Sunday, October 15, 2017

Disney Day 5: Rest Day and Coconuts Game #3

After starting the season off with a loss and a tie, the Coconuts finally found their form this afternoon, easily dispatching their opponent 4-0. While the other team had some chances here and there, it was almost a complete domination from start to finish. One of Lucas's teammates from last year almost had a hat trick, ending up with 2 goals and an assist. As for Lucas, he was on ice for at least one of the goals, giving him a +1 in the game and a +1 overall for the season. He claimed he was skating off the ice for one of the goals, but I don't think he was so I'm going to stick with +1.

Whatever the case, it was a fantastic game and showed that when the boys are clicking, they are going to produce. It should be noted that the coach scheduled an extra practice a couple of hours before the game. We thought it might be a bad idea, that the kids may have been worn out by game time, but I guess the coach knew what he was doing!

As for Day 5 at Disney, here's a massive dump of all the pictures I took that day.

You finally done with that exhausting list?

Don't worry, you didn't miss anything. That was the only picture I took that Monday. After 4 straight days of parks, we decided we needed a break. Plus, we only had 5 days of passes (to be used over 6 days) so that day seemed as good as any to relax.

The picture above was taken on the back side of the main building at our resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Shortly afterwards, Marilu and I borrowed my dad's car and headed to a nearby outlet mall to do some shopping. Lucas and my dad spent several hours at the main pool. The weather wasn't perfect--there was some light rain--but it was still warm so lounging in the pool was still enjoyable. We met up with them after we got back from the mall and also made the most of the pool.

Although there are no pictures of it, we went for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant at Disney Springs, the area that used to be Downtown Disney (for those of you who haven't been there recently). Our resort was connected to it by river so we were able to take a boat to it instead of a bus. The only real low point of that trip was that there was a major downpour as we walked around the shops and we got pretty soaked, even with ponchos. However, it's Florida so it was warm and we eventually dried off.

Up next, our last full day in Florida!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Coconuts Game #2

Lucas's second game was this past Sunday. Although they didn't win, they did manage a 1-1 tie. Once again, both teams were fairly well matched so it was a good game. Lucas had another great game on defense, preventing any goals while on the ice so he's still a -1 (from his first game). Not bad after a loss and a tie.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Disney Day 4 Addendum: Videos

As promised, here are the videos from Day 4. About half are touristy "wow, look at that" stuff while the other half is devoted to Lucas's Jedi "training."

As you could probably tell from the original Day 4 post, there's a lot of Star Wars at Hollywood Studios. One of the highlights is the March of the First Order, where the bad guys from Star Wars 7 march up the main street and have a performance near the center of the park.

My apologies for starting the video just as they are in front of me. We had a great spot (if you look closely, you can see Lucas, Marilu, and my dad sitting on the curb on the opposite side of the street) about 5 minutes before it started and then Lucas asked if he go in a store across the street so we said okay. Then, the music started up sooner than we'd expected so I rushed in to get him. I looked all over and spent way too much time looking for him, only to find out he had come out a different door when he heard the music and crossed back over. So yeah, that's why the video started late.

The next four videos are the Jedi training. I recorded almost all of it so I'll warn you now, a couple of these videos are fairly long. If time is an issue, I would recommend watching the last one since that's the one where Lucas fights a Star Wars bad guy.

If you listen closely to the woman, Lucas was a tad bit aggressive. :)

The last 4 videos are from the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. Obviously, you'd have to see it live for the best experience, but I still think these came out pretty well, all things considered.

There were several different sequences that had different themes. My favorite was the one that focused on the Disney villains. The music and fireworks complemented each other nicely.

It's hard to notice with all the crazy fireworks going off, but I love the way the castle changes its color and design several times in a row.

Sigh...over halfway done with the trip. Still lots more to see though so be on the lookout!

Coconuts Game 1

As you may have noticed, I lost track of time this weekend and forgot to post the videos from Day 4. My plan is to have them up sometime tonight after work.

In the meantime, I just wanted to update that the Coconuts lost their first game 3-0. Despite the score, we don't really have any worries. The whole team played well and had at least as many scoring chances as the other team. It was just a case of the bounces going the other team's way. Lucas was on the ice for one of the goals (making him a -1), but to be honest, there was nothing he could do since he wasn't involved in the play.

