Photos from Girls’ Day at Universal Studios

On Wednesday evening my daughter, Ashley, who’s visiting from Illinois, and I decided we’d drive to Orlando. Studly Doright had suggested we go to one of the theme parks, offering to give us his hotel points if we wanted to spend the night. We were as giddy as little kids, and promptly made plans to visit Universal Studios.

We drove over on Thursday and went to Universal City Walk for an early dinner and a movie (Aladdin!) after checking into the Doubletree hotel. We didn’t stay out too late, though, because we planned to be at the park when it opened on Friday morning.

We arrived at Universal by eight a.m., along with those who had early admission because they were staying on property. To our surprise and delight we were waved through by one of the workers and were allowed to board the Escape from Gringott’s ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter along with the early admission crowd.

We rode every ride we wanted to, and one of those twice, never waiting in line for a ride more than 20 minutes, thanks to good timing and express line tickets. It was a magical day.

Above, we posed outside of Hogwarts.

Those critters above are from the Men in Black ride.

Ashley, below, wore her protective goggles with style and grace.

Below, the dragon surprised Ashley by beaching flames into the sky. It was intense.

We had fun in Toon Town:

After we posed for the two photos above we rode a couple of rides that left us soaking wet. My only regret for the whole day is that I didn’t think to take photos of us looking like a couple of drowned rats. After we left the park we had to stop at a turnpike oasis and change clothes. My tennis shoes are still wet 24 hours after the adventure.

We’re back at Doright Manor now, recuperating from the trip. Exhausted, yet happy.

Peace, people!

Universal Happiness

Our oldest grandson and I spent a day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando last Wednesday. A single day to do both parks justice didn’t seem feasible, but we made it work by purchasing express pass tickets and hitting all the rides we knew we wanted to ride.

The day began with rain! Such a bummer! But we got in the express pass line for the Minions ride and got out of the weather quickly. It wasn’t one of our “must” rides, but it served the purpose of keeping us dry and warm. The same was true for the Jimmy Kimmel ride. They were both fun, but not really what grandson Garrett was looking forward to on his first visit to Universal.

The rain slacked off somewhat, but the day was much colder than we’d expected. We stopped in a shop and I bought a hooded sweatshirt and we both got lanyards to keep our tickets and passes safe from the elements before heading into Diagon Alley.

Here’s Garrett outside the unassuming entrance to the magical world of Harry Potter:

Much to his embarrassment I asked complete strangers to take a photo of us in the middle of Diagon Alley. I told him he was going to get used to me being an extrovert. I’m not sure he ever embraced it, though.

He sort of thinks I’m nuts. He’s not wrong.

We stopped into Gringotts,

and we rode the Hogwarts Express:

We drank butterbeer once we arrived at Hogsmeade:

We rode spectacularly produced rides in the World of Harry Potter. They’re such a great mix of roller coaster action and film that reality gets all contorted by fantasy and you feel you really are dashing about a Quidditch field or escaping from Gringotts. One’s senses are confused and delighted in so many ways. I giggled and screamed in the same breath.

Hogwarts Castle was an amazing sight.

We ventured to many other parts of Universal and Islands of Adventure, taking on mummies and assisting Spiderman, but The Magical World of Harry Potter was the highlight.

Garrett and I had a blast. Okay, I had a blast, and I’m fairly sure he did–he’s not quite as extroverted as I am. (Note the Slytherin hat.)

Peace, people!

Postcards from the Hedge

The grandkids are safely home in Illinois after spending a week with Studly and me here in Florida. Our time together was much too short, and now Doright Manor is quiet again.

I’m kind of exhausted after spending a full day with grandson, Garrett, at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on Wednesday and then getting up at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday to get them to the airport on time. I’m taking the lazy way out and just posting photos of our week with the kids.

Harper liked wearing Poppa’s reading glasses while intoning the phrase, “I’m a little old lady.”

McKayla, above settles into the Texas bedroom.

We went to a showing of Captain Marvel:

And talked about upcoming movies

Garrett chopped down a tree so that we could relocate the fairy house displaced by Hurricane Michael.

McKayla and Harper made the fairy house a welcoming place once again.

