Now, on to day two of our trip!
The second day of our trip was pretty fun, as expected, but it didn't start out that way. The beginning of the day was probably the most terrifying part of the entire vacation, and that even matches the literary definition of terror, which we found out recently when researching the horror genre at Wikipedia a little while back. Terror is the anticipation of something unknown and scary, while horror is the reaction to the disturbing event (assuming the event is actually disturbing, which in the horror genre, it's supposed to be, but in our case, not so much).
Waiting to meet people that we haven't seen in a long time is like waiting in line for a thrill ride we've never been on. We have no idea what to expect, and as we get closer to the front of the line, our heart rate goes up and up and up. That's what was happening Thursday morning.
We left the hotel and picked up Aurora, who was kind enough to use her family pass to get us inside, and then she took off, because she had better things to do than hang out at her workplace on her day off. Mom came, too, because she had finished everything she had to do at work, so she figured she might as well play and shop for her grandson. We were still about an hour early for meeting Kyoya, so we decided to wander around. As I mentioned yesterday, the park was done up for Halloween, and not in a cute trick-or-treat kind of way. It was more of a decorated in a "yay zombies and mutilation!" kind of way, which we find to be rather repulsive. We never did get into the zombie craze. At first, we were happy to let zombie fans be zombie fans, and we would just talk about other things, but as zombies got to be more and more popular, and Halloween got to be more and more popular, we started actively disliking zombies. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like the whole point of zombies is to make things ugly and disgusting, and I'm opposed to that idea.
That being the case, we were wandering around this area on the...left side of the park, and it would have been really pretty, all done up like European towns, except for all the mutilated corpses thrown around. And since we were already stressed out, I started to feel a little sick. But it didn't take long to finish wandering, so we came back out to the front area of the park and shopped around. While we were in one of the stores, Kyoya called and said they were stuck in traffic. The phone call stressed me out, too, because talking on the phone often stresses me out, plus he was speaking in Japanese, and the ambient music was super loud, and did I mention how nervous I get when communication is poor?
At any rate, the one thing we understood was that we had some more time to kill, so we headed down to the Lower Lot. The Lower Lot is a pretty cool place, but there are four very long, very steep escalators you have to ride to get there. (You can also take the stairs, but are you kidding me?) The first thing that happened when we got there was that Mom saw the Mummy ride and said, "I've never been on that one! You wanna try it out?" We were kind of despondent at this point, so we were like, "...yeah..." and just followed her. But as we were in the queue area, we remembered Celeste telling us about this ride, and we didn't remember if she said it was something we would be able to handle, or something we should avoid. All we remembered was she said they got to the one part, and her friend said, "Now we go backwards," and she said, "What?" and then ZOOM! Backwards.
I also happened to notice the sample ride vehicle they had in the line, designed to instruct guests how to safely board the attraction. I didn't really register any of the steps except three, which was "Scream like hell." This put two ideas in my head. First, oh yeah, screaming relieves tension. That's an important thing to remember. Second, "Scream like what!? Just how scary is this ride!?" (And finally, later, when I had much more presence of mind, "Hey! This is a family park!") We were so scared about the whole thing that, as we walked to the boarding area (there was no line; we didn't wait, we walked), I started calling Celeste to ask her if this ride would be okay. Then I remembered, "Oh no! She's in school! She can't answer!" I almost texted her instead, but there wouldn't have been any time anyway, especially with my hands shaking as badly as they were.
When we got to the boarding area, we noticed that the cast members would applaud the returning vehicles like, "Yay! You made it back alive!" They weren't particularly enthusiastic about it, but their attempt to make the people still in line think, "Just how scary is this ride!?" worked. The sad thing about it is that it probably only really works on the people who are already scared, so trying to scare the people who aren't scared yet just isn't going to happen.
So we got on the ride, and it started out very slow. This seems to be a trend in theme park rides these days--let's start it out very slow to tell our story, and then hit the guests with the major thrills at the end! You go into this pyramid or some Egyptian tomb type thing, and the first thing you see is this mummified skeleton, just sitting there. And then it moves! Oh no! It's the living dead! And all these mummified hands reach down through the ceiling like they're trying to grab at you, which, come to think of it, doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. They're so high up, you'd think that even without their brains, they would make some kind of an effort to go around and come from the walls, at least. And there are all these voices talking about, "Join Imhotep and gain immortality!" and there was a projection of a guy who was all like, "The curse is real!" before he gets eaten by scarab beetles. And you go into the main treasure chamber, and there's a giant face saying something about get eternal life and then join them all in eternal death, and this cloaked animatronic figure who does some chant thing and says, "Now your souls belong to me!"
