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
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
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
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...