Friday, October 26, 2018

Epcot

 Something about Epcot just makes me yearn to go golfing. I wish I could put my finger on the reason why. Oh, wait. I just figured it out. It's because they have a gargantuan golf ball right up front. Yes, everyone familiar with Disney World knows about the iconic sphere at Epcot. What I didn't know is that there is actually a ride inside of it. I shouldn't be surprised, but to be honest, I really didn't have a clue that there was anything inside of it. Well, the golf ball is home to the Spaceship Earth attraction and this ride takes you from the earliest days of man, past today and speculates on what our future might be. Despite being a somewhat dated ride, Spaceship Earth is still a fun trip through history. 
 That was our introduction to Epcot. I did almost no research on our Disney World vacation. This was mostly because I wanted to be surprised as we explored the parks and Epcot was a big surprise. Similar to Hollywood Studios, Epcot didn't seem to have a lot of rides, but it didn't need to. Epcot is about exploring the far off countries of the world, all in one location. One thing you should know before you visit is that you need to bring your appetite because to really experience the world it's going to involve your taste buds. 
  Before I get to that let me tell you that Epcot was a lot better for keeping us entertained than Hollywood Studios. There were enough rides to keep it fun and interesting and plenty of things to do in between. Test Track is a must do. There you get to design your own virtual car, customizing colors, shapes and power and after you design your car you get to race it against other guests to see who comes out on top. I loved it. The problem was that it was so busy we only got one shot at it. Full disclosure, this ride is sponsored by by Chevrolet and they aren't shy about it. It's still fun, though, even if you are a Ford fan.
 We enjoyed the new Frozen Ever After Ride but I will say that if you are a larger person or long legged like myself you may want to skip this one. The boats seem to be designed for kids and it was not a comfy ride for me. It was fun, though. 
 Another fun ride was Living With the Land. This is a leisurely trip through Epcot's gardens. Here they explain how they are experimenting with new ways to grow food and how successful they are. In fact, most of the vegetables served in the parks are grown here on site. Way cool.
  Okay, the best part of Epcot to me was visiting the different lands and being able to experience a little of their architecture and culture. It's like being able to blink and be in a different country. One minute you're strolling down the streets of Mexico and the next minute you're in France buying bread. Each country is built to look just like the country that inspired it. Various shops and eateries reflect the people and their tastes and you can get pretty good insight about each culture. The hardest part is deciding which goodies you want to partake of. We tried so many that by the time we finished I think we were all uncomfortably full. We might not have even had dinner that night. 
 We closed the park that day and I think there were still a few things that we didn't get to experience. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens. You just can't fit it all in one day. And that is exactly what happened in the last park we visited, Disney's Animal Kingdom. Tune in next time to read about how Animal Kingdom is the best park of the bunch and why we spend more than one day there. Until then, get out there and enjoy the fall.

Brandan  
  

Friday, October 12, 2018

Where have you been?

 Where on Earth have you been hiding? That's the question many of you may have been asking about us. Although, likely not. However, I feel like I should give you an update on our status. So here goes.
 The last couple of months have been crazy. Misty and the kids left me in California to head home to Utah while I finished up the project I was working on, you know, the day job. They spent some time trying to get organized and moved into the new house while I did what I had to do in order to finish up so that I could go home. Between moving home and putting in our yard before someone could complain has been our biggest adventure for the last two months. We have tried to remain as active as possible but life has it's way of steering you in different directions. I have tried to stay constant on keeping up with articles, but have only been constantly failing. But a significant development has occurred over the last few weeks. I've come home.
  Yes, I have moved back to Utah with the family and my California experience has ended. Of course, there will be things that I miss about California, but I can't tell you how much I am glad to be home. This country mouse ain't cut out for the big city, y'all. I so still have a lengthy list of places to visit back there though, so I'll be back once in awhile. 
  Being home has brought back the normalcy that we've been missing for the last little bit and I can finally get back to writing our regular stories. These stories will continue to roll out once a week as they have for most of this year because I'm finally going to pull the trigger on doing more YouTube videos. These videos will be in more of a vlog style that will compliment the blog stories. It seems that I'm getting old and reading is an old person's hobby. We also feel that we can share our stories with a larger audience with entertaining videos that are around seven minutes long. At the same time, I plan to release some longer video projects as time goes on that will be a little more cinematic, but we'll see how it goes. As to the regularity of the videos, we'll see. I would like to get to once a week but for right now we may try a video every other week until we can get some type of groove going, plus, I still have a day job. These videos may be a little rough in the beginning but without practice you can't get better at anything.
 I will be finishing our Disney World stories in the next few weeks before getting into the stories about our awesome trip to South Dakota. I look forward to sharing these experiences with all of you. After all, I do this for two main reasons. The first reason is that I like to write and this gives me an outlet that is a little less formal than writing my fiction stories. The other reason is that I like to take you all to these places to help inspire you to get out and find some form of adventure and spend time with your families that isn't sitting around the television. I like to hear that we were able to show someone a place that they lived close to but had no idea that it existed. I like it when someone reads an article and decides to visit a place on their own. That is what makes blogging fun and that is why we'll keep doing it. Thanks, for sticking it out with us and we'll be back next week with a new adventure. By the way, you only have a few weeks of good weather left, so get out there and enjoy it. Unless you're a skier, then you are cheering on winter. I'm not, but I understand. Maybe I'll buy snowmobiles or something to enjoy the winters more. You never know.