We played several games of Risk. I didn’t win even once. It seems that I’m lousy at games involving strategic thinking.

McKayla piloted the riding lawn mower around the yard, collecting fallen limbs and other forest detritus, including her sister.

We enjoyed a beach day at St. George Island:

Well, some of us enjoyed it. Studly and Garrett just tolerated the beach.

The girls had our nails done:

On Wednesday we packed up and left Doright Manor for Orlando. While there we took a tour of Full Sail University so our tech minded grandson could satisfy his curiosity. He was impressed, and now has some work ahead of him in his last two and a quarter years of high school.

The kids swam at the hotel pool in Orlando while I acted as lifeguard.

On Wednesday the girls and Poppa Studly spent the day at Sea World, so I have no photos of that. I heard plenty of stories of fun and silliness, though. Harper even coerced her Poppa into riding a roller coaster. He says it was the last one he’ll ever ride. We’ll see about that.

The girls did get tattoos at Sea World, but I only got a photo of Harper’s when we were back in our hotel room. Garrett and I spent our day at Universal Studios, and I’ll share those pics tomorrow. I know, I know, you’re all on pins and needles to see them. 😂

Peace, people!

Isn’t it Romantic

(Note: For some reason my post formatted incorrectly. I tried fixing it, to no avail. My apologies and my thanks to those of you who persevere long enough to read the whole thing.)

In movie talk a “meet cute” describes an amusing or charming first encounter between two characters that leads to the development of a romantic relationship between them.

My own Studly Doright and I had something of a meet cute when we were teenagers. I was the new girl in town, he worked for my dad at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. I asked him where the ketchup was, he pointed at the row right in front of us. I felt sheepish, he was intrigued (heaven only knows why) and pursued me all summer. Our paths crossed again when we had the same P.E. period at Dumas high school, and we’ve been nearly inseparable ever since. That was 42.5 years ago.

Now, what would one call an encounter that is charming, but goes no further than that first encounter? Technically it’s still cute, and it’s still a meeting, but if it doesn’t lead to anything more can it be deemed a “meet cute”? Or is it merely a flirtation?

Once, over a decade ago, Studly and I lived in Melbourne, Florida. I taught math and science to fifth graders at a small neighborhood school, and became good friends with the three other fifth grade teachers. One Friday evening the four of us went to the Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios in Orlando to see Hootie and the Blowfish in concert.

Prior to the concert there was a parade with all the fun of a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. There were marching jazz musicians and krewes manning floats. Beads were thrown willy nilly, but female recipients didn’t have to bare their knockers to earn the shiny baubles. In fact, seeing as Universal Studios is a family friendly venue, baring a breast probably would’ve gotten one evicted from the park. I certainly wasn’t going to be a test case.

My friends and I eagerly caught beads that came our way, and I made sure any children in our vicinity were the final recipients of any I snagged. So engrossed was I in this activity that I accidentally bumped into an attractive, well dressed man who was also watching the parade. I apologized and went on obliviously about my bead catching.

“Hey,” the man said. “Why aren’t you keeping any beads?”

I barely looked at him, saying, “Don’t you know the fun is in the catching?”

No more than a minute passed before I felt a tap on my shoulder. The man held up an ornately decorated set of beads, smiled, and handed them to me.

“You’re right,” he said, winking. “The fun is in the catching.”

I’m sure I blushed bright red, but I grinned and thanked him before quickly locating my friends and rejoining them. If I’d been single maybe that could’ve been a meet cute. As it was it was just an innocent flirtation.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I gave those beads away, too, but not until later in the evening when Hootie and the Blowfish were singing, “Only Wanna be With You.” Studly Doright is my only meet cute.

Peace, people!

Let’s wrap this up with “Only Wanna Be With You,” by Hootie and the Blowfish.

https://youtu.be/pV7XND2YCdg

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Studly Doright and I left Doright Manor early Friday morning to enjoy a night at Universal Studios in Orlando. But, after months of waiting for our Halloween Horror Nights adventure it appeared that we might have to contend with a few little inconveniences such as thunderstorms and tornadoes.

