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Photo TR: Chuck's Epic Orlando Weekend


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I finally returned to Virginia last Sunday (October 13) after more than two weeks in California helping out my parents and a long weekend in Orlando for eating and drinking myself blind for Robb and Elissa's Tenth Anniversary at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and spending a day at Universal checking out new stuff I'd had yet to, well, check out (new Spider-man, Transformers, and Springfield).

 

What can I say about Epcot's Food and Wine Festival that hasn't been said before, such as "yum," "o-o-o-o-o-h yeah," and "belch." This is my favorite theme-park event, and while Busch Gardens Williamsburg did well with their first crack at a similar festival (they really studied Epcot's closely), no one holds a candle (or a ladle) to Disney. The rib-eye tacos at the Mexico stand were excellent, and the filet Mignon with wild mushrooms in a truffle butter is not to be missed in Canada (along with the cheese soup, of course)--and be sure to try the alcoholic Dole Whip if you're of age, of course.

 

But what gave this year's fest an extra kick was a dessert buffet celebrating Robb and Elissa's Tenth Anniversary during Illuminations. They arranged for a private viewing area in France for the big show, along with a table of excellent pastries (loved the pistachio cannolis), and hot pot of fondue, and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen (yeah, that was some good stuff). Yes, great food and stuff blowing up--an anniversary the TPR way! Thanks for inviting me, Robb and Elissa. That was a great way to end a great day!

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The Giant Ball beckons, and we must obey.

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Time for "Tron Track." This was my first ride on it since the big redo, and I liked it--a very good re-freshening of an already great ride.

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"Meet George Jetson . . ."

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Well, this should be interesting.

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Yes, I'm sure that the CAR OF TOMORROW is being developed here right now.

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And so it is! Behold the "Disco Batmobile"! The coolest car Batman will never drive.

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Let's take this beast out for a little spin. I really liked the new RFID cards Disney is using now--just tap it on the logo, and your design is loaded onto the system.

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"Welcome to the Game Grid, program!"

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Whew! Glad my car handles reasonably well--else we'd all be "digitized" now.

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My god! We've entered the Time Tunnel.

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And we were, indeed, sent back in time to the original Test Track. Still the best attraction at Epcot.

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Well, how did the Disco Batmobile fare?

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Hmm--not bad. I guess.

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We had Fast Passes for later, so I designed a new car in the Chevy "showroom." Behold "Blue Road Rage"!

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What? They now have good coffee at Epcot? Declining by degrees!

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Next up, Mission: Sinise. I look forward to the future with hope, unbridled optimism, and . . .

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. . . oh, crap, we are so gonna die!

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"Hell, may as well write this one off as a failure before it starts. Why don't you guys just move on to the gift shop?"

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Time for more car designing. I wonder if Dan used flames?

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Blue Road Rage did a little better than Disco Batmobile.

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For what we are about to receive . . .

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. . . may the lord make us truly thankful.

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Amen for a rib-eye taco! (This was messy, but delicious.)

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This is the bleu cheese cheese souffle that replaced the fondue this year. While I agree that it's nice to test and try new things, please bring back the fondue. (Fondue was on the dessert buffet later that night, and it was great.)

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We decided to take a break from walking and eating to do some sitting and eating in Italy's wine bar.

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I had a glass of chianti and a cannoli--yum! More to come.

Edited by cfc
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More ridin' and eatin' at Epcot.

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This is the famous alcoholic Orange Dole Whip. Well, the ice cream isn't actually an "alcoholic"--it just contains alcohol in the form of Creme de Cacao White. It's delicious and has a a nice kick.

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"OK, I realize that this will be the highlight of the day for some of you. That is, for you who have never ridden . . .

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. . . Ellen's Lesbian Adventure!

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This ride spends about 45 minutes telling you how adorable, yet dumb, Ellen is. It would've been better if it were "Jaime Lee Curtis's Still Sexy After All these Years Adventure."

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"I say, Cedric. Are there actual 'people' in those ride vehicles?"

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"Looks that way, old bean. We best put on a show for them. Grr! Grr, I say! Kill Ellen! Growl!"

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Betcha can't guess what we're going to ride now! Go on! Try!

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I've been visiting Epcot for years, and this guy still hasn't finished this statue.

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This guy has been "nearly finished" with this painting for how long now?

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"Hi folks! I'm just here to remind you that the spectre of death hovers over you constantly. Have a magical day!"

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Lieutenant Uhura is still the sexiest animatronic at Epcot.

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We were all deeply moved by the Spaceship Earth experience, and were ready to face the challenges of tomorrow.