Brandan

  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Theme Parks in Utah?

We love Utah.  We love theme parks.  Most of our little crew are now living in Utah fulltime while one of us spends a lot of time in airports.  Some people know this life style as their normal.  Brandan is the other half of my crazy and I miss him being there terribly.  Luckily we will be together fulltime again in time to celebrate our anniversary coming up.  Yay!

When we think about theme parks we always think about the thrills of California, the Worlds of Disney in Florida and my bucket list trip to Hershey.  Utah isn't exactly a place that ranks high on the top of that list. Today we are talking about Lagoon in Farmington Utah.

Parking is $10.  I feel like Ive paid a lot of parking fees and $10 is a pretty good deal.  Day passes are $58.95 each but we did the annual pass because we are going to go more than once for sure. The other fun thing that Lagoon has is a campground.  We have never stayed there but we have talked about it a few times.  Seriously right outside the fence!  


We got to the park about 15 minutes after gates opened and the lines were amazing.  In the first hour we were able to ride the big white Roller Coaster that is over 80 years old, Wicked with its 110 foot tower and Colossus: The Fire Dragon which I grew up riding when I was younger and it is still just as fun.  We also stopped to watch Cliffhanger but we decided we weren't ready to be sprayed with huge jets of water this early in the day.  We stopped for a treat and that ended our thrill rides for a bit.  When they say large italian ice believe them! 


We scooted over to Pioneer Village with our huge treats to explore the little town.  Pioneer Village is two streets that take you back in time to the days of early towns and dusty streets.  There are little museums scattered among the stores that are a great way to wait out a full tummy.  There is also a Swig if you love great soda.  If you don't then Im sorry.  I do love a good soda so I was regretting my earlier treat.  Swig has a drink called a Raspberry Dream.  Is Dr. Pepper with raspberry puree, coconut flavoring and coconut cream.  The description does not do it justice.    I have met people who don't love it and my heart cries for them a little bit.  








Fun fact about Pioneer Village.  There are peacocks running around.  They sneak in and out of the beautiful greenery.  Keep your eyes open for these beautiful birds.  No, really keep your eyes open.  When you have peacocks running around you can also have peacock babies.  Cute little buggers are curious and will walk close to you.  Mom and Pop peacock don't love you close to their babies and will chase you down the streets as you make an odd sound of terror for all the onlookers.  We will add that memory to one of my character building experiences in life.  Learned a life lesson that day!

Lagoon is also home to the Cannibal.  It is one of the most thrilling rollercoasters in the US on some lists.  Thats a big deal for tiny town Utah.  This ride will take you 208 feet in the air inside a dark tower.  When you finally see the light of day you immediately plunge into a beyond vertical 116 degree free fall into a tunnel.  It also has a 140 foot tall inverted loop, but what is that compared to this drop.  You will go 70 miles per hour for 2,735 feet and three inversions but we didn't.  We chose to take the freeway home because the lines were getting long and we can come back when ever we want since we have the magic annual passes. 