Here I have to take a time out, because I understand the premise of the movie, which of course is carrying over into the ride, but I was already stressed out enough, and I was in no mood to deal with their freaky occult soul-stealing nonsense. But I only had enough time to think, "Hrm." before the ride suddenly went WHOOSH! And by WHOOSH!, I mean like, seriously WHOOSH! They launched us, like...I don't know how to describe it. The ride warning sign says it includes sudden, dramatic acceleration, and it was not kidding. That change in speed was as dramatic as they come. And they sent us through this roller coaster that was pitch dark except for the glowing mummy illustrations that were supposedly swinging machetes at us or something.
I remembered what the sign said, so when we started going fast, I was like, "Aaaaaaaaaah! Aaaaaaaaaaah! Aaaaaaa...actually, this isn't so bad." It was really just that first push that was scary, and after that we were just annoyed. Athena says she was like, "Ugh, just...just don't talk to me, you stupid, stupid ride." And then we hit a dead end! Oh no! And scarab beetles started coming through the cracks in the walls! Aaaahh! And then we felt something at our feet! Because they had a special effect to make you think there were scarab beetles crawling around inside the car, but that effect really works better with mice or rats, because it's kind of a whipping thing. But anyway, that's where we started going backwards. We thought that might be really scary like the first roller coaster launch, but it wasn't. It was just backwards. It was a little disorienting, because I'm not used to backwards roller coasters, but it was alright.
Then we stopped, and there was some effect of like a ghostly face or something. I never really figured out the point of it. Athena says it said something like, "There is no escape!" And then there was a giant FLASH! and then there we were, at the end of the ride. And we were kind of glad it was over. I said, "I don't think I like that ride," and I started breathing really hard. I was really shaken up about everything. I was all staggering as we exited the attraction, and I was in pretty bad shape. I saw a water fountain and was about to get a drink, in the hopes of it helping me to calm down, but just before I got there, Kyoya called. He and his friend, who will now be code-named Tamaki, had just arrived. He did make things a little easier for me, because when I majorly failed to understand anything he said, he started speaking English. Ah, familiarity.
Athena told Mom that our friends had arrived, so she wandered off into the Jurassic Park gift shop, because Aurora had told her that the cutest thing in the park that she could buy for her grandson was a hat that makes you look like a dinosaur. We never did see the illusive hat, because Mom decided she didn't like it, and we never went into that store, alas.
And then we embarked on the looooong escalator journey back to the park gate. Fortunately, Kyoya and Tamaki hadn't bought their tickets yet, so they didn't end up waiting for us, because they were in line getting tickets. And then it was off to enjoy the park some more! From then on, we managed to stay away from most of the zombified areas, so we didn't have to worry about that anymore. We stopped and took a picture with Dracula, who spoke to Kyoya in Japanese and spoke to us in a Romanian accent. And then we went on the Simpsons ride. Tamaki was sad, because the Simpsons ride is where they used to have the Back to the Future ride, and he seemed to be a very big fan of the trilogy. Also, he seemed to have been to Universal Studios Hollywood before, because he probably knew his way around better than we did.
Next we waited in a long line for the Studio Tour. Fortunately, Kyoya and Tamaki were pretty good at entertaining each other. I think I mentioned yesterday that one of our main concerns is whether or not everyone is enjoying themselves, so it was nice that Kyoya had someone to talk to other than us and our poor Japanese, because we're pretty bad at making conversation even in English. On the other hand, I did wonder if perhaps we should have tried harder to converse, but it's not like we were silent all day.
The tour was really fun, as usual. They had a new...okay, see the tour is on a tram, with a tour guide, a driver, and video screens. The screens are used to show movie clips and stuff, so you can see how the sets and props and everything else they show you are used/appear in the movies. And to help with all the video stuff, they have a video with a celebrity host. Last time we went, the host was Whoopi Goldberg, but they did a new one, because it's Universal Studios's hundredth anniversary, so now the host is Jimmy Fallon. At the end of the tour, he sang us all a song that he wrote when he was five, that went like this:
Have a TRAAAAM-tastic day!
Have a TRAAAAM-tastic night!
Watch your step as you exit the tram,
And everything'll be all right!
It's currently our favorite song, because we have yet to obtain a certain CD. But we were singing it all the way home. Mom didn't complain, but we still wonder... We did try to contain ourselves.
Anyway, after the tram, we saw the Shrek 3D show, which had me a little nervous, because I wasn't sure when the next Waterworld show would be going on, and I didn't want to miss it. Last time we went, it was raining, so we couldn't see it, and Aurora said that that was one of the only things worth doing at the park. But when we got out of the Shrek show, there was a cast member shouting about how the Waterworld show was now seating! So we were able to get right to it! And it was in fact very awesome, although I feel like it could have been better somehow. Maybe that's just me and my thinking that everything needs to be better, but I feel like the story didn't really flow, or something. I don't know; something just seemed off. But the stunts really were pretty amazing. Athena suggests that perhaps the problem was that they weren't very good at directing your attention to where the next awesome stunt is going to be, and that very well might be it.