Ok, gotta go to work. Be back soon!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Disney Day 4: Hollywood Studios

I'll warn you up front. This is going to be a long post. Although Hollywood Studios is the smallest of the main Disney parks, I took a LOT of photos that day plus quite a few videos. As many as you see here today, there are at least double that that didn't make the cut. One of these days, when I start updating Flickr again, I'll upload the rest of them.

One of the upsides to being a smaller park is that we actually got a chance to see almost everything at Hollywood Studios so we didn't leave wanting. I definitely wouldn't mind going back someday, especially since they have some big additions planned in the future, but of all the places we visited, Marilu and I agree that we did the Studios justice.

Before we look at our adventures at the park, I wanted to let you see Lucas's bed at the resort. We were staying at Port Orleans, which was themed in large part around the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. I'll admit I've never seen it, but I assume this alligator was one of the characters in it. Apparently, the pull-out bed was comfy since Lucas slept soundly in it every night. I'll have a few more photos of our room on the last day of the series.

You can't go to a Disney park without taking a picture on its version of Main Street. In Hollywood Studios, the backdrop is a replica of Mann's Chinese Theater.

Since we got to the park early, we decided to get in line for the Toy Story ride. This was by far my favorite line to wait in since the theme was very cool. It gave you the feeling that you were the size of a character from the film as there were plenty of super-sized toys and games to see.

After the ride (which was REALLY fun, way better than the Buzz Lightyear one at Magic Kingdom), we posed with one of the heroes from the new Cars 3 movie. I haven't seen it, but Lucas loved it. He probably even knows the name of this car--which I obviously don't.

I think Hollywood Studios is a lot more appealing to adults than some of the other parks since it highlights franchises that skew a little older like Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Below, the Deal men pose in front of a German tank from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

And here's a rare selfie in front of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Lucas was really nervous about this one, but he survived. However, he said later it was his least favorite ride. On the other hand, my dad went on it with us and enjoyed it.

I think this was taken while waiting for a photo op with Olaf, the snowman from the Frozen movie. Sometimes you just gotta let it out!

And here's the reward for waiting a half hour in line.

As I mentioned earlier, Star Wars is a big part of Hollywood Studios. The main Star Wars themed ride is Star Tours, a 3D ride. Once again, the decor while waiting in line was top notch.

Lucas and I show off our fashionable 3D glasses.

The main tie-in to Indiana Jones, besides all the wonderful props, is the stunt show. It's impossible to show how entertaining it was through photos, but this one at least shows off one of the sets. Yes, I said "one of," as they use some pretty creative engineering to change from the cave in the opening action sequence of Raiders to the streets of Cairo.

Lucas and I shred our best air guitar moves in front of the Aerosmith Rock n' Roller Coaster. I didn't know what to expect, but this turned out to be my favorite thrill ride of the entire trip. I would highly recommend it to roller coaster fans. 

Our next stop was the Star Wars area to meet some of the characters. We decided to get in the Chewbacca line first since he's one of Marilu's favorites (as evidenced in the second photo below). In case you are wondering about Lucas's partner, we met him and his mom in the line for the Aerosmith ride. The kids took a real shine to each other and ended up palling around for the next hour or so. We even got their contact info to send the photos and potentially meet up at some point in the future since they don't live too far from my mom in Massachusetts.

Earlier in the day, we signed Lucas up for a Jedi training session in the afternoon. It was a very elaborate production and made the pirate training at the Magic Kingdom pale in comparison. I have quite a bit of it on video, so much so that I've decided to save the videos for a second post, which I will put up later in the weekend. For now, enjoy a couple of photos of the experience.

I don't think this is a standard Jedi expression.

After the wild action (see the videos), the Jedi warriors pose for the camera. It's a good thing Lucas wore a shirt that lets him stand out.

Later on, I had to get in on the Star Wars action.

Never one to be outdone, Lucas posed with his new lightsaber. For those of you care about such things, he made a variation of Kylo Ren's lightsaber that still has a red main blade but the horizontal blades at the bottom are blue. So he's only 90% evil, not 100%.