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OK, when did Club Cool become Johnny Rocket's?

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"Those are Brazilians, dear. Just keep walking away and don't make eye contact."

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I'm shocked that there's no wait for this classic attraction.

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"Yay! We are so ready to live with the land! Crank up the Reba McEntire and get us some Budweiser and guns! "

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Ever wonder where peanut butter came from? Now you know. (I thought it came from the bowels of demons, but I was mistaken.)

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Living with the Land has a Portal to Hell.

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Satan's minions await you there.

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"Oh boy! I'm a'gonna get me one of them nine-pound lemons, by golly!"

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How to make something bad even worse.

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You can't hide from me Spaceship Earth! More to come.

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More ridin' and eatin' and explodin' at Epcot.

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Well, at least it's better than Superstar Limo.

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Robin Williams looks nothing like Fred McMurray. I call shenanaghins!

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So, this was the best anyone's imagination could come up with?

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"One little spark can start

A conflagration!

That could lead to

Your immolation!

This might result in

Some litigation!

Unless they use

Some mediation!"

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"Rise, C'thuhlu! I bid ye rise!"

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They were sort of daring people to try the vegetarian haggis. It tastes like stuffing.

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Darkness descends on Epcot, which means . . .

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. . . Robb & Elissa's Tenth-Anniversary Dessert Buffet!

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Three Eric(k)s huddled around a radioactive cube for warmth.

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"Life! Life, do you hear me? Give my ice cream l-i-i-i-i-i-f-e!"

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Hmm--I think something is about to happen.

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Looks like I'm correct.

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Fire!

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Explosions!

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Dessert buffet.

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More explosions!

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And then the Earth will be torn asunder . . .

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. . . and C'thuhlu will rise!

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It is as the prophet Eric Idle has foreseen!

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Well, that was certainly a full (and filling) day.

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Good night, Epcot--and thanks again, Robb and Elissa!

Next up will be Universal, with a guest appearance by Fun Spot America--after I sort through the photos, of course.

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I was pretty surprised at how much kick the alcohol-infused Dole Whip had--very tasty, as well. Something else I always like to sample at Food and Wine is the "smoked wheat beer" over in Germany.

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Aw, I made Joey sad . . .

 

Well, life goes on--in this case, to Universal.

 

Universal had made a lot of changes since my last visit: Springfield, Transformers, Despicable Me, "new" Spider-man. So, Erik Johnson (and later, just to confuse things, Eric Johnson) and I hit both the Studio and Islands of Adventure. My thoughts:

 

Even though I haven't watched The Simpsons regularly for a few years, I've always thought that the good people of Springfield were ideal for theme-park treatment. This Springfield redo was long overdo, and Universal did a good job. Duff Beer, which is the product of a local microbrewery, while not the greatest beer ever (especially for $7.00 a pop), is a cut above mass-produced beers like Budweiser. And although I wimped out on the the chicken-and-waffle sandwich, the pink doughnut was pretty good. I'll definitely go back to check out their other food offerings.

 

I'm not a fan of the Transformers movies or cartoons, but I like the ride quite a bit (more so than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but not quite as much as Spider-man). They story made at least some sense, even if you haven't seen the movies, and the mix of animation with physical effects was very well done. We rode it three times that day (thanks to the very useful single-rider line).

 

The "new" Adventures of Spider-man was excellent--the new animation looks great and has much more detail. This remains the best of the Universal Orlando attractions.

 

We skipped Despicable Me due to horrendous lines (we should've rode it first thing in the morning, when there was but a ten-minute wait). I'm not a big fan of the Minions, anyway, although I do find their master, Gru, amusing. Maybe next time.

 

Revenge of the Mummy and Men in Black were great, as usual, and Rip, Ride & Rockit was running quite well, despite all the national media attention it received earlier in the week. One of these days, I have to try that mini-golf course, too.

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It's always important to remember where you parked; in this case, we were on the roof.

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Good morning, Universal. They were open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm due to Halloween Horror Night, which I skipped this year.

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Well, time to purchase my one-day, two-park ticket (and part with about $130--sheesh!). Word to the wise: Park tickets are about $20 cheaper when purchased online. (I was kind of winging it that weekend.)

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What? Didn't this ride suffer a MAJOR NEWS-MAKING BREAKDOWN earlier in the week?

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Does Universal not care for the safety of their guests? ;)

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Not from the Walking Dead. Just thought I'd make that clear.

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"Hmm--I must find a way to relate to my human allies . . . Greetings! I am Optimus Prime . . . er . . . um . . . smoke 'em if you got 'em?"