We are definitely coming back to ride the Cannibal and while we are there we will see Frightmares.  Lagoon adds haunted houses to its already awesome lineup and thrills you all in the spirit of Halloween.  We tried this when the kiddos were little.  It wasn't going to happen then but this time we will scare them like all teens should be scared! We are so looking forward to fall.  

If you don't have teens you want to scare but littles instead then you can check out their kid land.  Cute rides everywhere built more for your little adventurers.  
I have great memories of riding Puff the Magic Dragon over and over again.  Sorry Mom and Dad.  I didn't know it wasn't as amazing for you too.  

Jeremy loved the toilet pedestal.  If you need to go to the bathroom look for this little beauty.  It is the sign leading you to the restrooms.  Sometimes its the little things that bring you joy people.  Lagoon also has a water park in the center to get you through those hot summer days, but I think we are past that point of the year now.  Bring on apple cider, haunted houses and pumpkin everything. 

Lagoon is not the huge corporation that Disney is.  Lagoon is not filled with characters walking the streets.  Lagoon is not on the worlds map of places that everyone needs to see.  That is all part of its magic.  Its peaceful little Utah.  Can I tell you how much I loved all the teen employees taking the time to say hello and how are you every time we made eye contact?  I really missed that when we did the Cali adventure.  You can't quite put it in words but you can feel it in the air.  When you are at Lagoon you are part of a family.  Maybe not crazy Aunt Jojo type family, but you are part of something.  Utah is a special place where you can talk to strangers like you have known them your whole life and its not a weird or creepy thing.  Keep that up Utah!  I love that about you!  If you want to see what I mean, travel down to Farmington Utah where you can visit Lagoon.   Let us know when you are going.  We will meet you there and buy you a Swig.  

Love ya, 
Misty.














Friday, September 7, 2018

Another Happy Place Part 2

 Last time I reviewed our trip to Disney's Magic Kingdom while on a week long vacation to Florida. As promised, I'm going to pick up on that trip at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Best tip I can tell you here is that you can get a fastpass for the rides online before you come (30 days for us regular folks or 60 I think if you stay on property).  Do it.  Lines are tough in this heat and humidity.  You can actually do three passes per day of your pass.  When your three prebooked passes are used up you can get a new fastpass like normal.  The catch is that if you book a late show you will not get to get a new fastpass until it is used.  Also if its a popular ride plan on the passes going fast.  

 Now, I'm going to remind you that Disney World is broken up into different lands, each one with a different theme and their own individual attractions to entice people to visit. Each land has their own entry fee and parking lot, another fee, by the way. I was sure that Hollywood Studios would be one of my favorite places in Disney World, it is home to the Tower of Terror, after all. So was it everything I imagined? Well...

  The Tower of Terror was great. It was the first thing we did upon arrival. I loved to see that old Hollywood era theme of the ride again. I was devastated when Disneyland remodeled their tower into the Guardian's Of The Galaxy but that's another story. Disney World's tower was different, though. This one doesn't just take you to the top and drop you, no. This one moves through a strange, Twilight Zone themed corridor before being locked into the elevator shaft. This added element brought just a little more depth to the story being told on this ride that I really enjoyed. Of course, the feeling of butterflies swimming in your stomach by being dropped on a crazy elevator is what keeps people coming back time after time and as always, was worth the forty five minute wait. There is no doubt that the Tower of Terror is the highlight of Hollywood Studios.

 We moved on to check out Rock'n Rollercoaster featuring Aerosmith. This was a ride that most everyone in our group was looking forward to. It's a ride that you hear about. It's a ride that people say you have to do. It's a ride that...sucks. Now, before you get angry with me, let me explain. The music is great. I love Aerosmith. The speed, much like the music is top notch and I love it but my complaint is the decor. With the exception of a brief moment when the coaster travels outside, the ride is basically a dark tunnel that is supposed to be the streets of Los Angeles, you know that because all you see is big green replicas of street signs of significant streets in L.A. To make matters worse, this ride is to my knowledge, the biggest offender of the use of neon paint that I have ever seen. That's it. That's all there is on this ride. It's a very fast trip through neon Los Angeles. I couldn't believe that people were standing in line for an hour and a half to ride it. No thanks.

