There’s nothing like a road trip for three friends to either bring you closer together or tear you apart.
My dear compatriots Carol and Lynne decided it was high time we tested the strength of our bond, and so booked a mini-vacation to Ft. Lauderdale with a 24-hour sojourn to Orlando and the wonders of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. Why, you may ask, would three women over the age of 40 possibly want to visit a theme park of this ilk? Let’s just say we’ve always considered ourselves a little bit magical, and the only broom I’ve ever wanted to own is one that will help me lead my team to victory in a rousing game of Quidditch.
We flew out on the Wednesday evening and I had the honour of sitting behind Iggy Pop (that’s Mr. Pop to you) on the Cayman Airways flight. He was probably all a-tremble knowing that a woman of my talent was within swatting distance, yet he convincingly kept his cool for the duration. Of course it was the usual mad rush to Immigration in Miami. Lynne and Carol had the advantage of being Canadians (see Honorary Americans) so I had to leg it alone to what was hopefully the shortest line. I went to the far left, and as luck would have it, got summoned to the Diplomats booth. All my life I’ve waited for someone to recognize… We grabbed our suitcases, flew through customs and on to the rental vehicle!
We had had so many plans for that evening in Ft. Lauderdale – we would shop, eat, drink, and be merry! We would Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. The unwelcome alarm heralded the dawn, but we had to set off early for the Turnpike so breakfast was quickly consumed lest we start eyeing the roadkill on the way north. I was designated driver and Lynne firmly took the back seat, as ironically she is only a backseat driver when she’s in the front seat, hissing under her breath and grabbing all available handles every time I get within a 100ft radius of any other transport.
Carol fed me gum to keep up my strength and save for one stop at a gas station where we bought enough potato chips to see us through four days of traffic, we made Orlando in very good time.
Universal Studios was simple to find; we parked in King Kong’s turf and then merrily skipped and pranced the considerable distance to Islands of Adventure. Tickets?
Express Plus Passes?
As it was already gone noon we did not waste our time with Dr. Seuss’ land, nor anything else non-wizarding. We were narrow of vision and did not stop moving until we reached the hallowed gates and were greeted with the Hogwarts’ Express.
Thus ensued five hours of trying to cram in all the experiences before the park closed. First we went to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey ride, located in the castle. There was a mad rush for the lockers to secure personal items like bags and such. Every wizard for him or herself! Then followed a more-than-one-hour wait, but with some fascinating sights along the way…and smells. I think it should be mandatory for people standing in the heat wearing clothes woven from no natural fibre to use deodorant. I’m just sayin’. The wait (and assault on our olfactory senses) was worth it – that ride was incredible! I won’t spoil it for everyone, but if you go to this park, head straight for the Forbidden Journey, do not pass “GO” etc…
As the day wended happily on, we came to grips with the fact that we would be queuing for everything, including the shops. The Hippogriff ride was more of a family roller coaster, but we more than made up for it with the Dragon Challenge. I love roller coasters so I was like a kid in a candy store. Carol and Lynne had to be reluctantly dragged to our dragon of choice, and as we started off, I wasn’t sure they would ever forgive me. Lynne was Lamaze breathing from start to finish whilst Carol screamed as though the Hounds of Hell were at her heels. Turns out that the arm of her cardigan, tied around her waist at the time, had been slapping at her thigh and she thought her seatbelt had come undone. As they both literally staggered off at the end, I realised I would be visiting any further coasters solo.
We visited the Three Broomsticks, and while the design was great, the food was almost unpalatable. Tiny, chewy Cornish Pasties and a very dubious Shepherd’s Pie. My Fish and Chips, the best of the bunch, was eyed with envy by my dear friends with whom I shared my meal. After all, they had faced death on the Dragon Challenge – it was the least I could do.
The line for the Ollivander’s show was over an hour, but Carol had her heart set so I stood in line whilst she and Lynne went in search for Chocolate Frogs. Eventually we were allowed to enter, a child went through the wand selection process, and at the end we moved to the mayhem that was the Owl Post so we could purchase our own gear. I talked myself into a Gryffindor gown, tie and scarf, along with my very own puppet owl and wand. I know how to bring the men a-runnin’. As I donned my resplendent garb, my reflection in the mirror reminded me of that Far Side cartoon: How Nature Says “Do Not Touch.” I’m not even sure I should state that Halloween 2010 had already come and gone.
By the time 6pm rolled around, we were an exhausted group heading back to the car. The walk that had seemed so effortless at the start was now a hike over terrain that stretched out endlessly before us. The last up escalator being out of service was textbook icing on the cake.
You know what we realised as we drove to our hotel that night? Being in the same car with your friends covering miles upon miles of open road over hours is a piece of cake. Surviving a theme park together – now that is a true test of friendship. Man…I should have sprung for a Golden Snitch…