upon Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter book series was constructed and let me tell you something. I consider myself a theme park expert having been to many in my lifetime but you do not know crowded until you have seen this place. Having just been constructed, it is still extremely popular, but you had to receive an entry time just to ENTER the section of the park, let alone ride any of the attractions there. What my family did one night is go to the park about 10 minutes before closing, and we were able to walk right into the area as well as the attraction there (which during the day has waits of up to 300 minutes). It was very well done for Universal, but being the Disney geek I am, I was quick to notice some of its deficiencies which took away from the fantastical effect. Nonetheless, it was great. The town has been masterfully recreated as has Hogwarts castle. Even the train at the platform is there with smoke coming out of its smokestack.
The lines, though, continued. There were lines of 90 minutes just to ENTER one of the stores in the area. Yes, you had to wait in line to spend money. Luckily, I am not a Harry Potter fan and I could have cared less to see what was in the stores. BUT, one line I did wait in was the line for “butterbeer,” apparently some type of drink featured in the book. It is essentially extra-sweet cream soda, with a butterscotch froth added to the top to make it look like beer. It is actually one of the best things I have ever tasted.
While many things had changed since the last time I was there, it was still a lot of fun. My favorites, like the Blues Brothers concert, Twister, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges are still there and operating.
On Thursday, we returned to Boynton Beach and relaxed a bit more before I drove back to Daytona Sunday. It was a great time and I enjoyed the much-needed break.
But, other than that, nothing else is new! I am back now to the grind and am looking forward to getting all of the remaining coursework done before a nice long summer off. I hope that you guys are doing well in school as well, and I hope that if you haven’t already, you are able to come and take a campus tour.
As usual, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you might have!
Talk to you soon!