  I wish I could say that our visit to Hollywood Studios improved but it didn't. We tried twice to get into the Indiana Jones stunt show but we didn't get in. We probably could have if we had tried harder but the place was packed and we just didn't find it worth our time to wait, especially after finding out that we had already rode all the rides in the land. Yeah, Hollywood Studios is all about the live shows. If you're not into those, it's going to be a short day, which it was for us. We went back to our rental house and kicked it by the pool after wandering around. We saw a few things but over all we just weren't thrilled with being there. Star Tours is always worth the ride but it wasn't any different from Disneyland. The oversized AT-AT was cool to see, I must admit.

  Now I wouldn't want to leave you on a sour note so I'm going to tell you about one place that I think is a must see when visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios. In fact, I think it ranks right up there with the Tower Of Terror. That place is the 50's Prime Time Cafe. Here you are in the 1950's, complete with meatloaf and all the classic sitcoms you can handle. This is Momma's kitchen and your waiter or waitress will not let you forget it. Here you had better use the words "please" and "thank you" when you're supposed to if you want to avoid being reprimanded, oh and don't you dare put your elbows on the table. This restaurant is a hoot and an experience that shouldn't be missed. By the way, the food is pretty good too.

  So, there you have it. This was my opinion of Hollywood Studios. I won't say that my opinion is shared by everyone else in the group, but they don't write articles on my blog, so there. It's really up to each family to make up their mind on wither they like a place or not and if you're going to make a trip all the way to Disney World, you definitely need to visit at least once. Just make sure you eat at Momma's. 

 Next time I'll bring it back to a happier tone when we visit Epcot. Here we got to see the entire world without leaving Disney World. See you next time and thanks for stopping in.

(Add by Misty)-  We did get to see Muppet Vision 3D while we were there.  It was a fun flash back to when we would go see this show in Disney California Adventures.  Brandan always relates to the two grumpy old men in the balcony so much.  Hollywood Studios was not a bad day.  It was a hot and humid day.  And really if you compared the parks, this one just wasn't as awesome as the others.  Not a waste of time, see it once, but then spend more time at the Animal Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom.  

Brandan.   

Friday, August 3, 2018

Another Happy Place Part 1

 It wouldn't take someone very long to browse through our blog and figure out that our family has a love affair with theme parks. In particular, we are drawn to the "mouse house" more often than I would like to admit. I think the family is going to miss having the ability to visit the theme parks at will as they have become accustomed to over the last two and a half years, but, them's the breaks. 
Yes, the theme parks have helped us pass the time as we've been here in California and I'm sure there is no longer a nook or a cranny that we have not traversed in them. So what do you do when you've seen it all? You head to the east coast to compare their parks to ours. 
 My brother and his wife are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year and they requested the entire family head out to Disney World to party with them which is exactly what we did.
 We've talked about visiting Disney World since Misty and I married nineteen years ago. However, a lot of factors kept us from going. For one, I didn't want to spend the money to travel all the way to Florida for something that I could see in California, a much closer trip from Utah. Second, I wanted the kids to remember the trip because I didn't plan on going a second time (yes, I'm a little bit of a stinker.) 
 This trip would be different. It wasn't a trip for me or my family. It was for my brother and all of the family. Because of this, we decided that the time was right to go. The kids are old enough to remember the trip and I will always cry about giving Disney my money (dag nab you, Mickey!)
 We had a full week in Florida and our main objective was to see as much of the Disney Parks as possible and we had to make a trip to Universal Studios since we were in the area. I really wanted to take a day to visit Daytona International Speedway, something I've always wanted to see being a car guy and race fan but it was not to be this time. Now I will have to go back, ugh!
  Now, in California there are two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure. Each are their own park and require their own tickets or a park hopper to enter. Disney World is much the same except that there are multiple parks to visit, with each one requiring a ticket purchase to enter. Like we do with Disneyland, we chose to buy a park hopper ticket that would allow us to enter any park, as often as we wanted, during our trip. At the same time, we planned to only spend time in one park per day and our first day we chose to visit Magic Kingdom.