We had dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Hollywood Studios. The wait was downright unbearable, and we were tempted to cancel our reservation once or twice, but once we were in there, it was worth it. As the name implies, the theme is a drive-in theater, and the tables are cars in the audience. Rather than try to explain it, I'll let the pictures do my job for me.

If you recall, on the first day of the trip, Marilu and I returned to the Magic Kingdom to watch the night time fireworks show while Lucas and my dad stayed at the resort. we enjoyed it so much that we knew we had to bring them to see it. So after dinner, we headed straight over to Magic Kingdom and experienced it again. Spoiler alert: it was just as good the second time!

Someone had a good time.

Just like the Jedi training, I have a bunch of videos of the fireworks that came out surprisingly well. However, since uploading them is going to take a while and this post is approaching my longest ever, I'm going to quit for now and put those in a follow-up post either later today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed!

Friday, September 29, 2017

More hockey news

This is going to be another hockey-related post, but I promise you, it'll be much shorter than the last one. First off, the team name. After a vote by the kids, they decided on the Coconuts. If you're scratching you're head, you're not alone. I don't get it either. The runner-up was the Wolverines, which would have been nice. On the positive side, the team of someone else we know called themselves the Pink Fluffy Unicorns. So yeah, silver linings.

Lucas's first game is on Sunday so I'll be updating shortly afterwards with results. In the meantime, Day 4 at Disney should be up by tomorrow so keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hockey News

It's that time of year again, where the weather gets cooler ( hasn't yet), and we head out to the ice rinks on weekends so Lucas can participate in hockey sortouts.

Well, to be honest, all that has happened already. Over the last two weekends. It's not that exciting talking about the sortouts when you're in the middle of them. The fun part is afterwards, when you find out what team you're on! And by "you," I mean Lucas.

A little background before the big reveal. The first day of sortouts is kind of like the NFL combine. It's a bunch of different drills--most of which are timed--that test the kids' skating, puckhandling, and other hockey skills. It can be fairly important since it determines what group level you'll be scrimmaging with in the second weekend. And once you're in a group (A, B, or C), it's hard to get out of it unless you play exceedingly well or shockingly bad.

Lucas has been hit or miss in past years, but I can say without any reservation that this was by far his best sortout. I was actually surprised at how well he performed, though when I really think about it, this is his 5th year so I guess it makes sense that he'd be pretty competent by now.

On the second day of the first weekend, they scrimmaged, and it can be a bit of a gong show since I think there are kids from all levels thrown together. Once again, Lucas had a great day though there were a couple of funny moments where he was stuck as a forward, and it's obvious he has little experience in that position. The highlight of that day was him taking the puck from his own zone, skating all the way to the other end with it, and taking a great shot that unfortunately went over the net.

The second week isn't scheduled until after the first one is complete so it takes into account skill levels a lot more than week 1. As soon as we entered the dressing room on the second Saturday, we could see that Lucas would be playing with higher-level players as most of the kids had played A the year before, and there were even a couple that had made it to the final cuts of the competitive team.

Lucas continued to bring the magic from the previous week as his defensive line played well and was the only one that didn't get scored on in a 4-2 loss. It went even better the next day as he was a +3 and once again didn't let in any goals. We didn't want to get his hopes up, but we let him know that he definitely fit in with the rest of the players.

So let's jump ahead to this morning. Marilu got an email from the wife of Lucas's coach last year. It turned out Lucas was on her husband's team, which was great since Lucas really liked him. I asked Marilu what team it was, but she didn't know. A little while later, after she had gone to work, I got a text saying that Lucas was on B6.

I knew that was a possibility, but I was disappointed since he seemed to do everything right during the sortouts. While he may not have stood out as a superstar, he also didn't stand out as a liability. He was just plain solid. I decided not to tell him at the bus stop in case he took the news poorly. That would be a crappy way to start the school day.

It turns out it's a good thing I didn't say anything, because a little while later, I received another text from Marilu. It turns out Tiffany (the coach's wife) had mixed up her sons' teams. Her older son, who is a year ahead of Lucas, was the one on B6. Lucas was on A3!

As an added bonus, when we looked at the roster later in the day, it turned out that Lucas is friends with or a past teammate of 7 of the 16 kids. So he'll definitely have a good time in the dressing room. In fact, his current best friend Parker is on the team as well.