When the show was over, most of the cast hung around outside, posing for pictures with people. They were all actors who have been in real TV shows and everything! So it was a great opportunity! ...Or it would have been, if we were familiar with any TV shows. There was one guy who was standing around all by himself, so we went and got a picture with him while Kyoya posed with the villain guy. Turns out, the guy we got a picture with has been in Criminal Minds and Glee. I don't know his name, though! (But we did get a picture of the big panel showing the cast and telling what they've been in. So assuming we ever upload pictures, we should be able to figure out his name.)
Next we saw the Animal Actors show! That was the best! So many cute little animals! They showed us how they train the animals to act in movies, and they also just send out a bunch of animals to run around and be adorable. The whole last third of the show is just all the animals running wild (only in a very organized way), and at one point they had a whole bunch of guinea pigs race across the stage, except for one little brown one, who just stopped. The host said, "Hey, all your friends ran off without you!" She suggested maybe he needed encouragement, so we all cheered! ...and nothing. So she said, "Okay, let's try this." And she picked him up very carefully...and ran off stage with him!
We also found out that most of the animals in the movies these days are rescues. That explained to me why they make so many Little Buddies movies--animal lovers putting rescued animals to work.
By then, we all wanted to go to the Lower Lot. On the way there, Kyoya asked, "Want to go on Jurassic Park?" and I said, "Not really..." (Actually, I don't think that's anywhere near what I said, but it's what I was thinking.) See, Jurassic Park is their water ride, and like most of the popular water rides, it ends with a big drop. On the Simpsons ride, you end up being chased through all the different rides at Krustyland, and one of the parodies I thought was very funny was the water ride, which looked exactly (and I mean exactly) like Pirates of the Caribbean, only instead of pirates, it was full of dinosaurs wearing pirate hats. Why? Because Jurassic Park is Pirates of the Caribbean with dinosaurs. And probably a bigger drop, but we weren't sure. But we've always associated Jurassic Park more with Splash Mountain, and from there with "a ride we will never go on."
I explained to Kyoya that we don't like drops, and he was like, "But you like going on rides, don't you?" and I was like, "Yes, but..." And anyway, the boys just kept walking. I thought, "Well, the Simpsons ride says it's like Pirates of the Caribbean, so maybe it won't be so bad..." And the boys were in the queue area. I found a cast member, thinking that depending on his answer to my question, we might decide to wait at the exit. I asked him, "How tall is the drop on this ride?" "84 feet." Athena was like, "That doesn't tell me anything! How does that relate to Splash Mountain?" "Oh, it's lower than Splash Mountain." "Well, that's kind of a relief, but how does it relate to Pirates of the Caribbean?" "Oh, it's much taller than Pirates of the Caribbean." What.
So we were thinking we'd tell the boys that we would just wait for them, thanks. But we didn't have time, because we were already on the ride! (To clarify, the cast member we talked to was in the middle of the queue area, but since there was literally NO LINE, we got there, and they were like, "Okay, you're in row five!" and we didn't have any time to formulate a way to say, "This ride is way too scary for us, so we're gonna just wait over there..." in Japanese, let alone actually say it, then tell the cast member that we weren't really going on this ride and can we get off please?)
So there we were, on Jurassic Park. And oddly, neither of us was totally filled with a sense of impending doom. We said to each other, "Well, this whole trip's just been a big ball of stress anyway, so what's an 84-foot drop, really?"
We started, of course, by going up. But I knew we were safe for a while, because we hadn't gone up very far. We went through a beautiful canopy of bougainvillea, where they unapologetically drip water on everybody and everything. To be honest, I was a little happy to go through it, because when we had come down to the Lower Lot earlier with Mom, I saw the Jurassic Park ride, and I thought, "Oh, it's so pretty! Too bad I can never, ever go on it." And then the professor guy welcomed us to his island paradise of dinosaurs, and we saw all the peaceful dinosaurs. There were...um...I think they called it ultrasaur, and stegosaurus, and some little cute purple-ish ones, and the frilled ones that you're supposed to be scared of on the tram tour that spit water at you...
Then you turn a corner, and you see a boat that's all smashed up, and the electric fence is doing something weird, and dinosaurs start jumping out at you! Oh no! And this voice says they're going to try to evacuate you from the...place...and you go inside and (surprise, surprise) go up higher. Now we knew we were in trouble soon, but we still chose not to be too stressed out about it. But they had some pretty cool effects, like at one part, the ceiling broke and a scary dinosaur slid down it right at you! Oh no! Athena thinks it was a velociraptor. And there's one part with a T-rex chomping down at you from a hole in the ceiling, I think.