The Haunted Mansion
 Magic Kingdom is basically Disneyland. This is where you will find the classic rides that you know and love like, Pirates Of The Caribbean, It's a Small World and Splash Mountain. Of course, each ride has the classic feel but they have changed the scenery just enough to let you know that you are in a different park. The Haunted Mansion is a large brick building rather than the plantation style mansion Disneyland and there are notable differences as soon as you take off in your "doom buggy." Pirates is a little bit shorter and the waterfall drops are a lot shorter than Disneyland's version which, to me, was a bit of a let down. I wanted this park's version to be bigger and better and I don't think this ride delivered. 
Liberty Square
 Magic Kingdom does have one big difference that I enjoyed thoroughly and that was Liberty Square. Here is where you will find a colonial town that has a replica of the Liberty Bell, a beautiful American flag and the Hall of Presidents. Walking through this land, you get the feeling that Ben Franklin or George Washington could walk around any corner and greet you. Speaking of George Washington, you can see his likeness and all of the other U.S. Presidents come to life in the Hall of Presidents. Much like Disneyland's Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, incredibly detailed and life like animatronics bring back historical figures to be honored like nowhere else. A large curved screen highlights some of America's greatest and darkest moments in our history. It's a great presentation that we visited twice during the trip. Plus, it's a nice place to beat the heat or run from the rain as necessary.
The Hall Of Presidents
 A great thing about Magic Kingdom is the elbow room. Let's face it, Disneyland is overcrowded. It wasn't that long ago that you could visit the park in the off season and stand in a line no longer than twenty minutes. Now, there is no such thing as an off season. It's packed every day of the week and the narrow streets and paths are filled with strollers with Mickey ear balloons tied to the handles, aged couples squinting at the park map doing their best to ignore their screaming grand children and massive groups of foreign visitors marching through the crowd with no understanding of American's personal space. In Disney World you still have those same people, but Disney had the room and the forethought to make their streets nice and wide. This gives you the impression that the park isn't as busy as it really is. Make no mistake, the lines are going to be long, but you will be able to get where you want to go without much trouble. 

 So what did I think about the Magic Kingdom? It was a nice change of pace. Like I mentioned, there are enough differences between the parks that it kept me busy spotting them. I like the wide open spaces and the differences in the classic rides between the two parks made me feel like I was seeing something new despite the fact that I wasn't. Having said that, I prefer Disneyland. Maybe it's the nostalgic part of me, I'm not sure. I am a little old fashioned but to me, you can't beat the classics. I'll leave it up to you to decided which is better, though.
 Next time we will be hitting Disney's Hollywood Studios, one of the many parks at Disney World. See you then. 

Brandan
  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Boxes, Boxes and More Boxes

 It's official. I have decided that I really hate moving. Sure, I'm excited to be going home soon, but boxing up all of my stuff to make the move really sucks. I'm sure I said the same thing a couple of years ago when I packed up my home in two weeks to head out to California for work. Whew! That was really rough. I thought it would be easier this time around. We had an idea of when we were going to move and sixty days ago we committed to moving out of our rental by the end of July. That was plenty of time to get ready, right? Ugh!
  Well, Misty and Faith went to girl's camp for five days back in June which left Jeremy and I to work on packing. We made a little progress, but looking back, I think we spent too much time playing video games. 
  After girl's camp, we all took a week off to go to South Dakota for a family trip. While this wasn't the most well timed vacation, it was still a great time. I'll tell you more about that in the coming weeks. Needless to say, nothing got done that week either. Upon arriving in Salt Lake from South Dakota, I promptly hopped on a plane and headed back to California, alone.  Faith had requested to go to girl's camp in Salt Lake as well as the California one so Misty and the kid's remained behind leaving me once again to pack the house all by me onesie. I did okay, but I think I could have done better. Of course on top of this, work has predictably been crazy leaving me stressed, drained of energy and not really in the mood to box up my life. Yeah, I know. Boo, hoo.
  Fast forward to today, we're about seventy percent packed and just a few days left before we need to load up the truck and get our stuff back to Utah. Sadly, I will be working all weekend at my job, leaving the bulk of the packing to Misty and the kids. That's nice of me, huh? Maybe even convenient. Rest assured, I'd rather be packing.
  Even though the act of moving is a terrible experience, I'm super excited to be moving home. Yeah, I just wrote super excited. I must be losing it. But I am excited. All of the Rowley clan is excited to be coming home. You see, my brother and his wife have been living in Chicago for almost three years and they recently announced that they area coming home as well. They are actually coming home the same weekend that we are. Isn't that funny? It's like the universe wants us to be home. Well, I'm not one to argue with the universe.
  I'll still have a few weeks here in California after moving our stuff home but at least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've had a lot of fun here and there will definitely be things I miss about it but man, it's time to go home! Tune in next week to see what's happening next. Hopefully the next post won't be about me scattering boxes from California to Utah. Although, that might make a good story.