So all in all, it's a very good start to the hockey season. Even if they lose every game--let's hope not--it should be a very fun time. And I'll keep you updated as it goes.

Talk again soon!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Disney Day 3: Epcot

As the title implies, we spent our 3rd day at Epcot. While going through my photos, I noticed we didn't have many shots of all of us together. Epcot was an exception in that we have a whopping two photos of all of us in one frame. The first one is in front of Epcot's iconic geodesic dome, which also houses the Spaceship Earth ride.

We got to Epcot early so the first thing we did was head over to Test Track, one of the more thrilling rides there. If you haven't been to Epcot, I should probably explain that it isn't really known for exciting rides so you take when you can get.

What made Test Track a truly memorable experience for us on that day is that we got stuck on it! Yep, for the first time in my life, I was on a broken down amusement park ride. It's hard to tell in the photo below, but we stopped on a turn, which was at a really high angle. I actually had to hold myself up so as not to slide into Lucas. That was a fun thing to do for the 10 minutes or so that it took them to "rescue" us.

A park employee finally came by, opened up the car, and then we walked on the track until we reached some stairs that led to the ground. We got to see "behind the scenes" a bit before being escorted out to the main area. We got another set of Fast Passes for our trouble so all was well that ended well.

One of my favorite memories as a kid of Disney World was the Imagination ride at Epcot. It wasn't particularly thrilling, but I guess I liked the music and most importantly, Figment the dragon. Below, I've got a picture of Lucas playing with the leaping water display that is just outside the Imagination ride...

...and here, I got to meet and take a picture with Figment. Yet another highlight of the day for me.

These next several photos are from our travel around the world at Epcot. Germany!

Italy! We had lunch at the yellow building in the far back. It was quite good.


Japan again!

France! Only appropriate I pose with our French speaker.

My dad and Lucas hung out by a French fountain while Marilu and I went on a spy hunt based on Perry the Platypus from the Disney show Phineas and Ferb.

An English street!

And here's Lucas waiting for the bus. The reason I included this photo is the weather. Up until that point, the weather had been pretty good. There was a light rainfall the previous day at Animal Kingdom but our ponchos (from the Dollar Store) kept us nice and dry. However, mere minutes after this photo was taken, the skies opened up. For the next several hours, it was a torrential downpour with some lovely Florida lightning thrown in for good measure.

When it first started, I told a visiting tourist from England that storms like this happen every day in Florida during the summer and that it'll probably be clear and blue skies within 45 minutes. Oh, how I was wrong on that.

Upon our return to the resort, we decided to rest our soaked bodies with a beer or two at the pub.

All in all, a pretty good 3rd day!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Disney Day 2: Animal Kingdom

Our second full day in Orlando saw us visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom. This was probably the park I was looking forward to seeing the most since, unlike Magic Kingdom and Epcot, I'd never been there. It was built sometime after the last time I visited the Disney parks in the 90s.

This photo is from near the entrance of the park. It's hard to tell from this picture, but that tree above Marilu's head is the Tree of Life, and it's really large (and really fake). According to Google, it's 145 ft tall and 50 ft wide. Much like Cinderella's castle at Magic Kingdom or the geodesic dome at Epcot, it serves as an iconic centerpiece for Animal Kingdom.

It's worth pointing out that Lucas and my dad both got several comments about their shirts: Lucas's says "Powered by Bacon" and my dad is wearing one from In-N-Out, a fantastic hamburger restaurant located primarily in California. Interestingly, there was another kid with Lucas's shirt in the park that day.

The poor choice of photo location notwithstanding (try to ignore the tree smack dab in the middle), this is "Mt. Everest." It contained the Expedition Everest rollercoaster, which was my #2 favorite ride of the trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone that likes thrill rides. We had a Fast Pass, but I almost wish we had to wait longer in line since it was really well done, providing lots of thematic things to look at and read while waiting. In case you're wondering, you'll find out about my favorite ride of the trip on Day 4.

After watching Finding Nemo - The Musical and spending some time in the Dinosaur area, we used our second Fast Pass on the Kilimanjaro Safari. We got pretty lucky as most of the animals were out and about. Here are a couple of the highlights.

