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6 AM. The alarm buzzer rang truculently. Or rather, I would have preferred a buzzer. I would have preferred a chainsaw orchestra to be honest. Here’s what I got instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhR46UL6GTU&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Don’t you feel all giddy inside? Try it in the morning, it makes you want to put your face through a wall.
We had wanted to get to the parks early. Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure has this new section called Harry Potter World, emulating the rich literary vision of master author J.K. Rowling. The centerpiece of this addendum is the Harry Potter Ride, which was notorious for multi-hour queue lines. We were getting up at this obscene time to aid Harry and his friends in his battle against the evil forces threatening Hogwarts.
Deep down, I hoped Voldemort would win.
When we arrived, I immediately regret my disloyalty to Empress Queen Rowling. After a brisk sprint through the inferior sections of the park (I say inferior because I mean it) we arrived at the gates of Hogsmeade. The crooked rooftops covered with glistening snow, overlooked by the towering buttressed walls of Hogwarts made us feel completely immersed in a universe filled with magic and wonder. Every detail was precisely as it had been in the books and movies. The 3 Broomsticks Inn serving authentic English Breakfast, Honeyduke’s selling every flavour beans and chocolate toads complete with collectible wizard cards, carts carrying barrels upon barrels of Butterbeer, Zonkos, Olivander’s, the Hogwarts Express, it was all there.
And the ride. I can safely say that it was the single most unique way that I’ve ever been shaken around like a ragdoll, and that is quite a claim. The line itself was a veritable adventure, taking us through scenes from Hogwarts: the greenhouse, halls filled with talking portraits, Dumbledore’s Office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and so much more that I couldn’t even soak it in. As a Potterhead, I was pleased.
Naturally, everything else in the park sucked in comparison.
My brother, as much as I love him, decided that it would be a great idea to get as wet as physically possible as early in the day as possible. This would allow us to maximize our potential discomfort for the rest of the day. At least, that was what I assumed he intended. Popeye’s Barge of Let’s Get Soaked Down to the Marrow and Dudley Do-Right’s Log Flume of Doom made sure of that. We thought at least we could dry off on the Hulk, a massively tall LIM launch coaster careening down its tracks at blazing speeds. Sadly, it started raining right as we got on and my face got sandblasted by raindrops at 70+ mph. So yeah, I got a bit wet.
We spent the rest of the day in the park, soaked through but all smiles, riding as many rides as we possibly could before the park closed. This included, but was not limited to, the new Despicable Me themed ride, the Transformers motion simulator, and a live show staring none other than the 5 time Grammy Award winning American pop idol, Barney the Dinosaur. Pleasantly tuckered out, we headed back to our hotel, crawled into bed and drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow would be a big driving day. 10 hours until the next stop, New Orleans.
I realized that this trip had devolved into a perpetual search for Starbucks.
Literally moments after leaving our hotel in a whirlwind rush of packing bags and loading the car, we made a beeline for the closest franchise we could find. As I sat in the back seat letting the caffeine course through my veins, livening my deadened nerves and quickening my senses, I thought about what lay ahead of us. Today we would see the end of the Florida Turnpike, a huge (if only symbolic) milestone in our journey. We’d finally be out of Florida, seeing the rest of the country in its vast beauty. Drinking down the last drops of that Colombian black magic, I mentally steeled myself for the monotony that was to come. 10 hours of open road.
Though fighting it as best I could, within the hour I had slipped into an altered state of consciousness due to sheer boredom. The cyclic vibrations of the car, the dull hum of the motor harmonizing with the road noise, the persistent wooshing of air, it was nothing short of hypnotic. I must have left my laptop open because when I snapped out of it, I found a garbled mess of almost incoherent commentary under my last entry. Here are just some of the notes I took while under the influence:
Wait, Florida has hills?!
Okahumpka Service Plaza. I swear.
Floridians fetishize oranges. Like really, every third billboard is an ad filled with oranges lying about in seductive positions, staring at you lewdly and provocatively, just begging you to dig into their fresh, citrusy flesh. God, I need to get off this road.
Another Starbucks. My kidneys say no, but my heart says yes.
My mom must have a small tap dancer standing on her bladder. These stops are just frustrating at this point.
I Believe in Angels by ABBA has been on repeat for the last 20 minutes and no one else has noticed.
Trees are like really big pencils. But without lead.
This went on for quite a while. Shuddering at the inner machinations of my subconscious, I decided to focus on the road instead. At this point the pro-life billboards were met with opposition by pro-choice ones. They depicted several distraught women staring pensively off into the distance. Boldface words said “Pregnant? You have options.” Presumably they advertised a hotline designed to offer young women an alternative to the fundamentalist, oppressive, and all together no good Christians’ viewpoint. Shame on you Christians, shame. Look at the poor, distraught but reasonably attractive women. Almost in response, the pro-life billboards became more and more militant. “18 days after conception… Heartbeat!” in bold, red letters. Take that, liberal heathens. I wished I had popcorn, this was getting good.
And then all of a sudden, it appeared on the horizon: Alabama in all its splendor. We all felt shivers of excitement, and it had nothing to do with the fact that we were all “mexicans” up here. The next few hours were a scenic drive skirting the Gulf of Mexico, covering forests and marshlands and wilderness. And that was only Mobile.
After crossing two more state borders, we found ourselves making our way into Louisiana. And then there it was: the Mecca of poor decision making, a veritable pilgrimage site for booze, sex and regret. Welcome to New Orleans.
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