Brandan

Friday, July 13, 2018

U.S.S. Iowa

 I love to see the American flag wave. I love to sing along, the Star Spangled Banner, each time I hear it's patriotic melody ringing in my ears. I love my country and will forever be grateful for the men and women that have served in our armed forces to defend our freedoms and our beliefs. My unwavering respect for those that gave their lives fighting for our country is something that I feel must be passed on to our children. That is why this year for Memorial Day we visited the U.S.S. Iowa in Los Angeles. 
  Like many places across the country on that day, the Iowa hosted a wreath ceremony and a moment of quiet reflection for those that made the ultimate sacrifice. My kids understood that it was important to me that they were here and listened to the words that were said, but I don't know if they really understand the "why" just yet. Well, they are teenagers, I think they understand, but it will take time for it to really sink in as deeply as it has in me. That's okay with me, as long as in the end they get it.
 Here's a trivia question for you. Ready? What item does the U.S.S. Iowa have on board that no other United States' war ship have on board?
 Before I answer that question let me tell you that the U.S.S. Iowa is known as the "Battleship of Presidents." It has hosted more U.S. Presidents (3) than any other battleship. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush visited while she was on duty, but during World War II she carried then President Franklin D. Roosevelt to meet Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in Tehran for their first meeting to strategize how to take down Hitler and Nazi Germany.
 Due to the lengthy trip and the President's disability, a tub was installed for him to use while on board. To this day it is the only Naval vessel with a tub. Boom. Trivia question answered.
 It's easy to get lost in the aura of these Naval ships and their history, but what you really need to stop and think about while touring one of these behemoths is that this was home to thousands of sailors. The narrow maze of corridors throughout the ship left just enough room for two people to squeeze past each other, but only if they turned sideways. People of my height, over 6' would have to duck every time they passed through a door and would have to keep an eye out for low pipes and ductwork just about everywhere except on the deck. I would not have done well living on this ship.
 Yeah, this thing is cramped but I loved the crawl through it. Our brothers and sisters that serve our country sacrifice so much for our freedom and to see the conditions and the tools they used back then to make sure we continued to have these freedoms is an honor. It gives perspective to what it takes to live on a floating city.
  We spent almost three hours ascending and descending steep ship ladders, stared in awe at the size of the big guns (my favorite,) and took plenty of photos to keep as memories. We walked the same halls that FDR traversed as he worried and strategized how to help save the world. It's truly amazing that we still have such an important piece of history here for our kids to see and although my family likely wanted to do something else, though there were no complaints, I'm very excited to have experienced the Iowa with them. 
There is also an exhibit dedicated to 47 sailors that lost their lives aboard Iowa when gun turret #2 exploded on April 19, 1989. The cause of the explosion was disputed, in fact after a lengthy investigation the official cause was listed as inconclusive, likely due to differing opinions of the Navy and the General Accounting Office's conclusions of the cause. Either way, it is a major part of the history of the ship and the items on display here are humbling.
If you want to experience the U.S.S. Iowa it is located in the L.A. Harbor and the cost to tour start at $20 for ages 12 to 61 but you can save a few dollars by pre-purchasing tickets online. You can also get a package deal that gets you on to Iowa and the Queen Mary if you're interested in seeing them both during your vacation. If you want to learn more, check out their site here.
  Sorry about the long time between posts lately. Things are starting to get crazy with big changes happening in our life right now. We aren't going anywhere, though. We still have a lot of stories coming for you so thanks for your patience. Until next week, folks. Have a good weekend and get out and find some adventure.

Brandan