11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007

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Tuesday, March 20 2007

Good morning and welcome to Day 4 of the 11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007!

I would like to say that it is a beautiful day at Disney World, but in truth it is a little overcast with a slight chance of wet weather.  But that is not a deterrent when there is a brand new adventure to take on here on the 11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007.  The Braves have an off day which means no baseball.  But it also means opportunity.  It is a season of change and one of the changes at Epcot was the introduction of a new backstage tour called Segway Around The World, a spin-off on 2003's Hidden Treasures of the World Showcase tour.  This tour includes an hour of on-stage training on the use of the Generation Two Segway (steering by tilting the control column instead of turning a dial) inside Innovations, followed by an hour strolling, no, make that rolling around the world.

For those unfamiliar with the Segway, it is a personal transport device that uses gyroscopes and precise computer controls to balance you on two wheels.  To move forward, you put pressure on your toes.  To move backwards, you lean slightly back on your heels.  To turn, you tilt the handlebars to the left or right.  The Segway does everything else, constantly adjusting in reaction to shifts in weight in order to maintain a stable platform.  Our tour was conducted by Dong from Beijing, China who took us first to Mexico, then to Norway, and his home country of China.  Next on our trip around the world was Italy before arriving at the far side of the park at the American Adventure where we were quizzed about our own American history.  On our way back to Futureworld, we stopped  at Japan, Morocco, France and United Kingdom and lastly Canada before weaving our way through the crowds of guests to end the trip at Innovations.   For a few brief moments, we were the show.

Following the Segway tour, it was time to hoof it once again and more importantly, time for lunch.  I took a boat from the Showcase Plaza to Morocco and then walked over to Japan for a Quick Service meal at Yakatori Restaurant consisting of Teriyaki Chicken and a braised beef dish over steamed rice with a ginger snap cake for desert.  While in the restaurant, I looked outside and noticed it had begun to rain.  Now, it has rained at Disney World before, and no amount of Imagineering can prevent it.  But I was prepared with an umbrella and while others cowered for shelter under the roofs of souvenir carts, I continued to make my way around the world, stopping in each pavilion to explore a little of the culture and crafts.  Along the way I picked up an African hippo, a  Norwegian hitchhiking troll and in Mexico an Oaxacan frog. 

Returning to Futureworld, I took advantage of the Singles line to bypass the long waiting crowd for the GM Test Track.  This ride takes your car through a series of programmed tests that demonstrate road handling, the benefits of anti-lock breaks, hills and turns, and even a speed test.  I was in a car with a bunch of High School kids who were only interested in the speed test, and we got up to 63.7 mph before it happened.  After just passing underneath the speed indicator sign, the track banks up at an 80 degree and the centrifugal force pushes you down in your seat before the car decelerates and you reenter the testing facility.  Only this time, there was a crack and a puff of smoke and the car suddenly stopped on the track.  Still at an 80 degree angle.  This time, it was gravity having the most effect as I hung on to the top side of the car.

We waited a few minutes and an Imagineer came out and told us a relay in our vehicle had burned out.  Looking down we could see the shreds of burned rubber that we were smelling.  The Imagineer worked on the car and put it into a safe mode which returned it to the testing center.  We were then put into another car and sent back out for another ride.  This time we successfully completed our tests and returned victorious.  And a little wiser.  The High School kids had learned a valuable lesson as to why you always wear your seat belt.

Having survived my first ever Test Track mishap, I was fearless and made my long awaited way to Mission: Space.  This attraction opened just a few weeks after I visited in 2003, and it has long burned that my nephew on a school trip to Disney got to ride it before I could.  But I today I was to come into my own.  Today I was going to realize my dream of joining the International Space Corps and becoming a Mickeynaught.  The ride is a simulation test flight to Mars via slingshot around the moon on the new X2 rocket shuttle.  The queue line holds a view of a real NASA moon rover and the authentic space suits in the briefing room have the chest-mounted controls labeled in reverse so they can be read through the wrist mirrors.

There are four positions in each shuttle, Navigator, Pilot, Commander and Engineer, and each has a role to play in the flight.  The ride itself uses centrifugal forces to simulate the g-force effects of launch, the roll around the moon and descent onto Mars.  Due to guest complaints (and more likely legal concerns), Disney introduced a Green version which eliminated the spin.  A few months ago, there was a sealed settlement of a lawsuit resulting from the death of a 4 year old boy who later was determined to have had an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.  However, health concerns aside, I chose the Orange Advanced Training for my first trip into space.

And what a blast it was!  It was a sensation that is difficult to describe but felt entirely normal within the context of the ride story.  It would be neat if they could come up with random endings, but the rush of launch and the view of Earth after spinning around the moon was amazing.  Armed with a FastPass, I re-entered the ride this time taking the Green less stressful ticket so I could compare and contrast.  The mission was still fun and entertaining, but nowhere near as exciting as with the Advanced Training.

I crossed Futureworld to The Land pavilion for an adventure more down to earth.  Soarin' is the most popular attraction at Epcot right now and the lines have been long, and Fast Passes sold out for the day before noon.  I had been talking to a young lady from Mexico and mentioned that since I had been on the Segway tour, I had been able to secure a FastPass.  She volunteered a free guest pass, usually reserved for guests who had been inconvenienced in some unmagical way.  I gratefully accepted and after a snack at the Sunshine Season Food Fair, was ready for my California Adventure.

The Imagineer who helped create the ride had been trying to figure out how to create the experience of hang gliding over California, but the weight of the chair would be too great for the number of guests it would need to carry to use a suspended solution as is used in the Peter Pan attraction at the Magic Kingdom.  Instead, the Imagineer was playing with an old Erector Set from his own childhood for his 5 year old son over the weekend.  The next Monday he walked into the office with  the entire attraction modeled in metal.  The ride itself is a smooth flight in front of an Imax-sized screen with beautiful Californian vistas and landscapes rolling out ahead of you, concluding in Disneyland with a burst of fireworks and a larger than life twinkle from Tinkerbell.

Having experienced both atmospheric and stratospheric flight, I had to give space travel one more shot and I headed back to Mission Space with a FastPass in hand for one more Advanced Training flight.  Then it was time to make my way to the United Kingdom pavilion for dinner at the Rose & Crown.  I had a pint of a Golden Blend along with my steak, wild mushrooms and Sticky Toffee Pudding ($42.66) and my 5th Dining Plan table service meal.

Having been out at the Magic Kingdom until 2am on Sunday and Disney-MGM Studios until 12:30am on Monday, and facing a very early morning on Wednesday, I decided to forego the evening's Illuminations and head back to the resort for a little down time.  On the way, I stopped by the Downtown Disney Marketplace where, using my AAA Diamond Card discount, I picked up a new friend, my Pal Mickey, who uses Disney Imagineered technology to alert me to nearby attractions while in the parks, as well as wait times and special events and trivia.

And that was it for Day 4, which was quite a lot.  It was still after 11pm by the time I returned to the room and I wasted no time in getting some sleep because tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Who is ready to go mountain climbing...

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Revised: 03/22/07.