The skies in Tallahassee were a dreary gray, and we hadn’t driven five miles before the clouds opened up and made driving hazardous. I’d been checking my Weather Channel app for the past week, and thought that our weather would clear up as we turned south. Nope. If anything it had gotten worse.

Surprisingly the drive down went smoothly. Most drivers on the busy interstate were mindful of the rain slicked roads, and we made it to our hotel way before check in time. When we’d booked this trip I told Studly I wanted to stay on property at Universal, so we could stay out a little later, take a shuttle bus back to our hotel, and not have to worry about driving to an off property hotel in case we’d indulged in a drink or two. Or in my case, three.

I picked the newest Universal hotel, the Aventura. Picture a scene from the Jetsons and you’ll have a good idea of the Aventura’s accoutrements.

The following are their websites’s photos, but our room looked exactly like the one pictured below. Studly wanted to know why the woman pictured wasn’t part of the deal:

All afternoon we watched the storms fume around us. At least twice we received warnings on our phones to take immediate shelter. And there we were in a huge building of chrome and glass, sitting ducks for a tornado. When we left to take the shuttle to the theme park, the palm trees were swaying deliriously and rain was blowing sideways. It was not an auspicious start to the evening.

We had plans to meet a couple I hadn’t seen in years for dinner at Cowfish in the City Walk section of Universal, so we dashed through the rain, taking shelter under any canopies we could find. I’d brought along my rain coat and Studly had on a hooded sweatshirt, so neither of us was terribly drenched when we reached the restaurant.

Dinner was terrific, and we enjoyed playing catch up with Paul and Amy over good wine and burgers. That, however, was not the night’s focus, and soon we were ready to explore as many of the ten haunted houses as we could jam into seven hours. Now if only the weather would cooperate.

Miracle of miracles, the rain tapered off, and I never needed my rain jacket after dinner. There were some sprinkles every now and then, but the night was about as pleasant as anyone could ask for. I’ll shut up now and share a few photos that I took with my trusty iPhone. We only made it to seven of the houses, but I screamed myself hoarse after the third one. And today, oh, do my knees and hips hurt! I’d go again tonight, though, given the chance. Studly, not so much.

Below, Paul, Amy, me, and Studly:

During HHN, Mel’s Drive-In from American Graffiti becomes Mel’s Die-In.

Around every corner there’s something to frighten or delight the unwary visitor.

Before we left the park we stopped for a snack at Voodoo Donuts. I was tempted to buy the t-shirt, but really, does a woman my age really need a shirt that says, “VOODOO DONUTS, The Magic is in the Hole?” I don’t think so. Still, I was tempted.

Above and below are photos of the donut carousel. It’s a rotating 3-D menu of sorts that had me jonesing for a sweet when I had no idea I really even wanted one. Clever.

Now to recover!

Peace, people!

Is 62 Too Old for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights? Asking for a Friend

For Mother’s Day, or our anniversary, or some other holiday Studly Doright bought us tickets for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando. He knew that would thrill me more than just about anything else. Even at 62 I still enjoy such foolishness, and I hope to enjoy it for many years to come.

Tonight (Friday) will be our fourth trip to HHN, and each time has been a hoot. Think of the scariest, most elaborate haunted house you’ve ever experienced, multiply it by ten and add another 50 on top of that, and you’ll get an idea of how incredible Halloween Horror Nights is. The makeup, the costumes, the vignettes–all are based on movies or television shows and are incredibly realistic and spooky as hell.

Tough guy Studly gets every bit as scared as I do. And if there are fake snakes involved, he really freaks out, and I get to be his protector.

Hopefully I’ll have some photos for the blog tomorrow. If we survive, that is.

Peace, people.

Souvenirs from Universal Studios, Orlando

Studly Doright and I were in Orlando, Florida, on Monday and Tuesday this week, prior to flying to Shannon, Ireland, on Wednesday. He had meetings to attend, while I had some time on my hands. Monday I treated myself with a trip to one of the outlet malls, but on Tuesday I decided it was high time I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. 


I walked all the way back to where the map indicated Harry Potter’s world would be. I saw the bus, and I  took a selfie in front of #12 Privet Drive, but I was confused. Where was Diagon Alley? I walked all the way around the area, but was stymied. Was this all there was? 