Finally, we saw the waterfall. I decided to focus on the T-rex behind it. As we got closer, the waterfall receded, and the T-rex came closer and closer, until it was almost on us and then PLUNGE! Down the drop. Of course I was screaming that whole time, but my thought process during that part was something like this: "Oh, this actually isn't so bad. ...Okay, I've had enough, it's not fun anymore. Seriously, why aren't we done falling yet? Stop, stop, STOP!"
And then suddenly we were all wet and it was over. Whew, we survived. We were both shaking pretty bad as we got off the ride, but not from the cold water. I had a hard time standing up. We were glad we went on it, but we were also glad it was over and we never have to go on it again. As we were whining, Kyoya was like, "Yeah, I didn't think they'd get us that wet!" And we were like, "Who cares about the water?! They just dropped us 84 feet!" I remember reading or seeing on TV somewhere that when Stephen Spielberg goes on that ride, he hates drops, too, so they always stop it for him so he can get off at that part. So jealous. I wish we could do that for Splash Mountain, too. Why are all the scary water rides also the prettiest?
Once we were all done cleaning our glasses, it was time to go on the Mummy again. As expected, it wasn't nearly as terrifying the second time around, especially because we didn't have the added terror of anticipation. The sudden, dramatic acceleration was still really intense, though. Tamaki really liked the ride, so we went on it again! I really like the roller coaster track, the way it twists and turns, but Athena says, "I don't like that ride's attitude," and I have to agree. "I think it needs to be smacked around," she says. It's difficult to explain exactly why we feel that way, but there it is.
Finally, we went on the newest ride, Transformers 3D. Kyoya and Tamaki had other places to be, so first I asked the cast member to confirm that it was, in fact, a motion simulator and not a roller coaster (motion simulators are good, because when they "drop" you, it never actually feels like falling), and then we asked about how long it would take to get through the single rider line. (The regular line was 50 minutes.) She said she didn't know (single rider lines are always unpredictable), but maybe about fifteen minutes. That was short enough, so off we went!
The line was frustrating, because it had so many sharp turns, it was impossible to tell how long it was, or to see the boarding area. I don't know how long it actually took, but eventually we got on the ride. It was kind of funny, because one of the cast members came up and was like, "I need you, and...you." And he took the last guy from the party in front of us and Kyoya.
The ride itself was pretty fun, but it felt...not as good as it could be? Maybe we're just too picky. Athena's guess, again, is that they're not so good at directing your attention to the right spot. After going on the Disneyland rides so many times, we've developed a habit of looking around at everything, taking in all the details and stuff. So at Universal Studios, even though we'd never been on those rides before, we'd be so busy looking around that we wouldn't notice anything had happened until the mini-event was practically over.
But the way the ride moved was really cool. The ride vehicle is, of course, a Transformer, and we have to help keep the Allspark away from the Decepticons. It's really kind of difficult to describe. Evac will take you into one section, and there's a big screen that fills your view, and on the screen, there are Transformers, Doin' Stuff, In Three-Dee. But there's just so much to look at! And the pacing seemed a little off, maybe. But it's great, because the Transformers are all life-sized! So you have Optimus Prime right in your face, and it hurts your neck to look up at him, because he's so gigantic.
After we saved the planet from the Decepticons, we made the loooong escalator journey back to the park entrance, where we did a little bit of souvenir shopping, before taking one final commemorative photo at the statue at the park front and said our goodbyes. It had been a good day.
Mom was already waiting for us by the gate, so we bought one last...how do you spell one-sy? Onesie? 1-Z? I don't know. Those things babies wear. We bought one last Despicable Me minion outfit for Logan, and then we were on our way. As we made it through Citywalk to get to the car, Athena and I got some Dippin' Dots for breakfast. Somehow we'd made it through the entire day on nothing but a few stops at some drinking fountains and some frosty lemonade, which was very very good. And neither of us had a headache or needed to pass out, so we count it as a win, and are very, very grateful.
On Wednesday, we had mentioned the Krispy Kreme "Talk Like A Pirate Day" promotional to Mom, and while it was too late to take advantage of that, we had reminded Mom of Krispy Kreme, which no longer exists in Fresno. So we stopped by one of those on the way home, and then finally we managed to find a gas station that had gas for less than $4.37. The gas light had turned on that morning in the Universal Studios parking lot, and Mom said that by the time we made it to that station, we really must have been running on fumes. Yet another of many little miracles that happened during this trip.
Several hours later, we made it safely home, and now here we are. Tadah!
Today I'm thankful for having a great time at Universal Studios with our friends, that frosty lemonade, Dippin' Dots, super cute animal shows, and yummy Krispy Kreme donuts.