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This is a very good ride, indeed.

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Must . . transform . . . and . . . steal . . . All Spark . . . for . . . Megatron . . .

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OK, here is the typical Hollywood interpretation of a useless government official who simply doesn't understand that the military is right about everything. (Then again, movies tend to stack the deck a bit.)

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"My apologies for that 'smoke 'em if you got 'em' message earlier, freedom fighters. So, er, fight the good fight, give 110%, and any other football-game platitudes you may care to emulate. Or just sit well in your seats. That's really all we can ask of you."

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Apparently, this is a "scare zone," so I acted appropriately.

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"Lame! Get your butt outta our zone, mortal moron."

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Yay! I've always wanted to visit Springfield.

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I think I see two of my role models down there.

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Yep, I've always patterned my life after Lard Lad . . .

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. . . and Chief Wiggum, like any good American.

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I wonder if you can get a Krusty-Partially-Gelatinated-Non-Dairy-Gum-Based-Beverage here?

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"A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man."

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Yay!

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Surly is the greatest Duff of them all.

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Duff Man--oh, yeah!

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Hmm--why am I suspicious of Kang and Kodos's intentions here?

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Anything you say, oh overlords of the galaxy!

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I love the signage in the queue. It speaks the truth.

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I didn't know that the ride was interactive. If you raise or lower your saucer to the level of the sensor, the signs spin around and there are appropriate sound effects (in addition to being taunted by Kang).

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There was no wait while we were there, but I imagine this sign speaks the truth on busy days.

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Yes, any misspellings and Kang or Kodos will smite you with their futuristic weapons, such as the dreaded board with a nail in it!

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Eric! Quit destroying Springfield!

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"Remember to tell all your Earth friends about how great this ride is--but leave out all the 'Armageddon' stuff. Thank you." More to come.

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Yes, I have some more stuff. Thank you for your patience. Why, I'll even throw in a bit of Fun Spot America, if you like.

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I understand that at least some of these games used to be over in Amity, but were re-themed to the Simpsons and moved over here.

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"Ex-x-x-x-cellent!"

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Well, when in Springfield, you may as well visit Krustyland. (I do prefer this ride to Back to the Future.)

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Oh my god, dreams really do come true at Krustyland!

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Screw Harry Potter! Universal needs to build this attraction now!

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Disney owns the rights to the presidents, vice presidents, and Speakers of the House, so Krusty was left with this.

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Has Krusty already forgotten about how Sideshow Bob has tried to murder him in the past? (Well, we all believe in redemption, don't we?)

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Hmm--it appears that something new is being added.

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Walking Dead nerds!

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Hey, Bruce! I didn't remove your ride! Don't take your anger out on me!

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You know, this seems like a lot of trouble just to put in a Smokey and the Bandit attraction.

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I'm not sure if the new Breakfast Club simulator will be worth it, either--unless you get to punch Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall in the face.

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I can't believe they took out Jaws to install a Smokey and the Bandit/Breakfast Club attraction, but I guess we all need to get on with our lives.

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Maybe a visit to Moe's will cheer me up.

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Yes, the dank atmosphere and pervasive funk of failure are making me feel better already.

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"You said it, friend . . . bu-u-u-u-u-u rp!"

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The pink donut was pretty good.

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OK, two old citizens of Springfield getting down to Bart Simpson's rap is more terrifying than anything you'll see during Horror Night.

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Yay! Still the best ride here!

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Super cool Spidey shades.

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We also rode the Diagon Alley Backstage Tour.

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Yes, we did, indeed, visit the Whizzing World of Harry Potter.

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The single-rider line for "Mega-Bench: The Ride" has been re-routed since I last visited.

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Back to the Studio for a Duff with my pal, Surly.

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"Hah! I can play the PR game every bit as well as Optimus Prime! Greetings, Earth insects! Those who grovel the best will die last! I think that went well."

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Well, may as well snag a couple of credits while I'm in town. (I skipped the kiddie coaster, though.)

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Such a deal!

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This is a pretty good ride.

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It's GCI's version of an old-fashioned out-and-back, with some 90-degree goodness thrown in.

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Two trains at once! I rule!

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Once again, America is safe--but for how long? That's all. Thanks for reading.

Edited by cfc
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Emilio Estevez's character would never punch Michael Anthony Hall's character in the punch. His weapon of choice was duct tape. Can't wait for that Breakfast Club simulator. I haven't forgotten about you, Breakfast Club crew.

 

Chuck, I know you didn't ride it , but do you have any pictures of the kiddie coaster for the Park Index?

Edited by larrygator
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