Afterwards, we walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, which gave us the opportunity to see several more animals. One of my favorites were the meerkats. They were all staring at something, but no one could figure out exactly what. It was kind of creepy in a "what do they know that I don't" sense.

The gorilla below is living the perfect life. He was just lying on his back in the corner, feet up in the air, and he just did not care. Not one bit.

Marilu and I got a picture with this character whose name I have no idea. The area we were in was called Rafiki's Planet Watch so I'll go out on a limb and guess this is Rafiki?

In case you're wondering why Lucas wasn't in the photo, he was off collecting badges (stickers) for his Wilderness Explorer book. The book was something kids could pick up (for free!) near the entrance of the park, and then there were 20-30 different locations throughout the park where employees were stationed, and they would teach the kids some animal factoid, usually through some sort of fun activity. After that was complete, the kids get a sticker for their book. It's a really simple concept, but it's a fantastic idea for getting kids engaged. They learn without even realizing it. That was likely the highlight of the park for Lucas. Well, maybe Expedition Everest. He is my son, after all.

The last area we visited was the newest, Pandora, which is based on James Cameron's movie Avatar. I'm not really sure how a fictional movie ties into an animal park, but it was easily the most visually impressive area of the park so I'll let it slide.

We used our last Fast Pass on the Na'vi River Journey ride, which was a boat ride that went through a bunch of areas from Pandora, the planet in Avatar. While it was amazing visually--including the best animatronic character I've ever seen--it was a rather slow, unexciting ride. I would actually compare it to It's a Small World, but without the music and a much better theme. As a result, Lucas and I came up with a running joke where we would say, "Well, at least it's more exciting than the Na'vi river ride" after going on other slow rides or, in one case, after going over a speed bump. :)

Unfortunately, we didn't get to go on the newest ride in Pandora, Flight of Passage. Apparently, it's amazing, but because it's the newest ride at any of the Disney parks, we weren't able to get a Fast Pass for it. And the wait was ridiculous. At one point earlier in the day, the wait time was upwards of 4 hours. By the time we got there, it was still over 2 hours, and we didn't care enough to even give it a thought.

During a short break, I asked the gang how things were going. Tidbit #1: Marilu's green drink is some sort of grog from Pandora. Well, thematically anyway. In reality, I think it was Budweiser (or something similar) with green food coloring. Tidbit #2: That little kid in the stroller next to Marilu LOVED Lucas. They made faces at each other for almost the entire time we were sitting there.

After Pandora, we left for dinner. Marilu made reservations at Sanaa, an African-themed restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort, located near the park.

The main highlight of the resort is that it encloses an area with several animals such as zebras and giraffes. You can go out on a raised walkway and get pretty close to them, as seen here.

Our seats in the restaurant weren't window seats, but if you were by a window, you could see animals wander by from time to time.

I had to take the picture below since I found it funny that in the sweltering heat of central Florida, we were sitting around a fire pit before we went into the restaurant. In the background, my dad is talking to one of the employees about the employee's home country, Botswana (I think it was Botswana). Lucas wasn't the only one of us to learn something that day!

I'll close this out by showing one of the highlights of dinner. Marilu was told by several friends that we had to get the bread service. It consisted of several different types of Naan bread (the restaurant was African-themed but the food was mostly Indian cusine) and 9 different sauces. Here's the description from the menu:

"Bread - Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Accompaniments - Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chuntey, Garlic Pickle, Red Chile Sambal, or Spicy JalapeƱo-Lime Pickle"

I gotta admit, it was pretty damn good. The next time I go to an Italian restaurant and they bring me a loaf of bread and one or two dipping oils, it's going  to be a major disappointment.

We were pretty stuffed after dinner, and combining that with the fact that our feet were sore from so much walking, we decided to head back to our resort for the night. I think we swam a bit and then went to bed early, in order to prepare for the next day at Epcot.

I do want to point out that Marilu and I both agreed that Animal Kingdom was the one park that we really regretted not seeing more of. We looked at the map at the end of the vacation and realized there were several things we completely missed. There parks are just so massive that I suppose that's bound to happen. Oh well, I guess it gives us a reason to go back some day, right?