I’m such a Muggle, but on a hunch I walked through a nondescript opening in an unmarked brick wall, and voila! 


Diagon Alley! Honest, one can’t see this opening from the area where the triple decker knight bus and Privet Drive are, even though they’re just a few feet away. How wonderfully magical to be forced to stumble onto it! 





Butter beer is pretty damned tasty; although, there’s no actual beer in it. Drat. 


I ogled the newest Firebolt model:


By far the longest line in Diagon Alley was formed outside the wand store. I spoke with a little girl who was still giddy that the wand she purchased had chosen her. I was tempted to join the queue, but I’ll wait until I can bring my grandkids. And a wand in my hands might not be a good idea. I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good. 

So, what were my souvenirs? 

A pair of scraped palms, and a skinned knee.


I fell, having failed to realize that the curb was about five inches higher than my bifocal lenses led me to believe. Fortunately a couple of young men rushed to my aid, and helped me to my feet. The part that’s the most injured is my pride. It could’ve been much worse, so I’ll take my lumps as a renewed call for caution. 

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Studly Doright, the love of my life, is a bit of a horse trader. He doesn’t trade actual horses (dear Studly harbors an unnatural fear of farm animals, large and small); instead, he trades cars, trucks, motorcycles, basically anything that is motorized transportation.

On Tuesday he informed me that he’d bought a pickup truck. I nodded and smiled. “And, by the way,” he said casually, “We have to pick it up on Wednesday.”

Again, I nodded, like the dullard I must be.

Studly cleared his throat and I looked at him expectantly. “Um, it’s in Orlando….”

Normally a proposed trip to Orlando would have me jumping up and down like a small child. Universal Studios, DisneyWorld, tacky souvenirs, oh joy! But on the day before we are to host a Thanksgiving meal in our home? Nooooooooooo! For one thing  I knew there’d be no dawdling. We’d drive four hours south, in holiday traffic mind you, then turn around and drive four hours back to Doright Manor. But I had no choice. Studly can be an awful bully, I mean, awfully persuasive. 

The trip down was enjoyable. In addition to his gifts in persuasion Studly is always entertaining. Once again we drove right by the Cafe Risqué, Florida’s all nude cafe, even though we have a series of running jokes about what’s on the menu. Trust me, you don’t want to know the jokes. 

Traffic was interesting. One seriously aggressive driver came lane surfing around us, easily going 20 m.p.h. above our rather sedate 75. (Speed limit was 70.) As we neared Orlando we passed her after she’d hit another car. I’d have cheered, but she ruined someone else’s weekend. 

Once we arrived at the car dealership Studly took a test drive while I stretched my legs and looked at cars. The dealership had a gorgeous red BMW convertible that could’ve come home with me if I had just a few more (thousand) dollars in my bank account. After he returned, smiling like an idiot, Studly told me I could start for home while he finished making the deal.

I’ve officially been home now for an hour, and put together another pecan pie that should be done in 10-15 minutes. Studly got caught in a holiday traffic jam on the turnpike. I’m enjoying a Shiner Bock and the Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Studly is probably cursing at rude drivers. Who knows, he might actually get to check out the menu at Cafe Risqué.

  
Peace, people!

It Only Hurts When I Move

Friday night (Halloween, 2014) Studly and I, along with his sister, Angie and her husband, Steve, ventured into the frightening world of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando.

Angie and Steve flew all the way from the panhandle of Texas to help me bring closure to my glorious birthday month. And how do I thank them? By dragging them through one terrifying haunted house after another.

Imagine, if you will, Halloween on steroids. The big draw for us this year was “The Walking Dead” house in which we had to negotiate the claustrophobic confines of the prison and then make our way to Terminus while keeping out of the reach of walkers and cannibals alike. It was absolutely everything I’d hoped it would be–heart stopping horror at every turn.

Studly played it pretty cool all night until we went through the “Dusk ‘Til Dawn” house. It had snakes. Dangling, coiling, lurking, slithering snakes. Fake snakes, but Studly’s worst nightmare nonetheless.